7/29/10 – Generally older-age-class bucks live where you don’t hunt. That’s how they develop big racks and heavy body weights. You need to identify the areas on the land you hunt that no one else ever hunts, including: thick-cover areas; briarpatches next to the main gate; piled-up logs; limbs and brush out in the middle of a field; an overgrown ditch that you can’t walk through; and head-high briar-thorn patches. Older-age-class bucks will live in places like these to avoid hunting pressure.
To survive and put-on weight for the winter, these bucks have to feed. Many hunting clubs and landowners plant green fields for wildlife and especially to harvest deer over, but when deer season arrives, the last place you’ll probably encounter a white-tailed buck during daylight hours will be on those green fields. Mature deer primarily will feed in the green fields after dark.
If you’ll provide food sources for bucks in honey holes that no one can find in areas no one else hunts, you drastically increase your odds for taking trophy bucks no one else sees or takes. White-tailed deer are browsers and eat the leaves, branches, nuts and twigs of hundreds of different food types, although they do prefer to feed on certain native plants, like poison oak, poison ivy, honeysuckle and dogwood berries at specific times of the year.
For example, on the edges of a thick briarpatch, you may discover two favorite deer foods – blackberry bushes and greenbrier (smilax). If you’ll go into the woods now and fertilize those native plants before deer season starts, those plants will put-on more foliage and create more highly-nutritious blackberries and greenbrier in that briarpatch. An older-age-class buck more likely will come to feed on the edge of that thick cover on those fertilized native plants that are a part of his normal diet, than he will feed on other plants. Too, consider fertilizing an oak tree near a thicket by the main gate going onto the property you hunt. Over time, as the fertilizer reaches the root system, that oak tree will produce more, bigger and tastier acorns than other oak there.
In award-winning author J. Wayne Fears’ book, “How to Manage Native Plants for Deer” (available at www.jwaynefears.com), Fears identifies many of the deer’s preferred food sources and tells you how to manage those native plants for maximum production. Fertilizing native plants, pruning native trees and shrubs and using controlled burning will enhance the deer’s natural environment and often produce more food than planting green fields will.
How to Hunt Native Plant Honey Holes:
“You’ll need to set-up and hunt at your honey hole when no one is going in or out of an area, perhaps at 8 am, when everybody’s already on his or her stand; noon, when the hunters are in camp eating lunch; and 3 pm, when everyone hunting deer that day are already on their stands,” outdoorsman and wildlife biologist J. Wayne Fears explains. “Older-age-class bucks are much-more effective at patterning hunters than hunters are at patterning deer. Deer know when, where and how hunters move.”
Plan to hunt a region where other hunters don’t hunt, provide highly-nutritious, well-managed native plants for the bucks to feed-on and hunt at a time when no other hunter is moving in that area to see more bucks and have more success.