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.
This year, my son John found several friends in his workplace who took him hunting with them. I loaned – actually gave – John, Jr. – my trail camera. As he saw deer and was able to pick-out the deer he wanted to hunt, his enthusiasm for deer hunting went through the roof. One of his friends showed him how to use onX (https://www.onxmaps.com/), which is a hunting app that you put on your cell phone that enables you to store a tremendous amount of information about the places you hunt and the deer that live there. Once John joined a hunting club and told me what he was learning about hunting, he said, “Pop, you’ve got to have this onX app so you can see where I’m hunting, and what I’m finding. I want you to start hunting with me.”
“I want you to hunt with me,” are the words that every hunting mentor always wants to hear from someone they’ve been teaching from a young age. I’ve used my career as a writer and a broadcaster to interview some of the greatest deer hunters in the nation to broaden my education by learning all that I can from those very-best deer hunters. I’ve also taken the information I’ve acquired from some of those outstanding deer hunters I’ve met and written about to share with the readers of my newspaper columns, magazine articles, books and blogs. I’ve been able to earn a living for my family and better prepare my readers to be successful deer hunters.
On the first trip when John and I were hunting in 2020 at this new hunting club, I explained, “Son, we’re going to hunt where no one else in this club hunts.” I went on to tell him how most of the hunters in this club sat in shooting houses over green fields and for years, had trained the deer -especially the older-age-class bucks – not to come on to these green fields until well after dark. So, the first thing we have to do is find locations where no hunters hunt and put-out trail cameras and bait to see where the deer live,” I told JJ.” We both bought baiting permits from Alabama’s Department of Conservation to put corn out to learn where the deer on this property lived and moved. On the first location where we put the only trail camera we had, we got pictures of 6 bucks and 11 does over a period of 5 days. The trail camera also gave us the times that the deer showed-up, the direction the deer were coming and leaving from, and the size and the sex of the deer around this spot.
My son couldn’t believe how-many deer we found that apparently no one else on the club knew existed. He got fired-up when he saw one particular big buck that he wanted to take this season. I told JJ, “Son, this isn’t the only place on this property where we can find deer like that. When you first start hunting a piece of property, you identify areas where no one else has hunted. Then you can use a trail camera to also learn the number of does, the number of bucks, how many predators there are, and what the age structure of bucks on the property is.”
Next we discovered four or five more places to see more bucks, does and older-age-class bucks after placing more trail cameras. We relearned that often the best spot to find and take an older- age-class buck is where no hunter in his right mind will hunt. So-many people are hunting today that the deer have learned that the only way they can survive is to stay in areas during daylight hours where hunters don’t hunt. Trail cameras will help you decide which bucks you want to hunt, and which bucks you want to allow to grow for the next year or two. Using this system is one of the best ways that enables you to continuously hunt older-age-class bucks every season.
To learn more about hunting deer, check out John E. Phillips’ book, available in Kindle, print and Audible versions, “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows” (http://amzn.to/11dJRu8). 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 the book for free, and you can listen to 10% for free).
Tomorrow: Find More Joy in Hunting Deer and Learn More through Using Corn and Trail Cameras