Hunting Mature Bucks

buckman4c

Button Buck
Allow me to begin by saying, I support how other hunters go about enjoying this sport.

I utilized this topic on forums in my home state of PA and for NY in an effort to improve my own hunting abilities especially on public land. The responses have been amazing. Hunters sharing ideas and proven approaches to killing mature bucks on a consistent basis. From scouting to stand placement, calling, stalking, tracking to scent control, we have shared many ideas and methods.

I started this topic on this forum because I will be hunting North Carolina this year and I'm looking for input from those of you who consistently put mature bucks on the ground. I think you will find this an interesting topic of discussion and one which may expand your hunting knowledge.

I look forward to sharing what I have learned and learning from anyone willing to share.
 

DRS

Old Mossy Horns
Hunt travel corridors that bottleneck during the rut, which peak from mid-October for extreme eastern NC to late December in extreme western NC. Hunt the wind.
 

oldest school

Old Mossy Horns
Allow me to begin by saying, I support how other hunters go about enjoying this sport.

I utilized this topic on forums in my home state of PA and for NY in an effort to improve my own hunting abilities especially on public land. The responses have been amazing. Hunters sharing ideas and proven approaches to killing mature bucks on a consistent basis. From scouting to stand placement, calling, stalking, tracking to scent control, we have shared many ideas and methods.

I started this topic on this forum because I will be hunting North Carolina this year and I'm looking for input from those of you who consistently put mature bucks on the ground. I think you will find this an interesting topic of discussion and one which may expand your hunting knowledge.

I look forward to sharing what I have learned and learning from anyone willing to share.
Most that are killed in this state are killed over a corn pile. If you doubt that take a look at the Carolina sportsman mag, the best sample of info on "mature" bucks killed in NC. Any taxidermist in the state will probably confirm this as well.
That is one proven approach to use in NC.
 

darenative

Eight Pointer
I personally don't know anyone, myself included, that puts mature bucks on the ground on public land every year in NC (especially eastern NC)
Add private land to the mix and the list starts to take shape, at least a little...but gets a little blurry once you factor in poor ethics and legality.
 

Rubline

Eight Pointer
Corn gets a lot of big bucks killed but there's one Hunter on this forum that has killed a lot of big bucks in VA without using corn and dogs, just hunting from a stand.
He puts in the extra time and effort to pattern big bucks and it has resulted in some impressive kills.
Maybe he'll see this post and offer some helpful tips.
 

nontypical

Six Pointer
but gets a little blurry once you factor in poor ethics and legality.

At night or from the road. Sometimes both unfortunately!
 

ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
I can be on mature bucks on public here but never see them or get a shot opportunity. Mostly that’s from lack of time on stand and honestly liking to hunt new to me places rather than the same ol’ spots. I jump around too much but always believe the best time to kill a buck is the first time you hunt him, so that’s why I do it.
 

Wv67

Six Pointer
If you hunt an area that holds nice bucks , year in and year out it’s not hard as the so called pros make it out to be , but a lot of things come into play , Time , paying attention to things , scouting , patience
 

Helium

Ten Pointer
Just like in Real estate.. location, location, location is key but so is timing. Of course that is the rut!

Right place (or best places) at the right time (the rut) = just a matter of time spent until it happens.

1 thing I’ve experienced multiple times and read about is in the mountains bucks favor certain bowls and hollows to chase/corner does over and over each year.

The Lord has blessed me in discovering one of those poplar hollows that adjoins a few finger ridges. It’s amazing to watch.
 

Helium

Ten Pointer
If you hunt an area that holds nice bucks , year in and year out it’s not hard as the so called pros make it out to be , but a lot of things come into play , Time , paying attention to things , scouting , patience
This is very true... you can’t kill what isn’t there. Also look at it statistically, if said property has multiple big bucks versus just 1 = chances go way up that you will encounter one.

Turkey hunting has taught me the above more than anything... a place with very few turkeys I struggle in. But when on prime land (even if public) I manage to kill a few
 

Ol Copper

Eight Pointer
To kill big deer consistently, you gotta catch them on their feet. They may only be up on their feet and moving a few minutes before dark. Be quieter, have a good entry and exit to your stand, and hunt closer to their bed.
You may think they've gone "nocturnal" but they haven't. You may be exactly where they want to be, but they don't get there til long after dark...get closer to their preferred bedding !
 

