Dan Johnson, host of Nine Fingers Chronicles podcast, shares that there are a lot of factors affecting a good hunt. These include the weather, barometer changes, and even the moon phase. Dan also talks about run-and-gun techniques and the use of an observation stand, but that one important thing to realize is everybody has their own techniques. It isn’t just about picking up your bow and shooting some arrows. You need to change up your strategies and as soon as the season starts, don’t just sit in your stand. Go and observe, get a half mile away or a quarter mile away and see what changes has happened on your land. You might be surprised with what you find out.
On our episode, we’re going to visit with Dan Johnson. Dan’s going to talk about a couple things, one, run-and-gun and techniques, two, the use of an observation stand, three, the first time in a stand is the best time. He’s going unpack the techniques that you need to do when you spot a buck 100 yards away, 200 yards away in the morning or in the evening, and what you need to do to close the deal on that specific buck. Stay tuned. It’s going to be a good one.
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Understand What It Means To Run And Gun To Success with Nine Finger Chronicles – Dan Johnson
You’re in for a treat. We’re going to join Dan Johnson. Dan is the host of Nine Finger Chronicles, and there’s a story behind that. Dan, I don’t know if you’re going to share the story or not, how you get that title, but let’s get this thing started.
How are you doing? First of all, thanks for having me on the show. I really appreciate it.
Nine Finger Chronicles, that’s my podcasts that I do. It’s about deer hunting. I’m a huge bow hunter. The premise of the Nine Finger Chronicles Podcast revolves around bow hunting gear and equipment, stories from average Joe’s, BS sessions and some gear reviews and information on gear. The title of the podcast is pretty self-explanatory. I only have nine fingers. I had my right index finger removed when I was living down in Atlanta, Georgia working in a factory. It got chopped off. That’s the short story of a why I call everything the Nine Finger Chronicles.
That’s a great story and that’s in the past. That’s you. The Nine Finger Chronicle, you own it. You live it. In the warm up, it’s that’s you’re a gear junkie and I just said gear head because a lot of guys that I know, my son-in-law races and he is a gear head. There’s nothing he can’t do in a race car. There’s absolutely nothing but he learned that throughout his whole life. Let’s unpack that a little bit. Let’s talk about what you see and hear in the industry now from ATA and all your reading that you do that everyone should really be attuned to.
I tell you, for me the interest on gear comes because I am not savvy. If you said, “Dan, go set up your own bow.” I probably would not have a clue on how to do that. I still take it to a shop to get it done, but I want to learn as much about the products as humanly possible and that’s where my interest comes in. That’s why I share a lot of that information on my podcast because when it comes to information about specific products, I feel that in the hunting industry, a lot of it is coming from a marketing company who’s getting paid or some kind of “celebrity or entertainer” who is also getting paid to rep that product. I like to get guys on the show who are passionate about gear. They use it and abuse it every year. The average Joes are the guys who are coming on and doing the product reviews and then I speak directly to the actual company. For example, the first product that comes to mind is Lone Wolf Tree stands. In my opinion, one of the best tree stands on the market for the way I hunt, which is a running gun style. I get the owner of the company and you get that information straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
Run-and-gun, I’m just smiling. Todd Pringnitz from Wicked Tree Gear, he was the first guest I had on the show that talked about his running guns style. Let’s talk about that right now because I know a lot of guys are shying away from the same tree stand, the same sets and the same wind direction, but now they’re tweaking it up. Let’s talk about tweaking up your sets.
From the way I have taught myself to hunt and learning from some other hunters out there who have been successful. I’ve learned that you have to be mobile. What I mean by that is you sit in the same stand over and over and over again. I know this isn’t possible for everybody because there are people out there who hunt on very small parcels of land, let’s say ten acres and there’s not a lot of options, but for me, I’m blessed to have quite a few options. Nothing that I own or leased, but all knock-on-door permission and I want to be where the deer are at. The way to get close to them is by being mobile and tearing down and setting up and having this chess match with these animals to basically give yourself better opportunities at a shot.First time in, best time in. Click To Tweet
I’m thinking of a ridge. I’m sitting on my ridge and there are crops on both sides. It’s just a funnel. That one mature buck, he never comes near because he knows I’m there. He is four and a half years old. He knows I’m there. He knows I’m there. You’re sitting there, were doing some filming and you say, “Bruce, we got to move.” Take me from right there right now, it’s a morning sit. We see him just drifting, ghosting away about 150, 200 yards and he knows where there and we know he’s there, what do we do?
