Get Your Buck Thanksgiving Weekend

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In most regions right now, most of the adult does have been bred, and bucks are tired and run down from chasing, breeding and eluding hunters. But those survivors know the chance to breed a doe won’t come around for another year. They prowl for the last five percent or so of does that might still be receptive. They move heavily at night and in cover, but a good buck might slip up at dawn or dusk, so be out there.

The days of Thanksgiving weekend are some of the biggest hunting days of the year as family and friends get together and fan out across the woods. This is another reason to hunt. You never know where and when that pressure might drive a buck into your lap.

Best conditions: Hope for daytime highs in the 30s to low 50s, with lows in the 20s. I prefer clear high-pressure days, but a light snow would be great. One thing in your favor is the last-quarter moon this week. Researchers have found this moon phase to be best for extreme deer movement, especially the last hour of the day.

Top stand: You’ll likely have a chilly west or north wind, so set up on the east side of a hill or ridge where the wind is right, and where you can cover a wide swath of thick woods, marsh and/or a weed-choked field. Watch for a buck cutting from one thicket to the next, hoping to run across a last hot doe—or sneaking from pressure. Remember the last hour of the day is likely to be best.

Good luck.

Missouri: 6½-Year-Old Ghost Buck

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This is a great guest post from our friend Zach Fleer out in Missouri:

Mike: Finally caught up to this 6 ½-year-old buck this weekend. I have four years of trail camera history with this buck, and this marks the first time I ever laid eyes on him.

He would spend his summers on one end of our farm, and disappear the first week of September. Each of the last few seasons, I would assume he was dead, and then he would show back up in May. He wasn’t really on my radar much during the last few hunting seasons because of this, and because I was chasing the giant freak the last couple years.

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I shot him on the complete opposite end of the farm, about a mile from where I had the last trail cam image of him back in September. He has switched back and forth between a 6pt and 7pt the last few years, and has added some mass, but he looks relatively the same.

Some would call this a cull buck, which I think is stupid. He’s a great trophy, and one of my most memorable deer.—Zach

Agree Zach, no better trophy than a 6 year old whitetail buck, when they grow that old they turn into an entirely different animal—nocturnal, secretive, ghost-like. Way to go man and thanks for sharing. Look at those brows!

November 2016 Supermoon Rut Tactics

full moon compressThe full moon now is not only the closest and brightest “supermoon” of 2016, but it’s also the largest since 1948. Check it out tonight because a full moon won’t come this close to Earth again until Nov. 25, 2034.

I don’t know if the closeness and brightness of this moon will make the whitetails rut any harder than normal, but I do believe this full-moon rut week will be a good time to kill a big deer.

If you have read my blogs and watched my BIG DEER TV show, you know I’ve been working on a new theory: that mature bucks move great during the day in and around any full moon in early to mid-November. This flies in the face of what many of you have read and been taught for years–that deer are most active at night during a big moon, and therefore move less in daylight, and thusly the full moon is bad for hunting.

But I believe I’m on to something, because the more I hunt during the rutting moon across the U.S. and Canada, the more mature bucks I seem to see wandering around the woods, or chasing does. I am not a scientist so I can’t give you any hard data to that end, I just know from more than 30 years of hunting experience the full moon in November is great for rut action.

Marcus Lashley is a scientist, and his findings on the full moon back me up, at least somewhat. “A common misconception is that deer can see better at night (and hence move all over the place) because it’s brighter when the moon is full. But according to our data they actually move less on average at night during a full moon and more during the middle of the day, and also earlier in the evenings,” he says.

I see things setting up to be pretty darn good this week. Many of the old bucks will be coming out of lockdown around then, and as they go back on the prowl for more does, some of them will move long and hard from around 11:00 a.m. until dark each day. Plan to get on stand early and hunting hunt till dark if you can hack it.

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Here are 3 stands to try:

STAND ONE: There is no better spot for your stand than on an elevated ridge near a field of beans or corn. A ridge is staging area near the doe feed and a hub of buck traffic. Both local and vagabond bucks cruise the ridge, rubbing, scraping and sniffing out does. Some of this activity will occur at night, but some big deer start to move earlier in the evenings, and linger after sunup this week. Set your stand on a corner or edge of the ridge where the access and predominant wind are best. There’s a good chance you’ll see at least one good buck and maybe more.

