In certain parts of the country, deer drives, also known as push hunting, are a massive part of deer hunting culture. Some hunters push deer as their main method of hunting, and some hunters use it as a backup if they need to fill some tags. It really depends on personal preference and tradition in many cases. For those deer hunters who haven’t been exposed to push hunting, it can be boiled down pretty simply. There are one or two “pushers”, people who walk through the hunting area to make deer move, and the rest are “blockers” or “sitters”, people who wait to shoot the deer that the pushers have made move. Many people think that deer drives can be dangerous, and they’re right if the hunters aren’t being careful. However, if you use proper planning, safety, and common sense, this is a safe and great way to hunt.
Grunt, Snort-Wheeze, and Rattle this to your buddies!
The hardest part of deer drives is setting them up, but it isn’t too complicated if you understand the basic ideas. If you have enough hunters, push hunting can be very effective for every deer in the area. Even if you don’t have as many hunters, you can still push hunt, but some deer might slip through. With this covered, let’s get down to the strategy.
The main idea of a deer drive is to go into an area in which there are a few natural funnels leading out. A great example is a small patch of timber that has drainage ditches surrounded by trees running out of it. When a “pusher” walks into this timber, the deer will more than likely run out along the drainage ditches, because they have cover there. You will have your “blockers” down along those drainage ditches waiting for the deer. You can see how this can get dangerous if proper safety measures and planning aren’t taken into account. There is a photo included, and once it is described, we can get on to how to plan and execute a deer drive.
In the diagram, you will see a red circle. This designates where the “pusher” will start. The red arrows show the path that the pusher will follow. Note that the pusher is walking right along a creek surrounded by trees. Deer like to sit in areas like these in farm country, which is where this picture was taken. The yellow highlights are areas where you would want to have your “blockers” sitting. The top two are sitting there in case the deer break off to the north.
The bottom left two are sitting there waiting for the deer that continue to follow one branch of the creek. The bottom right two are positioned there in case the deer follow the fence line straight south of the main creek. Notice that all of the blockers are sitting in places where there is a natural funnel that the deer will likely follow when spooked. While not common, deer sometimes will decide to take off across an open area, like straight east in the picture shown. If you have more hunters, you can move them around to wherever you see gaps that need filled. With this covered, let’s move on to setting up a deer drive.
Setting up a deer drive takes a little practice, but once you’ve gained experience, it makes a lot of sense. It’s very logical once you understand what you’re trying to accomplish. The first step should be to gather everyone who’s going to be involved in the hunt. Run off some satellite pictures and maps, and mark it up just like the one shown earlier.
You need to figure out the areas where deer will most likely be. These areas can be anything from small patches of timber, brushy draws where you know deer like to sit, or literally any other area where you know deer like to stay in your area. Determine who’s going to push, who’s going to block, and figure out where you can safely shoot without it being anywhere close to someone else. Really make sure each hunter involved knows their place in the hunt and knows where everyone else will be.
Now comes time to execute the hunt. First things first, every hunter, especially the pusher, should be wearing as much blaze orange as they can. This is a must. Safety should be everyone’s number one priority. All the blockers should be where they need to be before the pusher starts to push. Blockers should quietly get into position well away from the cover you are hunting. They should make sure no other hunter or household, barn, etc. is in their field of fire. The pusher, or pushers, should make sure to walk relatively slowly so they don’t blow right past the deer. There are many ways to push, as will be covered shortly. All that’s left for the pusher to do is continue walking their path and, hopefully, hear some gunshots from their friends.
There are various schools of thought on how a pusher should go about pushing. Some people think the pusher should walk nice and slowly, almost as if they’re stalking deer. These people believe that if they don’t completely startle the deer, but instead let their noses and ears pick up on the scent and sounds of a human, that the deer will be more likely to follow the designated paths you are hoping they will follow. The other school of thought is to make as much noise as possible to get the deer really startled. These people think that the startled deer will be much less likely to stop and smell, or see the blockers, as they will be more worried about getting away. Use your personal preference and past experiences to decide what school of thought you’re with.
If you’ve never tried it, push hunting can be a great new technique to use to hunt deer. You might find that you enjoy it more than any other way of hunting. As long as safety is practiced and common sense is used by every single hunter, there is nothing wrong with a good old fashioned deer drive. It is a great freezer filling strategy when the need arises.