Pre- Rut and Early Season Scouting

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!



Thanksgiving Hunting Week, Another Year, Another Sweet Memory

Thanksgiving week is here again and I am off work for a few days to open my deer season, I have been doing some reminiscing about some wonderful thanksgiving hunts from recent, and not so recent, years so forgive my short stroll down memory lane to tell of some memorable thanksgiving week and thanksgiving morning hunts.

As a child, my first forays afield on deer hunting trips were “dog drives” where we had a family or community hunt that consisted of 2 or 3 deer drive hunts where “standers” would be dropped off at points surrounding a tract of woods and the “drivers” with the deer dogs would “turnout” at the other end of the property. Turnout was often determined by past experiences of success, or not, in getting the majority of the deer to run toward the standers. Other times turnout was determined so the deer would be driven with the direction of the wind to keep the “standers” scent downwind. Deer hunting of this type was very exciting, especially for us younger hunters and we got an early experience in the thrill of the hunt. I was often amazed at how many deer would be “holed up” in a small thicket or pocket of timber and that they would often wait until the very last minute to break cover and be spotted. As a “driver” which was the position I preferred, I often got shots on some nice bucks at close range with a shotgun and dropped many of them like “hot horseshoe” picked”picked up in error at the blacksmith’s shop. Other times, an older buck would either hold cover and let all the does and young bucks bolt out and then slip back the opposite direction away from everyone. My brother took a nine pointer one year that was actually crawling along the bottom of an old wagon road ditch and his first thought was that the buck had been shot and was trying to crawl away to die. He walked a few feet up and when the buck saw him, it jumped up and took off! He put a slug in the buck and that was the only hit we found when he was cleaned. We had planned deer hunts around a 2 or 3 county area since we owned a good pack of hounds and many of the hunts were for charity. The charity organization always prepared a wonderful lunch time meal and all the deer taken were cut up and distributed equally to all the participants. It really was a source for some great thanksgiving week deer hunts that were mostly Friday and Saturday events after Thanksgiving day.

In the late seventies and early eighties, dog hunting for most of us gave way to stalk hunting but, we still held deer drives without using dogs around thanksgiving week when relatives were in town from “up north”. The premise was the same except a lot slower pace and less excitement. The results were however, often the same with standers taking the majority of the deer that were flushed out of hiding and drivers still taking some of the best bucks who were trying to “slip by” or just breaking and running the gauntlet back past the drivers.

On an early “eighties hunt” the day after thanksgiving near the Mississippi border, we held a “man- drive” ” for deer on a huge row crop farm where the farmer told us to “shootemall” since his property was overran with deer and he even said if we ran out of shells he would go get us some! That day we walked hedgerows, fence lines and creek bottoms that were absolutely “stuffed” with deer! we shot deer like it was a quail hunt with similar results and the farmer brought in a four wheel drive John Deere tractor with a cotton wagon and some farm hands to haul the deer from the fields. That was a day after thanksgiving hunt I will never forget and the deer were given to a number of needy families to whom his farmhands were related . An older lady who lived in a small county home on the property was so thankful she actually cried when we drove up to her home with two fully packaged, freezer ready does for her to enjoy! The only bad part of that day I also remember was that while trudging through the prairie mud, one of my boots suffered a blowout and I walked around in a cold muddy left boot for about 10 hours!

In the late eighties to early nineties, like most hunters, I went to either “stalking” or “stand hunting” ” as my preferred way to deer hunt and still enjoy these two methods immensely for enjoying my times in the woods. I was enamored with climbing stands and hunting from elevated locations since I found it to be a very successful way to consistently observe deer and be able to pick and choose which ones to take.

Stalking is a method I love to use this time of year in the early season since, like most of us, I do not get enough scout time in to find the latest trails, rubs, scrapes and other pre-rut signs to show me some locations where I might find that monster buck’ s hideout. That is the best part, finding a location where the signs look like a big buck is in the area, confirming it with a trail cam or an actual sighting and then putting up several ladder stands in the area to take wind advantage on different days and morning or afternoon hunt setups. If I find a big deer, I hunt him until season is over or another hunter gets to take him first! Last year, the big buck was “Hollywood” who fell to a hunter on a tract of property just about 150 yards off our corner where we had been hunting him. Maybe this year it will be like a sequel, we could call it “Hollywood II” HA!





Youth Deer Season is a Very Special Time

The “Youth only” deer hunting special season ran from the 11th of November through the 14th and gave many young hunters the unique opportunity to get the jump on the competition from older hunters. I think it is one of the best parts of the Alabama hunting season rules. Although I did not participate, I had several friends who made the trip to the deer woods and made some great memories that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

One such successful father and son duo was Wray Anderson and the real star of the hunt, his son Kyle. They had a weekend hunting trip that is sure to garner fond memories for both of them for many year to come. Kyle, took not only his first deer, a big mature doe, he followed that up with taking an absolute bruiser of a big trophy buck any adult hunter would have loved to “pull the trigger on” .”. Way to go Kyle! I know this is only the beginning of a great hunting story that will be an integral part of your life and a treasured part of your endeavors in the deer woods!

