Hunting Mature Bucks

buckman4c

Button Buck
Great posts!! Awesome insight!
In regards to calling, I do so on a very limited basis. In my experiences, my calling has done more harm than good with mature bucks. Immature deer respond somewhat depending on what land I'm hunting. Up until last year the large majority of my hunting has been on public land in Pa. More pressure, more guys calling and these older bucks have been exposed quite often to the tactic. Not saying it won't work but this has been my experience. I actually have better luck keeping deer calm in the area with a turkey call.

Another Big Buck Down,
I couldn't have said it better!! Good post! I too go years without filling a buck tag with absolutely no regret. The fire burns.

25 contender,
Awesome! Great Bucks!! Your thought process and tactics confirm my suspicions. The buck we're chasing "disappears" but we believe he's not far away. He is most visible and vulnerable in the early bow season. We wish we had more time to hunt. That may be part of our problem. The other is refining our approach. Aggressive but controlled aggression based on conditions. One of the bedding areas we successfully hunted is the best self example. My brother in-law wanted to set up deeper. I talked him out of it based on bedding sign I found in post season scouting. During the season, we saw a handful of 3.5 year old bucks, younger bucks and doe come and go from that bedding area without being picked off. It was a large, well used bedding area I designated as a primary doe area but I believe bucks lay there too. Our target buck showed on the camera nearby but never while we hunted that stand. I think our approaches in other key areas of his core area are flawed. Need to fix that.

Someone posted about checking cameras when they hunt and not doing so. I understand what your saying but in our case, the bedding area cameras we have are actually outside the bedding area along a travel route. Our access comes by the camera. We typically hunt the location in the afternoon and pass the camera on the way in and out. We purposely set them up this way. One time in, one time out, hunt and pull card. Limits our exposure.
 

TravisLH

Old Mossy Horns
but in our case, the bedding area cameras we have are actually outside the bedding area along a travel route. Our access comes by the camera. We typically hunt the location in the afternoon and pass the camera on the way in and out.
If your checking cams on a travel route any time you do your risking pushing that buck into using a different route. If you know he uses a route consistently I’d pull the cam and move it to a trail and see if you can locate other paths he likes to take leaving the main route clear. If you do check cams on a well used travel route go nuts with sent control, I’m talking rubber gloves and while down everything you touch.


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buckman4c

Button Buck
If your checking cams on a travel route any time you do your risking pushing that buck into using a different route. If you know he uses a route consistently I’d pull the cam and move it to a trail and see if you can locate other paths he likes to take leaving the main route clear. If you do check cams on a well used travel route go nuts with sent control, I’m talking rubber gloves and while down everything you touch.


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I get what your saying.
Based on our two evening in the dark photo's the same week I hunted that stand, I'd say he doesn't use that travel route consistently but he is in the area at that time of the season. Our stand is another 60 yards from the camera and closer to the bedding area. Have to get in there one way or another and we don't expect him or other mature bucks to come toward us from that direction. All the bucks we did see came from or skirted the bedding area that's beyond the stand. That trail with the camera is a travel route that goes toward a power line and feeding areas. It's also our access route.

I'm not all into the scent elimination game. I've tried it at a high level and not one time did I get away with a mature buck being down wind. Neither has my brother in-law and he continues to try tricking their noses. The only thing I really pay attention to anymore is my boots. When I didn't even younger deer picked up on my boot scent. This has also worked on mature bucks. Seen them cross my entry trail without hesitation. But, put them downwind without a thermal rise and I'm busted. Obviously other hunters believe wholeheartedly in scent elimination and can give many examples how it worked for them. I'm not disputing their success only relating my experiences.

I play wind direction and thermals. With the stand I'm talking about I don't enter unless its sunny and enough time has passed for the thermals to take over. The wind will be blowing in the general direction of the bedding area but the thermals rise and take our scent up the mountain. It worked quite well last year. I also tried the stand with the wind coming from the bedding area toward me. I did see a few deer but nothing like the best condition. The bedding area sets up best for a deer to use with a NW wind so they can lay with wind at the back and watch south into a deep hollow. This is why we must wait until the air warms and begins rising. Otherwise our scent would just blow the deer out of the bedding area.
 

