view from underneath lock on deer stand

Wearing Out Your Welcome | Ruining Good Deer Stand Locations

By: Jerald Kopp

Whitetail hotspots… everybody seems to have them, yet many have a hard time understanding them. I know I’ve made my share of mistakes hunting the coveted areas of different properties over my many seasons of chasing deer.

On small and large properties alike, there have always been those special locations where the most deer were seen and the best bucks taken.

For years, my dad, brother and I hunted a 30-acre property with three stands; and one “hot spot.” Most hunting weekends meant stiff competition for that magical stand – and if you happened to have the place to yourself, there was nothing to keep you out of it.

muddy box stand in woods

Everyone has their “favorite” stand, but are you wearing out your welcome “using it up” by hunting it during less than optimal conditions?

Years of seeing the best bucks from this stand ruled our brains. However, after a few seasons, the cold realization set in that our encounters with the best bucks occurred almost exclusively during the peak rut. Nothing real profound there.

The fact was, we hadn’t really taken many big mature bucks from the stand since the first three or four years. Only after the biggest buck ever taken from the place was shot from the other stand did the wheels start to turn.

The hunting gusto of my younger years represented a time when, less educated, I thought I was bullet-proof in the woods. I thought I had it all figured out.  This was an era when I wanted to shoot the biggest buck without really having to work at it.

Sure, it took getting up early in the morning and braving the cold weather, but that was about it. I quickly learned that much of my whitetail hunting ways needed rethinking – or thinking at all. Further, I started to realize that whitetail hunting is much more of a chess match than a free-for-all.

No more scrambling for the “good stand,” regardless of hunting conditions. A hunt-smarter mantra overtook my hunt-often mindset.




Are You Getting A Deer Education or Just Educating Deer?

Perhaps the most essential shift in thinking was realizing that I was habitually educating way too many deer to my presence.

My aha moments finding rubs and trails were really nothing more than sloppy field trips. What was worse was my half hazard route selection when traversing to and from this honey-hole stand. The same could be said about the other properties we hunted.

aerial map of hunting area

It’s critical to consider wind direction and how it pertains to your planned entry and exit routes to your stand or hunting location.

Stand locations were based on the best buck sign and past experiences with little regard for prevailing winds and entry and exit routes. If I was sitting over a rub line – or for that matter a urine-soaked cotton ball, I was golden.

When the buck sightings didn’t materialize (or came to a halt), I assumed the deer had simply changed their patterns. And I continued to taint the woods like an open tank of gasoline.



Coming to My Senses

Like the deer I hunted, I started to exercise more caution and logic. The fact is that, though all deer have great senses, they continually get better with age – especially bucks.

I had heard these things from other hunters and read about them in magazines. In fact, my father had often preached these basic facts. However, with a few bucks under my belt, I had just chosen to ignore them.

After this reckoning, I finally made the decision to maximize my time in the woods.

Applying the Basics

First, I started to employ simple tactics in response to deer and their innate abilities.

So, how do you keep from compromising your best hunting setups during the season?

First, regardless of property size, prepare multiple setups for different wind directions. This will usually provide a good hunting alternative for a given day’s conditions. If possible, vow to never hunt a stand during marginal wind situations.

hand holding antlers

As bucks get older, it gets tougher to fool them. Be sure not to over hunt your best stand locations, or to hunt them in less than optimal conditions.

Next, consider ahead of time how you will enter and exit the stand. Hopefully, some stands are set up within a heavy travel corridor between food sources and/or bedding areas. However, with this positive placement comes a higher chance of disturbing the peace.

If your entry or exit will likely upset the area, be resolute about finding an alternative spot nearby. If not, hunt another area or make the dreaded, yet sometimes necessary decision to stay in.



Maximizing Your Sits

Longer sessions in your blind or treestand can pay real dividends. It’s common knowledge that it’s a great strategy during the rut, as it increases your chances of catching a buck that is either cruising or on the heals of a hot doe.

The fact is, if you have the time, it’s a great practice from a pressure standpoint as well.

The best scent management doesn’t come from a bottle. If you have an all-day sit, you eliminate additional entry and exits to and from your stand. So, consider exercising addition by subtraction by settling in for longer hunts, hence applying less pressure to the areas around your most precious setups.

Conclusion

Few stands offer even near perfect advantage for the hunter. The save-a-stand-for-best-conditions approach works. Particularly if you are hunting an exceptionally old and impressive buck, use this philosophy and completely ignore your best setups until favorable dates.

