Hunt Tactics for Winter Bucks

iowa lyla 2We have 2 more days to hunt deer this season in Virginia…if you’re still hunting too, try these tips.

Afternoons are always best in late season. Deer move straight from their beds to a cornfield or beans or a thicket or a pasture with weeds–anywhere they can find last scraps of food. When you hunt  a food source, the wind can’t blow back toward a bedding cover or travel lane out, and it can’t swirl out into a field where the does will pop out first. Set up downwind of a trail or funnel where your scent will blow back into a dead zone in the timber where no deer will hopefully come out. If just one doe winds you and starts blowing, you won’t see a buck that night.

Go for perfect access. With deer stressed and wired in winter, access to your stand is critical. Try to slip into and out of a spot without a single deer seeing you. If you can’t use something like a ditch or creek bank to cover your moves, don’t risk it. If you bump one doe you’ll spook a bunch of deer. They’ll blow out of the area and they’ll probably change their pattern. Sneak to your stand early in the afternoon—at least 3 hours before dark—so no deer will spot you.

Watch hidden fringes, like the edges of pine, cedar or honeysuckle thickets. Bucks love to run those green edges between bedding and feeding areas, moving in little places where they can browse and feel some security,.

Play off the pressure. The last couple days of the season, you might hear people making a last-ditch drive on an adjacent farm or woods. If so, hike up a ridge or hill and watch thickets on your side of the fence (stay inside your property and be extra careful where you aim and shoot). There is good chance some does and maybe a buck spooked by those other hunters might jump the fence and come flagging your way.

Imagine the look on those guys’ faces when your gun cracks and you score a buck at the buzzer!


Indiana Big Buck

IN Jason buckToday’s guest blog from BIG DEER blog fan and our friend Jason Lough:

Hi Mike: It was opening weekend in Indiana and I was excited to share another weekend of deer hunting with my Father, as it’s something we look forward to every season.

We put cameras out every year to determine the quality of bucks on the property so that we have an idea of what to expect. Based on the camera pictures and our scouting this year, we knew we had a few good bucks in the area.

 Opening day came and I set up in our best stand in a funnel. I began to see deer early in my sit. The does and small were chasing and rutting hard so I knew it was a good opportunity to catch a good buck cruising.
About 8:30 I had a nice 8 point come within 25 yards of my stand, but based on our scouting I knew there were better bucks in the area.
It was quiet for about an hour and all of a sudden about 10:30, over my right shoulder, I heard a loud crack and figured it had to be a deer larger than a doe coming through the woods. I looked and noticed a doe heading my direction, and behind her what appeared to be a buck. As they got closer I could tell this was more of the type of buck I was looking for, and with my binoculars I confirmed this was a great deer!
The buck was chasing the doe hard and grunting all the way as he came toward my stand. The doe could have gone multiple different directions, but luckily she brought him down a trail 45 yards from my stand. Watching the doe closely in order to not make any sudden movements to spook her, I waited for the buck to enter a small window we had cleared earlier in the season. Once he entered my window, I rested my crosshairs just behind his shoulder and pulled the trigger. He bucked, took off and I immediately pumped in another shell so that I could get another one in him to ensure a quick and ethical kill.
The buck went about 60 yards and while I couldn’t see him, I heard a familiar crash that has so many times resulted in a successful hunt. I immediately called my Dad and told him I just shot what appeared to be a nice 10 point and was climbing down to confirm my buck had indeed expired. A few minutes later, I found an easy to follow blood trail that led me right to my deer. What I found was my second best buck ever and another one for the Indiana record book.
I was pumped, my Dad was pumped and we shared another awesome day together dragging out a great buck on opening weekend.–Jason
P.S. This is the same stand from which my Dad killed his giant buck last year, it grossed 169 (below).
in ed lough

Deer Hunt Tip: How To Make A Doe-In-Heat Scent Trail

scent trail 1Twenty ago one of the top scent strategies was to lay a hot-doe trail to your stand on the walk in every morning or afternoon. You heard many testimonials of bucks smelling those scent trails and following them straight to a hunter’s stand.