TravisLH

Old Mossy Horns
I don’t mean scent elimination in the sense of tricking a deers nose.... nothing will do that, but if you can reduce your spore so that it seems as though it’s an old scent you will have better odds. Other than hunting the wind that’s my approach, from what I have personally seen deer key on fresher scents. If you go into the woods at all you will eventually leave scent, and while deer do notice it they seem to key in on where it’s the strongest, ie stands and/or cams. Since we know you won’t completely push a buck out of the area he will use a new route to avoid the spots where the scents are the strongest.
In the past I’ve checked cams on secondary travel routes far more often than where stands were set and sure enough he started avoiding those secondary trails and showed up more often on the main trail.


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ECU_Pirate

Eight Pointer
Dont know if this helps. In college i worked for a large private land owner who employed multiple people to manage several thousand acres for hunting multiple species. Almost all of the big buck went "nocturnal" during the season. So your window for seeing them during legal shooting time was low. When seen on camera they almost all had mud up to their knees from walking through the swamp and low grounds. So it was likely they were traveling these areas coming to and from their bedding. If i had to guess id say most probably bedded on the spoils out in the swamp from where the army core of engineers had dumped dirt while dredging the river decades ago. I think a lot of deer in Eastern NC use the swamps as a "safe space". they know that they are least likely to encounter a human there. If i were hunting in this part of the state i would try to find a food source close to a swamp or likely bedding area close to one.
 

ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
Dont know if this helps. In college i worked for a large private land owner who employed multiple people to manage several thousand acres for hunting multiple species. Almost all of the big buck went "nocturnal" during the season. So your window for seeing them during legal shooting time was low. When seen on camera they almost all had mud up to their knees from walking through the swamp and low grounds. So it was likely they were traveling these areas coming to and from their bedding. If i had to guess id say most probably bedded on the spoils out in the swamp from where the army core of engineers had dumped dirt while dredging the river decades ago. I think a lot of deer in Eastern NC use the swamps as a "safe space". they know that they are least likely to encounter a human there. If i were hunting in this part of the state i would try to find a food source close to a swamp or likely bedding area close to one.
Also known as “The Rinkleroot Method”, man that guy has some downeast studs on his wall! Hope he’s still chasing those big swamp bucks even though he doesn’t post anymore.
 

buckman4c

Button Buck
I don’t mean scent elimination in the sense of tricking a deers nose.... nothing will do that, but if you can reduce your spore so that it seems as though it’s an old scent you will have better odds. Other than hunting the wind that’s my approach, from what I have personally seen deer key on fresher scents. If you go into the woods at all you will eventually leave scent, and while deer do notice it they seem to key in on where it’s the strongest, ie stands and/or cams. Since we know you won’t completely push a buck out of the area he will use a new route to avoid the spots where the scents are the strongest.
In the past I’ve checked cams on secondary travel routes far more often than where stands were set and sure enough he started avoiding those secondary trails and showed up more often on the main trail.


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Kinda like the t-shirt trick. Set a smelly t-shirt along a trail you don't want deer traveling so they show up on the one your hunting.
I've never really tried that but I have set up hunters for rifle season in a line by way of the wind. Each hunter is downwind of the next guy in line for stand hunting. Deer get between them and bumped to the downwind hunter.

You did give me an idea though. Purposely set up cameras along routes we don't want him using so we can kill him on the one we do. Worth a shot.
 

Ambush

Twelve Pointer
Also known as “The Rinkleroot Method”, man that guy has some downeast studs on his wall! Hope he’s still chasing those big swamp bucks even though he doesn’t post anymore.
I’m. afraid something happened to him. He hasn’t been back here for a couple of years. I was hoping someone on here knew him. He had the best harvest collection I’ve seen from NC.
 

ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
I’m. afraid something happened to him. He hasn’t been back here for a couple of years. I was hoping someone on here knew him. He had the best harvest collection I’ve seen from NC.
I have the same bad feeling too about that. Would have loved to sit around a campfire with him.
 

Ambush

Twelve Pointer
Kinda like the t-shirt trick. Set a smelly t-shirt along a trail you don't want deer traveling so they show up on the one your hunting.
I've never really tried that but I have set up hunters for rifle season in a line by way of the wind. Each hunter is downwind of the next guy in line for stand hunting. Deer get between them and bumped to the downwind hunter.

