It's now the second half of summer, which means preparations for hunting season are beginning.
As we start into the second half of summer, I begin my nightly ritual of riding across the country at a snail’s pace, binoculars at my side, peering over the fence lines looking for deer. So goes the evenings of many hunters as they prepare for the upcoming hunting season.
From the front seat of a king cab pickup truck, the initial questions of the new season begin to be answered: Where are the crops planted, what fields were left bare, where are the bucks? But most importantly, how many bucks are there?
As the season draws near, the bucks sprout velvet dreams that fill most hunters’ minds. It is an obsession for many. Early season scouting is followed up by shed hunting (looking for antlers that have dropped off, yes they drop off in the early to mid-winter) and then some slow, tedious summer months that are often very ho-hum and boring. But then comes late summer! And we are once again able to get outside and hone our craft.
What to look for
During this time of year most bucks are in “bachelor groups.” This means that when you see a buck, you are likely to see many bucks. They spend their time away from the does and fawns and run together. For example, I was driving with my wife one evening last week, and we saw a group of 17 bachelor bucks. She had never seen such a sight – most were young bucks; however, there was one who (as she put it) looked like Bullwinkle. There was not a doe in the group, and this worried me because unlike many early season scouts, I spend most of my time patterning does.
I enjoy seeing the bucks; however, I understand that once the season gets into full swing, those bucks are going to move.
Does, I have learned, stick pretty much to the same trails, fields, and areas which they frequent all year long. They keep the same bedding areas – or close to them – and they visit the same food source when it is available. Bucks, however, are territory- and doe-driven, and when it comes time to breed, the rutting buck loses all common sense and runs wild. Bucks searching out does often travel miles in a single evening. Dominant bucks drive off younger bucks and they are scattered to the wind in search of love themselves. Therefore, all the buck scouting in the world means nothing. There are a few weeks when you can typically pattern a big buck, however those times are difficult at best as the woods begin to fill with human scent and sound. Most big bucks are taken in an area that they were never seen in before the day they were taken. Again, there are the exceptions to the rule.
What to do
Scout your hunting area and look for the three critical factors that are required to be successful. Food plots are always No. 1 for me. Deer have to eat. Until the rut comes on – then forget it! Bucks drop a lot of weight at this time of year due to having only amore on their mind. Second, bedding areas are fantastic. If you can get on a route between a bedding area and a food plot, you will see deer. Third and finally, I look for water. Many times, the water is limited, so if you find a watering hole you will see action. Spend some time looking for bucks in your area, but do not worry if the nice ones are on some other property. Chances are they will move through your area as well. You just need to know how to be ready for them when they do.
Do your scouting and remember to take notes. Times, areas, etc., when you see the deer. Remember to take wind direction into account as you prepare your stand and remember, it’s a great outdoors.
Jim Kilchermann is scouting and has located some BIG BUCKS! He will not tell you where, but he will write about it in The Journal-Standard. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.