A sudden urge. An incessant feeling. A dragging sensation that pulls at the very core of your being. You will have the best hunt of your season. All you need to do is pack your bag and grab your bow. The only problem? All summer you scouted and poured over the data. You know exactly which deer will walk past your stand at exactly what time, but the ferocious feeling of doubt is gnawing away at you, until you are convinced all of that hard work will produce nothing save disappointment. What should you do? Should you sit in the set you were positive was going to work? No! I say you should listen to that feeling, give in to the desire and satisfy your curiosity.
A drop in set is one of the most underutilized and underrated techniques there is for whitetail. Why is this method so taboo to many hunters? Well, I believe it is because not a single hunter, properly experienced or not, is actually educated in the benefits of applying a drop in technique.
How many people have heard stories around a campfire of out of this world hunting exploits and experiences had by other hunters? Probably everyone. Whether they were about the largest whitetail ever seen or the mountain lion your uncle Ted saw attack and prey on a cottontail just a few dozen yards from his stand. These are the moments we hunt for. The experiences just waiting to be had. With a drop in you have no idea what will happen or even what you can expect to witness. So throw those trail camera pictures and videos into the trash and satisfy your curiosities desire. See something you have never seen before. Gather your own stories for telling around the fire. A trophy goes on the wall, but a story will be told for generations.
Second, archery hunters rely heavily on the practice of stealth. A whitetail will always be on the lookout for the predators they expect in an area. This is why they disappear almost entirely after the first weekend of rifle season. A drop in puts you in an area where the animals least expect to see people, because of their lack of exposure (no one is checking six different trail cameras every other day) these animals do not actively search for signs of a bowhunter in the area. They will still be spooked by your activity, but they will be less aware making it harder for you to be noticed in the first place. What better boon to an archer than a whitetail that will shrug off a little motion in the trees, rather than giving you that ten minute stare down my mother would be proud of?
When I was still a novice hunter I would always go to the stand I had scouted and prepared all summer. After all I knew what I was going to see. Every time I was disappointed for that same reason. I saw the same deer I expected each and every time. They never did anything differently, and I never gathered any good stories from my experiences. Then one day I decided to follow through on a hunch. What I experienced is by far my best hunting story and my favorite experience.
I packed my portable stand and drove to my aunts property a few miles down the road. I parked on the side of the road and ventured in. Immediately I started following a trail until I came to one that seemed to be a cow path. It was on that trail I spotted the first suitable stand tree with even any cover to speak of. It was a maple in the midst of red pine and bushes. The cow path was just a 15 yard shot from that tree. I set up quickly and began the wait. Around 2 hours before dark I was met by a pair of twin 8 pointers. These two deer decided to have supper almost directly under me. I had one bedded down a mere 6 yards from the base of my tree while the other fed 15 yards directly in front of me. They stayed for over an hour lazing around like a couple of old retrievers on the front porch. All the while I attempted to get into a position suitable enough to shoot one of them. Finally I saw my opportunity and was ready to start drawing back when a doe walked directly under my tree drawing the attention of the two bucks to me. They ran and eventually one came back and I was able to make the shot concluding my hunting experience. The best part of that experience was not the size of the trophy. It was instead the things I observed. Those two animals had no idea a person was in the area. I now have a very exciting story or two to share of my own around that fire. That is what made the experience my favorite.
Now I follow every single hunch that begins to gnaw at me, and here is how I successfully follow through.
First I evaluate my knowledge of the area in order to determine if a ground blind set or tree stand set is the better option. I will not use anything larger than a ghost blind or a portable tree stand. Anything that can not be easily hidden. A pop up ground blind will set off the deer’s alarm bells and they will be on the lookout for signs of you if they don’t avoid the area all together.
Second, I pack light. I bring my bow, release, field dressing and survival equipment, and a change of clothes. The clothes are so I can stuff my sweat laden garments into my pack to minimize my scent. Minimizing your scent is extremely important! All calls and scents I leave at home. Do not give the animals a reason to search out the causes of mysterious scents and sounds.
Third, determine the time and place of entry. Normally I try to plan a drop in as an afternoon hunt, in which case I will plan to be set up an hour and a half before I expect to see any animals. For example if I expect deer to be moving around 6:00pm I will plan to be set up by 4:30pm. Plan according to your expected travel and set up times. The timing of your entry is critical. The animals must not accidentally spot you while they are heading in for their afternoon nap.
The best way to find your set up point is to walk along the deer trails until you find the focal point of their travel area. A path to food or water, where all the other trails eventually congregate. Somewhere along that trail is where you want to set. Find the very first spot that you could possibly hide within. That is where you set up. This is critical. Time spent doubling back and searching for other spots is more time for you to be noticed. Finding and utilizing the first possible location is the best strategy. If the animals aren’t yet aware of you a continued search could put them on edge.
Now that you are completely set up arrange necessary gear in easy reach. Be sure you have a shooting lane, but do not change too much of the area to do so. Everything must look like it did the last time the deer traveled through that area, or obviously they will spook. Change your smelly clothing and settle in for the wait. Hopefully you planned well and the wait isn’t a long one!
Listen just one time to your nagging urges and follow through on that hunch you have. I promise, if you’ve done these steps properly, that experiences of a lifetime will be found. Stories that are worthy of the campfire. A drop in brings you closer to nature at its purist form, when animals are only worried about each other and finding their next meal. It is the technique that gets you closest to the most natural behavior animals will exhibit. That is what makes drop ins so special.
Written by: Zakery Karnes | You can follow Zachary on Yentna Social by clicking here