For year-round whitetail junkies there’s no better feeling than pulling trail cameras in July and August and seeing a few great mature bucks. However, capturing trail camera pictures in July is very different than watching your buck hit the ground in November. After compiling the right information, it can be as simple as putting hours on stand. Of course, this would likely mean you understand the local deer herd and have located the primary food sources – both key ingredients to successfully hunting specific deer throughout the fall.
1 – Collect and Analyze Intel
To begin, you must collect as much information as possible about a buck. Usually this includes numerous trail camera pictures or your own visual observations throughout summer and fall. Multiple pictures of a qualified buck can give you a good place to start. Once you acquire a few pictures it becomes a little easier to decide where your buck is calling home. Throughout summer, even the largest bucks typically use the most common route to a field or bedding area, making it relatively easy to generate pictures, provided you have the deer. Come fall however, behavior changes drastically and the search for those summer ‘hit-listers’ can quickly become frustrating if you do not understand a deer’s ever-changing behavior. After velvet shed, bucks undergo substantial changes to their body and attitude due to rising levels of testosterone. Survival instincts seem to be more finely tuned after velvet peel and bucks appear to be more hesitant to feed in open fields during the last hour of daylight. Not only are the bucks undergoing major changes themselves, but food sources are as well. Large food plots might begin to take a back seat to early acorns and soft mast trees, which change feeding patterns of deer.
Once acorns start to drop, deer become tougher to hunt because they can eat within the comforts of cover. Finding the tree or lot that holds the acorn mother-load within a specific buck’s range is your best bet for getting a crack at him.
2 – Adapt to the Changing Food
Where is the food? Once you find the primary food source you can begin to put some clues together in order to formulate a precise plan of attack. Is he entering a food source in the evening or early morning? Most hunters don’t prepare or focus on hunting near food sources early in morning come September, but on a property I hunt, I have had as much action, if not more during morning sits. I receive lots of trail camera information telling me bucks move during the early morning hours on a few select properties. Finding food, cover and understanding to the best of your ability how a buck moves about a property will help you select a proper location. After finding a proper site it is critical to get in and hang a stand with plenty of time to spare before you plan to hunt from it. Enter the area with rubber boots and scent free clothing during the middle of the day and if possible, hours before a steady rainfall to wash away foreign scent. Find a comfortable, healthy tree and hang the stand at least eighteen feet high if you feel safe doing so. Clearing brush and debris leading to your stand will help you enter and exit quietly. After completing your setup, get out and do not enter again until it is legal for you to have a bow in hand and blades on the end of your arrow!
3 – Don’t Get Overeager
Trail cameras are perhaps the greatest innovation to the world of deer hunting over the past twenty years, but it is important to make sure they do more good than harm. Avoiding trail camera mishaps is a must when hunting certain deer. I would advise setting up trail cameras far from a stand designed to kill a specific buck. I have made this mistake many times and will not do it again. It is very tempting to setup trail cameras deep in the woods over a well-used scrape. However, I have discovered a field edge scrape will capture as many or more bucks, and hopefully the buck you are after. If you are someone like me who cannot always wait three weeks to check cameras because the excitement is just too much, then field edges are perfect for you. Keeping trail cameras on field edges has many advantages as it captures the deer you want and keeps your noise and scent out of your deep woods locations.
Trail cameras placed along edges are easy to check and can give you clues as to whether you should be spending time on stand during the mornings or evenings. Looks like these boys are a couple of early risers!
4 – Sometimes it’s Better to be Lucky…
Hunting and successfully harvesting a specific buck cannot be accomplished without smart choices and a dose of luck. Your dose of luck could draw from a hot doe being in your area while on stand. It is amazing to see how careless bucks can be around a hot doe. Coming across grunting, chasing and crashing whitetails in broad daylight doesn’t happen on too many occasions, but it does occur and you simply need to be in the area to give yourself a chance. Whether you follow the weatherman or lunar calendar, no one can absolutely say when the first does will be receptive. Spending quality time on stand, using technology to your advantage and being focused in on the right food sources will increase your chances of tagging a certain buck. Good luck!