You don’t hear much about scent trails anymore, but I still make them and you should to.

Park your truck and sneak off down through the woods. When you’re 150 yards or so from where you plan to hunt, tie a drag rag to your boot, soak a wick with hot-doe lure and walk the rest of the way in.

Make a couple of big sweeps around your stand. A buck that comes from any direction might cut the scent and circle in to see what’s up.

Slipping on boot pads or pulling a drag rag can be a hassle, and I think that’s one reason many hunters don’t lay scent trails anymore. Okay, but now it’s a lot easier.

scent trail 2

Get a can of the new Golden Doe Spray from Wildlife Research Center. On the sneak into a stand or blind, carry the can low in your hand and spray here and there as you walk to create a doe scent trail into your spot. No fuss, no muss, no need to hassle with a rope or scent drag.

While a hot-doe trail can work anytime during the rut, it can oftentimes work better during the first 10 days of the post-rut in late November or early December. There are fewer hot does left to breed, but the bucks are still on the prowl for some action. One of those randy boys might cut your trail and sniff his way right to your stand.

Note: Some states now require you to use only synthetic deer scents, so check your hunting regulations.

New York: Adirondack Camp Bags 11-Point “Big Mac” Buck

NY adirondacks 2018 3

Great guest blog from my buddy Connor Burns from up in the Adirondack Mountains:

Three summers ago, we set out trail cameras at our camp in the great Adirondacks. We knew we had some good bucks on our property; we’d seen them during deer season the previous year.

The cameras had only been out a few weeks before the excitement got to us and we had to make the trip to camp to check them. As we scrolled through the pictures we were surprised at just how many bucks were on the property and consistently on camera.

NY adriondack 2

One picture completely stunned everyone. There stood a beautiful, tall 11-point with a kicker off his left brow tine. Needless to say the picture made the rounds to every camp member very quickly. We knew then and there that this was the deer that we were determined to lay our hands on. This is the buck we would forever call “Big Mac.”

The deer season following came and went with pure disappointment–no sightings of Big Mac although we did end up taking a couple nice deer. Our hopes were still high that Big Mac was alive and well.

The next summer we put out our trail cameras like we always do. A few weeks passed before we checked them… to our surprise, there he was! Big Mac was back on camera and as big and beautiful as ever!

Unfortunately another season passed and we never saw Big Mac. We had a fantastic year and took quite a few nice bucks, but we were starting to wonder if we would ever see this magnificent buck in the wild. But his pictures kept our hopes high and kept us going.

This past summer 2018, we were more anxious than ever to get the cameras out and see if Big Mac had made it through the previous season and winter. Just like he had done the past two years, he stunned us again and showed himself on one of our cameras.

He had almost grown an identical rack for the past three years in a row. But now, he was bigger than ever. He was much thicker, taller and his belly sagged a little more.

On Saturday, November 10th, with a fresh 6 inches of snow on the ground and cold temperatures, we set out with high hopes. We pushed one of our most productive mountains on the property with four drivers and seven watchers on the back side of the mountain. It wasn’t long before the drivers were seeing fresh tracks all over the place and mostly headed to the watch line.

ny adriondack 1

About halfway through the drive, the best sound in the world rang out across the mountain. A watcher had shot. Word spread quickly he had shot at a good buck with two does, but unfortunately he had missed. But we knew the deer was still in our drive and headed toward the next watcher.

With everyone’s hearts beating out of their chests, anxiously waiting to see what would happen next, another shot rang out from the watch line, this one higher up the mountain where the big deer and the two does were headed. Zach Palmer got on the radio and said we had a buck down! He said he had shot the deer at about 100 yards, and didn’t know exactly what he was, that all he had seen was horns.

