By Ron Spomer
7 Ways eastern hunters can find whitetails in big country.
You’ve decided where to go, and you’re there. Now what? Once you feel fairly comfortable in an area, you can begin concentrating on the deer, and here’s how:
Understand your quarry. Western whitetails appreciate cover as much as their eastern cousins, but they’ve learned to live as minimalists. Waist-high brush may be sufficient, and head-high cattails and bulrushes may be even better. A small island of trees, right next door to a farmstead, can be a prime hiding place. Even an undisturbed field of grass can be sufficient. Western whitetails take advantage of the scantiest cover as long as they have a food source holding them in the area, and that’s usually a farm field. Corn, wheat, milo, beans, alfalfa. If you grow it, they will come. And they’ll camp in sagebrush if they have to.
- Think big. Deer out here often have to hike one to four miles between bedding cover and feed. They prefer to follow traditional cover lines, but will cross vast, open grasslands when they must. Concentrate on woody fence lines and stream courses, but don’t overlook open pastures.
- Glass, glass and glass. Because it’s so open, you can find deer miles away with binoculars and spotting scopes. Find first, stalk later. Sometimes you must wait for a deer to enter land you can hunt, but once it does, don’t be bashful. Get right after it. Open country whitetails aren’t as shy as those in heavy cover because they can’t be overly concerned with potential long range danger. You can risk crossing open country more than 500 yards from visible deer.
Cut ’em off at the pass. Whether this means taking a stand along a known travel route or running to get in front of a moving buck, do it. Intercepting deer between bedding and dining is the ticket most times. During rut you can grunt, rattle and still-hunt because bucks will move as many as 10 linear miles per day.
- Plan smart, hunt smart. Deer go where pressure is least. Often this is public land. If you know hunters will be scouring a large, private ranch bordered by public lands, hunt the public lands to jump bucks pushed there by private land hunters.
- Don’t ignore small cover. The Dakotas are sprinkled with small public hunting lands surrounded by private land. Local deer are masters at finding and hiding in tiny, overlooked patches of cattails, tall grass, brush and weeds. Don’t overlook any.
- Become proficient with a flat-shooting rifle. Flat shooters like the .270 Winchester and 7mm magnum are popular in the west. With practice and the right bullet you should be able to terminate any buck out to 300 yards, 400 if you’re really good. Practice and be good.
Follow these seven tips, and you better sharpen your knives and bring a cooler or two. On second thought, don’t bother with sharpening. Just carry a lightweight Havalon knife with replaceable blades. You’ll find western whitetails delicious.
About Ron Spomer
Ron Spomer writes for many outdoor magazines and hosts Winchester World of Whitetail on NBC Sports. Learn more at www.ronspomeroutdoors.com.
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