While in New Jersey this past weekend for the Garden State Outdoor Sports Show, I heard a lot of discussion about baiting deer. In particular, I heard a lot about how to out-bait other hunters. As more and more states pass liberal laws about the use of bait allowing for bait to be used more often, deer become increasingly conditioned.
The deer are catching on. Plenty of us are seeing mature bucks on camera only in the middle of the night. Furthermore, we see younger deer exhibiting skittish behavior even when they are hungry. Here are three ways we can try and overcome this baiting dilemma and out-bait other hunters.
I am a firm believer in looking outside deer hunting for inspiration. Coyote hunters have developed years of complex baiting methods that involve creating more natural bait sites in order to produce higher harvest rates. One of these methods is called confidence baiting.
Confidence baiting is based on the idea that in the wild, food appears over a large area rather than on just a pile in one location. Supporting a core bait site with smaller bait sites of the same food type creates a natural setting similar to acorns spread over a large area. This setup can ease the conditioned fear of even the most wisened whitetails.
The Isolated Variable
Looking at pictures taken late at night from our trail cameras over an active bait site can be frustrating. Where is that deer during the daylight? But we need to remember that we have isolated a very important variable: we know where the whitetail feeds. That right there is a golden piece of the puzzle in patterning in any whitetail. Yet when you find yourself just staring at the dark, late night pictures, it might mean it’s time to move the camera.
Ask yourself: where are the deer approaching the bait site from? How do they bed in relation to this isolated food source? With answers from these questions, we might find out that the impossible late-night-feeding mature buck is a reality two-hundred yards off. We stand a good chance seeing deer further from the bait during daylight. There is also the opportunity on top of a feeder to interact with a deer with its guard down.
Do Not Bait at All
Knowing what other hunters do can often tell us what the deer are not doing. If we are hunting an area full of other hunter’s bait, it might be time to stop trying to out-bait other hunters. We need to look at what these other hunters are doing in relation to our hunting areas. Bait sites are for the most part considered hostile territory to a conditioned whitetail.
In the case where every area around is baited, the best bait might be to not have any bait at all. Removing bait from our own hunting grounds can make us the neutral zone for a clever whitetail. This falls under the concept of hunting the hunter.
Last modified: August 27, 2018