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Thread: Deer Behavior and Timing

  1. #1
    Member highestview's Avatar
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    Default Deer Behavior and Timing

    I'm going out this weekend to a PWS island for deer. This will be my first deer hunt ever so I dont really have their timing and behavior down. I'll be setting up base camp near a big plateau at ~1500' elevation. Nearby is kind of a watershed with some scattered rivers and ponds. Where should I focus my attention? Also what time of day should I focus on? Do deer go back and forth to water sources from the high ground daily? Any info is greatly appreciated.
    Born in Alaska: The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:6

  2. #2

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    How I plan a hunt:

    -Only hunt areas up high if you have the wind in your favor. Wind swirls up top too, so be careful.
    -Most mature bucks are nocturnal-- 1st few hours of daylight you can catch them out, with the occasional exception. You are just educating mature bucks if you walk across the alpine at noon.
    -Don't silhouette yourself and don't move through open areas.
    -glass, glass, glass. I spot most of my bucks 3-800 yards away with my binos. I confirm it's a shooter with my spotter. Just think, if you do a stalk on a buck that turns out to be one you don't want to pull the trigger on, you just exposed yourself to other deer. I remember once doing a stalk on a 2x3, meanwhile blowing out two big 4x4's. Sickening as I watch them run off, never to see them again.
    -If you don't see any up top, carefully work your way around edges and look down ravines, bowls, and steepish slopes. Use a map, get a plan based on the marine forecast, and roll the dice to see if you guessed correctly where the deer will be. If you see a bowl or ravine through your spotter with well worn deer trails heading down it, that is a spot you want to set up on first thing in the AM, with the wind blowing in your face.


    Good luck.

  3. #3
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    Get as high as you can, as early as you can and glass glass glass as 270ti said. I like steep ridges or praks, but keep a low profile. These give you the advantage of being able to cover more ground with your binos from a relatively small area. I'll lay down and glass for 10 or 15 minutes, then move to another vantage point and repeat. Early in the season deer will be in surprisingly open areas way more than late deer. But it doesn't take many encounters with hunters for mature deer to start brushing up more. Once season gets going and the deer get wise, I look for them on steep hillsides and overlooks especially if there is thick cover nearby. They like a good lookout spot as well as a hunter does. And they like a place to sneak off to is they see trouble coming. In the sound, on the bigger islands, up high you have what the locals call buck brush (which is different from buck brush in other places) which is wind blown hemlock and spruce that only gets about 10-15 feet high. It's a jungle if you get into it, but the deer have trails running everywhere in it. They see you coming and that is where they are likely to head for their get away.

    As for glassing, I concentrate on any kind of an edge. A timber edge, brush edge, elevation edge, water's edge. As mentioned above, they like to have an escape route handy. Remember, they are pretty small compared to a moose. They can remain unseen in a spot that looks like a mouse couldn't hide in it. Sometimes just changing the angle of where you are spotting from just a little will change everything as far as spotting. Small patches of brush or timber in an open area are likely suspects. You will also find a lot of deer bedded down at the base of a cliff, a tree, or a boulder, especially if the can see a long ways. I don't know if it makes them feel secure to have one side protected and the other side to see from or what. Don't overlook any good meadows with lots of cover and water mixed in on your way up tho. Sometimes 500 to 1,000 feet can be good hunting early in the season if there is feed around. Last year some friends and I did an early hunt and we got up on the highest peak around. saw one buck and 7 or 8 does and fawns. On our way back down we spotted 4 nice bucks and a couple does with fawns at about the 500 foot level. On an early hunt a few years ago, the same friend missed a chance at what he called the biggest buck he's ever saw in the Sound because he got careless down low, again about the 500 ft level. He'd worked his way around a meadow and had crossed it off as "empty" when he said he got a funny feeling he was being watched. He slowly turned his head and saw a massive 3x3 watching him from it's bed on a steep sidehill above the meadow.As soon as he moved to bring his gun up it made a couple bounds and was gone before he could shoot. It's hard to stay vigilant all the time, but it definitely helps.
    An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it.
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  4. #4

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    I'll add just a little bit to the excellent post by twodux. In the early season, the bucks tend to be in groups. It's not uncommon to see 10-20 bucks, all on one hillside or ravine, if you know the right places to look. So, if you see a little forkie, really work your angles and get a good look at things. The 4x4 buck I killed last Wed started out with me spotting a spike and a fork lightly butting heads down in a ravine. Watched them for a few minutes, and a nice 3x3 walked up and stood next them. I moved closer to the edge of the cliff and spotted a few more bucks as more of the ravine became visiable. Moved closer and boom, there was an entire herd of bucks down there. 15-20 bucks, with 5 or 6 mature ones. BTW, that one ravine had all those bucks, and I never saw another buck on that mountain after I shot mine, and believe me, I was looking to see what was up there.

  5. #5
    Member highestview's Avatar
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    Muy appreciado hombre's. Just confirming then, would you focus your efforts near the watershed or the higher, drier plateau?
    Born in Alaska: The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:6

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    I'd go higher.

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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    Higher and drier. My only experience with early season was on Kodiak and the bucks were up at the bottom of goat country for most of the day. Early in the day they would move down to the grasses and eat, bed down and digest in the mid-day, feed and move back up in the early evening. Not once in a week did I see a buck in a ravine or near the lake we were staying on.
    Bunny Boots and Bearcats: Utility Sled Mayhem

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    Member Bullelkklr's Avatar
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    Take a headnet - deet doesn't deter the little black flies that ate us up last weekend...

  9. #9
    Supporting Member AlaskanSD's Avatar
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    Any thoughts on calling for PWS blacktails?

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