Whitetail deer in Illinois, part 3

As we said in the last article about Illinois whitetail deer, the two most important senses for a deer are its sense of smell and its hearing. A deer is always using these two senses to scan an area for potential threats. But what about those big eyes? Even though their eyes are indeed big, their visual acuity is poor. If something does not move, a deer has a hard time distinguishing it from a tree, a post or some other inanimate object. That is why hunters, if they see a deer and then freeze in their tracks, can often tell stories of deer approaching them without the deer becoming alarmed. It is also widely believed that deer cannot easily differentiate between colors. That is one reason hunters can get away with wearing blaze orange during the shotgun season and still hunt successfully.

However, if the deer smells or hears something he doesnt like, he “high-tails it” out of the area. The deer’s tail is a good indication of his alarm status. If the tail is down, it generally means the deer has not detected anything to get upset about. But if that white tail comes up, it’s like the starting gun at a 100-yard dash. An instant after that whitetail comes up, he and any other deer with him are usually gone. So where do they go when they run out of sight? Often, a deer will bound off 100 yards or so, then stop and look behind him. It is not unusual for a deer to make a large circle in a wooded area, and return to the same spot if it believes the threat to it has gone away. Rarely will any hunter on the ground overtake a deer after the hunter has spooked it. Most successful deer hunters in Illinois generally agree the odds of seeing and taking a deer are best if the hunter makes her stand in one place, and then waits for the deer to walk by the stand. Furthermore, an elevated stand provides the additional benefit of raising the hunter’s odor above the ground so it will dissipate before a deer can smell it. A tree stand 10-15 feet above the ground also yields a view of the immediate area that is much better than the view from ground level.

Once a hunter decides to hunt from a tree stand, then she must decide from which tree she wants to hunt. That is when it pays to know more about the daily habits of these deer. Food and cover are two things a deer needs each day. Deer will usually feed around dawn and around dusk. Between those times, deer normally look for a place of cover in which to rest, or bed down. A good place to locate a tree stand is somewhere along the path between the food plot and the bedding area. Before hunting season starts, veteran deer hunters often spend many hours in the woods looking for deer “sign” and trying to determine where the deer feed and bed down. Once the hunter identifies a pattern, she can then pick a few spots along the route the deer are likely to take during their daily routine. Hunting from a good tree stand at one of these spots is an excellent way to maximize the chance of taking a deer on the opening day of deer season. The archery season for deer in Illinois is Oct. 1, 2006 to Jan. 11, 2007. The first shotgun season is Nov. 17-19. The second shotgun season is Nov. 30-Dec. 3, 2006.

This article was provided by the Illinois State Rifle Association. For more information about the association, call 635-3198 or visit www.isra.org.

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