TWO-TIM­ING WHITE­TAILS

FOR­GET THE OLD-SCHOOL DEER DRIVES. OF­TEN, TWO HUN­TERS ARE BET­TER THAN MANY

Outdoor Life - - HUNTING INSIDER - BY DAVID HART

DRIVES ARE A PROVEN way to get deer up and mov­ing, es­pe­cially later in the sea­son when they’ve gone noc­tur­nal. As­sem­bling a pla­toon of bud­dies and or­ches­trat­ing a big drive can be more work than fun, though. There’s a bet­ter, more ef­fi­cient way that in­volves just you and a trusted buddy— and it’s not ef­fec­tive only late in the sea­son. In the right sit­u­a­tions, the two of you can punch all the tags you want by mak­ing a few wellplanne­d drives.

The Nudge

▶ IT’S JUST ABOUT IM­POS­SI­BLE to drive deer with only one other hunter, but you aren’t re­ally driv­ing them as much as you are en­cour­ag­ing them to move in the right di­rec­tion. Call it a soft push. The last thing you want to do is spook deer. Some will run, but many will stay in cover and slink ahead of the walker right into the crosshairs of your part­ner if you do it right.

There’s no bet­ter place to make a twoman push than on a farm with iso­lated blocks of tim­ber, a wooded river­bot­tom flanked by open ground, or on rolling land with lots of brushy draws and other lin­ear bed­ding cover. Ge­o­graph­i­cal fea­tures like rivers, bluffs, and other bar­ri­ers can help steer un­sus­pect­ing bucks right into your part­ner’s lap.

The tac­tics are sim­ple, but suc­cess de­pends on a few ba­sic rules. First, the stander must sneak into po­si­tion without be­ing seen or winded. That means the driver will be mov­ing through the woods with the wind at his back. That’s okay. Your scent is of­ten enough to get a buck on his feet. If you qui­etly ease through the woods up­wind of likely bed­ding ar­eas, white­tails are much more likely to sneak off rather than run out the other end. Most will be gone be­fore you get close, but some will stand up for a quick look be­fore they flee. Be ready at all times.

The Power-steer­ing Push

▶ TWO-MAN DRIVES don’t al­ways work, be­cause it’s im­pos­si­ble to cover all the es­cape routes with just one stander. Some deer will run like heck and never of­fer an eth­i­cal shot. Oth­ers will break the rules and bolt across an open field. A few seem to find over­looked es­cape routes. That’s just part of the chal­lenge.

Do two-man drives on the same farm for a cou­ple of sea­sons, though, and you’ll even­tu­ally learn just how pre­dictable white­tails can be. They fre­quently use the same es­cape routes time af­ter time, even if it’s a dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tion of deer. You can ad­just your next drives based on ex­pe­ri­ence by ap­proach­ing known bed­ding ar­eas from the most pro­duc­tive an­gles and steer white­tails right to your friend.

The Side-by-side

▶ POST­ING A STANDER ON ONE end of a block of woods or along a river­bot­tom works great when the cover is suit­able, but it’s not such a good tac­tic when you hunt an end­less for­est. That’s when both of you need to walk. By par­al­lel­ing each other as you move through the woods 100 to 300 yards apart, one of you will of­ten have a bumped deer run smack into you.

It’s im­por­tant to stay out of sight of each other (see Safety First, be­low). Avail­able cover and ter­rain will dic­tate the best dis­tance, but make sure bumped deer don’t know there are two peo­ple in the woods. In­stead of run­ning from both of you, they will some­times run to­ward one of you, then slow or stop, and of­fer a quick shot.

Use wind, cover, and ter­rain to your ad­van­tage, but make sure you both walk at the same slow pace. The slower you go, the less likely deer will run at full speed. Walk a few yards, stop and look ahead, and then re­peat.

Safety First

▶ WHETHER IT’S A SOFT PUSH or a cal­cu­lated two-man walk, it’s vi­tal to make a plan, set rules, fol­low them, and al­ways wear hunter orange. If you aren’t in­ti­mately fa­mil­iar with the prop­erty, pull up an aerial map on your phone and dis­cuss where each hunter will be. The stander should never leave his des­ig­nated post, and the driver should spec­ify and stick to his route. Nei­ther hunter should take a shot at a deer that might be be­tween him and his part­ner. Wait un­til it gets well off to the side or be­yond, or at least has solid ground be­hind it. A hill is good; trees or thick brush aren’t.

If you aren’t 100 per­cent cer­tain, don’t shoot. It’s just a deer. Be­sides, if that spot held a deer once, there’s a good chance that the same buck or an­other will bed there on a dif­fer­ent day. Give the area a week to set­tle down, grab your buddy, and walk it again. Punched tag or not, driv­ing beats star­ing at an empty food plot.

A pair of hun­ters at the start of a side-by-side tim­ber deer drive.

The happy drag back to camp af­ter a suc­cess­ful drive.

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