Familyman

Ten Pointer
A friend of mine who is a way smarter hunter than I am once told me that "exposure" can make you a luckier hunter than just about anything else. "Time spent in pursuit" can go a long way for you, was his point. That notion has to apply to successfully hunting mature bucks on public land in North Carolina!
 

MJ74

Old Mossy Horns
A friend of mine who is a way smarter hunter than I am once told me that "exposure" can make you a luckier hunter than just about anything else. "Time spent in pursuit" can go a long way for you, was his point. That notion has to apply to successfully hunting mature bucks on public land in North Carolina!
You know I use to believe that, but I would say from the age of about 16 until 40 I bet I put in as much time as anyone you would ever meet and never, ever killed or seen what I consider a big buck.
You would think as much time as I spent just pure dumb luck would happen but no.....happened for several of my friends though

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red neck richie

Six Pointer
Where exactly are you hunting? Is it a lease a paid hunt or what? If its A lease I would recommend lots of scouting with trail cameras. You first have to find out if there are any mature bucks on the property. Then like others have said find the travel corridors i.e. rubs and scrapes, food supply and bedding areas. Hunt the stands with the most signs with the best wind direction. I find if you get in at bow season before they get too pressured is your best chance. The rut will be your 2nd best chance.
 
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Weekender

Twelve Pointer
You know I use to believe that, but I would say from the age of about 16 until 40 I bet I put in as much time as anyone you would ever meet and never, ever killed or seen what I consider a big buck.
You would think as much time as I spent just pure dumb luck would happen but no.....happened for several of my friends though

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#3 post in this thread is great advice. Even if you're not using corn or other attractants, like on public land. You find those tight travel corridors and you'll see a deer you want to kill eventually.
 

buckman4c

Button Buck
Some good points being made. Appreciate the responses. Here's a background on my hunting tactics over the years and how they evolved.
I began deer hunting in the heyday for Pa. Deer were extremely abundant in the 80's. On the first day of rifle season it wasn't unusual to see 30 plus deer. However, seeing and killing a buck, any buck was difficult. I hunted a private lease at that time.
In the late 80's I moved on to public land in another County. Deer were still very abundant but bucks were hard to come by. I did virtually no scouting during my early years. I simply hunted "good looking" terrain. It was also about this time I had my first encounter with a mature public land buck.

In the early 90's, I killed a buck with the bow. It was during my early years of bow hunting and I was quickly learning that a patient hunter could see bucks he never knew existed. In 1993, I began passing on immature, smaller bucks with the goal of killing only 8pt. or better buck. I passed on many small bucks. It was during the mid 90's I started scouting more. Not a lot but more than previous. A out of state hunt to Maine served notice that just being in the woods wasn't good enough. My scouting was simple, look around in terrain "I liked", find buck sign and hunt.

In the early 2000's, Pa took some radical steps in deer management. Instituting herd reduction with liberal doe licenses and antler restrictions of 3 points to a side where I hunted. These efforts were apparent. The population certainly declined but seeing bucks was more frequent for me. I continued passing on immature bucks and in the back of my mind it was only a matter of time. In 2004, I hunted Virginia and killed my first mature buck. A three day hunt in unfamiliar territory and I finally killed a mature buck. Go figure. I didn't hunt any differently than back home with one exception. It was rifle season in the rut. Something we don't have in Pa. During the rifle season in Pa that year, I killed a public land immature 8pt and was proud of him. It was in that year when I started devoting more time to scouting. Both bucks I killed involved map reading of terrain followed by boots on the ground scouting to confirm my suspicions. In 2009 I killed a nice 8pt. buck with the bow and in 2012 I killed a nice half rack (would have been 8pt). Both buck I believe were 2.5 but one could have been a small 3.5 year old. Either way, I was happy with the decisions but I knew to kill a truly mature buck, I needed to change my approach.