There is only one first time to hunt a stand during the season. Saving it for a time when bucks are seeking does is great, but there are more things to mull over. When you do, you greatly improve your chances at even seeing your hit-list buck.

And, you just might get that coveted shot at him. 

antler shed lying on forest floor

Deer Antlers | The Growth And Shedding Process

Have you ever been walking through the woods and found the antler of a deer? It’s like finding hidden treasure.

But, how did it get there?

Every year, whitetail deer, mule deer, elk and various other hoofed mammals shed their antlers.

two bucks fighting with antlers in snow

During the rut, bucks will fight using their antlers, in an effort to establish dominance and the right to breed the does.

The dropping of the antlers may take place within 24 to 48 hours, but the entire shedding process may take as long as two to three weeks before the antlers actually fall off. Then, throughout the summer, new antlers will regenerate.

The shedding and regrowth of a deer’s antlers is an amazing process.

Read on and let’s take a deeper look into deer antlers, how they are used, and the shedding process in general…

What are those antlers used for anyway?

Male deer, or “bucks,” use their antlers as a weapon, whether to compete for a mate, or to defend themselves. They also use their antlers to display their physiological fitness and to show off their fertility and strength.

Bucks will violently clash their sets of antlers during the breeding season, or “the rut,” to display their strength and dominance. This can sometimes lead to broken antlers, bloody deer, and sometimes even death.

Because of the competitiveness that takes place during this time, bucks with the largest set of antlers (referred to as a “rack) often position themselves to be in the right place at the right time, as a female deer (doe) comes into estrous and becomes ready to be bred.

Now let’s take a look at the the specifics of the growth of this part of a deer’s anatomy.

Antler growth

A whitetail buck’s antlers during the growth phase are covered in velvet, growing up to 2 cm per day, making them the fastest growing tissue of any mammal on earth!


Increasing levels of testosterone, in addition to decreasing daylight hours, are among the major factors contributing to antler growth during the summer months.

Considered as the most extravagant display of a male deer’s sexual traits, these antlers grow much faster than any other bones among mammals.

A deer’s antlers grow from an attachment section on its skull known as a pedicle. Antler growth starts at the tip and initially forms as a cartilage, which is later replaced by a bone-like tissue that is similar to a honeycomb.

buck in velvet staring at trail camera

During summer, deer antlers grow rapidly within two to four months and – according to Peter Yang, PhD, associate professor of orthopedics at Stanford University School of Medicine, they can grow up to 2 cm per day. During this process, the antlers eventually mineralize and harden.

But then, once peak levels of testosterone are reached, a deceleration of the growth rate of a buck’s antlers occurs.

During this period of peaking testosterone, the veins and arteries surrounding the velvet cut blood flow and supply of nutrients to the antlers.



Because of lack of blood and nutrients, the velvet that encases the antlers wastes away and falls off when the deer rub their antlers on trees. This is often referred to as the shedding of velvet.

Because of their rapid growth rate, antlers may be a disadvantage because there is an enormous need for good nutrition in order for a buck to regrow them every year. But, this can also signify a buck’s metabolic efficiency and superior food gathering capability.

So, now you know how they grow, but why do deer antlers eventually fall off?



WHY do deer shed their antlers?

So, we’ve explored how the antlers grow, but why do deer shed them later on?

In exactly the opposite way that bucks grow their antlers, the shedding of those same antlers among bucks is triggered by decreasing testosterone following the rut, as well as increasing minutes of daylight.

In the wild, injuries and nutrition also play a huge part in the antler shedding process. For example, a healthier buck loses its antlers at a much later period compared to a weaker deer.



The pedicle, or mounting point, where these antlers are attached and grow from, is also the location where the antlers break off.

Just as rising testosterone levels triggered antler growth at the pedicle, a drop in testosterone levels will cause the pedicle to weaken and eventually, the antlers will fall off.

pre and post deer velvet comparison

This is the same buck before and after shedding its velvet. Left photo: Late July. Right photo: late August.

WHEN do deer shed their antlers?

The particular time a buck will discard its antlers may be largely determined by its individual shedding cycle. This is separate from other bucks’ antler cycles and is possibly centered on its birth date.

In Mississippi, a study conducted among individual penned bucks found that they shed their racks about the same week every year. Other research studies on captive deer discovered that bucks often shed both horns three days apart of each other.


