Join Date: Apr 2008
The Best Way to Hunt a Buck
I got this from T.R. Michels forum, with his permission, it is copyrighted:
Okay the title is a little misleading, because this is the best way to go after the "particular" buck you wan't. Let's assumeyou see a really large racked buck when you are hunting or scouting ...
In most areas of NA, whitetail bucks have traditional "daytime core areas" where they spendthe majority ofdaylight hours during the fall. this is whwere theybed during the day, and they generally have preferredroutes they use to get into and out of the core area.- They often make rubs along these routes, so wecall them rub routes.
During the "peak rubbing phase" (which beginsabout three weeks before peak breeding) individual bucks often leave and return to their core areas at about the sametime everyday, unelss they come across an estrus doe or something else screws up their schedule. The further away a buck getsfrom its core area(in the evening), the harder it is to predictwhat time it will be at specific locations, and the harder it is to predict exaclty where it will be. So - the best place to see aparticular buck - on a regular basis - is as close to its core area as you can get - near the trail it uses -withoutalerting it to your presence - as it leaves the core area in the late afternoon or ealry evening.
Th same can be said forthe morning, when the bucks returns to its core area. Thecloser you get to the trail it uses to go back to the core area, and the earlier you get there in the morning, the better your chances of catching the buck as it returns home.
In order to figure out where the core area of a specific buck is -you need to pattern the buck, and here is how. it is an excerpt from my book "The Complete Whitetail Addict's Manual":
By T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors
While giving seminars on the sport show circuit I am always amazed to find out how may hunters want to take a 140 or better class buck, but are not hunting rub lines, scrapes, funnels or staging areas. I start off my seminars by asking how many of those present hunt the high use areas mentioned above, and how many archery hunters want to hunt during the breeding period of the rut. About 90 percent of the hunters indicated they hunted food sources, and deer highways or crossings during the breeding period. I understand that because they see numerous bucks at all hours of the day hunters like to hunt these areas during the breeding period. But, if whitetail hunters want to have the best chance at individual trophy bucks they should hunt the rubbing and scraping period along rub lines, scrapes, funnels and staging areas.
The time of the year when bucks are most predictable in their daily movement is during the rubbing and scraping phases or "pre-rut", before the breeding phase. The place where bucks spend the majority of their time during daylight hours is the bedding area. During the pre-rut the bucks begin to travel to several doe use areas and food sources in preparation for the breeding period. Since most of the does don't come into estrus for a month or two after the bucks begin to rub the bucks are not chasing does and are quite predictable in where and when they travel.
Because a buck's travel route generally follows the path of least resistance, but is governed by the need for security, it usually travels in heavy cover or low lying areas where it is concealed during daylight, and travels in open areas at night. By trial and error the buck finds the best travel route from its bedding area, leaving it in the evening when low light conditions tell him it is safe to travel. The buck generally travels the same trail to doe use and feeding areas at about the same time daily, providing the weather is right. Once the does come into estrus the bucks begin chasing them, staying with them up to three days, not following their rub routes, but following the does instead.
Since a buck leaves the bedding area during low light conditions, close to sundown, the farther it gets from its bedding area the more likely it is that the buck is traveling after dark; bucks generally feed, rub, scrape and search for does throughout the night. They usually return to their bedding areas before sunrise, often before legal hunting hours. However, some bucks may arrive home during legal shooting hours - if they have been chasing does or feeding late. Because bucks are either in their bedding area (or near it) at dawn and dusk - the place where it is most likely to be seen, on a regular basis (unless you plan to actually hunt the buck in its bedding area), is along the rub route near the bedding area, usually in the evening. To hunt the buck at this time and place you have to pattern it.
During my seminars I ask how many hunters have patterned a deer. To my surprise no more than 5 hunters in each of ten seminars raised their hands. This astounded me. I assumed that because I and the hunters I associate with look for rub lines and scrapes to a pattern buck and find its bedding area that most other hunters do too. This is obviously not the case. I don't know how most deer hunters locate the best places to hunt for bucks but if they are not patterning a buck they are missing the best technique for hunting trophy bucks.