From the end of the 2012 season until 2017, I started scouting with earnest. I poured over maps, I walked miles in the late winter and early spring looking for big buck sign. I researched other hunters tactics, read actual research being conducted by Penn State or other deer biologist and became more informed. Finally, in 2017, during the second week of rifle season I connected on a mature 8pt. buck here in Pa. After roughly 36 years of deer hunting in my home state, I finally sealed the deal. Some would say I finally earned some luck, I believe this is partly true but why I was, where I was, at the time I was there, had nothing to do with luck.

So, what changed? From 2012 until 2016, I was scouting hard, no doubt, but I was scouting for the typical sign. Rubs, scrapes, trails, thick cover in open woods, terrain features or funnels. All of this was great to learn but it wasn't consistently providing me with opportunity to kill mature bucks. Oh, I had some encounters along the way, but, they were very much dictated by the pre-rut in bow season. We all know, the rut can be very hectic and unpredictable. What changed in 2016 was I started focusing most of my attention on bedding areas. Not just identifying where they were but which ones were being used by buck and which by doe. I then determine which of those bedding areas was most accessible to hunt close. I continue looking for big buck sign but now when I find big buck sign, I immediately try to determine where that buck is probably bedding and scout there. The buck I killed in 2017 was bedded high on a side hill, my hunting partner and I started at opposite ends of a ridge and walked toward one another. I didn't know for certain this buck was actually there that day, but, I knew with hunting pressure, the deer would seek out this steep side hill. Big buck sign found in the immediate area earlier in bow season also lead me to this location. The wind was coming over the top of the ridge and pushing into the valley below. The herd of deer my partner kicked off their beds came toward me. Most of them dumped over the top into the wind but two buck stayed on the military crest of the ridge and worked right into my lap. End of story.

So, with all of that said....here are my thoughts going into the hunt in North Carolina. First of all, my expectations going into an out of state hunt are pretty much in check. I expect nothing and consider having opportunity to kill any deer a success. However, the hunter inside me loves the challenge of finding and killing a respectable if not mature buck. Looking over my maps, I've reduced my focus to the higher terrain with pine thickets and the stream bottoms. My "thoughts" are I should find some bedding in these pine thickets on the higher terrain and the stream bottoms would be good travel, cruising, chasing, or escaping routes. Am I right about this assumption? The one aspect that has me guessing is where to be when and if the dogs cut loose. High, in and around thick bedding or low along a stream bottom that has some cover?

Any thoughts are appreciated.
Apologize for the exhaustingly long post. I could have added what I've learned in the past year chasing after a 6.5 to 7.5 year old buck but I'll save that for later. (LOL)
 

buckman4c

Button Buck
Where exactly are you hunting? Is it a lease a paid hunt or what? If its A lease I would recommend lots of scouting with trail cameras. You first have to find out if there are any mature bucks on the property. Then like others have said find the travel corridors i.e. rubs and scrapes, food supply and bedding areas. Hunt the stands with the most signs with the best wind direction. I find if you get in at bow season before they get too pressured is your best chance. The rut will be your 2nd best chance.
I'll be hunting public land. In talking with the land manager for the property, there are some mature bucks around. Based on its shear size, I would have to assume there are some mature bucks. Pretty much why I chose the area, its bigger than a hunter could reasonably cover well in most of his lifetime of hunting.
 

Windy gap

Four Pointer
I think area of the state your hunting plays a big part.seems like most big bucks killed in Nc Come from the east side of peidmont region and coastal the northern halves where all the crops are.their must be a little magic in the dirt in those areas.there are exceptions but this is my observation.ive hunted northwest region hard for years and seen very few “big bucks” meaning 120” or bigger
 

Buxndiverdux

Old Mossy Horns
Personally, I hate the rut. Bucks are locked down with Does and way off their normal routine. Sure, anybody can kill one then, but I’m normally after a specific buck. I’ve spent most of my hunting career learning how to hunt bucks before and after the rut. I’ll take the gift opportunities given during the rut, but they aren’t as rewarding since he is basically liquored up on chasing tail.
 

