The hunters who consistently take older-age-class bucks each season often have one to five mature bucks selected to hunt by the end of August. These hunters know where their mature bucks live, where they bed, and where they travel. Let’s look at some secrets that can help you find the bucks you want to harvest this season.
* Travel woods and country roads, and use a quality pair of binoculars late in the afternoon to look for bucks in agricultural fields.
* Go to the green fields you’ve planted or those on state wildlife-management areas where you plan to hunt. Take binoculars, be well-camouflaged and scent-free, and look for bucks coming to the green fields. Take notes on how the bucks enter or leave the field.
* Find the trails that the bucks are using to enter and leave green fields and agricultural fields. Follow those trails back into the woods to a possible bedding site, and look for possible tree stand or ground blind places.
* Set-up a trail camera on the edge of the trail to photograph deer movement. I also try to set-up a camera on the edge of the field where the deer enter and exit.
* Put out mineral licks and/or deer attractant, like Hunter’s Specialties Gorge or C’Mere Deer, to ensure you photograph most of the deer coming into the field and leaving the field.
* Learn where the oak groves are if you’re hunting in hardwood timber. Take your binoculars, and look up into the trees to spot acorns beginning to mature to help you learn where the deer will be when the acorns fall. However, if you put-out mineral blocks, deer lure, corn or some-other bait, you can start attracting deer to that oak grove even before the acorns fall, and get trail-camera pictures of the bucks in that region.
* Use one trail camera per 100 acres on the property you hunt before the season to photograph about 90 percent of the deer living there. As the rut arrives, your camera scenes will change. New bucks will come on to the property, and bucks you already have photographed will leave the property chasing does. However, now that the bucks’ antlers are growing, you can identify the bucks you want to hunt once the season begins.
* Learn what times these bucks are moving along their trails, once you’ve identified the bucks you want to hunt. You already have identified trees for stands or areas for ground blinds while scouting. Now is the time to cut your shooting lanes for these sites. Too, use a small hand saw, pruning shears or loppers to cut trails through thick cover, allowing you to enter and exit your stand site without being seen or heard.
* Know what wind direction you need to enter and exit your stand site without the deer smelling you. Most of your stand sites should be facing the direction from which the dominant wind will come. For instance, in the Southeast, the most-dominant wind comes from the northwest.
* Consider air movements (thermals) that occur in the morning and afternoon to determine whether your stand site is a morning or an afternoon stand. If the deer are coming over a ridge toward food in the afternoon and going back on that same route early in the morning, you may want to put your stand site at the top of the ridge facing the dominant wind direction. This way, your scent will be blown up and away from the deer. You won’t hunt from this stand in the afternoon, because the thermals will be moving down the mountain and carrying your scent to the deer.
* Remember, you play like you practice. To increase your odds for taking an older-age-class buck, start preparing now. Identify the bucks you want to take this season, prepare your places to take them, and study your trail-camera photographs to help you identify the bucks on your hit list. Then you’ll have done almost everything necessary to take that buck of a lifetime this season.
By Chad Schearer, a western big game guide and host of “Shoot Straight with Chad Schearer” on the Sportsman Channel (www.shootstraighttv.com/).