Where are all the deer? Right under your nose!
I enjoy reading both current hunting articles as well as back issues during the course of the year. Iím not one for memorizing things, so I often revisit them periodically. There was a good article written in PA Game & Fish magazine in the Nov 2009 issue titled "Stand Sites for Public-Land Whitetails.
One of the first points made came via data from a 2001-2002 gps study of hunters during the first week of rifle season. The study revealed that the majority of hunters surveyed and tracked, hunted less than 1/3 mile from a road and hardly any hiked back to where researchers believed the deer were.
I think most hunters would agree, that unless pressured during rifle season, deer hold tight and are reluctant to move, or hold up in an area that sees little pressure. Where are these areas of little pressure? I tend to find these areas that are hard to get to, very thick, steep and located a mile+ from roads and main access trails etc... I use topo maps to find these areas. Also, thru scouting I have found deer sanctuaries located in the center of what I call "steel trees" that are 6-8' tall and grow extremely close to each other making it very hard to navigate. I try to find deer trails that lead to the center of these areas and often find tons of sign and deer. One set back is that you usually need open sights in an area like this and are often relegated to sitting on the ground.
The next great point the article focused on were funnels or bottlenecks. In my experience, these areas are great, if deer are pressured to use them. For instance, behind our cabin is a funnel created by a deer enclosure on one side and a steep hill on the other. Every year the camp above use hunt their stands behind our property, deer are pressured to use this funnel. I have seen 12 deer single file using this funnel. One set back is I usually look at each deer passing by to determine if any are shooter bucks. When I get to the last deer, I have to decide whether to harvest that doe or wait another minute, hour or half day for a potential buck to be following or passing thru. Every year I see deer using this funnel IF, the camp behind use hunts their stands. The days they hunt, we see deer. The days they do not hunt behind their cabin, we do not see any deer. The times we see deer are simple. In the am when the hunters above us enter their stand, at lunch when they leave to eat and in the afternoon when they return.
So what I learned from this article is to use pressure to your advantage. Hunt areas that see little to no pressure to find deer held up, and use pressure to your advantage when hunting around other people. Let them move the deer to you. This also reinforces my belief that there are plenty of deer in PA, people just have to adapt and find them, because deer are adapting not to be found. Successful hunters put time and effort in and are often rewarded for doing so.