By Dan Infalt
I think the biggest reason hunters fail hunting public land or small private properties is because they watch too many hunting shows, and read too many magazines that all seem to revolve around rut tactics or huge managed leases. Lets face it, if you open most magazines you will see articles about hunting food sources, hunting scrapes, hunting rubs, or the latest magic product that will bring big bucks running. If you turn on the TV the hunting shows show guys sitting over open fields in manicured box blinds or ladder stands with half a dozen P&Y bucks grazing in front of them in broad daylight trying to decide which one to take. That’s not reality for most of us.
This has to leave new hunters scratching their heads wondering what they are doing wrong. Well, here in the “real world”, mature bucks don’t wander around in open fields in daylight. They are nocturnal animals that move very little in daylight.
During the rut it’s possible to catch occasional big bucks moving in daylight, but our bow hunting seasons are months long and the rut revolves around a short little window of time. Even if you do throw all your eggs into the rut basket, I find the truly mature bucks of 5 years old or older still don’t move much in daylight.
Hunting rubs, scrapes, or heavy trails might sound great on the surface, but the truth is that 95% or more of a buck’s sign is laid down after dark. I hunt bucks during the day, so sign doesn’t mean a lot to me unless it’s where the bucks move during the 5% they move in daylight.
In order to have consistent success on mature bucks outside of the short rut window I believe you need to be very close to the bucks bed. A lot of the mature bucks I have taken on public land, I have been so close too I could actually watch them rise from there beds, and still shot them close to closing time at last light.
I scout for buck beds in late winter till early spring before green up. I usually wait till the snow melts so I can see the sign of where they bedded in the fall, rather than in there winter patterns.
I study the buck beds very close, in fact I like to sit right in the buck’s bed and see what the buck sees and think about what he can smell and hear. Then I look for the nearest spot I could hunt, just out of sight, sound, and smell. I then pick out one or more trees based on different wind directions as close as possible to his bed and I don’t come back until its the day I plan to hunt.
I want to find as many of these buck beds or bedding areas as possible, so I don’t over hunt them. I then hunt each of these spots only one to three times a year. Anymore than that likely will not be tolerated by a mature buck. It’s usually not just one buck using a bed either. Several bucks, and generations of bucks use the same beds. Bucks will actually compete for the best beds. A lot of people think deer bed randomly, but after over three decades of hunting and observing bedded bucks, its obvious to me that bucks bed in exact spots, over and over. I have killed several bucks from the same bed over a period of years.
In short, the more you scout, the more you will find. Use this spring to look for buck beds and bedding areas, and then plan a strategy to hunt them this fall. If you do it right, you should see mature bucks in daylight hours and maybe even fill your tag on one.
The Big Buck Serial Killer