This past week I had some time to hunt around all the Thanksgiving festivities and a bad chest cold that short circuited my time in the woods. One thing I was able to do was to get in some scouting on two pieces of property I hunt in West Alabama and I found several fresh rubs and some scrapes that are just getting started. I found several very large rubs and dozens of small ones.
I have killed enough old bucks to know that when it comes to buck size, rubs on trees do matter from a size standpoint. Little rubs on saplings and bushes have generally yielded small bucks and the big rubs are just about a sure bet to have been made by a big antlered buck who is letting the smaller bucks and the soon to be “ready to breed” does that he is the “bull” of the woods. Now to all of us hunters, this is no big revelation and deer hunting is not rocket science. Deer hunting success depends on many factors and hunting where a big buck has left signs to show he is in the area is just one of those. However, failure to be observant and to notice changes in the woods that occur daily will greatly diminish your success rate.
As I make time to hunt throughout the season, I often take several mid day scouting forays depending on who else is on the property since I don’t want to mess up their hunt. The week days, such as last Friday where I was the only person hunting on that tract, I took some time to slip around and check out some of our known travel corridors for deer to see which were being used the most. I located some “hot spots” where I found a big rub line across a big hardwood bottom and another impressive rub line down a large ditch near the river. I have sent in a couple of photos of two rubs, one big and one small for illustration. I also saw a number of scrapes, lick limbs, and evidence of heavy feeding in our clover patches and in the standing corn fields that are not yet fully stripped. This allowed me to figure out the best hunting places to spend my next two or three hunting trips over the next few weeks.
I also was able to take a youngster hunting on Friday and although she did not kill a deer, she was very happy to have seen a green field full of does, over 20 of them, and one big 10 point buck that fed at the end of the field who was just a bit too far for her to try a shot on and although she urged me to take her gun and shoot it, I told her the morning was hers and I would try to get him later. I must admit several moments of regret after that decision and even more after he walked back in the woods. We hunted in the tower until 10:00 a.m and scouted for a couple of hours before breaking for lunch. She opted to go riding with a cousin after lunch on ATVs and golf carts, which I know is more fun for a teenager. That afternoon, I went back to the section that big buck walked back in a spent the afternoon watching for him with no luck. It was too hot, too windy and I only saw one doe cross the hardwood bottom I was sitting in, along with 5,000 mosquitoes!
With the rut still a few weeks away in our area, (it peaks in the week following Christmas and the first week of January) It is a good plan to review where you are spending your hours hunting. That stand you put up in August may not be in the right spot based on some recent scouting, Even more, we have a number of big permanent tower stands over green fields that have been there for twenty years and while we do take a good number of deer from them and they are great when taking a youngster such as I did on Friday and when you are coughing like I was Friday. But, the older bucks usually avoid them and even more as season wears on and more boots are walking across the deer woods to those locations. I like to find the “hideaway” spots and get a stand in that area, just not too close to stop the deer from using their “secret spot”.
Never stop scouting, just do it in a stealthy manner employing good camouflage, “stalk walk” and limiting how much scent you leave behind. Early season, October & November, the deer are in “eating mode” December will see them transition to the pre- rut activity, during this phase of the season rattling, using scents and grunt calls will all start to work at various times in some locations, mostly according to buck to doe ratios.
Think about where your stands are and where you are spending your precious few hours hunting. Make it count!
See you next week!