By Mark Kenyon
A few years back, I was haunted by a deer named “Triple Threat.” He was a summer giant, but he turned into a ghost every fall.
You see, for two years, “Triple Threat” had shown up on one of my hunting properties and camped out there all summer. Showing up on camera, posing to be filmed in the distance, and basically haunting my dreams for several months leading up to each hunting season. Then when early to mid-September hits, he disappeared. No sightings, no pictures, nothing. Like clock-work, it happened two years in a row.
So this story brings to mind a couple questions for me. First, why does this happen with so many bucks each year and then, where do these summer bucks, like Triple Threat, go at the end of the summer? Secondly, how can we find these bucks again and still be able to hunt them?
I myself am still trying to answer these questions for myself, but here’s what I’ve learned to date and the ideas I have at this point. As always, I’d love to hear your ideas as well!
Why Do They Disappear?
So first off, why do so many of the bucks we see in the summer disappear in September? Well there are actually several answers to that question, but I’ll offer a few ideas.
First off, during the fall, a large number of yearling bucks disperse from the areas they were born. It is believed that this yearling dispersal occurs either because aggressive females drive them away to prevent in-breeding or because competition from other bucks pushes them to explore new territories. Regardless the reason, it is well documented that a significant number of 1.5 old bucks relocate during the fall each year.
That said, back to the big summer bucks you’ve been watching and why they relocate. It’s hypothesized that some of these deer were originally yearling bucks that were born on your property but dispersed at 1.5, and now they’ve come back to summer on that original range. When fall again arrives, they’ll head back to their new spot.
Another reason for the fall disappearance could be simply due to the fact that bucks simply need to move farther apart from their old bachelor party buddies, to establish their own areas and breeding rights. Inevitably this means some of the bucks on your property will need to move elsewhere. With increased testosterone in the fall, mature bucks are much less tolerant of other bucks, and therefore must move to new places to establish their own territory away from the competition of other bucks.
Finally, the fall relocation is also in part due to changing food sources. Many times, during summer, bucks will be living near to great summer-time food sources like soy-bean fields or alfalfa, but as soon as these crops start to turn, those deer will move in search of better food. These new fall food sources could be acorns, corn fields, food plots, etc.
Alright, so now that we have a basic idea of why these bucks are leaving, how do we figure out where they’re going?
Where Do Those Summer Bucks Go?
As mentioned already, some of the bucks we’ve watched during the summer are relocating to better food sources, some are relocating to establish their own territories, and some are apparently just disappearing to give us migraines. The real question now is how do we find these deer again?
In my opinion, the key to this mission is a good pair of binoculars, plenty of gas in your truck, and a bunch of free evenings in September. To find those deer again, you’re going to need to scour the area around your property, glassing crop fields during the late evening. Most bucks relocate during that first week of September, and most hunting seasons open in late September or early October. That leaves you just a couple weeks to start searching the evening crop fields, find your buck, and then put together a new plan. I’ve heard of bucks moving as much as several miles away from their summer range, so don’t be afraid to expand your search area well away from your home property.
If you have access to other properties surrounding the area you originally saw your summer bucks, you can also use trail cameras to try and relocate your target deer.
How Can You Hunt Them Again?
Let’s say now that you lost your summer buck of choice, but in mid-September you spotted him again two miles away feeding in an opening on some acorns in the timber. Now that you’ve found his new range, you have two choices. You can concede defeat, since he’s now miles away from your property. Or, you can take life by the horns, and find a way to get back on this deer. If you chose option B, I commend you. It’s time to get to work.
Your task now is to get permission on this property where you found your buck, or to at least get permission on a nearby property. If you can get on one of the surrounding properties, there’s still a good chance of encountering the old bruiser. The task of getting permission on private land isn’t an easy one to accomplish, but it’s well worth the effort. Rather than going into details about getting permission, I’ll just point you to a recent video we created, in which I discuss several tips on the topic. You can see that video embedded below.