The greater the hunting pressure, the easier the people and the deer are to pattern. Young bucks often die quickly. Older bucks that rely on their instincts from years past know when, where and how to retreat for cover when man enters the woods. If you hope to take a woods wizard, you must understand the mature buck deer and be able to think like he does. That’s why I’ve written my book, “Deer Hunter’s Pocket Reference,” to help hunters have more success. Each buck in every situation is different, but let’s look at some examples of how to hunt the field buck and the honey-hole deer.
Using Staging Areas The field buck is a wise, older deer that can be seen feeding in fields and pastures all summer and at the beginning of hunting season. But just about the time the sportsman decides to enter the woods, the buck vanishes. He can be spotted in the field at night, but rarely will he be seen during daylight hours. This buck realizes there’s danger in the woods once hunting season begins. Since the buck feeds in the field at night, the trick to bagging him is to find the route he takes to and from the field. The outdoorsman must be able to navigate through the woods in the dark, using his GPS (Global Positioning System) and florescent tacks placed in trees earlier. The later in the season a hunter tries to hunt a field buck, the further the buck will be away from the field during daylight hours. But by following this buck’s travel lane from his field to his bedding area, the hunter has two chances of bagging him – at first light or 30-minutes before dark. Once the buck’s route from the field to the bedding area is established and a tree-stand site has been chosen, be in that stand well before daylight, about 45 minutes to 1 hour before sunrise. The other chance at this buck may come 30 minutes before dark. In studying bucks on hunting preserves, where green-field hunting is the only means used for harvesting, many sportsmen have learned that trophy deer have staging areas, a region 100- to 300-yards away from the field that they come to and wait for nightfall before entering a field. The hunter may get a shot at that trophy buck when he arrives at his staging area.
Honey-Hole Bucks Since the older, bigger, smarter bucks learn quickly to pattern hunters and how to avoid them, during hunting season in high hunter-pressure areas, these bucks will hole-up in honey holes, areas where the bucks will be safe from hunters, and where a hunter rarely thinks of looking for a buck. For instance, some bucks will hide in ditches right-beside main roads leading to hunting camps. The buck soon learns that vehicles go up and down the road during hunting season, but that no one ever stops to hunt these places, assuming that the traffic up and down the road spooks the deer. However, mature deer have learned that the vehicles themselves don’t pose a threat, but rather what’s in the vehicle brings the harm.
Another honey hole may be a briar patch close to a busy camp house. A big, smart buck may lie in that briar thicket during daylight hours, slip in and out of the thicket after dark, and stay safe from hunters all season. Trophy bucks even have been spotted lying in the middles of cotton fields in heavily-hunted areas of the South. Although the hunters are in the woods, the big deer have hidden in the cotton fields where sportsmen never think to look for them. Other outdoorsmen have taken trophy bucks along escape routes within 100 yards of where hunters have parked their vehicles to go into the woods. Some older, wiser bucks will bed close to the road and flee into the woods when the first car door slams, using the escape route to go deep into the woods before the hunters ever enter the forest.
To find one of these honey holes that may contain a trophy buck, get an aerial photograph of the land you hunt from the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, or go to mapping sites on the Internet, including www.mytopo.com.
Use markers to draw a flow chart showing where most of the sportsmen enter the woods and where they hunt. As you diagram the hunting pressure, you soon will locate the regions that are overlooked by most outdoorsmen. These sites probably hold the biggest and the smartest bucks, because only by avoiding hunting pressure have they been able to survive. If you’ll hunt the places no one else does, you’ll bag a honey-hole buck.
To learn more about how to think like a buck, including how to use gun hunters and decoy deer to pattern deer, as well as how to hunt bucks during the rut, click here.