I will post a photo of Kyle’s Buck for admiring on the outdoor photo section, look for it soon!

Many of us adult hunters are enjoying the deer woods and taking some nice bucks and does with the “string music” method of stretching out the deer season by stretching out the strings. Rob “V” another buddy of mine took a nice doe for his freezer this past Saturday in Tallapoosa County and I will post a photo of that one as well. Rob saw several bucks that were not “shooters and decided to go ahead and add to his freezer stock before leaving this week to hunt some big deer in Montana. Hope we will see some photos from that hunt in the future.

The gun season for the rest of us opens this Saturday! I know many of you are ready to get out to the woods and put some lead on one of them “biguns” Remember some of the best bucks of the season are taken on the opening weekend so get out there and hunt strong, stay long, and bring the big one home! “(repeat that quietly on the stand when you get a little tired, when your rear end and legs are numb and falling asleep). Sometimes the battle goes to the strongest and the hunt goes to those who stay the longest!

The success also most definitely goes to those who have prepared well in all of the many areas of planning. Have you got your clothing, gear, accessories, boots, ammo and gun all prepared and ready to hunt? Are your clothes washed in a scent blocking solution and dried with a good cover scent to mask any odors? Are they packed away in a scent lock bag or at least a clean bag with some cedar, pine, oak, or earth cover scent to absorb into the clothes? Do you clean your boots with diligence to make sure they are not “polluted” with scents from the gas station, pavement, your hunting camp, or other human places? Be sure to protect your foot wear as a critical part of your scent control regimen. I wear slip on Merrill mocs until I get out of my truck at my hunting location to make sure my boots are not polluted. I have my boots in a scent lock bag with earth scent and only then do I put them on and walk to my stand. I have had deer bust me in the past for a polluted boot that I had worn from home and around the camp. If you want to see more deer, scent control is critical.

Plan a stealthy approach and entry to your stand allowing for plenty of time before daybreak to get in your stand and have 20 to 30 minutes to sit in the darkness and enjoy the pre-dawn and the day break. You will have had time to allow the woods to “settle” from your intrusion, no matter how stealthy, and could lead to a big break on a big buck! I have hunted in many clubs through the last 50 years and learned from a lot of mistakes I and others made. About 25 years ago, I was in a club Greene County and another member, who was from Louisiana, was about the worst deer hunter I ever met. He enjoyed the fellowship part far too much and was slow to rise from his hung over sleep on weekend mornings at the hunting camp. He had no plan other than to roll out and hunt in stinking clothes, drive a truck with no muffler to the woods, smoke on the stand, (he would argue that the deer are attracted to the smoke!) and then he wondered why he never saw any deer except for a doe every once in a while. After three seasons, even his fellow cajuns voted to not renew his membership! Don’t be that guy! It may be just a weekend hobby, just a place to get out of town, but if you want to be successful in bagging a mature buck on a regular basis, planning, patience, and prudent judgement should all be learned in context to deer hunting.

I plan to hunt in West Central Alabama this weekend and we have some nice bucks on our trail cams that I hope to be seeing in person. Not gonna pull the trigger though unless one comes by that make my buck fever kick up a few degrees! Probably will take a big doe for the freezer and follow the “business before pleasure” protocol for filling up my freezer with fresh venison! But, who knows? It could be my turn again!

Remember to enter that big buck in Alabama Black Belt Adventures big buck contest! it is easy! just submit a photo on line!

And if you are like me and are a “Lifetime License holder” be sure to go the the ALDCNR web site and print a harvest report that is required to be with you for completion in the field!

Gun Season for deer is about the best possible time of the year to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty that is found all around our great Central Alabama Outdoors! If you want to send me a photo for posting on The Advertiser’ s Outdoor photo section, just email me! please include a statement of permission to post and the pertinent information about the hunter and the trophy!

Until next week have a great hunt!



Find The Morning Bedding Areas for Early Season Bucks!

November means numerous things to most of us, such as the year is practically GONE! Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday season is up in the stores even before the Veterans Day parades. At our jobs, many of us are doing 2012 work plans and annual meeting schedules, weekends are filled with football games, a “honey-do” list a mile long now that the weather is no longer so hot as to be a viable excuse.

And in case you forgot, Alabama’s Deer season for Gun hunters opens on November the 19th, which is Saturday after next!! Now, I don’t know about you, but I am setting my priorities to be sure that I am in my favorite early season stand to greet another wonderful Alabama Deer hunting morning! To check out all the seasons and regulations, check out

The early season strategy for most of us is to be set up in a tree stand around the mast producing trees, my favorite of which is a white oak. I like to hunt in a wooded section for morning hunts and some greenfield setting for afternoon hunts, especially if the hunt involves youngsters. If hunting alone, I personally like to hunt the woods almost 100% of the time in the early season and most of the rest of season except for the peak of the rut when our fields are full of does and the bucks come out to chase the does. I have had some of my best hunts in “bottlenecks” where the woods are narrow between row crop fields, cow pastures, or even the hardwood “SMZ” areas in planted pine forests. These areas function as a “deer highway” and when you find one, it is easy to tell by the size of the trails, the scrapes, rubs, and small broken limbs especially, some of the cedars, cypress areas in swamps and even small pine limbs where bucks have snapped them off either cleaning off velvet or marking the territory to make other deer aware of the buck’s presence. These small branches are usually broken off anywhere from ground level to 5 feet up with the best chance of a nice buck making the breaks at four or five feet up.