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Most bucks will retain their antlers through the winter and into the early Spring and then start shedding their racks anywhere between January and April. Some bucks may shed their antlers earlier or later depending on the maturity of the deer, its physical condition, and the habitat where they live.

Photoperiodism is the physiological response of different organisms to the length of night or day. This happens both in plants and animals. Among bucks, photoperiods occur alongside the testosterone to grow the antlers and define when they will fall off.

Testosterone levels increase during the development and the ensuing shedding of the antler velvet. As the seasons start to change, the biological reaction of antler shedding is activated.

buck shedding velvet over mineral block

When testosterone levels peak, the mineralized antlers have hardened and bucks shed their velvet that had covered the antlers.

Genes also help define early or late growth and shedding of antlers, mainly due to family history which may have an influence on the overall health of the deer.

In general, a deer will lose its antlers during the same time period each year, except for other factors such as health conditions or injuries.

Emotional factors can also play a part in the deer antler shedding process. Just like humans, deer experience social anxiety which may have a negative impact on their health condition and lead to earlier shedding.


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Other factors such as weather, altitude, and food availability may also influence when antler shedding takes place.

Some scientists believe that the shedding process is necessary in order for bucks to replace broken or damaged antlers. If a deer has to live with a broken beam or cracked tines his entire life, he will not have the necessary tool to fight off rivals or have the stance to attract does. New racks can grow anywhere from ten to thirty inches bigger every year and this allows bucks to also keep up with their increasing girth and weight as they mature.

How long does it take a deer to shed its antlers?

The duration of the shedding process all depends on how fast a buck decreases its testosterone levels. In most cases, this may happen in less than two to three days.

buck standing in snow with one antler

Individual bucks will typically shed their antlers at the same general time each year.

Although the antlers may appear solidly fixed, they may start to loosen up rapidly as the mating season progresses and natural physiological cycles happen.

After a while, an abrupt jerking actions or a sudden scare from nearby predator can cause enough force to cause the antlers to fall off. The muscle is no longer tough enough to support the weight of the rack, and as a result, the antlers simply fall off.

Early Shedding

As the connecting tissue withers and shrinks, the antlers become loose and fall off. In areas with an early mating season, testosterone levels of bucks will decrease earlier, causing some bucks to cast their antlers off at an earlier time than usual. A harsh winter with a tons of snow can also cause stressed deer to shed racks earlier.

Compared to younger bucks, many older bucks shed antlers earlier. After the mating season, the decreased levels of testosterone cause the formation of an abscission layer between the pedicles and antlers.

whitetail deer standing in open field

Late Shedding

In general, bucks in peak physical condition will hang on to their racks much longer than weaker bucks. Their prime health allows them to have stronger tissue and maintain a better physical condition causing a higher than normal antler to head stability.

Late shedding may also be caused by several other factors. Changing deer populations in a specific location may play a large part in later shedding. Low population indicates antler shedding may not reach its peak until late March or April.

First year bucks that reach the right rearing weight during their first winter will experience the estrous cycle, the recurring biological changes that are produced by reproductive hormones. This will keep the testosterone level of a deer higher for a longer period of time, which may lengthen the amount of time a buck will keep its antlers.



Do Deer Shed Both Antlers at the Same Time?

One of the fascinating aspects of deer antlers is the annual shedding process, which leads many hunters and wildlife enthusiasts to wonder: Do deer shed both antlers at the same time? The answer, however, is not quite as straightforward as one might think.

The answer is both yes and no.

The shedding process can vary from deer to deer and even between different species.

In many cases, deer will shed their antlers within a few hours or days of each other. This synchronous shedding is due to the hormonal changes that trigger the shedding process. However, it’s not uncommon for deer to shed one antler before the other.

seth porter holding a whitetail buck shed

So, while deer often shed both antlers within a short timeframe, due to hormonal changes, it’s not a strict rule that they will always shed them together. Factors such as health, genetics, injuries, and hormonal variations can influence the shedding process.

Just know that if you come across a single shed antler in the woods, it’s not unusual—it’s simply part of the fascinating cycle of deer antlers.

Other Facts About Antler Shedding

In the past, people believed that deer look for a more secluded area to shed their antlers, away from does and rival bucks to avoid public display of their loss of virility.

But, researchers debunk that idea saying that bucks are probably oblivious of when and where they will lose their antlers, although some may follow a regular pattern depending on the conditions.