I guess a lot of it has to do with the time of year. Obviously, if it’s in the rut, we might try to call at him. This buck came through or if it’s maybe early season and he’s going from a food source back to his bedding area and we see him come up this ridge one way or the other. My very first instinct would be to get closer to where he was just at and try to find that trail. I tear down, we walk over there, we set up. Maybe cut a few shooting lanes if it’s needed. Get myself in a position where the tree is in front of me or between me and what I think the deer is going to come by so I can get away with maybe a little bit more movement and then probably back out. More than likely and this is based off my experience, he’s not going to take that same route back to that food source the next day. A lot of it depends on wind direction and how the terrain ways and all this stuff. From a very high level approach, I’m going to move within a shooting distance of where I saw him and hopefully catch him the next morning, come back from that food source to that bedding area.
What about the evening sit? It’s morning. I get up. We’re going to, as you say, running gun. Get set up, maybe some shooting lanes, maybe not and then get the heck out of there. We’re not even going to touch that until the next morning. How about long distance scouting to see if we can see that ridge? Let’s say we set up in another ridge half a mile away, even a mile away and we see across the one side of it. I’m going to keep the wind on my face. The field I’m thinking about in the ridge is a downwind. We’re facing west into the setting sun. We set up that. That we do. Now, what are we looking for?
I think what you’re trying to describe is an observation stand. Basically, I do this a lot on field edges where I will set up a stand knowing that there’s a good chance I’m not going to have an encounter with my target buck and I’m just waiting for him to pop out in an area, maybe on a field edge or if I’m back in the timber a little bit. Finding out what draw he’s using to get into a food source or finding a staging area that this buck is using before he heads to a food source or even downwind of a bedding area. If he’s going to be cruising, looking for a little sign, maybe some scrapes, maybe some rubs that indicates that a buck is in that area. I rely a lot on trail camera information to make my hunting decisions. I always start with an approach of back and observe. I’m observing. I get the information or the intel that I need and then I go in aggressively after this deer to hopefully, have an encounter with him that night. There the old saying, “First time in, best time in,” and that’s how I play it.
I’m going back to the scenario. The morning we saw him cruising through 200 yards away, we went and set up. We backed out, we’re in the observation stand, however, that’s set up and we see him coming back from the bedding area either to water or to food and he’s hanging up in the staging area or transition zone as you spoke to, what do I do now after I see him do those movements? What do I do to get on him the next evening? I’ve already got my morning stand set up, how do I work that I want to be there the next evening if I miss him in the morning?
I wouldn’t even be in that timber that night. I would probably go hunt somewhere else and hopefully that buck hasn’t picked up a doe. If we’re trying to get this buck going back to that same food source, I’m probably going to be sitting on another trail going into that food source that has number one, a good access route, and number two, good wind direction that I can potentially cut the trail coming in. Typically, in the scenarios that I hunt, I won’t be able to even check out where that stand is at. However, going into the morning hunt, I probably wouldn’t pay too much attention to that evening hunt because I don’t want to potentially bump this deer. I’ll back out altogether. I won’t even observe that timber because I’ve seen him here the previous day. The next morning I’m going in to that stand that we set up and hopefully get him.
Everyone, I throw out a scenario and Dan is sharing exactly what he did. The morning stand, we get that down to we’re going to back out. We’re not even going to do an observation stand. We’re not even going to sit in the pickup a mile away with our heavy glass, with our spotting scopes just trying to see where he’s moving. We’re just backing out and we’re going to hunt that morning stand. That’s our best shot. That’s an ace in the hole. If the winds right, we’re going to sit that stand. Is that correct, Dan?