However, if you are hunting solitary and are willing to get serious about finding the “boss buck” of the tract you are hunting then you need to try some bedding area hunting and get the jump on other hunters who share your property rights. I like to find places that are not easily gotten to, places that appear to be too overgrown, too steep, too swampy, too close to the creek or river bank. I find these type places on just about every piece of property I have ever hunted, you just got to look for them.

A few years back, I was doing some early scouting along the Warrior river and kept exploring the bank all the way to the water’ s edge and all the way to our north corner that was not too far from several camp houses. There was a large cane break that was practically impenetrable unless it was by a skinny rabbit and even then, he would lose some fur.

Well, I thought it was a big patch of canes that went all the way to the water line but, decided to climb down the bank and check it out. What I found was a small, open “blow down” area of three or four big and long ago, uprooted trees and a brier patch with a few smaller standing hardwood trees. This area was about an acre to an acre and a half and it was brimming with buck signs! Two trails near the water line that were more like hog trails, and for a moment I thought maybe could have been, but I found all evidence to the contrary!

Big scrapes, over a dozen rubs on the saplings in the area and “mashed down” bedding areas all up in the downed timber! This was the master bedroom for the “bull buck” ” of these deer woods! It was near mid day and with no deer spooked by my intrusion, I carefully slipped off by way of wading along the river bank to a spot nearly 150 yards downstream where I could climb back up the 25 foot embankment and across a CRP field and through the swamp to my truck.

I did not get to hunt the first weekend of deer season due to a very bad case of bronchitis (great timing) and even though I was sure nobody hunted that area, I worried that hunters anywhere around would cause the buck (or bucks) who were bedding there, to seek refuge in another secluded spot. The next weekend, I was parked and out of my truck at 4:15 a.m, digging in my charcoal lined “Tinks” odor absorption bag, changing into my scent treated hunting clothes and boots.

I shivered with the mix of cold and excitement as I grabbed my rifle and my gear and almost ran to get across a cotton field and a section of woods near the river that were about 400 yards across to reach the river bank. I slipped down under and along the river bank in full camo including a face mask and crept up to the cainbreak at about 5:30. It was still fully dark, but the sky was beginning to get the pre-dawn tones when I sat down in my ground blind to watch for bucks slipping back to their “bedroom” after a night of dining.

At 7:20 I had seen only a king fisher, some ducks, and an old gray heron who nearly lit down in my lap before realizing something was “not right” and flew off screaming that alarm call they do. I was almost ready to concede that this could be the first of several hunts before “payoff” .”. But, just then, I caught some movement from the other side of the clearing, and three nice rack bucks came tipping in from the north, from the direction of the camp houses. I watched the three, none of which was a shooter, and felt sure they were not responsible for the big rub on a ash tree and two small tupelo gum trees that flanked it. The bucks bedded down less than 60 yards from my spot, but upwind so, I figured if I was very careful with my head movement that I would be okay.

For over three hours, all I could see of the three was an occasional ear twitch or the turn of antlers as i peered at them through the swamp grass and other weeds between our locations. I just kept watching and waiting.

At 10:50, my legs were asleep and my bladder was feeling like an explosion was imminent so I had made a vow to go to the truck at 11:00 or whenever the last possible moment arrived that I had to take some “relief” .”. At 11:05, I started my “count-down”. It is a little routine I follow to end the hunt where I start the countdown at 100 and focus really hard on looking for a deer in the areas all around my stand by working from left to right and focusing intently for a 10 count in each area until I get to zero. At zero, I eased very slowly to my feet and started a standing 100 count. Again working from left to right and intently looking, this time with binoculars, before I make enough movement to blow my cover and make the hunt be over.

When I stood up, I glassed the three rack bucks bedded on the north edge of the blowdown and was rewarded with the sight of a big, heavy horned 10 pointer with several “kicker points” at the hair line on the left side, bedded right with them! And bedded beside him was a doe! I don’t know if they were there the whole morning or slipped in at some point while I was watching the three smaller bucks come in and bed down. But there he was at 60 yards bedded like an old bull in a pasture and I never saw him until I was ready to leave, had a case of eye crossing bladder busting need to release and had all but walked out on the whole setup. I never saw him until then!

But hey, he NEVER saw me either! He never heard the shot as I sent one down range to his neck and he just fell “asleep” .”.

When the others all broke and ran, I then broke and ran to over to the water line and said ahhhh!!!

Some things feel really, really good after a long wait, the first big buck of the season is one of those things!

Until next week’s blog,


P.S. Our own areas premiere locator for Hunting and fishing lodges and guides in the Black Belt is ALABAMA BLACK BELT ADVENTURES and they are having a really great Big Buck contest!

Check it out at That way when you get that trophy buck on opening weekend from that bedding area (or other) you can make it really pay off!!