Editor’s Note: To understand how baiting for deer with corn has become one of the most-effective wildlife management tools a deer hunter has today, we have to look at the history of how hunters once took deer and the changes that have occurred in deer management since then. I’ve been learning and studying deer hunters’ philosophies from the 1960s until today. In the past few years, I just have begun to realize why baiting with corn and using trail cameras are so effective at finding and taking older-age-class bucks, while the younger ones are growing to maturity. So, I’ll share with you too what my son and I have learned about managing a deer herd to only harvest older-age-class bucks during hunting season. I’ve never been a fan of baiting. Now having said that, I’ve hunted over corn feeders in Texas and bait piles in Canada. However, I’ve always felt like baiting was cheating when you’re trying to take deer. But I’ve learned differently.
After my son John saw how-many deer were in one location on the land we were hunting, he wanted to buy more cameras and more bait and learn more locations where no other hunters were hunting. Then he’d know where to hunt, and at what times the older-age-class bucks were likely to show up during daylight hours. Soon, we had about five different places on our hunting club where we started building a history with the bucks that lived there. We allowed the younger bucks to mature before we harvested them.
By this time, John’s enthusiasm for hunting deer rather than just shooting deer had gone through the roof. His onX app (https://www.onxmaps.com/) had numerous waypoints on it with pictures of the different deer he wanted to hunt. Each time we met up at our hunting club, we shared notes on the productive-looking spots we’d found, the deer we’d seen and the bucks we wanted to try and harvest. We had so much more fun hunting together than we ever had when we didn’t use this new method of finding and hunting older-age-class bucks.
When John was younger, he was excited to shoot any buck with antlers. This year, in hunting season, he’s passed on more young bucks than ever before. I’ve seen myself go through the transition of hating the thought of baiting to understanding how baiting and trail cameras can allow my son and I to pass-up young bucks, try and take older bucks, and be able to watch the young bucks we pass on this year grow into better bucks next year. These reasons are why I’ve become a staunch supporter of using bait and trail cameras to manage your deer herd. I’ve come to realize too the fallacy in not teaching our young people that a good hunter needs to know how to find deer and where they bed, feed and travel, and he or she also needs to know how to pick out the mature bucks to harvest, while letting the younger bucks walk.
Here’s what I’ve learned about this system of training the hunter:
* Letting young bucks walk is easier, when you know a mature buck is in that same area that you may be able to take;
* Looking for mature bucks where most hunters don’t hunt on most properties will help you find the bigger bucks that most hunters never see;
* Hunting becomes a much-richer sport when you have pictures of the deer that live on the property you hunt, and you can watch those bucks grow from yearlings with little racks to mature bucks with big bodies and heavy antlers;
* Gaining knowledge from this system of deer hunting drastically increases the hunter’s enjoyment of the sport and is far more exciting than sitting in a box blind over a green field and hoping a shooter buck will walk out on the green field within range;
* Teaching a child to hunt using bait and trail cameras is far more rewarding than just putting the youngster in a spot where you believe he can harvest a buck;
* Baiting and knowing how to get the most out of your trail camera are the best tools on the market for deer management in my estimation;
* Not committing the sin I did in teaching my son to shoot deer before I taught him how to hunt deer makes the joy and excitement of learning about the deer on the land you hunt far-more rewarding than shooting a deer that just happens to walk by a place where you’re sitting;
* Taking older-age-class bucks consistently by using trail cameras and bait to find those bucks and learn how to hunt them helps hunters hunt small parcels of land and not overhunt them; and
* Building a photographic history of the young bucks and watching them grow over several years where you hunt can aid you in making good decisions on which bucks to take.
I’m not saying that the way you hunt deer is wrong, or that it’s not enjoyable for you. I’m just saying that this is what this old dog has learned and is willing to share with you, our readers.
To learn more about hunting deer, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big Bucks,” available in Kindle, print versions and Audible at http://amzn.to/2bYwYOK. You may have to copy and paste this link into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read 10% of this book for free, and you can hear 10% of the book for free).