STAND TWO: Having been hassled by bucks for days some does sneak out into CRP fields, overgrown pastures, thick cedar ditches and other out-of-the-way spots where the boys cannot so easily chase them anymore. Also, a mature buck knows when a doe is on the verge of standing for him. He’ll herd her out in the same type of cover, pin her down and stand guard for 36 hours or so, until he finally gets his way with her.

With that in mind, set a stand to overlook a weedy habitat where you can glass 100 yards or farther into the brush for breeding deer or loner bucks prowling for a doe. If bowhunting, hang your perch for a 30-yard shot along a deer trail that comes out of the woods to the weeds, or on a fence line, gap gate or similar funnel.

STAND THREE: Set a stand where a series of thin ridges, flats, shallow draws and a winding creek come together. This spot is a dumping ground for deer throughout the rut.  Sneak in and sit all day. Morning or afternoon, you might spot an 8-pointer trolling on a finger ridge, nose to the ground…or a 10-pointer trotting down a hollow…or a doe running with 3 bucks on her heels…. Keep an eye on that creek and the cover around it because deer will travel up, down and across it all rut. Hunt this stand for 10 or more days this November, and I can almost guarantee you’ll see at least one shooter and likely more.

Good luck let me know how you do.

October 21: The Best Hunting Starts This Weekend

sioux falls south dakota buckAfter lazy weeks of fattening up on grain and acorns in summer and early fall, whitetail bucks get antsy and start to move around more in mid-October. Historical “rut curves” assembled by biologists over decades show that bucks really begin to rev up their scraping right now, around October 20. Better yet, the data show that 5 to 7 percent of a herd’s does are bred by bucks around October 21, give or take a few days. That’s not a whole lot, but good things happen when bucks start to rip more scrapes and prowl for the first estrus does. The more they are on their feet, the better your chances of seeing and shooting one.

Bonus: There’s little hunting pressure in the woods as compared to what you’ll find later in the peak November rut, so now is a good time to be there.

Best conditions: The thing that kills October hunting is warm to hot weather. But when a cold front blows in and drops the temperature 20 or 30 degrees, perfect. The cooler weather will kick deer into moving more. That will occur in the Eastern U.S. this weekend, where I predict the buck movement and hunting will get better. For example, after a week of 80-plus Indian Summer days here in Virginia, a front will blow through later this afternoon, and the low tomorrow morning will be 44. Although it will heat back up soon, the next couple of days should be good.

Best tree stand: If possible, hang a stand on an oak ridge within 100 yards or so of a corn, soybean or alfalfa field. Set up near a well-used deer trail or creek crossing if you find one. It is a good acorn year in many areas. Many deer will browse on the ridge before moving out to the crops at dusk, if they ever leave the ridge at all. Be ready.

Good Tactics: Try setting 2 scent wicks near your stand, one doused with buck urine and the other with hot doe. (Check your regs, with CWD disease a concern, some states have banned real deer urine, and you’ll have to use a synthetic scent.) When bucks start to prowl, they may circle in to either lure, to fight a rival or love on a gal. Have your grunt call ready and blow it occasionally. A buck might hear it and veer over. Good luck.

BIG DEER’S Moon/Rut Deer Hunting Guide 2016

full moon compressFrom Kansas to Virginia to Canada, 90 percent of the adult does will come into estrus and be bred from roughly November 5-20, regardless of moon phase or weather. It’s been that way for decades in the Northern two-thirds of North America, and will continue to be that way forever. Take off anytime from Halloween though Thanksgiving, and you’ll hunt some phase of the rut. Anytime you hunt rutting deer you are going to have a good time, and with the potential to shoot a big buck.

But I do believe that some days and weeks are better than others each year, according to when the various phases of the “rutting moon” occur each November. I base this on two things. One, 30 years of hunting and observing whitetails as they seek, chase and breed each November. And two, my keen interest in all things lunar, and how the four phases might affect deer movement. I read all the moon research I can get my hands, and then compare that data to my field notes.

The most recent study on the moon and its effects on whitetail movement was conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University. Researchers tracked GPS-collared deer throughout the four lunar phases, and analyzed text messages sent from those collars to determine when the does and bucks moved the most–and the least. I cross-referenced the study’s findings with my field notes, and found some similarities and common ground.

