sd sioux falls buck 2008Mike, love your blog and TV show. Question, I’ve heard that a big buck can learn you are hunting him, and then move around to avoid your tree stands. Do you think that’s true? Joe, Arkansas

Joe, I do not believe a buck can reason that you are in the woods trying to hunt him down, trying to kill him. But a buck, especially one 4 1/2 years or older, is a survivalist that most certainly feels your presence and disturbance, perceives you as a possible threat and tries to avoid you at all costs.

Science backs that up. Tracking and charting 37 GPS-collared adult bucks over three years on a 6,000-acre hunting property in South Carolina with 100 elevated stands, researchers found that as the days and weeks went by in hunting season, the bucks moved an average of 55 yards farther away from the tree stands than they did earlier in the fall. Having seen, smelled and sensed humans in and around those stands over the weeks, the bucks began to skirt those stands right out of bow range.

The study also found that if a hunter sat in a tree stand for just one day, bucks would avoid that stand, on average, the next three full days, whether or not the hunter shot or not. Just a human’s mere presence in a stand (along with the walk in and out I believe) was enough to make a big deer alter his movements so that he did not walk close to a tree stand until four days later.

Here’s what it means for Joe and the rest of us as we begin the hunt shortly.

early season bowhunting standFor most of the season it is best not to over-hunt your tree stands. After hunting a stand one day, rest it for a few days while hunting a second or third stand that you pre-set in the area. As you keep rotating in your stands, you keep bucks guessing where a possible threat is. One day a big deer is apt to slip up and walk 20 yards from one of those stands.

My one exception to this rule is when you’re hunting during the latter days of the prerut, those one or two magical days (early November most places) when the testosterone-addled bucks travel far and wide on pattern in search of the first estrus does but before they start chasing them. When I know bucks are in this pattern and moving hard in an area in daylight, I’ll hunt a favorite stand two or even tree days in a row because the thought of finding and breeding does makes the bucks drop their guard a bit.