There seems to be some mystique about how to pattern deer, especially bucks. The easiest way to pattern a buck is to locate its rub line and walk it back wards to the bedding area. This is easily accomplished by locating rubs along the infrequently used buck trails. I say infrequently used because many hunters expect bucks to travel the same trail the does use, the deer highway where many hunters like to set their stands. In fact, bucks generally travel their own routes, separate from other deer. They usually travel these individual trails one time a day, travel them in only one direction, and may not use them daily. Therefore, rub route trails are infrequently used and may not even be recognized as a deer trail by many hunters. If you are on a trail that is worn down to the dirt it is probably a doe use trail and not a buck rub route.
Scouting and Observing
Begin your hunting season by looking for deer in the late summer. By cruising roads near feeding areas at dusk and dawn you can find out when and where the does and bucks feed. At this time the bucks can often be found at high quality food sources putting on fat for the rut and the winter. They may not be found in the same fields as the does because they are not yet traveling their rub routes or looking for does, they stay fairly close to home instead. When you see them in the evening their bedding area may not be far away.
If you have already seen a buck you have a good idea what time it leaves the bedding area each evening, and you have an idea of how big its rack is. If you've located the bedding area, but haven't seen the buck, find a spot well away from the rub route, where you won't be detected, and observe the area to find out what time the buck travels the portions of the route where you can hunt it. At the same time you may see other bucks and does and be able to pattern their movement times. Patterning the does helps you find the buck's when the breeding period begins. Once the does come into estrus the dominant bucks will begin to visit their areas.
The size of a deer's home range is governed by the availability of food throughout the year. Deer in open southern oak forests, where browse and mast are abundant year round, use smaller home ranges than northern deer in evergreen forests, where there are few oaks or other trees that produce preferred mast crops. Deer living in timbered river bottoms with agricultural crops at both the top and bottom of the bluffs or hills often feed on green small grain crops in the spring, alfalfa and hay fields in the summer. They may use wooded areas in late summer and early fall as acorn and other mast crops ripen, and corn fields in late summer, sometimes throughout the winter. If the food sources are abundant and close together, they may not cover more than a few acres. Depending on the type of habitat - the home range of deer may be as small as 20-40 acres for does and 1-1/2-2 miles square for bucks. In northern hardwood forest, open agricultural or western country both buck and doe home ranges may cover several square miles.
During the pre-rut and rut the buck generally leaves its bedding area at prior to sundown and travels through several doe use areas, ending up at a food source during the night. It may travel through more doe use areas before going back to its bedding area before daylight. In good habitat with high doe numbers, and where deer don't migrate, whitetail bucks usually have a traditional bedding area that they use year round, provided they are not disturbed. The bedding area is usually in a secure area, often in a thick brush area that cannot be walked through without making noise. Bucks may also bed on high spots in cattail sloughs, tamarack swamps, open side hills and in the middle of open fields where they can"™t be approached without the hunter being seen.
Many of the areas I find big bucks bedded in contain brush and saplings in the 1-2 inch size, and are so thick that I have to get down on my hands and knees to follow the trail. The beds are often on the side of hill, sometimes but not always on the downwind side, with the bed facing downwind so the buck can smell danger from upwind and see and hear danger downwind in front of it. In flat areas the bedding site may be at the far upwind side of cover, where the buck can't be approached without you being seen, or without you crossing through the cover.
Within the bedding area there may be several rubs on 1-2 inch saplings. There may be several beds of the same size, four feet or longer, scattered over the area. Some of the beds many be next to large trees for protection from the elements. The tree may also help breakup the buck's outline as it lies on the ground. There may be several piles of large droppings or clumped droppings one and a half inches in diameter nearby.
