Editor’s Note: You too can have an opportunity to harvest a big whitetail by learning 10 secrets to better deer hunting this week. Although these aren’t all the secrets you need to take big bucks, these 10 make up the best ones I’ve learned in more than 50 years of deer hunting with some of the nation’s best deer hunters. If a big buck lives where you hunt, and you haven’t bagged him yet, try one of these tactics.
Secret #9: Hunt Roads for Deer
In most hunting areas, you’ll find woods roads, firebreaks, old logging roads, powerline right-of-ways or some other type of paths or clear-cuts through the woods. Hunters typically don’t hunt these open regions. However, learn to hunt these paths through the woods to consistently bag big whitetails.
By driving these roads, firebreaks or trails at mid- morning, especially after an all-night rain has softened the ground, you can pinpoint tracks where deer cross the roads during daylight hours. In snow country, you often can locate these road crossings much easier if snow recently has fallen. While hunting on Anticosti Island in Quebec, Canada, our guide, Norman LeBrun, showed me big-buck success by our driving roads after a major snowstorm to find where and when deer travel and following their tracks.
Once you’ve pinpointed where deer cross, you’ll know where to place your stand. Then you need to determine what wind direction you must have to hunt that road crossing properly.
Only hunt when the wind blows your human odor away from the deer.
Generally on the days I scout roads, I’ll scout all the roads in the area I plan to hunt and make notes on:
- where the deer cross the roads,
- which wind direction I need to have to hunt that road, and
- where I can put my stand.
By taking a day to scout roads, powerline right-of-ways, trails and firebreaks, you’ll have productive road crossings to hunt throughout deer season.
Secret #10: Hunt Cattle Country for Monster-Sized Bucks
Because of the wide-open spaces in cattle country, most deer hunters don’t think of that land as deer country. But Ed McMillan of Brewton, Alabama, has grown up in cattle country and has hunted the white-tailed deer in these areas for most of his life.
“Some of the biggest bucks in any region often can be found in cattle country,” McMillan remarks.
“All the ingredients present in cattle country that put weight on cattle – including an abundance of food, fertilized pastures and little or no harassment – also can put weight on deer. However, when most hunters see big pastures and few wooded areas, they automatically dismiss the possibility of whitetails being present in these places. Few hunters realize that large, older-age-class bucks have established routes through these wide-open spaces.
“Just at daylight, big bucks will move from small wooded spots across pastures to thickets and bedding areas. Deer usually cross in the middles of pastures where they have a lot of open space around them because they’re rarely if ever been shot at on these routes. And, year after year, these big bucks will travel the same trails.
“I believe deer learn at an early age the traditional routes of travel they can take between and through pastures. Most landowners will tell you where these historical routes are, and what time of day they generally see deer crossing these open pastures. Then you can hunt that same crossing year after year and consistently take bucks.”
Bonus Secret for the Rut
Think like a buck. If you have an older-age-class buck on your property, he’s survived two or three seasons. He knows the only way to survive when hunting pressure builds is to go into the thickest cover he can find and stay there until dark. In that thick cover, he’ll go to the bathroom, feed, and breed does. One of the best ways to take him is to get high in a tree stand to see down in the cover and watch for the bucks to move in that thicket.
To learn more about hunting for deer, check out John E. Phillips’ bowhunting book, available in Kindle and print and soon to be available in Audible, “Jim Crumley’s Secrets of Bowhunting Deer” at http://amzn.to/XYTCEY and “13 Soup, Chowder and Gumbo Recipes You Can’t Live Without,” available in Kindle at http://amzn.to/1aiNUZx. You may have to copy and paste these links into your browser. (When you click on the books, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read 10% of the book for free). To see more of John’s deer-hunting books, visit http://www.amazon.com/author/johnephillips. John’s latest book, “Elk: Keys to 23 More Hunters’ Success,” was just published in Audible on November 15, 2021, and is available in Kindle, print and Audible at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09B2H9V6Y/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i10.