You did give me an idea though. Purposely set up cameras along routes we don't want him using so we can kill him on the one we do. Worth a shot.
Something as simple as how you approach a wood’s stand can be critical. I used a climbing stand at my favorite spot for years. Killed my best buck and a couple of really nice others on that tree. Only hunted it on a northwest wind. Over time another member eased closer and finally was within 75 yards of my stand. I told him I didn’t want to be greedy and I’d let him have the spot to himself. He comes in from the exact opposite direction I came in from and hasn’t killed a decent buck out of the area since. I really miss that spot, but it’s been fun exploring other areas. Always takes time to figure out how mature bucks travel. A fine line to get close enough to their travel routes without getting so close we spook them.
 

Aaron H

Twelve Pointer
It's been a number of years ago now but I was making plans on a very decent 10 point buck as bow season drew near. Just days before it opened, a hunter on the adjoining property went in and hung a stand maybe 300 yards from where I planned to hunt the deer. I had been actually watching the buck from a hundred plus yards away when the wind was good and had worked out a way to make the deer walk around me and come to me from my up wind side. About now you're thinking I'm crazy, right? To get the buck to come on this route required 3 corn baiting spots. #1 was closest to where the buck bedded and got 2 gallons of corn a day. This spot I had baited all of August. #2 was across the grown up field and upwind of the tree I planned to hunt from and got a gallon of corn. #3 was 17 yards from my stand tree on the upwind side with just a little corn each day. I fed corn in this way for a week or so prior to the bow season. Deer would gather at the first location first since there was more feed there, then move to he second and I never watched them get to the third as my view was not good from my observation place. Opening day bow season came... I put no corn at site 1 or site 2. I baited site 3 at my stand heavily. I was in my stand tree a couple of hours ahead of "deer time" and saw the other hunter's truck pass out on the road and stop. He walked into the woods, up wind of where I believed the buck was bedding. I was watching 2 spikes feed in front of me when I saw the 10 point with a nice 8 point come from the thick stuff and walk to site #1 ... no corn. I watched as they angled into the breeze to site #2 ... no corn. At this point I could not see the bucks which turned toward me walking down hill through cedar trees that hid them from me and me from them. The big 10 point came out from the cedars and lowered his rack to warn away the 2 spike bucks, walked to the corn, stopped and caught my arrow. I was lucky that the other hunter put himself in a wrong position that pretty much guaranteed he would not get a shot. I was also lucky that in spite of my frequent baiting plan the bucks kept coming, the previeling wind held its usual direction and I was lucky that my desired buck had not decided to go elsewhere on that afternoon. The way the land and cover/trees were on that old place offered me no way to hunt either of the first 2 bait spots but if I had baited only the place that I hunted from, the bucks would have walked straight to that place and smelled me easily. This buck was a deer that I hunted the two seasons prior and was 6 1/2 years old when I took him. Hunting any mature buck takes a good plan and some measure of luck I think, or maybe just a generous portion of good luck sometimes.
 
