isnt the only good time to bag a buck. In September and early October, whitetails
are still locked into their late-summer feeding patterns. This 10-step plan is
designed to help you take advantage of their routine trek from bedding to feeding
a few evenings glassing for deer in a field of alfalfa, clover or cut corn. If
you hunt mostly timbered terrain, glass for does and bucks that feed and mingle
at dusk in a clear-cut, power-line right-of-way you get the picture. Your
goal is twofold: to locate at least one good buck, and to pinpoint the spot where
that brute most often pops out of the cover.
your glassing, but dont get lulled into the no-impact, stay out of
a bucks turf or youll spook him strategy recommended by some
of todays deer-hunting gurus. I feel strongly that at some point you need
to go in and evaluate the terrain and sign where deer travel from bed to feed.
If you dont, how in the world will you know where to hang a stand?
one day around noon, when whitetails are bedded back in the woods and thickets.
Walk across a field or cutover to a spot where youve watched a buck step
out of the cover. Check the wind direction; if its blowing into the open
area or at least parallel to it, sneak 50 to 100 yards back into the woods. Dont
go much deeper than that or youre apt to bump deer.
the fringes for trails. Look for a thin ridge, ditch or edge that might funnel
deer. Look closer still for an inner terrain, a creek crossing, fence
corner or the like, that might further squeeze a buck through the area. Keep an
eye out for rubs and tracks.
You can never, I repeat never, go wrong by locating a stand near mast that falls,
heaping and fresh, 50 to 100 yards off a field or cutover. Most does and bucks
will stop to nibble the acorns or soft mast before heading out to a main feeding
area after dark. Try to find one or two trees that will rain nuts when the season
opens (white oaks are best).
Many hunters pack in a tree stand and fling it into the first big tree that looks
good. Not me. After about 30 minutes of speed scouting, I hurry out of the woods,
go home and study all my maps and aerials. I evaluate the cover, sign and mast
I found in the transition zone between feeding and bedding areas. Then I try to
piece things together and predict deer movements.
few days before the bow opener, I sneak back in a second time to set a stand for
afternoon hunting. (I can almost hear the no-impact clan howling now, but I dont
care because this low-impact strategy works.) Again, I go at midday
and enter the woods from the food-source side when the wind is right. I head for
a spot where Ive concluded that my chances for an ambush are high. I check
to make sure deer are still running the same trails, and I monitor the status
of mast trees.
I look around for a stout tree on the downwind side of a doe trail or funnel.
I back up 30 yards, kneel and check the tree from a deers perspective. If
it offers adequate background cover, bingo! 6.Try to lock your stand on a tree
so it faces the food source. Most deer will come from the woods and thickets,
and by keeping the tree between you and them, youll be that much harder
to see. If you shoot right-handed, always try to set up where deer will pass within
30 yards to your left. This will enable you to draw and shoot with little movement
as a buck quarters past.
the leaves still thick on the trees, you might actually be able to see and shoot
best by hunting only 16 to 18 feet high. Be doubly sure the wind is right and
steady if you hunt low. Trim at least three good shooting lanes to the sides and
in front of your stand. Get out of there and let the spot rest for a couple of
When you go back to hunt, access your stand from the food-source side, and make
sure the wind quarters out of the woods. Climb into your perch by 2 p.m. or so,
especially if you hunt in the Midwest or West, where whitetails tend to get up
and move to feeding areas early.
If, as the afternoon fades, some does have tipped past, but you havent spotted
a buck, dont get down, get ready. A big deer often comes late and quickly
to a crop field or mast tree, especially on a warm day. Take your bow off its
hanger and listen for his stiff-legged gait behind you.
buck ghosting past your stand in the twilight often looks like he is farther away
than he really is. Dont risk taking too long of a shot, but on the other
hand, dont let a shooter slip by at 25 or 30 yards.
a buck is broadside or quartering away, tuck a sight pin behind his front leg
and on the lower third of his chest. If he ducks to run when the string twangs,
your arrow should still strike the middle or top of his lungs. If the deer doesnt
drop youll make an even better shot, low in the lungs and heart. If you
double-lung a buck and see him fall, go get him. But when a deer bolts into thick
foliage and youre not so sure about the shot, wait at least two hours before
tracking. Come back with a buddy and big, powerful lights.
buck might wheel and run back toward a bedding area on a doe trail, so check there
for blood. It is no wives tale that wounded deer often run downhill and
toward water. I shot a buck last fall and found him floating in a creek in the
foot of a draw a quarter-mile from my stand.
On all those evenings when shooting light wanes and youre left with a full
quiver, sit awhile. Who knows, you might spot a whopper buck. When the coast is
clear, slip out of your stand. By now you should have mapped out an exit route
that will take you away from the feeding area. Leave without spooking deer and
your chances of arrowing a buck are still good when you come back.