Just over a week returned from my out of state trip to Illinois with Oak Tree Outfitters, I’ve had plenty of time to ponder what went right and wrong. It was a trip filled with problems like being one day too late, one field away or 100 yards too far. A great example of this is the picture above, which is one of two different shooter bucks we caught on trailcam moving in front of our setups during daylight, a day after we sat them! And that was kind of the story of our week’s hunt. I suppose that’s why chasing mature whitetails is such a challenging and rewarding experience. That being said, I came away from this trip with plenty of new lessons learned and old rules hammered home and I’ve listed a few of them below.

  1. Break A Property Down: Trying to hunt for the first time on a 1,000 + acre farm can be a daunting task and it’s easy to just float around from spot to spot. It wasn’t til day three that we really narrowed down our focus to one section of the farm, figured out how the deer were moving there and put a game plan into action. Not surprisingly, the last three days were our best. We ended up seeing a shooter buck on each of our last four sits.
  2. Rethink the Wind: Most would say that you should always hunt with the wind in your favor, but you also need to consider how deer move to put the wind in their favor. A mature buck almost always likes to move with the wind in his face, so keep this in mind when trying to determine how a buck might move and where he might be heading. Very often a buck will choose one food source or destination over another, purely because the wind will be blowing from his destination to him.
  3. Hunt The Limiting Factor: When deciding on where to hunt, think about what deer need from the land, where these factors are located and which is the most limited. If food and water are abundant in most areas, but cover is not, you know that a majority of deer will congregate near the area of best cover. In our case, cover and water were present everywhere, but food was not! Almost all of the crop fields in the area surrounding our property were plowed under. But we found that the north end of the farm still had corn fields not plowed and this ended up being where the majority of the deer had been spending time.
  4. You’ll Never Kill One on the Couch: I’ve always preached this, but it proved itself to be true again on this trip. We had two awful days of weather, that almost kept me in the cabin. Day one we had severe thunderstorms and a tornado warning, but we decided to head out anyway, and we ended up seeing nine deer. On day three we had 20 mph winds and pouring rain, but at the last minute I decided I had to be in the woods, and I ended up seeing three bucks.
  5. No Such Thing as a Sure Thing: This is obvious, but it’s been a lesson engrained in me the hard way this year. I came into the 2010 season with sky high expectations, especially with out of state hunts planned in monster buck states like Illinois and Nebraska. I never imagined I would make it to December without a single buck on the ground. But here I am. So at this point all we can do is to keep on trucking and working hard. Hopefully by the end of the month, we’ll have something to show for it.

For the full recap of my hunt in Illinois, check out this post – “No Big Buck, But Came Back From Illinois With Plenty

And for more information about Oak Tree Outfitters, visit their website here.