By Cody Altizer
Well, do you, and does it? Personally, I do not, and it does not. Okay, I won’t make you cipher through anymore cryptically written text, but it is a topic I want to touch on a little bit.
Many deer hunters, managers, and biologists have written countless articles about identifying bucks during the summer, scouting them, watching them develop a pattern, and employ a super-secret strategy to harvest that buck within the first week of the season. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it works for some people. I’ve seen it work for some people, but it’s certainly not applicable to me. In fact, if I were to spot a buck tomorrow, I wouldn’t have the slightest clue where he’d be the next day, and I’m quite okay with that. I’m not interested in killing bucks in July. I don’t want to sound like a jealous, smitten bowhunter, but the area I hunt simply isn’t conducive to this ideology.
A whitetail’s physiology changes quite a bit in a short period of time. Just two months ago, bucks were just starting to push bone through their skin. Two months from now, many hunters across the country will be hunting those same bucks with racks that can measure up to 200 inches. It’s quite remarkable when you think about it. However, a lot will also change with where a buck beds, what he’s eating, his tolerance of other bucks, and whether or not the scent of a certain female will tempt him enough to let his guard down and chase her around the woods like a lunatic. What a buck’s doing right now will help me very little with my plan to kill him during the fall. Sure, I wish my food plots had 3-4 mature bucks feeding in them every afternoon, but that’s simply not going to happen.
I usually run trail cameras for 9 months out of the year. I put them out in June and leave them out until February of the following year. This past year, 2011, was one of my worst summers running trail cameras. I only got one picture of a mature buck. It was of a 148” 15 pointer that my brother would eventually harvest, but I only got three photos of him during the summer, all at once, when he was passing by one of my mineral stations. That normally wouldn’t give a hunter much confidence heading into the season, but I wasn’t worried. I knew we’d see him again during the fall.
While the summer 2011 was my worst ever with trail cameras, the 2011 hunting season was the best in my hunting camp’s history. We harvested three bucks, the aforementioned 148” 15 pointer, a 127” 11 pointer, and a 5.5 year old 7 pointer. None of those bucks called my property home during the summer. Furthermore, between me, my brother, and my dad we saw 16 different bucks that were at least 2 years old or older, and captured another handful on trail camera.
A lot can and will change between now and hunting season. On my property, bucks will feel more safe on my property than any of my neighbors because of properly laid out sanctuaries, food plots, and limited human pressure. The white oaks that dominate our ridges will pull bucks to our property, and since we regularly harvest does, the bucks will have to look just a little bit harder to find love. However, all of those factors are completely irrelevant to where a buck is spending time right now.
Summer scouting, glassing for velvet bucks, running trail cameras and identifying target bucks this time of year is a blast. I wish I had that luxury, but I don’t, and it doesn’t matter. What about you, though? Have you identified a target buck, and do you think the intel you gather this summer will help you kill him this fall? Let us know in the comments.
– Cody Altizer