By Mark Kenyon
Happy Halloween folks!
For many people, today marks the unofficial beginning of rut hunting and the hype that today gets from many hunters is definitely well deserved. A lot of big deer hit the ground every year on Halloween! That said, if you’ve got all your ducks lined up properly – hopefully you’ll be able to sneak out of work early today in order to get in a quick evening hunt. If you’re one of those lucky guys/gals, I wanted to share with you a quick tip for a potential hunt tonight. If you can pull it off, this might be just the trick you need for a halloween buck!
The Staging Area Sneak
It’s October 31st, testosterone is starting to boil over for your local bucks, and the first does are about to come into estrous any second. The whitetail woods are on edge and ripe for an explosion! That said, if you’re looking for a big buck tonight, you need to take advantage of this pre-estrous tension.
At this point there’s a good chance that mature bucks will be getting on their feet earlier in the afternoon than they have yet all year, and they’re going to be wanting to check out their local does. You’ll be taking advantage of this to lay your ambush. While big bucks are most likely not chasing does with reckless abandon yet, they will be scoping out the female population. The key is to know where this “scoping out” will be occurring, and then make sure you’re there.
That said, before heading out this afternoon take a look at a map of your hunting property and pinpoint what you believe to be the absolute best food source in the area right now. Next, identify the most likely doe bedding area near that feed, with which you can get near to with the current wind direction.
Once you’ve got these two areas identified, take a look at the most likely transition area between the feeding/bedding. This is where does will stage before heading in to the food source, and will most likely be where a big buck will stage as well – in an effort to identify a likely lady.
This staging area is where you will take your stand. Pinpoint a spot you can hunt within this “staging area” that you can access and hunt without your scent blowing towards the traveling deer.
After work, sneak in there as quietly as you can and get set up for the last few hours of daylight. When choosing your stand location, keep a few things in mind. First off, big bucks rarely take the most well worn trail – those are usually doe highways. Instead, look for the much more faint trail that’s a little off the beaten path. There might even be a couple rubs along this trail and it’s most likely going to be in a little thicker cover. This is where your buck will approach from.
Bucks will also sometimes use trails that run parallel to a food source or staging area, so that they can walk downwind of the does and get an idea of what their status may be. Keep an eye out for a trail like this as well, and if possible, set up to shoot to both the parallel trails and the trails leading into the food sources.
There’s a great chance that a big buck will be patrolling this staging area between the bedding and feeding a little before dark, as he’ll be dying to see if any ladies are ready for him yet. So get in there, set up with shots to a few likely trails and hunker down for an exciting night!
A Real World Example
Let’s take a look at a real world example. In the image of above you’ll see a property I’ve hunted in the past. The upper right hand blue rectangle marks a popular doe bedding area on the edge of a large swamp. In the bottom left blue rectangle you’ll see a crop field that gets fed in heavily every night.
In between those two areas, you’ll see a red rectangle and this marks the transition zone/staging area. This spot is a piece of high ground that provides a bridge of high ground leading does from the swamp into the feeding area. On this high ground there are also a good number of oak trees, and it’s a perfect spot for does and prospecting bucks to stage before entering the field.
Last year, just a few days before Halloween, I slipped in to this very spot for an evening hunt and had a near perfect hunt play out. Throughout the evening, does filed out of the swamp and through the transition area, and finally heading into the field. Finally, about 30 minutes before dark, a 140″ class split brow tine Michigan monster emerged from the swamp and entered the staging area with his eyes set on the nearby does. Although he never ended up presenting a shot, he certainly reinforced the importance of the staging area sneak to me once again!
Trick or Treat
All that said, I hope you can make your 2013 Halloween a memorable one. It’s a great night for action, so if you can get in the woods, it could be well worth your time.
If possible, sneak in close to a transition area between bedding and feeding and stake out a spot. There’s a great chance big bucks will be on their feet early to check out these likely staging areas for does and if you’re lucky, it could be just the trick for a big buck!
Good luck tonight everyone, shoot straight and Happy Halloween!