Each season we start off with trail cams over corn piles, trail cams along travel corridors, trail cams over freshly planted clover patches and various other protein rich tasty “greens” to entice the deer to come out in the field and feed.
We are making a “concerted effort” to determine where the deer are at on various parts of our property or lease. We are attempting to “pattern them”. We are finding out their favorite feeding spots, bedding spots, and their preferred travel routes to get from bedding to food and back again. Then, the big buck we saw on the trail cam over and over in the pre-season suddenly vanishes. We lament that somebody on an adjoining property must have killed him but, they are keeping it quite to reduce their poacher numbers. Maybe he got hit by a car, or maybe he trailed a “hot doe” across a river or across several miles off your property and he is never seen again.
That could and does happen but, sometimes if you leave your trail cam up in February with another corn pile in front of it to see what deer are “left”. Then, what do you see? That dog-gone big buck that left in October has done come back!
IT is a very distinct possibility, that he never left ! Now I know some of you are saying he must have left or somebody would have seen him at some point during the season, or you think to yourself, “I hunted almost every day and sat in every stand at various times all season and he just was not on our property! Well, I agree to a point but, hate to admit that my experiences in the deer woods for over 50 years now have not all been positive ones.
I have had more than one big buck show me that I am the visitor to his “neck of the woods” and I might think I am smarter than him but, he is craftier than me. After all, if I am unsuccessful in bagging that old big buck, I just shoot a couple of does and a “cull” buck and I have plenty of venison for my freezer. If he is unsuccessful, he winds up with a hole in his chest and it is “game over” for him! To use the old cliche’ “he’s got more skin in the game than me” is a vast under statement from his view point! The situation is best described as hunters aren’t the only ones to pattern animal movements, the older bucks learn to pattern the hunter’s movements. Learn this part of deer hunting and use it to your advantage.
Here an example, several years back I partnered with two other guys to lease a 1500 acre tract over in west Alabama and the location,our scouting, and trail cam information proved the property had a good many deer on it. There was a couple of places on the access dirt road where deer trails crossed over it that looked like cattle trails! One such trail was between the front gate and the main body of woods with only a few patches of cedars and scrub brush along the 3/4 mile path across an old pasture on the way to the hardwoods. One morning, right after a big rain,I did not want to run the risk of sticking my 2wd truck so I parked at the gate and walked the dirt road for over a half mile to where the first deer trail crossed the road. The rain had washed away all the deer tracks so the path was swept clean. About 10:00 a.m. another member of our lease trio drove in from Birmingham and drove all the way to the “big woods” where I was hunting. I hunted until noon and as I was walking back to my truck at the gate I noticed the deer trail across the dirt road was again populated with dozens of sets of deer tracks and the lone set of truck tracks across them. I am not claiming to be Sherlock Holmes but, I quickly surmised what was happening. The deer were bedding out in the cedars and scrub brush up near the gate and anytime a vehicle came through it on the way to the woods they would flush far enough ahead of the vehicle to not be seen and then cross the dirt road to the big woods. Later that day, I spoke with Robert who was the other hunter that had came in and asked him if he was hunting the next day. He said he was so I got down there an hour before daylight and again walked in on the dirt road, sneaking to a good vantage spot to watch the deer trail where it crossed the road.
About 6:45 I heard the gate swing open and clang against the iron pipe that was the gate stop and I heard Robert’s truck as he pulled through the gate, got out and closed it behind him. He started to approach my position but, before he got within a quarter mile the deer started appearing out of the scrub brush and slipping across the road. More than a dozen deer, does, yearlings and a couple of “basket sixes” came across and then there he was, the 10 point buck that had eluded us since October! He came across the road with his head down, sniffing out the scent trails left by the does to determine which escape route we was taking, until he felt that 150 grain bullet in his right shoulder and his route changed to the back of my truck! Later that year I took a couple of other deer by stalking around in the scrub brush near the gate with my shotgun in some places so thick a rabbit would get burrs.
Often to survive, bucks, especially old ones, will find parts of the property that you would not expect them to be in and they hide out for as long as you are on the property. They pattern you and know when you come in and when you go out! While you are trying to pattern them, they are often doing the same thing to you!
Get out of your “pattern” and surprise that old buck by being unpredictable!
Good Luck in bagging a good buck!