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bigbucks

how do you do your drives?

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This is something that I always find interesting is how other parties do their deer drives. In our area most of the parties are pretty good sized & in a two day season, the majority of them do quite a bit of driving. How do those of you guys who do drives do it?

This is what we do generally. We stand sit until 10 or sometimes 11 opening day. Then we get together verify what's been shot by the party so far & usually get those deer tagged & hung up in the shed. Naturally plenty of snacking & BSing & relaying of the "story" takes place around the pickups.

We'll than make drives until anywhere from 1-3 depending on results, weather conditions, etc. We make a few drives of pieces of ground so familiar & traditional that everybody looks forward to "the hotspot" , "the tamaracks", "the swamp drive", "the big swamp drive", etc. The guys who've shot deer off their morning stands are automatically "volunteered" to drive, unless the other hunters prefer to drive, their choice. Stander spots are pretty much known to everyone for each drive, but are clarified for anyone who doesn't know & that's where the posters will be until ALL drivers come out. The drivers coordinate & stay in visual & often vocal contact, but we drive pretty slow & quiet, the only yelling you'll hear is "slow down, we're not lined up" or "Deer!", along with the direction it's headed. We have a great time doing this & have killed countless deer this way. In years when it's really windy & the deer don't want to move this still works. Many of our deer our still killed by the drivers, as certain woods they just like to lay until you get on top of them & then cut back through the drivers. This makes for careful decisions on when it's safe to shoot & when it isn't & fast shooting when it is okay. There's something fun about seeing your buddy shoot a deer or him getting to see you shoot one. That doesn't generally happen stand hunting.

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We hunt big woods with no real defined "escape routes" so traditional drives are not real effective. What we prefer to do is use small 2 or 3 man drives--if you can even call them that.

One method uses two hunters. The lead guy will begin walking very slowly, quartering into the wind. The trail guy follows behind just close enough to keep visual contact (anywhere from 50 to 200 yards, depending on the type of cover) and downwind of the lead hunter. Sometimes the lead gets a shot at a standing or bedded deer; but, more often than not, the lead hunter will jump a deer and not even know it. The deer will circle downwind to scent the hunter and run right into the trailing hunter. The deer is usually so focused on the lead hunter they don't even notice the trail hunter. Needless to say, safety is critically important with hunters this distance apart. Just make sure that shots are taken at angles that cannot travel towards the other hunter.

Another method is to have 3 guys start in deer stands about 1/4 to 1/2 mile apart. It is predetermined which hunter will leave their stand and move to one of the other hunter's stand--making a little push to him or her. When hunter #1 gets to hunter #2 they take that stand and hunter #2 then pushes to hunter #3 and so on. It is amazing to see how many times the hunter who just made the push will get into the stand and have a deer sneaking from the new driver. Once again, use your head about where you aim and shoot, considering time and distance in relation to your partners.

With either of these drives it is fun to check the routes of the drivers after the drive and check for tracks in the snow for deer that were shot, seen, or missed completely. You can learn a lot about how deer detect and avoid hunters on the move. One last observation (sorry for the long post)--you wouldn't believe how many deer I walk right past and never see. AND, it seems like more times than not, the deer that hold the tightest are mature bucks.

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I hunt in the open prairies of North Dakota and we will complete lots of drives during the season. Initially we will scout for active feeding and bedding areas. Areas with sunflowers still standing or recently cut are greatly preferred. We will then look nearby for bedding areas, in N.D.'s case it will most likely be a CRP field within a mile of the food source. When we start a drive we will never have more than 4 of us. We always stay within sight of each others and ALWAYS in a straight line. One person will also be on the highest ground at all times within that line so when someone dissappears behind a hill we can still coordinate the others efforts and maintain a straight line. We always walk slowly stopping at intervals, turning around and backtracking, following various deer trails, deer sign... etc. Deer get nervous when you stop or start backtracking. If you follow a straight line and you are not walking directly at them, in many cases they will hold tight. In one instance a few years back I saw a buck bed down on the edge of a swamp in the CRP field we were pushing. I was giving dad hand signals and which way to walk. I saw the buck the entire time in my binoculars and he was crawling on the ground on his knees staying behind dad at all times. After about 5 minutes of walking within 3 steps of the buck on a few occasions he finally jumped when dad stopped and stood there for about 30 seconds. He finally got spooked and decided he wanted out of there. Many times when we are completing a push we will be walking at least 4 sections at a time... yep... where we hunt there aren't a lot of roads so 4 sections together are not uncommon. We will make a big loop around the most promising areas. Always make sure to push changes in contours, various color transitions, windy hilltops, sunny hilltops, sloughs, rock piles...etc. Also, the biggest bucks are generally on the most visible portions of the valleys where they have excellent line of sight and good wind conditions to bring scent by them if something is downwind of them. Last year over 3 days I walked 34 miles so I make sure I am in shape before I start deer hunting. I do a lot of stand hunting with a bow but I have to say that deer drives in open prairies are very difficult since the deer will jump 200-400 yards from you. You are tired from all the walking, a deer running full open, a nice strong N.D. cross wind, a .243-06 in hand... man it just can't be beat. I'm looking forward to the gun opener. I would also say that honing your accuracy and knowing what your rifle is capable of are the biggest keys to deer drives in open prairies. It's amazing with tons of practice how instinctive shooting at running game can be. I also shoot about 2000 rounds per year through various rifles to make sure I stay on top of my accuracy. Long distance prairie dog hunting was actually the key for me to shoot accurately consistantly.

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Our drives are typically 2-3 pushers and 1 or 2 standers, depending on which area we are pushing. More or less something to do during the mid-day. Yep, our party isn't very big so big drives are out of the question. We honestly try to push woods that we feasibly can't push effectively and probably walk right on by deer. Deer we shoot on drives are for the most part 'bonus' deer. A very good percentage of our deer are shot on stand.

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We hunt a 50 acre piece with three guys. There are a few main escape routes and we will cover two of the more likely areas based on wind direction.

The two standers are set up by 6:15. The remaining guy will start still hunting about 7am. If any deer move, they usually come slowly, watching their back trail. This usually lasts until about 9 am.

After that, we leave the pushing alone and just watch perimeters. The adjacent properties seem to be pushed after 10am, and that is when deer from other areas come sneaking in.

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I used to hunt a lot in Ottertail County. We did a lot of drives out there on small patches of woods and corn fields. I always thought the party leaders set the drives up wrong. We always had drivers carrying weapons, and the posters were out a ways in the middle of surrounding fields. I always thought this was dangerous because you rely on a hunter judgment for safety.

My thought was it would have been better to only allow drivers to carry a pistol, and to have the posters set up on the wood/cornfield edges. This would ensure the posters are not shooting back into the woods. It would also mean better shots for the posters. I have never seen a deer exit the woods at the speed they can gain 50 yards out into a field.

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