I’ll use that to make predictions on how and when the deer will move around and rut this November.

October 30, 2016: New Moon

The NC State study confirmed one fact we already know: Whitetails are crepuscular, which means they are active mostly at dawn and dusk, regardless of moon phase. “That fact did not change,” says researcher Marcus Lashley, who headed the study. “But the intensity of movement in each period when the deer decided to move did change.”

In some moon phases the deer were noticeably more active at dawn than they were at dusk. The new (dark) moon is example of that. “We saw a large peak of movement at daylight during this phase, and below average movement the rest of the day and night,” Lashley notes.

In any given year the first week of November is one of the best times to bowhunt for a big deer; hundreds of giants are arrowed this week across North America. If you take off this week, hunt all day every day, because you never know. But remember the new science that says with the moon new and dark and waxing crescent, bucks will be most active at daylight. Get on stand extra early and hunt the mornings extra hard.

November 7, 2016: First-Quarter Moon

The NC State study found that during the first-quarter moon, deer move less on average throughout the day than in all the other phases. Researcher Lashley goes so far as to say, “That would be a good seven days to work.”

This is where I totally disagree with the science. Looking back to my notes and past blogs, it is no secret that many huge bucks are killed every year during the peak-rut window of November 8-14. This is always a good week to take off work!

That said, I mention this. On and around November 10 every season, especially in the Midwest, the “lockdown” hits in many areas as mature bucks hole up in covers and tend and breed does. Couple that with the data that says the overall deer activity will diminish during the first-quarter moon and things could get tough.

Friend and big-buck hunter Mark Drury, a moon fanatic like me, concurs. “Look for the lockdown in mid-November to be fairly tough, but once bucks start to free up around the 14th,  and with the full moon coming on, I think the buck movement will be quite good at all times of the day.”

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November 14, 2016: Full Moon

Mark Drury texted me recently and said: “I think this year’s rut will be a little better than last year’s, good if temperatures are normal or below, but not great. I’m looking most forward to November 14-18 and I will sit all day. Daylight activity could be really good right then.”

For the last several years Drury and I have texted back and forth from tree stands across America, talking about the moon and what we’re seeing. Turns out we’re both working on and adding to a new theory—mature bucks move great during the day in and around the full moon in November. Of course this flies in the face of what many of you have read for years and believe–that deer are most active at night during a big moon, and therefore move less in daylight, and thusly the full moon is bad for hunting.

But I believe we’re on to something, because the more I hunt during the rutting moon across the U.S. and Canada, the more mature bucks I seem to see wandering around the woods, or chasing does. Mark agrees. We are not scientists so we can’t give you any hard data to that end, we just know we like hunting the full moon more and more.

Marcus Lashley is a scientist, and his findings on the full moon back us up, at least somewhat. “A common misconception is that deer can see better at night (and hence move all over the place) because it’s brighter when the moon is full. But according to our data they actually move less on average at night during a full moon and more during the middle of the day, and also earlier in the evenings,” he says.

While Mark Drury is only so-so on the 2016 rut, I’m more optimistic. I see things setting up to be pretty good during the moon that waxes full on November 14. Many of the old bucks will be coming out of lockdown around then, and as they go back on the prowl for more does, some of them will move long and hard from around 11:00 a.m. until dark each day. Plan to get on stand by 9:00 a.m. and hunt till dark.

November 21, 2016: Last-Quarter Moon

Later on in November is tough and unpredictable any season. The breeding is winding down, and weary bucks have been pressured for two months. Simple math says there are fewer bucks in the woods because a number of them were harvested earlier in the season.

But there is still hope. According to the NC State researchers, from a moon perspective, the deer movement should be best from November 21 until the end of the month. “If you are going to hunt the last hour of the day anytime this season, you should do it on the last quarter because that was the most extreme deer movement we saw during the whole study.”

Try this. Set an afternoon stand near a secluded, thick-cover funnel that leads out to a crop field where you know some does are feeding. A skittish, weary buck is still ready and willing to breed any last doe that will give him a chance. You might just shoot one yet as he sneaks out to check the girls in the last wisps of light.

Good luck and let me know how you do moon-wise this fall.