Frostcat

Twelve Pointer
There are two brothers that I know that for years killed mature bucks on game lands here in the mountains. They did this year in and year out while hunting natural food sources, and with a lot of heavy hunting pressure in years past. They knew the area where they hunted like the back of their hands, what the deer were eating, and using the heavy hunting pressure to their advantage. They would be on stand well before day light and use hunters coming later to push deer to them. If you have never hunted game lands in the mountains no two years will be alike. There may be a bumper crop of acorns or wild grapes this fall and nothing the next fall or only in isolated spots through out the forests. They were accused of baiting and other illegal things by jealous hunters, but there was no truth to it. They knew how to deer hunt. I got to know one of them and he told me a lot of their secrets as we were hunting the same area. He told me he did not mind sharing his knowledge with someone that hunted the right way as he put it. And I was able to kill several mature bucks. Due to age and heath, I don"t think they are hunting much any more. but they were great deer hunters.
Here is one of the last deer that they killed. It dressed at over 200 lbs.


25849
 

Aaron H

Twelve Pointer
Contributor
I do not hunt gamelands, just woodland deer on private properties. Sevral years ago I got way backed up in my work- I'm a taxidermist. As much as I love deer hunting I simply had to cut it down and get some work done. About 3 seasons passed with me taking only one or two does each year and hunting very little. Then I decided I was missing out on the hunt while I was skinning everyone elses big deer, so I started taking just a bit more time to hunt. I found that my new hunting method of taking just an afternoon or two each week was showing me some pretty decent bucks. I figured it out.... all of my scouting and going in and out to hunt weeks at a time was pushing the deer away from my hunts. Now I do not scout other than just a little on the edge of where the deer come from. I still have never taken a really big antlered buck (my best grossed 130) but my new way of hunting has resulted in me taking several mature bucks that I would never even have seen if I was doing what I used to do. Since 2007 I've taken 13 bucks that I decided to hunt based on trail camera photos. All were taken hunting the edges. Most of these were 4 1/2 years old, one was 6 1/2 and one was 8 1/2. I do my scouting after the hunting season now and stay away from the bedding places completely from April till January.
 

bowhuntingrook

Old Mossy Horns
I have had better results when I hunt less as well. Opening week then back out tell cooler weather mid October and later

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buckman4c

Button Buck
Frostcat,
Sounds similar to our gun hunting in Pa. I've always hunted difficult to reach locations for fleeing deer in the mountains. Let the pressure push them. Funny thing is, I never had much success with even seeing mature bucks but my kids and my brother did. I'm one for bouncing around trying new spots. In doing so over the years this allowed me to find several really good spots for seeing bucks in general. Once my kids started hunting, I placed them in these spots while my brother hunted another spot. In a recent four year stretch each of them had opportunities at mature bucks and none of them connected. LOL
Aaron H,
Good post. Pressure either by others or yourself certainly effects deer movement. My dilemma with hunting NC this year is how hard to push the envelope with limited time. Anticipating pressure when I'm there and knowing what kind of pressure has already occurred will greatly effect my hunting. At this point, the deer will have already been pressured rather significantly. My hunt will be Thanksgiving week. I'm also anticipating a good deal of pressure during that week. If I know which day the pressure will be the highest, I would hunt a difficult to access, escape area or edge of thick hard to reach bedding area. Right now, the plan is to hunt/scout the edges of pine thickets found on ridge tops. Find some larger buck sign, figure out where he's bedding and set up accordingly. Even if I don't see a large buck come from that location, I'm confident other deer will be around. Find two or three of these type settings and rotate the hunts. Throw in a sit overlooking a stream bottom with good sign and see what happens.
If anyone has other suggestions or is willing to share their approach for this habitat scenario let me know.
 

