Food Plots for Deer public strategy
Hunt of the Month
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I’m cheating on this one and am planning on doing this once a month or so. The first year will all come from my latest hunting book, Big Buck Secrets (you can get an autographed copy at www.food-plots-for-deer.com, if you’d like). Quite honestly, I think it’s easily the best hunting book I’ve written, and it also happens to be by far the worst seller, having gotten a message recently that the publisher is down to 500 of their first print run left and they won’t be doing another. Because of that, I’m sure they won’t mind me sharing parts of the book in these tips.
With all that in mind, here is a slightly doctored portion of one of the chapters, with a key to the doctored photo of where the hunt occurred at the bottom. This was a hunt on pummeled public land and how it went down. Hopefully, as I slowly work through these types of tips, you’ll see things you can apply to your various hunting grounds.
I suspected he bedded on the point of a super steep ridge. It would be a side busting climb for anyone to scale it. That alone would stack the odds of him never being disturbed there. If someone did attempt the climb, he’d surely spot their approach and slip out, never being seen. It just made sense that was how he’d survived all those years.
I’d found and measured his tracks at the photo site. With that, a series of three feet sections of raked dirt and strategically placed scouting cams would reveal if my initial thought was correct. So long as I was thorough, if he was bedding on that point, his tracks and/or photos would show it clear enough. He was.
The problem was that, even in late summer, it was also clear that he wasn’t leaving that point until after dark and returning before first light. Heck, outside of feeding on the fields I’d first gotten his pics at, he was barely moving at all.
From a survival standpoint, all of this made sense. Spend your daylight hours where you’re safe, don’t wander so far at night that you can’t make it back before first light and a buck can survive many years, despite incredibly heavy hunting pressure.
Luckily, I had one advantage that the public land hunters didn’t. I was the only one that was allowed to hunt or access the private fields. I’d concluded before season began that killing on the field was an extreme long shot. Still, it gave me easy access to the public woods on that side of the ridge, where everyone else would have to either climb the side busting ridge or walk close to three quarters of a mile to take the easier route around the point. I should have the ridge side he used most pretty much to myself.
Waiting early November, I headed for the stand set at the base of the ridge. Here, I covered both the trail paralleling the base and the one dropping down from the point. I’d gotten his tracks or photos on both.
At the ridge base, I hung a Special Golden Estrus soaked scent wick. With does bedding in a thicket just 40 yards to my right, I hoped that I’d catch him going to check on any late rising girls, before hitting the field after dark. If he used the other trail I’d caught him dropping down on the opposite side of the doe bedding area, I hoped he’d catch the scent I placed and that’d lure him in. Either way, I figured the chase phase would provide my first realistic shot at him.
Sure enough, just before dark I heard the grunts coming through the doe bedding area. Stopping at the edge, he alternated between wafting the odors and visually searching for the estrus doe. This was a true survivor, and one could clearly see he wasn’t committing until he could verify what his nose was telling him.
Every now and then, one just gets lucky. Just as the old timer turned to leave, a nubbin buck began approaching from my left. Freezing at the sound, he shot a glance at the young buck. With the wafting estrus odors, I believe he was duped into believing the nubbin was a doe.
Extending his neck, he stiff legged it straight for the confused little guy. Coming to full draw as he did, I shot him just as he froze, apparently finally realizing she was really a he.
I decided to start with the old seven point because it offers a glimpse into what motivates bucks, how they survive and how we need to understand their motivating drivers in order to consistently arrow them. I can not tell you how old Seven was. His teeth had worn down to the jaw line, making inspecting them for age beyond my skills. I can tell you that he was very old and understanding his needs and motivations were what allowed me to arrow him on my first attempt.
Keys to Success
When hunting pressured bucks, find the spots others don’t go and you’re very likely to find where Mr. Big hides.
The only ways I’ve found to somewhat consistently take mature bucks off of pummeled grounds is to hunt in or right at the edge of their daylight core area, while timing the hunts with both a peak movement rut phase (the end of the scrape phase, the chase phase or the breeding phase) and good deer movement weather.
On heavily managed properties, we can often get away with a bit of a slop factor and be fine. On most normal to pummeled grounds, keeping disturbances to a minimum is key.
The image shows where old 7 was bedding, which the author verified after his death, and the routes he most often took to feed.
Red dots = stands (shot him out of stand 1…Stand 3 was for late season, on brutal cold conditions, 2 was merely another wind option for prime time)
Red arrow = wind direction on day of hunt
Large blue arrows = safe winds to hunt
Small blue arrows = risky wind that would work in a very tight pinch
White dot = where buck was at time of shot
White line = where buck came from
Black lines = access routes to stands
Blue lines = creeks
Tan lines = 7’s trails
Green shapes = doe bedding
Black dot = scent placement on the day of the hunt.