Strategies for hunting unfamiliar ground

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Mar 4, 2010
Valley of Stucco and Sadness, CA
I have some time off this week and later this month to hunt deer. I'll be on a large chunk of public land in Downeast Maine. It's primarily forest that's been logged and has started to grow back in. The brush is thick and extensive networks of now overgrown logging roads intersect it. I've found some deer sign, but by no means is it a tremendous amount. I've found a few points where deer have been crossing into clear cuts, but I have no idea what time of day they are passing through.

I'm thinking that taking up a stand is a crapshoot with very low odds. Is it worth it to still hunt along the trails in hopes I luck out? I'd like to increase my odds of success from none to some.

Best option is to sit for a couple hours, walk, then sit ect. Depens if you get lucky and there not just bedded down in the thick stuff.
Deer generally move between food, water, and bed locations. Can you use Google maps satellite pictures to identify good food or water sources in or near the area you'll be hunting? If so, set up on a trail leading to the food or water source you've identified (of course the trail should have recent deer sign on it).

If the brush is as thick as I imagine from your description, I'm not sure you'll see the deer before they are long gone.
I'd walk the logging roads, after a fresh snowfall, find a good track and follow it.
Take your time and you might spot that big buck. For sure you'll learn the territory.
Sit several hours and walk some.
It's my opinion you will see more deer sitting still with the sun at your back and the wind in your face than you will ever see by walking up on them.
Walk hunting of course works but can be limiting.
I got my first deer a long time ago.

I was heading up opening morning and was hopelessly lost as daylight approached so I parked in the ditch next to one of those deer crossing signs they put along the highway.
I walked into woods and.
Sure as **** about 15 minutes goes by and I got a small 6 pointer.

I finally found my group by early afternoon and I was the only one with a deer.
For your first pass, I'd try to cover some ground. Spotting and dating sign is an acquired skill. Be aware that deer are often in open hardwood cover at night and often will be just inside the softwood cover next to these areas. I say this because lots of guys see tracks and poop in the hardwoods and then spend all week crunching through hardwoods. They do come into these areas at dusk, though, so a good place to get set up an hour before dusk. Cover a 300 acre tract in the morning and, if you didn't see sign, eat lunch and move someplace else in the afternoon 'cause it aint no fun hunting where there are no deer. Move can be just sliding over a little or moving a few miles, depending on many factors, other hunters included. After a few days to a week (it CAN take that long if you've not scouted the area and are new to hunting, sorry to say...) you will know where to go. Every season do some 'R&D' and spend a couple afternoons looking for new cover. Most of all, have fun and enjoy being outdoors.
They will move mostly at night, so early in the morning and late in the afternoon is the best time. If they are in the rut a buck may chase a doe any time of the day.

What are they eating this time of year? Any acorns?

Generally speaking a deer will bed down in thick stuff, but they don't like to move through it any more than you do.

It's interesting, if you start moving through that thick stuff and pick out the easiest path a lot of times you will end up on a game trail.
Scan the area with google earth and look for water and food sources. Then look for the likely paths between these. When you've located all this, look for a good ambush point. If that doens't pan out after a few hours of sunlight, start hoofing it.
More time to scout is the key, but if I am pressed for time the things I look for are food, and cover. In finding those two elements try refine that area by looking for edge type cover, like the edge of mature hardwood forest and a clear cut or ridge lines that funnel into one hollow or a thicket close to a food source. Paying attention to the wind also make or break your set-up. If you can find some does that are using an area that's where I would try to set-up. This time of year the buck's will be cruzing,if you have the time It will happen.
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Get you GPS and spend a day roaming around. Bet you`ll find more than one place to set up shop, (blind, tree-stand.)
So far, it's not too promising. I did a lot of walking yesterday and while I have identified numerous game trails, there's no evidence they've recently been used by deer. All the scat I've found is pretty dried up and old looking.

I did find one lone set of tracks in a patch of snow, clearly from a very small deer.

oh well. It still beats work.
are there sources of water on the land you're hunting? start there.

and if you can use scents/lures I'd reccomend Code Blue's deer urine. Deer always come around to investigate a new deer in the neighborhood.
There's a ton of water. lakes, ponds, streams, puddles, etc. You can hardly toss a rock without it landing in drinkable water. In other words, deer don't have to go to any one spot for a drink.

Same with food. It's mostly browse, which grows everywhere. The deer don't have to be any given place in order to eat. There are oak and beech trees every now and then, but I'm not seeing any nuts or acorns on the ground.

For now, I'm just going to enjoy being out there and not in front of a computer screen. I may not be seeing any deer, but I am seeing other wildlife. There is, oddly, a large flock of turkeys in the area and this morning a piliated woodpecker stuck around for quite a while.

Who knows, the rut might start up and that's a game changer.
No acorns under an Oak tree? wonder where they went? If you can get some acorns and bait around those oaks i bet some come in.
Don’t get lost! We’ve had hunters get lost on the property. Required the mountain rescue people to be involved.
I won't. I have a GPS, a compass, and I grew up exploring places like this. I have a few strategies for not getting lost. If that sounds cocky, it's ironic because my first rule is not to overestimate my abilities as a woodsman.
generally deer will hide during the day and shortly before sunset will start to move into clearings to forage. best is to walk the roads during late morning and early afternoon and towards sunset post up on the edge of a clearing and wait for the deer to hang out. you might also looks for springs or cattle troughs that the deer freqent...those will also be an early morning or late evening spot that they frequent.
Hunt the swale edges adjacent to a lake, pond or stream.
Use the wind to your advantage.
And if you're not standing on fresh deer sign, your in the wrong spot.
Good Luck!
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