Familyman

Ten Pointer
Frostcat,
Sounds similar to our gun hunting in Pa. I've always hunted difficult to reach locations for fleeing deer in the mountains. Let the pressure push them. Funny thing is, I never had much success with even seeing mature bucks but my kids and my brother did. I'm one for bouncing around trying new spots. In doing so over the years this allowed me to find several really good spots for seeing bucks in general. Once my kids started hunting, I placed them in these spots while my brother hunted another spot. In a recent four year stretch each of them had opportunities at mature bucks and none of them connected. LOL
Aaron H,
Good post. Pressure either by others or yourself certainly effects deer movement. My dilemma with hunting NC this year is how hard to push the envelope with limited time. Anticipating pressure when I'm there and knowing what kind of pressure has already occurred will greatly effect my hunting. At this point, the deer will have already been pressured rather significantly. My hunt will be Thanksgiving week. I'm also anticipating a good deal of pressure during that week. If I know which day the pressure will be the highest, I would hunt a difficult to access, escape area or edge of thick hard to reach bedding area. Right now, the plan is to hunt/scout the edges of pine thickets found on ridge tops. Find some larger buck sign, figure out where he's bedding and set up accordingly. Even if I don't see a large buck come from that location, I'm confident other deer will be around. Find two or three of these type settings and rotate the hunts. Throw in a sit overlooking a stream bottom with good sign and see what happens.
If anyone has other suggestions or is willing to share their approach for this habitat scenario let me know.
I feel you have a solid strategy and I wish you the best with it. Your Thanksgiving week hunt is quite a ways off, but after the hunt, try and dig this thread up and post an update, if you would. I would love to hear how it went and also find out what you learned and how you might apply it the next time.
 

TravisLH

Old Mossy Horns
If found that hunting the thickest nastiest stuff will give good consistent results. If there is a mature buck in the area, once he feels pressure he will gravitate to areas hunters don’t go into. This works great if you stay out of these places until the week before the peak as this is when 90% of hunters hit the woods hard.


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KTMan

Twelve Pointer
Must be in an area that holds mature bucks. This is not the case for a lot of areas. There are reasons a mature buck is where he is and you must figure that out.
  1. Hunt food sources. Mature bucks must eat just like any other deer. I do not like to hunt over a food source except early season (more like bow season). I want to be off food source and hunt trails leading to food source. Mature bucks will be on food most of the time after shooting hours.
  2. Pre-rut (this is actually when most mature bucks can be killed). I hunt travel corridors and pitch points. Found one a few weeks ago that I can not wait to see how it works next year. Probably the best I've found.
  3. Be where the does want to me during that time of year. My favorite tactic is being down wind and close to doe bedding areas during the day. Bucks want to check as many spots as fast as possible when cruising.
  4. I absolutely love cut over. I can see a long ways. Mature bucks feel they are in cover and does love to run it to try to ditch pursuing bucks.
 
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Ambush

Twelve Pointer
You have your work cut out for you killing a NC mature public land buck. One reason, a public buck has to survive a couple of seasons on his own. Whereas on private land, most likely he was given a pass to grow a couple of seasons. For that reason, there are far fewer mature public bucks. As for private land, corn is your friend, even if you don’t hunt over it. Your neighbors will be corning, so increase your odds of keeping mature bucks & does on a property, with supplemental feeding. Hunt the wind in your favor. If there’s no wind, I stay out of my wood stands and hunt a field that day. Don’t over hunt any wood stands. Like others have said, focus on end of October until Thanksgiving...if you have to choose a time of year. I’ve done much better killing mature bucks, by not hunting my stands too early in the season. There’s always a chance someone else will kill that mature buck you’re after, before you even hunt him, but also a better chance he won’t be educated...from over hunting your prime stands. Deer cam photos increase your confidence that a mature buck really does exist in a given area. It’s one thing to luck into a mature buck, but another to harvest a particular mature buck you’re after. GL and welcome to NC.
 
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buckman4c

Button Buck
I feel you have a solid strategy and I wish you the best with it. Your Thanksgiving week hunt is quite a ways off, but after the hunt, try and dig this thread up and post an update, if you would. I would love to hear how it went and also find out what you learned and how you might apply it the next time.
Thanks Familyman.
I will keep you updated, maybe even throw in an update while I'm in the area. With the Pa forum, I started the thread in 2014 and updated those following along on my scouting efforts and hunting experiences. The thread continues to this day.

I started it to get feedback from those who have successfully killed mature bucks on a consistent basis. Their help along with other educational outlets has improved my deer hunting knowledge considerably.
My dad was a good teacher and I had a natural ability to hunt and kill deer but when it came to focusing on mature bucks, I couldn't piece it together. I'm getting better but a long way off from being consistent. On the Pa forum, we've moved on to not just killing any mature buck but one you have identified. It's great hearing so many different proven tactics.

Thanks to the rest of you for the additional posts, some very insightful knowledge being shared.
 
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