September 21, 2023
Affiliate Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. We earn from qualifying purchases.
Mobility is a big buzzword in the whitetail-hunting world. Many of today’s top buck slayers are constantly on the move, rarely hunting from the same tree twice. This is a great approach when it comes to keeping the element of surprise in your favor. Staying mobile also allows you to move with the action, keeping you on top of your game as preferred food sources and deer behavior shift throughout the season.
Still, as good as mobility is, there are times I wish I would have stayed put! Determining whether to stick it out in your current spot or strike out in search of greener pastures is a conflict every bowhunter faces from time to time. In this article, we’ll break it down and take a closer look at the reasons to stay on the move and when to understand that it’s OK to settle in at a spot that deserves to be hunted more than once.
Reasons to Go
Back when I started bowhunting whitetails 20-some years ago, equipment was not exactly mobile friendly! At that time, comfort trumped portability. Climbing stands and hang-ons of the day were heavy, bulky and noisy. In those days, being mobile meant setting up as many stands as possible before the season opener so you could hopscotch from stand to stand as conditions dictated.
Sometimes during the season I’d have to take those stands down and move them based on what I was seeing. Or I would have to go hunt other areas and try to figure out how and where to find a buck to hunt. Regardless, I did a lot of bouncing around back then, just like I do now, but it was not nearly as easy as it is currently.
My reason for moving frequently is simple: I want the buck I’m bowhunting to have no clue I’m on his tail! I do not want a buck to have any inclination he’s being hunted by hearing me, seeing me, winding me or picking out my stand location. This holds true for the rest of the deer herd as well, because even though I’m not hunting the whole herd, it’s very important that they do not figure me out and alert my target buck of my presence.
Moving stand locations frequently — particularly on highly pressured ground — keeps deer and other hunters from patterning me as I’m trying to pattern a buck. Also, sometimes we just need to change locations due to lack of deer sightings or not seeing any good bucks. In these types of scenarios, staying on the move is a great strategy.
Choose Your Battles
My goal every year is to find a mature buck, learn his haunts and habits and then put an arrow through his lungs! Unfortunately, that is much easier said than done. This is where being mobile and not repeatedly hunting the same spot is so important. But knowing whether to stay or go is a tough call, and you must pick your battles.
For example, a few years ago I was hunting a great buck on a farm where I didn’t have a lot of experience. I had glassed the buck there on two occasions in October, but aside from that I had no intel at all. So, I threw some trail cameras out and started hunting. My plan was to be as mobile as possible; with a lightweight hang-on stand and four climbing sticks, I could easily and quietly hike in anywhere on the property and get 20 feet off the ground. My plan was to pick an area, go in early in the afternoon, find hot sign and hunt over it! Meanwhile, as I gathered firsthand observations, I would wait for the cameras to reveal their own insights.
Bouncing around and hunting a new spot almost every evening allowed me to cover a ton of country, but I just didn’t find what I was looking for. Then, one Saturday afternoon, my luck completely changed! I decided to go into a deep creek bottom and look for fresh sign. It was the end of October, so I knew there should be plenty of fresh rubs and scrapes in areas with high buck activity. Sure enough, I found an area just like that. A deep drainage led into this creek, and at the bottom of it was a sharp bend in the creek, providing the perfect in-woods funnel! This area was clearly hot, so I immediately climbed a tree and got set up for the evening hunt. Although I did not see my target buck that night, I did see five other bucks cruising the creek bottom, and every one of them used that creek crossing!
My plan was to now fine-tune my approach by making small moves within that general vicinity until I found the perfect ambush. Six hunts and six different trees later, I killed a fantastic buck! That would not have happened without me picking and choosing my battles of where to hunt and how long to hunt there. I knew I needed to be in that area, but I also knew that I had to stay flexible until I found the perfect tree. I didn’t want to hunt the same exact spot twice and give away my location to the local deer. On the night I killed that buck, I felt like I was in the perfect tree in the perfect spot. In fact, had I not killed my target buck the first evening there, I would have hunted there a few more days before moving again.
Reasons to Stay
As much as I love being a mobile, run-and-gun guy, I have learned over the years there are times when you must stay put. That’s right; I’m now telling you to hunt the same spot twice, or three or four times!
As I explained earlier, my whitetail-hunting goal is to never be seen, heard or winded by my target buck or any other deer. By bouncing around, I feel like I am giving myself the upper hand in the chess matches with mature whitetails. But there is an exception to every rule. Sometimes, a spot is worth hunting multiple times. Maybe this is a spot you’ve stumbled on while scouting and you find a tree you know you can slip into and out of undetected. Or maybe it’s off the edge of a cut cornfield the farmer just combined, and you just know the area will be pounded by the local deer herd for the next several days as they scavenge what’s been left behind.
Regardless, if your gut tell you there is a good reason to hunt a spot more than once, listen to it! This is especially true during certain times of the season. For example, during the early season you may find an oak ridge where tons of acorns are dropping before many acorns are available elsewhere. Well, that ridge will absolutely be on fire with deer activity. In my opinion, that’s a great time to find a tree that works for you and spend a few days in it! Another example would be when a funnel is creating a high volume of daylight buck activity during the rut. In that scenario, I think you should set up shop for a few days, roll the dice and see what happens.
Don’t Overthink It!
As bowhunters, we’ve all been guilty of hunting the same spot repeatedly and burning the location out. In my experience, once you burn a spot out, it’s burned out for the entire fall. Trust me, I’ve learned from experience that no matter how good you think the spot looks, or how much you believe a certain buck just “has to” walk by at some point, it probably isn’t going to turn out like you hoped. If something isn’t working or producing, it’s time to move on even though that can be difficult to accept. But what happens when the opposite happens? Let me explain.
Let’s say you’re bouncing around from spot to spot, being mobile, in mid-October and you stumble upon a ridge covered with fresh scrapes and big, orange rubs. We all know what this means; a big buck is living close by and you should definitely jump on that hot sign NOW! You’ve been bouncing around waiting to find “the spot;” now you have, and it is time to set up shop!
I have to admit that in the past, I’ve been guilty of overthinking such scenarios. I’ve tried to reinvent the wheel instead of taking the gift right in front of me. Because I’ve been in such a mobile mindset, I felt like I should only hunt the hotspot a time or two and bounce again. Wrong! The spot is hot right now! Maybe the sign tells us that, or trail cameras are confirming a buck is there frequently in daylight. Regardless, the time to strike is right now!
Most hotspots are only hot for very short windows during the season. They will produce excellent hunting, but it won’t last long. So, buckle in, stay alert and be prepared for that big buck to stroll on by!