Everyone loves the rut, when bucks get stupid and make mistakes that land them in the back of a pickup. Your odds of killing a mature buck drop after that, when these trophy animals go into seclusion and focus on adding back some of the weight lost during the breeding frenzy.
One solid plan to put the odds back in your favor is gathering a few friends and doing a drive. But, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Here are five steps to a perfect deer drive.
- Communication – Deer hunting often is a solitary activity, and hunters often aren’t the most talkative bunch, but it’s imperative both for safety and production that everyone knows their responsibilities. Your group will be split into drivers and blockers (posters). If your drivers know the terrain and area you’re driving you’re ahead of the game. If not, drive them around and show them. Explain the paths each should take during the drive and where the blockers will be. The posters, or blockers, also need to know these pathways both for safety and to get an idea of where the deer will show up. Preparing everyone on the drive is essential to success.
- Environmental Considerations – Drivers should walk with the wind at their backs to push the scent ahead of them so deer detect the intrusion and escape more calmly and slower than if spooked. By assigning each driver a certain easily identified path, such as along a creek or timberline you can eliminate drivers walking into each other’s way and make a more thorough drive. If there are no obvious paths, give each a landmark to walk toward.
Also, try to use natural barriers. Iowa’s muzzleloading/shotgun season opens after the rut, and drives are a common hunting tactic. One of the most productive drives we did there utilized a giant berm bordering a highway. The berm and highway combined to create a natural barrier. Blockers lined the base of the berm while the drivers were transported to the opposite end to drive the deer toward them.
3.Escape Routes – Deer will often take the path of least resistance even when running from danger, so know the travel routes. Post a blocker along any trail deer might use. Escape routes include include smaller timbered draws or creeks that finger off the main draw, and any terrain feature that can provide a little cover.
4.Bedding Areas – By far the most productive drives go right through bedding areas. Caution your drivers to go through, not around, thickets, briar patches and other spots that are known bedding areas. Some mature bucks know that their chances are better if they hide rather than run, so you’ve got to bust that brush to get them out.
5.The Backtracker – If you have plenty of folks on the drive, one person should stay at the drop-off spot. Get into position in an area with good visibility and watch for bucks slinking away from the danger. Sometimes deer will loop around or sneak by the drivers.
* Bonus – Drives of Opportunity – My son killed his first buck this year after three years of hunting, and it was hog hunters who pushed the deer to him. Driving into the small public hunting area, we stopped and talked to another father and son who said they were going to walk the area looking for hogs. My son and I hurried and I posted him on the inside corner of the L-shaped block of timber. He killed the buck within 20 minutes.