Similar to this and I’ll use the buck that I killed this year as an example. I got trail camera information saying that this buck was in the area. I got a field edge picture of him. I had a good idea where this buck was either staging or where he was betting and the area he was using to come to this field edge at night. The very first night, I go and do a run-and-gun setup. It’s an evening hunt over top of this transition period or this transition area and then the field edge as well so I can see this entire area. That night, I saw a couple deer in the distance coming, but it was too late. That next morning, the wind shifted and I wanted to stay out of that area because my wind was going to be blowing in a poor direction between the food source and the bedding area. However, that next night, a front came through and I was back in that same stand that I hung because I had a good wind direction again. I didn’t give up on that place. I just backed out for a morning hunt because the wind direction was wrong. Then because I didn’t know where this buck was going to be on that particular wind direction because I didn’t have enough intel and I didn’t want to hang a stand in the dark and potentially bump this buck. I went and hunted somewhere else that morning. Then the next night, I came back to the same stand. That was the night I ended up harvesting that buck.
Everyone, I hope you’re taking notes about how strategic Dan is thinking. If you’re going to be a 365 hunter, if you’re going to go after the male deer, just listen to what Dan says and take notes because the key thing is to me, you always hunt the front. Do you hunt the front end of the front or the back end or during the front?
If we’re talking about the rut, I’m in the stand no matter what. It doesn’t matter what the weather is. If it’s breeding season, you have to be in the tree stand. Probably like a lot of your audience, I have a full-time job. If a cold front comes through the third week in October on a Wednesday, I’m not hunting it because I’m at work and I have to save my vacation for the rut. Weather plays an important role in getting deer off their feet. Maybe some deer movement, but when it comes to the rut, I’m in the tree stand in any way. A lot of my decision making is based off of trail camera information and/ or wind direction.
Thanks for that. Bill Winke all throughout the fall, I just stay connected to those guys and he has so much data on hunt in the front I start at around the 26th of October and end up at the end of November really. Anytime a front comes through, you have to figure it out the wind direction and then get out there. That’s my thought.
Obviously, that could definitely get some deer on their feet are really if a front comes through and they’re going to try to find the food source that they feel the most comfortable with. For me, if I’m going to be hunting, I’m hunting already so the weather really doesn’t matter to me unless I’m going to take out extra vacation day on a Wednesday in the middle of the week. I got it deer on camera. He’s coming to this particular scrape or this pinch point or this fence crossing after dark. However, there’s a front coming through, maybe this buck is going to come just an hour earlier because of this temperature drop and I may make moves like that. When I’m on my two-week vacation for the rut, I don’t really care about weather patterns too much. Let’s say a cold front comes through the first week in November, I have my vacation. I might get into the tree stand just a little bit earlier that day, but not necessarily going to make huge decisions based off of what the temperature is because I will already have some kind of game plan in action or have a buck patterned at that point to hopefully make that next move on that deer.
I’ve been asked in the past, “Bruce, how much temperature change do I need to get the deer moving?” Your answer to that?
Again, I hate to throw all these curve balls, but it depends on what time of year. For me, if it’s the first two weeks of November, maybe the third week in November where I hunt in Iowa, the deer are going to be on their feet cruising. They’re going to be in some form of that rut whether it’s pre-rut, whether they’re locked down with a doe or whether they’ve just broken away from the doe and they’re cruising looking for their next doe to breed. When it comes to weather, the deer in the rut are already going to be doing what deer do in the rut. As far as a big temperature drop in the early season, let’s say the first week of October or the second week of October for me here in Iowa, the opener for archery is October first every year. If I can get a deer patterned maybe coming to a bean field or a pinch point that’s leading to an acorn ridge or some clover, then I might try to pop in there and do a run-and-gun if I know there’s going to be a cold front coming through on a Wednesday. I go in there. I’m looking for probably somewhere around the fifteen to twenty-degree temperature drop. That can really shake things up. However, I just don’t feel that some of these big mature bucks really care too much even if there’s a big temperature drop in that early season before the does are ready to breed.
Let’s talk about moon phases. There are a lot of information, let’s just leave it at that, about moon phases and how the rut gets triggered and running moon, it doesn’t end. From your point of view, how important is the moon phase?
I don’t base any of my decision making on the moon phase, not One bit of it. I’m limited to the amount of time that I can spend in the timber. One being I’m a family man. Two being I have a fulltime job and three, again, if I’m on my two-week vacation, I’m hunting way. The moon phase doesn’t matter to me. Statistically, there’s been studies that show that from a deer movement standpoint, the moon phase really does it increase or decrease deer movement per se. That could be different based off of observed deer movement from what hunters see. I do think that in some way, shape or form the moon has something to do with deer movement. For me, I really don’t follow the moon phase at all.
