It doesn’t take too long after the end of deer season to start planning for the next. You spend the off-season scouting, repairing and rebuilding stands, creating food plots, and even seeking and securing new hunting properties. In the last few weeks leading up to opening weekend, you’re getting increasingly jacked.
When the much-anticipated weekend finally arrives, you’re ready. After settling into your stand, you patiently wait; and then the unthinkable happens.
Timely or Untimely?
It’s about a half-hour before sundown and, primed for whitetail buck magic, the area is calm. Then, like clockwork, a vehicle drives by on a nearby road. Sometimes, they even make a couple of passes. And if you have deer in your view, they’re now on high alert or worse, bolt into the brush.
Does this sound familiar to you? I hope not, but I’ve hunted properties where it was all too common. The timing can’t be coincidental. Sounds of truck engines, loud conversation, target practice; even honking. For the serious deer hunter, it’s maddening. Sabotage at the hands of irksome, and often competing neighbors. While most of these activities aren’t illegal, they lack in the hunting etiquette and courtesy department. They come in many forms.
Yeah, if you spend a lot of time around deer lease fire pits, it won’t take long before the subject of neighboring hunters comes up among members. And it’s usually not to discuss how much they like the trucks they drive. Some share similar harvest and management philosophies and some don’t. While I prefer QDMA practices in the areas I hunt, I don’t begrudge those that enjoy deer hunting differently than me; as long as they’re legal and courteous. But that’s not always the case. Below are a few of the characters that can make that purple vein in the side of my head almost explode.
I use the term loosely because I know a bunch of them and every one of them is fine folks and ethical hunters. However, there are the very few scoundrels that will do about anything to put their customers on area bucks. In large stretches of free-range hunting properties, they’re constantly surveying area deer and hunter patterns. And they base their daily routines on them - evening drives, roadside scouting sessions, loud chores, and the like. Are you being paranoid? You occasionally ponder the question, but the consistency and timing are uncanny. The worst of this group can be the ones providing day hunts. Here, there is a lot of pressure to put their clients on a good deer in a hurry, and shortcuts are taken. Regardless of methods, this causes a lot of pressure on shared deer populations. For the record, I’m not here to bash outfitters. To the contrary. In fact, I don’t really consider this tiny minority to be outfitters at all.
The Sloppy Guys Next Door
Many of us clearly understand the ways in which some neighbors cramp our hunting efforts. What about the haphazard, slapdash crowd that head to their stands after sunrise or an hour before the sun sets? What about the ones having late morning or midday joyrides on 4-wheelers and ATVs? These sessions are fun for some but are often akin to unintended deer drives for everyone around. For serious deer hunters using valuable vacation time, it’s annoying.
The fact is they have every right to hunt and enjoy their hunting property in these ways. While I stand by that, I admittedly have had some near treestand aneurysms due to this group.
Who Let the Dogs Out?
Dogs stressing or even chasing deer is not a new problem. It’s sometimes a reality in the country from strays to dogs some people simply let run free. In many areas, it’s not only common but a strategy used by rural neighbors of all sorts, from anti-hunters to direct hunting competitors. It’s frustrating to catch area dogs on your trail cameras but borderline infuriating to witness it during a hunt. In my experience, nothing ruins a hunting area quite like wandering dogs.
I can’t get myself to shoot someone’s dog so I either grin and bear it or, at most, shoot near them in an attempt to scare them off (hunt over). In my mind, there is no good solution to this predicament. I find myself with a sore jaw from gritting my teeth as I write about this one…
I’ll never forget a story a friend once told me. He recollected a foggy morning that abruptly ended a little after 7:30. This was when, as the fog began to lift, he noticed a hunter sitting against a tree about 150-yards out; 10-feet from the fence line. A guest on the property, he could only wave at the guy, chuckle, and head to the house. You can learn a lot by scouting fence lines and I employ it as a main off-season strategy. But I’m always bewildered when I find blinds and treestands literally a few yards from them. The same goes for game feeders. On smaller properties, it can be a little tough to avoid but the idea of discretion seems lost on some hunters. What are you gonna do? In my mind, it’s best to take the high road and change your set up. Sometimes you can effectively strategize in response to the actions of bordering hunters; even the bad apples.
Pushing the Envelope
Before trail cameras became popular, it wasn’t totally uncommon for bordering hunters to literally trespass on nearby properties. While it’s less common today, it still happens. I’d be willing to bet that most deer hunters have experienced this problem. The evidence is sometimes clear; random gut piles, headless or antler-less bucks, and inexplicable gunshots and lights. There are poachers and those that simply aim to disrupt any kind of adjacent hunting success. For this bold lot, anything goes; tearing up game cams, stands, and feeder mechanisms. I used to hunt one property where we would find cotton balls soaked in who knows what near our stands. With this bunch, legal action can be taken – that is, if you can catch them. As appealing as getting even sounds over a couple of beers at deer camp, this is no time to play tough guy. Be smart and keep it safe.
Unknown truck caught on trail camera
Hunters have every right to do whatever legal acts they choose to do on their side of the fence. At times, our hunting neighbors can do things that drive us batty – activities that are legal, illegal, or somewhere in between. While complaining about it might feel satisfying, it usually gets us nowhere. Where possible, use their activities to your advantage. If you play your cards right and keep doing things the right way, you can turn your side of the fence into a sanctuary. In fact, trespassers and poachers aside, where would you want to be if you were a deer?
The fact of the matter is that, aside from neighbors that don’t share the same harvest and management goals, most of them are harmless, if not respectable. I hope this is the case for you. Hunt, learn and have fun with fellow hunters.
Note that this is advice coming from a guy who, in the face of the pesky hunting neighbor, can use up his monthly allotment of curse words in one hunting sit. I at least owe you that disclosure.
Based in Texas, Jerald Kopp is President of 1st Light Hunting Journal. His articles cover a variety of topics about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. Jerald is an avid outdoorsman with deer hunting and whitetails being by far his greatest passion. He was introduced to hunting and fishing at an early age and has been enjoying it for 40+ years. In 2005, he established the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) – a faith-based non-profit organization that provides hunting opportunities for disabled and terminally-ill children and youth. When not hunting, he spends his time traveling and enjoying life with Amy, his wife of over 30 years. Jerald and Amy have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.