The drivers finally came out to the watch line and the drive ended. We knew we had to head up the mountain to help with the buck that was on the ground. About halfway up the mountain, all we could hear was screaming and yelling. We heard, “You aren’t going to believe this! It’s him! It’s Big Mac!” Everyone starting sprinting up the hill.

We finally made it up to where Zach had shot and there the deer lay. The buck that had been haunting us for three years was in the snow in front of us, more magnificent than the pictures had ever shown us. We couldn’t believe our eyes as we knelt down and wrapped our hands around this beautiful buck, Big Mac.

This was truly a very special moment for all the guys of Trails End Camp and Northern Brothers Outdoors. It was a moment we will all remember for the rest of our lives. This was the buck that had kept us going year after year. We hiked miles and miles and worked our tails off each season in hopes of this moment.

This is the end of a chapter for us, but also the beginning of a new chapter. The chase is never over for us. This is what we love doing and is truly a brotherhood. We can’t wait to see which buck will show up next, and we’ll begin another amazing chase for the following seasons.

Big Mac was an 11-point that weighed 172 pounds dressed and was rough-scored at 143 7/8. He was mid-rut with a swollen neck and bark still stuck in his horns.—Connor Burns, Northern Brothers Outdoors and Trails End Camp.

POSTSCRIPT: I have hunted with this great group of guys up at Trails End Camp in the awesome Adirondack Mountains. They are dedicated and love what they do, hiking and pushing miles of rugged mountains day after day in search of a deer. This is one of the toughest places I’ve ever hunted, terrain-wise and deer density-wise, and I’ve hunted most every state where whitetails live. To kill any buck is a great accomplishment…to kill a mature 143” deer like Big Mac is off the charts great. Best part about it is that to these guys, who pulls the trigger means little. A buck like Mac, or a spike for that matter, is a trophy to cherish for all the camp members. Way to go guys, can’t wait to get back up there and run those mountains again with you soon.–Hanback


New Research: Deer Jumping The String

grant deer drop jump stringMy friend Dr. Grant Woods, one of the top whitetail scientists in the world, recently produced a must-watch video with some new observations about deer jumping the bow string.

Grant worked with an engineer and avid bowhunter who devised a computerized device to record the sound of a bow going off, test the speed of gravity, etc.  Sounds complex, but when you watch and listen to the video it’s much clearer.

They set up a range…took shots at 20, 30 and 40 yards with bows that shot between 258 and 315 fps… and recorded the data. Then they watched many video clips of actual hunts, with deer ducking and twirling as they heard the sound of bow shots. Grant and team put it all together and came up with a few observations:

When a bow goes off and a deer hears it, many of them instinctively drop toward the ground, but some do not. Some old advice is still good advice—aim at the lower third of a deer’s vitals on every shot. Deer drops, you get middle or high lungs. Deer does not drop, your arrow pierces lower lungs and heart.

With their shot tests in this study driving home the point how much a deer might drop—maybe 6 inches to more than 10 inches at 40 yards—Grant and colleagues studied the demeanor and position of deer that ducked the string on the hunting videos. They noticed that alert deer (pressured, sense something is not right, etc.) are much more likely to drop at the bow shot than a calm deer. It’s always best to shoot at a deer that appears calm and unaware of your presence.

This is new and major: Grant noticed that a deer with its head down tends to drop more and faster than a deer with its head up. The theory is that with its head down, a deer can easily drop its front end, then throw his head up in a flash as it wheels and bolts away.  This happens so often that Grant will now try to avoid shots at deer with their head down.

With the data and observation driving home how much a deer might drop, Grant says he will now be re-evaluating his shots at whitetails. He goes so far as to say he hopes to keep most shots 20 yards and under, and will carefully evaluate 30-yard shots. He says a hunter has to be extremely careful about taking a 40-yard shot, and now he’ll likely pass at that distance.

Watch the video.