By Jeff Sturgis:
There is so much talk about exactly when to be in the woods. WHEN is the pre-rut, when is the rut, etc, etc. For me personally, I only hunt cold fronts, meaning I completely disregard the moon and I avoid getting caught up in hunting any certain calendar day of the month…for example, “I always have to be in the woods on 11/5, or Halloween, or 11/9”. My oldest bucks in MI or WI during the last 20 years have come on a great variety of dates between 10/12 and 11/8. However, what did almost all of them have in common? They were shot within two days of a major cold front.
That being said, there is another incredibly important factor in deciding when and how to hunt, which is what I want to discuss today. Ask yourself this, are you hunting the local bucks that reside closely in and around your parcel borders? Or, are you hunting bucks that generally reside on other hunting grounds, and then rely on them to leave from those areas to travel to the location that you hunt? Asked another way, are you hunting local or non-local bucks? Answer this question, and the when and how of how you should hunt will become much more clear.
Are the bucks you are watching local?
This is the first thing you must consider, and below I’ve identified a few ways for you to start working this out when thinking about your own situation.
* If bucks are frequenting your property in the summer…and gone by late Sept/early Oct and you only get pictures of them in the middle of the night or not at all, they are probably NOT local.
* If you have fall food and fall cover, and you are seeing/getting pics of certain bucks during October, they are local.
* If you hunt funnel parcels where you expect to shoot a mature buck on his feet traveling between large parcels of food and cover you are NOT hunting local bucks
* Mature bucks don’t just disappear and only move a few hours during the middle of the night, instead they pretty much mirror the local deer herd where they reside except for maybe being just a bit behind and socially shy.
Once you determine if you are hunting “Local” or “Non-Local” bucks you can then determine when to hunt them!
Local bucks can be hunted highly effectively if hunting pressure is reduced, and you carefully choose exactly which stand to use. But when should this happen? In OCTOBER. The absolute best time to hunt your local bucks are the 1-2 days following the October cold fronts. When you get to the 20th of October and you experience a major cold front make sure to get into the stand on the backside/quiet/cold side of the front and you can expect to kill a local pre-rut giant. A Oct 10 cold front can be outstanding, but when you add in the element of the pre-rut at the end of October, the quality of the hunt is even better! I have experienced personally the last 12-13 years that if I didn’t kill a buck during this time…I messed up! Meaning I spooked deer, missed deer or had other mishaps, etc. That all said, there are very few parcels out there, only a fraction, that have the fall combo of food, cover, and low hunting pressure that allows a mature buck to call that place home.
If you are hunting “Non-Local” bucks, look more towards the early November cold fronts. If the 6th of November is a great moon day but there are temps in the 80s, don’t waste the sits if you can be flexible with your vacation time. My lease partner Karl comes out the last week of October through 11/2 this year. No matter if he has come the first 10 days of November, the last 10 days of October, or somewhere in-between, we feel he has typically about 3-5 days of actually good hunting. But, he is driving over 20 hours from GA so he doesn’t have a choice. The reason he chooses to slant his time mostly towards the end of October? Because we are hunting local bucks and he gets sick of a big one getting shot before he arrives.
A local buck knows his home extremely well and the older he becomes, the more set in his ways he becomes. He doesn’t expand his territory with age, he refines his territory, meaning he relates more and more to the most secure of his patterns. That makes him easier to kill as he ages, IF you take the hunting pressure out of the equation of which he is incredibly responsive to. Literally, you do not typically get a second chance unless you have a large enough parcel to move to another location. But, a local buck I believe likes his local spots. He is safe, secure, and he knows HIS doe herd. However, towards the end of the rut he gets antsy. He has exhausted his local does, he still has the itch and he cruises! And it is at that time that a mature “Non-Local” buck may be vulnerable. Typically if you don’t have local bucks you won’t stand much of a chance during October unless that buck is pushed to you, or food sources are drastically altered to make him shift his patters (a picked corn field, for example).
Knowing when to hunt has a lot to do with what kind of bucks you are hunting and then it boils down to not burning out your stand locations until you get a cold-front at the appropriate time.
Whether you are hunting local or non-local bucks is something you should attempt to figure out. If you are hunting local bucks, don’t miss a quiet sit following major October cold fronts (even Sept if you are in another state than MI). However if you are hunting non-local bucks set your sights following the first major cold front in November for consistent success.
For me? I will be trying to take a giant prior to my buddy Karl’s arrival on October 25th. Not to necessarily to beat him to the punch, but to take advantage of some outstanding October hunting on some local giants!
So, are you hunting “Local” or “Non-Local” giants?
Think about your situation on the properties you hunt, and let us know if you’re hunting local or non-local bucks!
– Jeff Sturgis, WhitetailHabitatSolutions.com