John’s Note: Bob Walker of Livingston, Alabama, has guided for deer and turkeys for almost 3 decades at Bent Creek Lodge in Jachin, Ala. He’s been deer hunting for more than 40 years and is on several outdoor pro staffs. This week he’ll tell us how to find big bucks where no one is looking for them.
This hunt took place in Illinois on public-hunting land where I’d taken the buck that scored 160 Pope and Young (see Day 1). After I’d hunted that spot for 2 or 3 years, that area was receiving more hunting pressure. I just wasn’t seeing as many deer as I did the first years I hunted there. So, I decided I’d start walking the property lines of this WMA in regions where I hadn’t checked before.
One of the boundaries was an abandoned railroad track I walked. I probably walked a little over 1-1/2-miles down the railroad track, until I came to a trestle that went over a small creek. About 10 acres of thick-cover public land was on the other side of the railroad track that was CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) land. I decided to go investigate that 10 acres. A little creek was between two hills, and then on top of one hill was a cornfield. The bottom was so grown-up with vegetation that I hardly could see the signs that marked the boundary of the public-hunting property. As I stomped through that thick cover, I heard a deer get up and run off. I kept looking, but I couldn’t figure out how the deer were coming into the thicket where apparently they were bedding.
When I got down to the creek, the creek was too wide for me to cross. I followed the creek back to the railroad tracks. I was going to climb up the bank, walk across the trestle and go down on the other side of the creek. But once I arrived at the trestle, I looked across the creek and spotted a well-defined deer trail that went under the railroad trestle. I looked for trees where I could put up a tree stand but couldn’t see any. I climbed up the bank, walked across the trestle and investigated that side of the creek. I saw that the land on the opposite of the creek from where I had started scouting was much flatter than the land on the other side of the creek, including a flat creek bank that went under the trestle, providing easy access for the deer to go under the trestle and get into the other woods.
I went back to the other side of the trestle where there was riprap on the edge of the creek. I got some sticks and limbs and pushed some of those big rocks up and made myself a little blind on the opposite side of the creek from the deer trail that went under the trestle. The next morning before daylight, I got a cushion to sit on, took a couple of my Mossy Oak (www.mossyoak.com) shirts and walked down the railroad tracks. At the trestle, I climbed down the rocks to where I’d built my little blind and tucked the Mossy Oak camouflaged shirts around some of the rocks. I ranged the distance from my blind to the trail that went under the trestle on the opposite side of the creek at 27 yards. I thought to myself, “I’m at about the same height I’d be in a tree stand, and I didn’t have to carry that heavy tree stand the 1-1/2-miles down the railroad tracks.” I hunted that spot for three consecutive mornings and spotted lots of does and a few small bucks. However, I never saw a shooter buck. But this was on October 20th in the early part of the season. My hunting partner and I decided to return to Illinois on November 8th. My plan was to hunt that same railroad trestle stand.
On the first morning in November that I hunted the railroad trestle, I didn’t see many deer. But later in the morning, I spotted a doe come out from under the trestle from that big block of public-hunting land on the opposite side of the trestle from where I was hunting. She was looking back, however, I never did see a buck. The trestle was to my right, and the deer trail was to my left. Then I heard a deer coming down the trail headed toward the trestle. I thought it probably was the doe that had come under the trestle earlier. I figured she had turned around to return to the big block of woods on the other side of the railroad tracks. But a huge buck with big, heavy antlers came down the trail, headed right for the trestle. I came to full draw, aimed and grunted with my mouth. The buck stopped and looked up, just as I released the arrow. When the buck took the arrow, he jumped up, wheeled around and started running back the way he had come. I grunted again. The buck stopped, stood still for about 10 seconds and then fell over. This buck was a 12-pointer that scored 141 on Pope & Young.
I learned once again that some really-nice bucks can be found on public-hunting areas. My secret to finding those bucks was to walk what everyone believed was the property line and search for those small, offset thick-cover places that only might be 10 or 20 acres but were still part of the public-hunting land. These small spots generally didn’t show up on the maps as public-hunting regions. But once you identified those spots, they’d be marked as a part of the public-hunting property.
To get John E. Phillips’ eBooks and print books on hunting deer, including his newest deer-hunting book, “Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big Bucks,” available at http://amzn.to/2bYwYOK/, and you can click on these books to learn more, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” “How to Take Monster Bucks,” “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” and “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows,” or to prepare venison, “Deer & Fixings.” Or, go to www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer. You also can find John’s books on Nook at www.barnesandnoble.com.
For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from http://johninthewild.com/free-books.