Any old canoe can be turned into an effective deer transporter. (Lon Lauber/)
Seven years ago, Aaron Warbritton borrowed his landlord’s fiberglass canoe to access a piece of hunting ground in Iowa. Along with a hunting buddy, he paddled a mile upstream to a prime riverbottom, and then paddled a mile back with a dead whitetail buck in his boat. These days Warbritton, a host of the popular YouTube series and podcast The Hunting Public, travels state to state, chasing bucks on public land, and taking viewers and listeners along for the ride. Warbritton and the other Hunting Public guys usually go in cold, speed-scout when they get there, then jump into a hunt. They use a variety of tools to fit their run-and-gun style—ghillie suits, tree saddles, and especially canoes and kayaks.
Launch a Surprise Attack
“You’re usually extremely quiet when approaching a spot via water, and you also leave minimal ground scent, especially if you end up hunting close to the bank,” Warbritton says. “We’ve noticed over the years that bucks tend to bed and live close to water sources. They have good cover and good security, but also a lot of available browse and water right there. That helps them stay secluded, so they don’t have to move far to get a drink.”
Bedding near a river also helps whitetails feel secure, and this is especially true for rivers with oxbows, or U-shaped bends. When he’s inside the U, a buck is protected on three sides, since predators don’t typically come from the water. Warbritton likes to home in on these areas and access them by boat. He selects spots using digital maps, then sets up when he finds fresh sign. To avoid bumping bedded deer, he does as little walking as possible when he gets there.
“If it’s a fairly shallow creek, there is usually a big cut in the bank on each side of the oxbow, and the dirt that came out of the cut bank kind of accumulates,” he says. “A lot of times, there’s a shallow water crossing there. The deer that bed on the tip of those oxbows have multiple escape routes down through the crossings. With the wind coming in from the land side, they rarely expect to see any danger coming from the water. We’ve paddled up to rutting bucks right on the bank in the middle of November. They just don’t know what you are.”