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Ambush

Twelve Pointer
It's been a number of years ago now but I was making plans on a very decent 10 point buck as bow season drew near. Just days before it opened, a hunter on the adjoining property went in and hung a stand maybe 300 yards from where I planned to hunt the deer. I had been actually watching the buck from a hundred plus yards away when the wind was good and had worked out a way to make the deer walk around me and come to me from my up wind side. About now you're thinking I'm crazy, right? To get the buck to come on this route required 3 corn baiting spots. #1 was closest to where the buck bedded and got 2 gallons of corn a day. This spot I had baited all of August. #2 was across the grown up field and upwind of the tree I planned to hunt from and got a gallon of corn. #3 was 17 yards from my stand tree on the upwind side with just a little corn each day. I fed corn in this way for a week or so prior to the bow season. Deer would gather at the first location first since there was more feed there, then move to he second and I never watched them get to the third as my view was not good from my observation place. Opening day bow season came... I put no corn at site 1 or site 2. I baited site 3 at my stand heavily. I was in my stand tree a couple of hours ahead of "deer time" and saw the other hunter's truck pass out on the road and stop. He walked into the woods, up wind of where I believed the buck was bedding. I was watching 2 spikes feed in front of me when I saw the 10 point with a nice 8 point come from the thick stuff and walk to site #1 ... no corn. I watched as they angled into the breeze to site #2 ... no corn. At this point I could not see the bucks which turned toward me walking down hill through cedar trees that hid them from me and me from them. The big 10 point came out from the cedars and lowered his rack to warn away the 2 spike bucks, walked to the corn, stopped and caught my arrow. I was lucky that the other hunter put himself in a wrong position that pretty much guaranteed he would not get a shot. I was also lucky that in spite of my frequent baiting plan the bucks kept coming, the previeling wind held its usual direction and I was lucky that my desired buck had not decided to go elsewhere on that afternoon. The way the land and cover/trees were on that old place offered me no way to hunt either of the first 2 bait spots but if I had baited only the place that I hunted from, the bucks would have walked straight to that place and smelled me easily. This buck was a deer that I hunted the two seasons prior and was 6 1/2 years old when I took him. Hunting any mature buck takes a good plan and some measure of luck I think, or maybe just a generous portion of good luck sometimes.
Good job. A guy in our club did the exact same thing. Three nice bucks would come out of a cut over and work their way to his stand. He had them trained to come to the only large tree around. First day of bow he killed a 10 pointer.
 

Roanoke

Button Buck
I use to do a great deal of deer hunting. I majority bow hunted the entire season and have killed a good amount of Pope and Young’s here in Eastern NC. I always hunt the wind and almost always sit next to a creek or swamp. Sent control is also very important. Remember that sent to a deer is like facial recognition to us. I was hunting a very nice buck a few years ago that blew me from 200 yards away.
I also put out around 1800 bushels of corn and a pallet of trophy rocks throughout the year. I have established sanctuaries strategically located throughout the farm. We also implemented a management plan about 25 years ago.

I takes a lot of work. There is a reason why 10 percent of the hunters kill 90 percent of the game!
 

buckman4c

Button Buck
AaronH,
I wouldn't consider that luck at all. You knew where he was, you game planned how to get him to you and came thru at the moment of truth. Well done.
Unfortunately or fortunately, we can't bait here in Pa except for our special regulation areas. The special reg areas are the suburbs around Philly and Pittsburgh. I did hunt Mississippi a couple years ago and we baited there. Never hunted the place but three of us killed (7) deer in four days.
Roanoke,
For my NC hunt, I continue looking over maps and recently marked all of the swamp locations on the public land. Although I'm more comfortable hunting higher elevations I believe after a couple months of pressure, the older bucks will be found in the swamps. Although good pine thickets can't be overlooked, I'm evaluating the maps for locations where swamp and pine thickets come together or are very near one another. Based on the aerial maps, there is some good diversity on the property. I can't wait to see it in person.
I'll also be hunting my brothers small piece of private land. My plan there is to hunt Sunday morning and see what happens. Put out some bait around lunch time and hunt the evening. Come back in a couple days, freshen the bait and hunt the evening unless I'm getting in to action on the public ground.
Just so I'm clear on this, baiting is allowed on private land but not public in NC??
 

Aaron H

Twelve Pointer
AaronH,
I wouldn't consider that luck at all. You knew where he was, you game planned how to get him to you and came thru at the moment of truth. Well done.
Unfortunately or fortunately, we can't bait here in Pa except for our special regulation areas. The special reg areas are the suburbs around Philly and Pittsburgh. I did hunt Mississippi a couple years ago and we baited there. Never hunted the place but three of us killed (7) deer in four days.
Roanoke,
For my NC hunt, I continue looking over maps and recently marked all of the swamp locations on the public land. Although I'm more comfortable hunting higher elevations I believe after a couple months of pressure, the older bucks will be found in the swamps. Although good pine thickets can't be overlooked, I'm evaluating the maps for locations where swamp and pine thickets come together or are very near one another. Based on the aerial maps, there is some good diversity on the property. I can't wait to see it in person.
I'll also be hunting my brothers small piece of private land. My plan there is to hunt Sunday morning and see what happens. Put out some bait around lunch time and hunt the evening. Come back in a couple days, freshen the bait and hunt the evening unless I'm getting in to action on the public ground.
Just so I'm clear on this, baiting is allowed on private land but not public in NC??
Yea baiting is fine on private land but not legal on gamelands. As for hunting gamelands, I used to do it and the only way I ever succeeded on a mature buck was getting access through some private land into a difficult part of the gameland. Often surrounding land owners get tired of hunters asking to cross property to hunt so some places become sanctuaries of sorts. I think hunting the harder to get to places gives a better chance of seeing a mature deer. My experience was beside a beaver pond that created a funnel of sorts. It took about 45 minutes to walk into this spot from where I could park. I carried in a light weight stand, muzzle loader and rattling antlers. I had food and water in my pack and was set to hunt all day. Just after climbing the tree I rattled the antlers. A few minutes later I shot the big bodied 6 point as he came to stand directly under my stand. Took 2 1/2 hours to get him to where I could drive my Jeep to him.26472
 