Final Thoughts On Deer Antlers

The process of deer antler growth as well as the shedding process is truly an amazing occurrence. So, next time you come across a mule deer, whitetail or other type of deer antler in the woods, remember, it went through a lot just to be there!

backpack hunter with rifle

10 Essentials For Backpack Hunting | What You’ll Need

A backpack hunt can be a great way to get in touch with nature and turn a hunting trip into an explorative adventure. However, you need to bring the right gear for a hunt like this to have a comfortable and successful time.

Below are 10 pieces of gear that you absolutely need to have on your next backpack hunt.

  1. Backpack
  2. Rifle and Scope
  3. Wearables
  4. First Aid Kit
  5. Hiking Poles
  6. Knife
  7. Sleeping Gear
  8. Food and Water
  9. Heat Source
  10. Game Bags

1. The Right Backpack For The Hunt

This seems like an obvious choice but choosing the right backpack is essential. It’s still important to address, though, because nothing is going to ruin your hunt like a backpack that’s uncomfortable or difficult to wear once it’s full.

Needless to say, not just any backpack will do. There are a few main things you want out of a backpack.

First, it should offer enough support and room that you aren’t struggling too much even after you’ve filled your pack.

hunting backpack and rifle

Be sure your backpack is comfortable and durable enough to withstand the rigors of your hunting trip.

Additionally, it needs to be durable. If you’re halfway through a backpack hunt only for one of the straps to break, that’s going to make the rest of the hunt much more difficult.

Many hunters find that frame packs help them carry everything that they need without wearing them down too much.

Keep in mind that a smaller pack, like a pistol range backpack is not necessarily what you will be needing. Since you are going to be hunting wild game, don’t forget to consider that if your hunt is successful, you’ll be carrying your game in addition to what you brought with you.

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2. Your Rifle and Scope

If you’re hunting with a rifle, it goes without saying that you need to bring that rifle with you. But, what’s important is that you remember to bring the accessories that go with that rifle as well.

One piece of equipment that you’ll want to invest in regarding your rifle is a scope. The main reason you’ll want to do this is that it helps enhance your vision on the field.

hand holding rifle and scope

Using a scope on your hunting rifle, as opposed to just iron sights will increase your chances of success on your hunt. If you’re predator hunting, you might want a night vision or thermal scope.

You can get a much clearer picture of what’s happening when you take a shot rather than trying to squint and rely fully on your natural eyesight.



When it comes to scopes, though, you have a lot of options. This can make it a little intimidating to try and find something that works for you and fits your gun. Luckily, there are plenty of resources like OutdoorBest.com that will help you with taking these in and finding the best scope for your rifle. (Just be sure it’s mounted properly and sighted in!)

Also, if you’re going to be shooting at long range, be sure you have put in the work at long distances, so that you can make the proper shot when it counts.

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*Note: If you are a bow hunter, in addition to your bow, be sure to pack accessories such as broadheads, arrows, an extra release, etc.

3. The Right Wearables

When you’re going on a backpack hunt, it isn’t all about what you carry. In addition, you also have to think about what you’re going to wear.

First, make sure you have the warm hunting clothes you depend on during the season. This includes gear like insulated pants and a parka if necessary.

However, you’re also going to want to be prepared for inclement weather which means rain gear goes in your bag as well. The last thing you want is to be caught in the rain only for you and your gear to get soaked through.

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It’s a good idea to invest in waterproof and water-resistant gear rather than just throwing a flimsy rain poncho into your bag. It’s also a good idea to bring an extra pair of shirts and paints just in case.

You also need to invest in a good pair of boots. These will help keep your feet safe and dry as well as comfortable. While your boots shouldn’t be old, it’s a good idea to wear a pair that’s already “broken in.” There’s a lot of public hunting land out there to be explored, and you don’t want to have to accommodate for blistered feet while you’re hiking your way through it.




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4. First Aid Kit… A Backpack Hunting Must

This is an important piece of gear to remember. Anytime you’re going on any type of outdoor excursion, no matter how much risk is involved, you’re going to want to keep a well-stocked first-aid kit on hand. This will allow you to take care of anything like a scrape from a fall or take urgent methods to help get a more seriously injured party member to help.

There are two parts to making sure your kit is as useful as possible.

First, you need to have the right supplies. A well-stocked kit has more than just a few spare bandages and antibacterial wipes. It should be much more comprehensive including items like non-latex gloves, antibiotic ointment, gauze, tweezers, and more.

