John’s Note: To take one mature whitetail buck from public hunting lands is a major accomplishment. But to consistently take older-age-class bucks on public lands in several states year after year, you must have an extraordinary game plan. To take a buck with a composite score of 179 (the composite score uses the Boone and Crockett scoring system which includes the number of inches between the main beams), and an official Buckmaster score of 163 (this score does not include the number of inches between the main beams and only scores the amount of antlers that the deer carries) is a super accomplishment, making Jacob Lamar of Athens, Alabama’s Kentucky buck a buck of a lifetime. In the last 11 years while hunting public land in Illinois, Jacob has taken nine older-age-class bucks. In 2015, he harvested this buck in Kentucky that scored 179 points. He took two bucks in Tennessee off the same 70 acres – one scoring 138-inches and a second buck scoring 157-4/8-inches. I wanted to know what hunting tactics Jacob had developed to take these big deer on public-hunting lands.
When our friends and my brother Adam and I do our early-season scouting, another tactic we often use is that we will make mock scrapes, even though we know that deer aren’t making scrapes during the summer months. We’ll make those scrapes, so our trail cameras can get pictures of any deer that comes to those scrapes. We don’t make a big scrape and really tear-up the ground like you hope to see if you’re hunting. We’ll make a small scrape that most hunters never will see in the early season in a place where most hunters won’t hunt. Even though the deer aren’t scraping, they’ll come to that scrape and put their noses on the ground where we’ve poured buck urine. The bucks aren’t rutting, but they still want to know if there is a new buck in their neighborhood.
I don’t want to give the impression that one day I just woke up, and I knew how to take mature deer on public lands. When I was a young deer hunter, I didn’t have the money to lease land. I’m 28 now, and my brother Adam is 22. Adam is still in college playing baseball at UAB in Birmingham, Alabama. He and I always have hunted together. Neither one of us ever has had enough money to lease land, so we started hunting public lands.
When I was still in high school, I belonged to a hunting club with 10-12 hunters and 800 acres just outside of Rogersville, Alabama, where I grew up. We paid about $200 each for the lease. To lease that same 800 acres today probably would cost 10 members $2,000 each. So, as lease prices went up, I quickly saw my future in deer hunting would be gone, if I didn’t learn to hunt public lands.
Then once I went to college, I played baseball for the University of North Alabama in Florence, Alabama. During my college days, my roommate, some of my teammates and I decided to start getting serious about learning how to hunt public lands. We hunted Seven Mile Island WMA and Lauderdale County WMA near the university. We did a lot of scouting. After every scouting trip, we would compare notes about what we saw, and what we learned. We learned that if we hunted where no one else wanted to hunt on public lands, we’d see bucks that no other public-land hunters saw.
After we spent a lot of time developing a system that we thought would work to hunt public lands, we began to test our findings on other public lands in Georgia and Illinois. We went to Illinois because we knew that was one of the states that consistently produced big deer. If we used the research we had learned hunting in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia, we knew we should be able to find big deer in Illinois.
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/, 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 free 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.