buckman4c

Button Buck
Aaron H,
Beautiful buck and thanks for the input. I too am considering what locations appear by map to be the most inaccessible on the public land. I "think" I found a couple but I'll probably need a little help from the land manager to confirm my suspicions. I'm also trying to evaluate overlooked places. Looking forward to soon seeing things first hand.

Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to do some scouting here in Pa on the private land I started hunting last year. The same property we are chasing after the sizeable buck I posted a pic.. I finally made it down in to the area where we had several pics of him during the first week of bow season by my brother in-laws stand. Let me tell you, its steep and rugged! Besides that, its not what one would assume based on sign for finding a mature buck. Hardly any rubs around and those I did find weren't spectacular by any means. Although its rugged and has boulders scattered about, the woods are rather open. Not the thick, nasty type of habitat one would expect. I wasn't able to pinpoint a specific bed or bed area he is using in close proximity. I may have to expand my search or look more closely. The problem with open side hill terrain is there are so many small ledges or semi-flat spots where a deer could lay that finding a clearly defined "buck" bed is very difficult. One thing I did take away from my exploring is this location is on the same level of the side hill in which my brother in law had (2) previous encounters. Based on years of limited trail camera pictures and the actual encounters, this buck appears to prefer this level of the side hill. The best way to describe it is right where it becomes steepest and most rugged. Its also where one could lay and see a long, long way down to a bench.
I also took the time to set out some Trophy Rock. I specifically placed (2) of them right along a logging road next to last years early season scrapes. These scrapes appeared in Sept. and were maintained throughout the season. Its our intent to put cameras on the scrapes for inventory purposes. During the summer, they should come to the Trophy Rock. Around the beginning of Sept. if the scrapes haven't been opened, we'll open them and see what shows up. Both locations are in saddles with a bunch of rubs heading toward a north side hill bedding area. These would be located as the crow fly's directly north of the south side hill area we have pictures of the big buck. We anticipate mostly or all night pictures from these cameras.
I also confirmed the single bed I was hunting closest last year was used pretty well. In examining the sign, I found significantly more droppings on one exit trail compared to others. Not the exit trail leading to my stand. I pulled that stand and will be attempting to hang and hunt this coming season. Anyway, I sat in the bed again and looked out this exit trail. I then walked to the furthest point of vision and marked it on my phone app. as the closest I could possibly hunt. I'll give it a try again this year.
The last bedding area I checked was one we hunted with good success last year. The stand is roughly 80 yards from the top edge of the bedding. We saw several 3.5 year old bucks coming and going from there during the season. It was obviously well used. In scouting it more thoroughly, I found something of interest that may push us right in to the middle of the bedding area a time or two this coming season. There are (2) heavily used side hill trails but we can only see the upper one from the stand. There is also a rub line cutting down the hill that gets more intense below the lower side hill trail. With the steepness of the side hill, I'm thinking we could get away with a couple hunts right between the side hill trails and off wind of the rub line trail. This would be very aggressive but during the pre-rut with the right conditions, if we get in there long before day light, its worth the risk.
Other than that, it was a beautiful 40 degree day to be riding the quads, and doing a little recon. Only bummer was not finding sheds.
Apologize for the long winded post but wanted to give you an idea of some of the things I do and look for when scouting.
 
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