TIP 6: MAKE A CHARCOAL MASK
The point of wearing face paint isn’t to provide interesting selfie fodder—it’s to keep deer from seeing your shiny mug.
Greasy paints are a pain in the butt and difficult to remove. Charcoal is a simple but cheap alternative. Grab a briquette (avoid the quick-lighting kind) out of the bag next to your grill. Place it in a plastic bag and use a hammer to pulverize it into powder. Now you have face camo that’s a cinch to apply, washes off easily, and has the added benefit of providing some level of scent control (carbon is, after all, the key ingredient used in scent-eating clothing).
TIP 7: SWEETEN THE PLOT
Ed Spinazzola is a Michigan legend renowned for his pioneering methods of food plotting. One of his favorite concepts is devilishly simple: Make the forage you’re hunting more attractive than any other in the area. This is done with fertilizers and a basic understanding of plant biology. About two weeks prior to opening day, hit the forage you plan to hunt with a dose of urea (46-0-0 fertilizer). Follow that up with an application of nitrogen. The urea will fuel the root system and the nitrogen will turn the foliage ultra-green. This only works on plants that are still green, of course. Doing this to soybeans makes them seem almost neon in color, and deer will pound them.
This sweetening process works on native vegetation as well. If state law allows it, you can do this sweetening process on public lands and existing natural browse.
TIP 8: ZIP IT UP
Always keep a stash of zip ties in your pack. You can use these slivers of plastic magic to quickly affix your tag to a deer, erect a ground blind, or add cover to a stand.
TIP 9: DRIVE ‘EM HOME
If you intend to do your own drive, learn from the mistakes of others. On the opener, a small group (see illustration at right) can produce better results than a big one. With so many hunters out, the goal isn’t to push deer but rather to nudge them into positions you can take advantage of. Start with a small group—three to five hunters—and position a pair of standers on the downwind side of cover at least an hour before the drivers begin to work.
Once standers are in place, drivers drift along the upwind sides of deer-holding cover, moving slowly and quietly. The goal is to allow scent to sift into the cover, getting deer on their feet and sneaking away.
This does two things: First, it affords the standers shots at deer that are walking rather than running. Second, the drivers can often catch deer that are circling to identify the threat and eventually return right back to the cover they just left—something older bucks do more often than you’d think.
TIP 10: LET THEIR DRIVE WORK FOR YOU
Deer drives may be controversial in some circles, but there’s little argument as to their effectiveness with regard to getting deer on their feet. An opening day drive can work if it’s done right—and you can also benefit from drives gone wrong on neighboring property by hanging a stand off the property line.
Many drives are done with too many hunters and too little planning, which means deer are up and moving long before standers or drivers are in place and subtle escape routes are overlooked. It’s those escape destinations that you want to target.
In farm country with small woodlots (above), brushy fencerows serve as travel corridors. Take that into account.