One more question about scientific information, if you will. Barometer changes.
There’s a lot of information out there about barometer changes and a lot of it correlates to the weather pattern as well. You got a big cold front coming through, the next day is typically going to be a high pressure day. That barometer is going to be somewhere in the 30s, high 20s to low 30s. I’ve heard guys say, as long as the barometer is moving up or down, that is a good time to be out in the woods. Again, I don’t base any of my decisions based off of the barometer. Scientifically, could it have something to do with it? Possibly. For me, everything revolves around whether or not I have a deer pattern on trail camera, whether I’ve had them on trail camera or I’ve seen him from the tree stand. I make my moves based more off of that information than extrinsic data like moon phase and barometric pressure.In some way, shape or form the moon has something to do with deer movement. Click To Tweet
I’m sitting here and I’m actually smiling because to you’ve got two weeks’ vacation and you can steal an afternoon or morning here and there, but when you literally locked down on your pick. You’re going to pick those ten days of work days so you get a total of fourteen days, you can hunt if you have every single day. How do you decide, “Here’s my block window. This year, this is when I’m going to start my hunt and this is where my hunt ends.” How do you decide on that?
A lot of it has to do with historical data that I have gathered myself through just sitting in a tree stand. A lot of it is going to be that November 1st or 3rd or 4th, somewhere in that area will be the start date and then I’ll go all the way up until the 15th, 17th, just depending on when the calendar lies. I like to start my vacation on a Friday. That way I get three weekends to work with. Based off of again, scientific data, I think they say somewhere around the 14th. Don’t quote me on this because I’m not 100% sure. I haven’t looked at that data in a long time, but I think somewhere around the 14th is peak breeding. Before or after that bell curve is a good time to be in the tree stand during the rut because you’re going to see a lot of deer cruising for that available to doe to breed.
How do people get in touch you, Dan?
I think the best way would be my Facebook page, The Nine Finger Chronicles Facebook page. Like the page, send me a message if you have any questions. That’s probably the best way is the Facebook page.
Thanks for that. I want to give a shout out to Whitetail Stalker. They are our social media partner. Check them out on Facebook and also folks, these shows are recorded with real people in real places. Dan has his podcast. He’s all tech’d out. He’s got a great setup. Dan, we’ve talked about gear, we’re talking about running gunning on Whitetails. When did you start the running and gunning technique?
Probably ever since I got a hold of a hang on tree stand. I first started hunting with a bow and I was twelve or fourteen years old. I didn’t take it too seriously. Then about 2006, when I was done with college, I took a job in Alabama actually. I lost my finger. I came back to Iowa and I got my first Lone Wolf tree stand with sticks. I sat in a ladder stand a couple times. After that, I kept having an encounter with a couple of big bucks but they were all down the ridge. They are coming down the ridge from me. I got a hold of my first hang on tree stand and sticks and I dropped down there. I had an encounter with that buck and I never was able to actually kill that deer. I had an encounter with him and that sparked something in my head and it was just like, “You’ve got to be mobile.” Ever since then that’s how I’ve been living.
Thanks for that. Everybody has this technique, but what I like to bring out in this show, Dan is accustomed doing what he is doing hunting whitetails. Mix it up. Think about your strategies and think about becoming a 365 whitetail hunter. It isn’t just, you pick up your bow in July, shoot some arrows. You got your tree stand that’s been there for ten years and you’ve got four of them, different wind segments and you got one food plot or two food plots. Change it up and what I would say is as soon as the season starts, don’t sit your stand, go and observe, get a half mile away. Get a quarter mile away and see what changes has happened on your land and you might be surprised what you find out. Your thoughts on that, Dan?
You bring up some good points there. I know that for me, everybody tells me, “I’ve been on the stand for ten years.” I’m like, “That’s the first problem. What have you done to improve your odds on encountering the deer that you really want to hunt? Is that deer even on your property? Have you moved that tree stand?” I’ll be honest, I hunt on a couple of properties where I share that property with a hunter. He goes to the same exact tree stand that he’s had up there for twenty years and that’s where he hunts. He’s been successful in those spots a couple of times every year. It was an eye opening for me because I go, “I thought I would share some trail camera pictures with him” and he’s like, “I’ve never seen that buck in my life.” I’ve seen this book several times, not only in trail camera but from the tree stand as well. This buck was flunking that tree stand on a lower part where he could cross the property without this hunter ever seeing him because this deer was educated on where this tree stand was and that this guy only sat in one tree stand. Being able to move and intercepted them where they’re at is a very good tactic.