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The Red Cross has a handy checklist of what should go in your kit. You should go back through this checklist before every outing.

Secondly, those supplies are only so helpful without the knowledge to use them. It’s a good idea to study up and make sure you have a first aid guide in your kit to help you out.



5. Hiking Poles

Hiking poles – also referred to as trekking poles – are a must for a backpack hunt. This is because there is a lot of hiking involved in backpack hunting and you want to be as smart and safe as possible.

Hiking poles can help take some of the pressure and impact of steep hiking off of your legs and knees. These poles are also praised for keeping your hands raised rather than at your sides which is better for circulation. This improves your stamina.

man holding hiking poles

Hiking poles are a must on a backpack hunt, as they will help you maintain good balance and take pressure off your legs and knees.

While there are a number of other benefits to go on about, another one of the biggest things that hikers often call on their hiking poles for is balance and anchoring in tough conditions. This is particularly useful in backpack hunting since you’re carrying a large pack that could throw your center of gravity off, especially when you’re carrying large game back.



6. A Knife

A knife is a must have on a backpack hunting trip. While there is some debate over whether a fixed blade or folding blade is the best choice, there’s no debate that having a knife on hand can be a lifesaver.

Of course, a knife comes in handy for standard tasks like field dressing your game, but knives are one of the most versatile tools to keep in your pack and can help with anything from first aid to preparing your nightly meal.

backpack hunting knife

Whether you will be dressing wild game or just needing an aid for preparing food and getting camp ready, a knife is an invaluable tool on any backpack hunting trip.

Because your knife is so important, it’s a good idea to keep a sharpener handy too. This way you don’t end up having to struggle with a dull knife. There are plenty of handheld models, so you don’t have to worry about losing a lot of storage space by taking it along.



7. Gear for Sleeping

backpack hunters

Travel as light as possible while still bringing what you will need to sleep on and in.

Without a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent, your hunting trip will probably be pretty short-lived. If you’re going backpack hunting and plan on staying a while away from hotels and homes, you’re going to need to be just as ready to camp as you are to hunt.

Also, be sure to take clothes to sleep in that are appropriate for the weather. A hat and warm socks will help you stay warm in a tent when the temperatures drop.

While you’re choosing your camping gear, remember that the general rule of thumb that you’ll want to follow is to travel light. After all, whatever you want to bring will be on your back most of the time. That’s why it’s a good reason to lean towards lighter, simpler tents rather than an excessively expansive or luxurious tent.

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8. Food and Water

Once you have your shelter accounted for, you’re going to need to consider your other basic needs: food and water.

First, let’s look at water. This is one of the most important things you put in your bag because your body can’t operate in top condition without it.

It’s crucial to keep plenty of water on hand because you aren’t guaranteed to find a fresh, clean water supply while on your trip. It’s also a good idea to keep a way to purify water on hand. Iodine tablets or small, handheld water purifiers are popular among campers and hikers.

As for food, you have a lot of different options as to what you can bring to eat. You can rely on all of your campfire favorites including everything from made-for-camping freeze dried meals to your favorite coffee, as well as non-perishable snacks like trail mix and granola bars. As you learn your way around backpack hunting, you can get creative and find out what unique campsite meals you love.



9. A Source of Heat

Whether you’re cooking or just staying warm at the end of the night, you’re going to need a way to get a fire started on your campsite.

Matches and a lighter are good to keep handy but it’s also a good idea to have a fire starter kit on hand. This way, you won’t have to struggle trying to get started from scratch without help.

When on a backpack hunt, the campfire is a critical piece, so don’t forget to keep a fire starter kit on hand just in case.

Don’t forget that you have to make sure any campfire you set has to be put out safely before you pack up for the night. It can go a long way to study up on or even keep a copy of the USDA Forest Service steps to extinguishing a campfire.

10. Game Bags

When you’re going to be carrying game long distances, you need a reliable way to do so. Your best bet here is to invest in game bags to carry your game in after you field dress it. This will help you make sure that it makes its way from the spot you took it down to your dinner table back at home.

Backpack hunting can be a unique and rewarding experience but you need to be well-prepared. So whether you’re after elk, mule deer or other big game, having basic essentials like these, you can be more prepared for what is hopefully a successful backpack hunt!

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Josh Montgomery of Minute Man Review