By Mark Kenyon
While reading Don Higgins’ most recent book, “Real World Whitetail Icons“, I came upon a section written by Adam Hays, detailing his strategy for killing big bucks, specifically how he has been able to tag giant bucks by focusing on hunting specific deer and killing them in late October. A big part of Adam’s game-plan revolves around summer scouting, and with that in mind, I thought his ideas would be worth sharing today in July, as the preparation needed to make these strategies work needs to start now.
For those that don’t know, Adam Hays is one of the most accomplished whitetail hunters in the Midwest, most known for the fact that he’s killed three 200″ bucks. Yes, three different 200″ bucks have fallen to this man’s bow and arrow.
Interestingly, all three of those 200″ bucks were killed during the last 10 days of October, using a relatively similar strategy. So with that said, I thought I’d paraphrase a bit of what he explains in the book, along with a few other tidbits I’ve read from Adam elsewhere to help us all understand how he’s having such success on giant whitetails. If you’ve ever dreamed of killing a 200″ buck, these tactics are proven to work, so you might just want to start taking notes. So without further adieu, here’s the three step process that has helped Adam Hays kill three 200” bucks!
One of the most important points Adam made in his section of this book was that you can’t kill a big buck if there isn’t one where you’re hunting. It’s simple, but it’s a reality that many hunters ignore. With this being the case, if you’re dead-set on killing a certain caliber buck, you need to either know there is a deer like that on your current property, or seek one out elsewhere. Adam specifically says, “It’s a main part of my strategy to go out and find these deer first, then do whatever it takes to obtain permission to hunt them.”
So how do you go about locating these deer? Most notably through summer scouting. Drive the roads around your area just before dark with binoculars, spotting scope and maybe even a camera at the ready. Once you locate a deer that you’re interested in hunting, focus your roadside scouting in the mile or two area around where you’ve spotted him, and try to better identify his core area based on where you see him feeding and where he’s likely bedded nearby.
Many times bucks will relocate at the end of August or early September, so be sure to continue this surveillance into September and try to confirm whether or not that buck is sticking around. Then, as Adam said, if you don’t already have permission to hunt that area, it’s time to get to work trying to get access. (Need help getting permission – check out our most recent podcast episode in which we tackle this topic in detail)
If you want to pull off the Adam Hay’s Late October Sneak, you best get started with this first step now.
In a perfect world you would have already known this deer was on your property earlier in the year, and you’d begin scouting in the winter or early spring. If that was possible, you’d want to be scouting in the timber looking for bedding areas, trails, rubs, scrapes, etc – in an effort to better understand where that buck might be bedding, feeding and traveling.
But, let’s assume that’s not the case, and instead you’re just getting started right now. At this point you’ve got a buck located and have permission to access the area, so now it’s time to start diving into the details. Hays accomplishes this by continuing his velvet scouting, but now he’s scouting for more information than just if a big buck is in the area.
Per his explanation of this strategy in Real World Whitetails, “When I’m after a specific animal, I will set up a tree stand as far away as possible from where he’s feeding and keep tabs on him from my elevated vantage point with binoculars or spotting scope…If you’ve been watching him all summer, you will know what trails he uses and the corresponding wind directions he prefers for each trail. This is very valuable information to have when the season opens, and even if he does leave, he may return later in the season. You can bet he will use the same trails and winds he did in the summer!”
Many of us use trail cameras or long distance scouting to identify bucks during the summer, but Adam seems to take it to the next level by paying attention to the details each and every time he spots the buck he’s after. He’s paying attention to when the deer is moving, what times he moves, what direction he comes from, what wind he uses, etc and then he uses all of this information to understand why this sighting occurred, which eventually can help him predict when he might return again.
3. Going In For The Kill
Now that Hays has a buck located and pinned down, it’s time for the hunt. October is his month of choice, as a big buck is the most predictable at this point. The first few days of the season often offer a good shot at a buck sticking to his summer patterns, but Hays’ favorite time of year is the 10 day period at the end of October which he calls “Red October”. According to Adam, “During these last 10 days of October, our adversary has all this frustration building inside of him but nowhere to go with it. He’s primed, but he’s still doing the same thing every day … he’s still on a predictable pattern and VERY vulnerable.”
Hays isn’t just hunting at any time or on any day during this 10-day period though. He’s waiting for the right wind for the buck to use an area he has scouted, and then he’s also utilizing moon phase information to predict what night a buck is most likely to be moving during daylight. Finally when all the pieces line up, he heads in to kill.
According to an article in Field & Stream about Hays’ tactics, “In his experience, there are usually two or three nights in late October when everything comes together … When it does, Hays sneaks to his chosen tree in the early afternoon when the deer is bedded and quietly hangs his stand. Though many hunters set up and clear shooting lanes well in advance of their first hunt, Hays believes this makes a mature buck avoid the area. Instead, he uses a strap-on stand and climbing sticks to set up on the spot, taking care to make as little noise as possible.
In his stand by mid-afternoon, Hays doesn’t get serious about luring his prey until the last half hour or so of shooting light. Just before dusk, he grunts softly and waits five to 10 minutes before rattling for 15 to 20 seconds, trying to mimic a pair of bucks sparring. “If you rattle just before that buck would normally get out of bed,” Hays says, “he’ll come right to you.”
In another feature on Hay’s strategy for late October bucks, this one on Realtree.com, Adam explained “The trick is to set up between a buck’s bedding area and where he will go feed at dark,” Hays said. “Once in a while big bucks will get up and move a little bit early en route to the field. If your stand is set up in the right location, you may get a shot.”
So there you have it. Adam Hays has killed three 200″ bucks using these tactics and if you play your cards right, you just might be able to use the same ideas to put the biggest buck in your woods on the ground too.
All that said, remember, if you want to make this kind of success happen in late October, the work needs to begin now! So get out there with your binos, scour the crop fields, power-lines, and cut-overs and find your buck.
Interested in seeing more from Adam Hays, get more info on Adam and his new hunting show Team 200 at 200inch.com