Daily Travel Patterns
Once the rubbing period begins bucks leaves their bedding areas shortly before sundown (depending on low light, wind and temperature conditions) and usually travel in cover or low-lying areas on their way to food sources and doe use areas. Depending on the habitat and deer density they may have more than one rub route, so they can visit several different doe herds. The route itself often parallels the more heavily used doe trails, but is a few yards farther up or down hillsides, farther into woods or other cover, along grown over roads, along or paralleling creek bottoms, and through low-lying gullies and swamps. Bucks may only follow doe trails under specific conditions: in heavy cover, through bottlenecks and funnels, in doe bedding areas, and in staging areas near food sources.
As bucks travel their rub routes they may periodically stop to rub nearby trees. These rubs are often on small trees 1-3 inches in diameter. The rubs along the rub route trail may occur as often as every few yards to every quarter mile. When bucks travel through a small opening with numerous trees of a preferred type they may leave the trail to rub several trees in one session, or over a period of several days, creating a cluster of rubs constituting a "dominance area." I often see several rubs on cedar, locust, alder, and oak saplings in forest openings. When bucks pass through an area with trees in the five-inch or larger size they may stop and rub one or more trees, creating another cluster of rubs. These clusters often occur near doe bedding areas or staging areas where deer wait in cover before entering open feeding sites at sundown.
The small trees along the rub route itself are generally rubbed on the side from which the buck came. When you face the rub you are facing the direction the buck was traveling. Most marking activity (rubbing and scraping) occurs in the evening, not in the morning, and rubbed trees in heavy cover usually indicate the trail is used during the evening. Once darkness occurs bucks feel secure traveling in open areas, where they may make rubs along field edges.
Because bucks travel open areas at night they may not have access to trees and may make few rubs and scrapes until they get back to the security of their bedding area before sunrise. Therefore, the best way to locate the bedding area is to walk the rub route backwards, usually into cover, where there are several small rubs near beds where large, clumped buck droppings occur. If the rub route trail leads into cover and disappears, or breaks up into several less used trails, the bedding area is often nearby. Several infrequently used large beds of the same size, or one frequently used large bed with 2.25 inch wide tracks indicate a buck bedding site.
Once the bedding area is found it should be examined further to locate likely escape routes and the trail the buck uses to enter it in the morning. After both the evening trail out of the bedding area, and the morning trail into the bedding area are found, sites can be chosen for hunting the buck in both the morning and evening. Because the buck often arrives at the bedding site before sunrise during the rubbing and scraping period it may be hard to hunt in the morning. The best time to hunt prior to the breeding period is in the evening, when the buck gets up before sunset and travels the rub route in nearby cover during daylight hours.
Locating Rub Routes
To locate rub routes you have to scout the area you intend to hunt. If you have previously spent time observing the deer in late summer you should have a good idea where the doe home ranges are, because you have seen does with fawns feeding at dusk or after sunrise. With a little more time and effort scouting you should be able to find the doe bedding areas and the trails they use on a regular basis.
After you find the doe trails you should be able to find the buck trails by looking for lightly used trails with rubs along them that parallel the doe trails. Buck trails are often deeper into the woods, farther up or down the hills, or back from the edges of the meadows in heavier brush or timber. If you have been persistent or lucky you may have seen a buck feeding in the open about sundown during your scouting sessions. This helps because the buck doesn't travel very far in the afternoon. If you have watched the buck enter the feeding area you know where he came from. The bedding area should not be too far away on his back trail, it is usually within 1/4 mile. With some judicious scouting you should be able to find a rub route.
Once you have located the rub route walk it as far as you can in both directions to find out exactly where the buck moves once the rubbing period starts. Along the way you should find scrapes that tell you where the high use areas of the does are, and whether they are in crossings, funnels, old roads, staging areas or food sources. You should also find clusters of rubs where the buck spends some time working trees along the route. When you find scrapes and rubs together in cover you have found a good spot to hunt during daylight. If you are diligent enough you should be able to walk the rub route back wards to the buck's bedding area. The whole point of patterning is to locate the buck's bedding area. Now you know where to setup to see the buck on a fairly regular basis during daylight hours.
T.R. know his stuff ..