I had a farm in Wisconsin. I have a rifle stand that I’m pretty lucky out of. Before the farm hunting now, I had one stand I never spent more than a morning, evening and a morning of the open gun season and not shut my buck. They had to come through there. There was no other place to go and they had to come through there, but I only hunted it in 365 days. I hunted it morning, evening, and I would sit out. I’m sitting all day on Saturday and then if I had to, Sunday morning then I’m out of there. Nobody sat my stand. Not in archery, not in anything because it wasn’t a good archery stand. It was killer gun stand. I had three sets in a whole year in that stand, but it paid off.
A lot of the stuff that I have been talking about is based off of archery. You obviously have to be close to kill him. Again, going back to that first time, best time in motto where you move in on him. Through my experience, the first time into those spots relative to how much land do you have to hunt is the best time in to have encounters with a deer.
Let’s talk about gear right now just for a couple minutes and I can’t believe it. I’m looking at my calendar. I’m going, “No way.” We’re almost up to the soft stop and that means we’ve had a good show. Just talk about your gear and tell people what you put on your back when you’re running and gunning?
It doesn’t necessarily have to be this, but this is what I use. There are tons of other options out there for a hang on. In my opinion, one of the best products out there is a Lone Wolf. There’s also the XOP or Xtreme Outdoor Products tree stand which is similar to a Lone Wolf and the Lone Wolf Sticks. The Lone Wolf Tree Stand and four sticks pretty much gets me anywhere I need to go. Crooked trees, whatnot, that’s from a tree stand set up. Other than that, maybe a saw in your pack to a cut a couple of shooting lanes if you aren’t doing a run-and-gun set up and trail cameras. That’s what I live and die by and that information that those trail cameras tell me, I’m currently using Exodus Trail Cameras. The information that these trail cameras give me, is what helps me make my decisions on where I hunt. Trail cameras and a mobile tree stands set up are the two most important things for the way I hunt.
Dan, thanks for that. Hopefully, we can get a follow-up before season and the June timeframe because I want to dive into how you use your trail cameras for run-and-gun. Why don’t you take a minute and give some shout outs. Give some gear. Anybody else, any other gear or people, you get the mic.
First off, thanks for having me on the show. I really appreciate it. Shout out to my podcast, Nine Finger Chronicles Podcast. Check it out. Also, I’m the co-host with Mark Kenyon on the Wired to Hunt Podcast. We put one of those out every week. Another great place for deer and bow hunting fanatics to get some information. The last thing I guess from a gear standpoint that I’d like to inform people of is if you’re really serious about trail cameras and gathering trail camera information, check out a company called DeerLab.com. I’ll let you do the research from there.
Thanks for saying that because very early on Jon Livingston was on the show from Deer Lab down in Florida. Here’s a shout out for him is that moon phase, time of day, weather conditions, precipitation, you name it, he can lay all that in on top of your photos. He has proprietary information to do that. You get a story with every single trail cam photo.
Then you can use that information to hopefully forecast deer movement from previous years and maybe get a jump on a buck if he’s been gone a month and then he comes back every year on October 17th, let’s say, and then maybe a based off that information, you can maybe be in the tree stand that next year on October 17th and have an encounter with him.
What Dan said is 365 hunter and planning and journaling. The only time I saw him on my farm was on October 17th. Other than that, he’s a ghost. Think about that. Dan, thank you so much on behalf of everybody who listens to Whitetail Rendezvous. Thank you for being a guest on the show.
No worries. I appreciate the time and having me on the show. I always love to talk hunting and good luck to you this upcoming season and good luck to all your audience as well.
On the next show, we’re going to visit with Alex Comstock. He’s already started in the outdoor industry. How? He’s writing articles. He’s writing a blog. He’s getting involved by submitting his articles to numerous outdoor publications. He’s going to talk about career in the outdoors. He’s going to talk about shed hunting and he’s going to talk about why he’s passionate about bow hunting.