FAQs About The Hunt & Greg Miller
What’s your favorite state for hunting mature whitetails?
Without a doubt, we’d have to say that South Dakota currently is our favorite state for hunting mature whitetails—especially the western part of the state. While antler size of mature bucks in the west river region may not rival the racks found on mature bucks from upper midwestern states, they are still quite impressive. What’s more, the vast stretches of open prairie habitat common in South Dakota often translates into higher numbers of buck sightings. Also, even during gun season hunting pressure is no where near as intense as it is in the midwest. And finally, we doubt you’ll find an environment anywhere that’s as picturesque and breathtakingly beautiful as the river bottoms and Badlands areas of western South Dakota.
Do you use ground blinds? And if you do, how much time and effort do you put into trying to conceal them?
Yup, we use ground blinds quite often. In fact, I’d be willing to wager that we hunt from ground blinds almost as much as we hunt from tree stands these days. As for the amount of effort we put into trying to conceal our blinds—that’s usually dependent upon the type of situation we’re dealing with. For instance, we’ve placed pop-up ground blinds in fields that are strewn with round bales and made zero attempt to conceal them. We’ve had deer walk within a few feet of our blinds and not even so much as glance at them. In most other situations, however, we do make some attempt to “brush in” our ground blinds. But we’ll use just enough long grass, brush and small leafy branches to help break up the outline of the blind, but not so much that our blind winds up looking like a blob of debris.
How often will you hunt from a particular stand? More specifically, is there ever a time during the season when you’d hunt from the same stand on consecutive days?
We’re usually very careful about how often we hunt from a particular stand during the early archery season. Remember, mature bucks aren’t being distracted by hot does or any other rut-related factors at this time; which means they’re very much in-tune with their surroundings. They miss very little of what goes on within their core areas, including the activities of any hunters that might be routinely invading their turf. While you might be able to get away with ‘bumping’ a big deer once, we highly doubt you’ll get away with it more than once. However, as we approach the late pre rut phase mature whitetails often abandon their hyper-sensitive, reclusive lifestyles and adopt a more nomadic nature. And since they’re not spending near as much time within their core areas, they’re not nearly as keen on detecting human presence. This becomes even more evident during the peak of the rut, when mature bucks may be absent from their normal home ranges for extended periods of time. Which makes it a perfect time to invade their turf on consecutive days.
Do you try to place your tree stand at pretty much the same height on all your hunts? If so, what’s your preferred height?
Allow me to answer the second part of your question first. Yes, we do have a preferred height for our portable tree stands. That height is roughly between 14-16 feet. Any lower than that and we get paranoid about getting “picked off” by deer. Any higher than that and we get nervous about the height. As for being able to adhere to this height guideline on all our hunts, well, that’s just not possible. This is because the availability of tall, straight trees and/or trees that might afford us adequate cover can be few and far between in some of the areas we hunt. However, that being said, we’ve definitely noticed a dramatic difference from one area to another concerning the sensitivity deer display toward threats from above. For example, there have been cases where we’ve had our tree stands placed a full 16 feet up in trees that also afforded us a lot of cover—and we still had deer pick us off almost the instant they walked into view. Conversely, I once arrowed a beautiful 150-class whitetail while hunting from a tree stand that was a mere seven feet from the ground (and in a tiny tree)! Even more unbelievable, my cameraman was on a stand in the same tree. Obviously, the resident deer in that area hadn’t been subjected to much in the way of threats from above!
Though I’m pretty sure I already know the answer this question, I’d like to ask what time during the season you most prefer to hunt? (I’m guessing it’s the rut.)
Well…we don’t mean to disappoint you, but there actually are two time frames other than the rut when we most prefer to pursue big deer. One of those times is during early season. This is especially the case when the target of our intentions happens to be giant mule deer, (which almost always means employing a spot & stalk strategy). Mule deer usually adopt nomadic lifestyles during the rut, and often will completely disappear from their home ranges for weeks at a time. But they’re often the epitome of a “homebody” during the early season period. They’ll bed, travel, feed and water all within a relatively small area. What’s more, muleys are notorious for establishing rather large bachelor groups this time of year. Which means that if you find one buck, you’ll most likely find more. The same holds true for whitetails. But while you’ll also find them in bachelor groups, most times those groups are smaller. However, when it comes to the the travel routes that link their bedding and feeding areas, whitetails often are a bit more easy to pattern than mule deer. Which of course means they’re just a tad easier to hunt.
Another time frame we’ve really come to enjoy is the late season period. Just like during early season, bucks are once again living in their core areas and often times using some of the same travel routes and feeding sites as before. And while activity during daylight hours seldom is like it was during early season, you can bet that any daylight traveling that does occur will happen along those routes. Also, keep in mind that protein rich foods are a very high priority for post rut bucks. Food items such as soybeans, alfalfa, turnips and winter wheat often are at the top of their grocery lists.