| How To
Take Monster Bucks
You can't bag a buck if you don't see the animal. The key to seeing more bucks on every hunt is knowing how to choose the most productive stand sites. Many hunters choose their stand sites using too little information. Perhaps the best way to find a stand site for deer is to utilize the same procedure you use to find your seat at a football game.
Stadium Seats for Bucks
According to Bo Pitman, owner and operator of White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, Alabama, and longtime hunting guide, "An aerial photo is like having a ticket to get into a stadium for a football game. On an aerial photo, you can look at how the ground lies. Each piece of property is different, and you'll have to hunt it differently. Also with an aerial photo, you can identify the road systems to enter and leave where you're hunting, the natural barriers, property lines, bodies of water, large fields and funnels.
"You even can distinguish between pine woods and hardwood sites on an aerial photo. The textures of the two types of trees will appear different. Hardwoods will be small, round, blob-looking things on an aerial, since you're actually seeing the tops of the trees. Pine trees will have a smoother texture to them."
Pitman, who also uses topographical maps to pinpoint land changes where he hunts, terms topographical maps as how he locates the section of the stadium where his ticket should allow him to sit.
"After I study aerial photos to get me into the land, then I use topo maps to help me find the very best places to hunt on that property," Pitman continued. "On topo maps, I look for ridges, valleys and terrain breaks. However, the problem associated with using topo maps is they often are not up-to-date. Usually aerial photos are shot more frequently and contain more up-to-date information. In the Southeast where I primarily hunt, one year a field may be planted in cotton, and three years later loblolly pine 10-feet tall may grow there.
"But to find the row and seat that is the best seat at a football game, which is similar to determining where the most productive place is for me to sit to bag a big buck, I'll have to begin as soon as deer season is over to check the ground. I'll walk carefully over the spots I've located on the aerial photos and the topo maps and look for shed antlers. These antlers will give me an idea of how many and what size of bucks are still on the property. Also I can find where the deer are bedding and feeding and pinpoint their rutting trails.
"Although you can wait until summer to do this on-the- ground scouting, I feel I'm more successful when I scout immediately after deer season ends. Too, in the summer you have to contend with spiderwebs, snakes and dense undergrowth when you're trying to find the best seat in the stadium for your stand site.
"I choose all my stand sites for the next season as though I plan to bowhunt from them. I want the stands to be close to where I expect the deer to appear. Also I pick the most direct route to travel to and from my stand site. Then I don't disturb the deer in the area."
Public Land Stands
Since Pitman hunts on private land, he can be sure the research he does after the season will pay off during the following season. Pitman does not have to consider the people factor that can ruin all your scouting plans if you hunt on public lands.
I always plan for someone else to be at my stand site each time I hunt deer. I assume if I have found a good stand site for deer, so has someone else. I try to find the most productive stand site in relationship to what I know other hunters will do.
A few years ago I hunted primarily on public lands. While pre-season scouting, I discovered an acorn-producing white oak tree. A huge number of droppings, tracks and hulls of acorns that had been eaten were on the ground as well as nuts that had just fallen from the trees. Two trails led to the white oak tree. I started to lay my game plan.
I determined the best spot to hunt would be within 50 yards of the white oak tree. Then I could watch bucks coming down both trails and have the best opportunity to see the most deer in this area. I thought the second best stand site would be 50 to 100 yards away from the tree down the most well-defined trail. My last choice would be to take a stand on the more dim trail that apparently had not been used very much but still led to the oak tree.
Because I consider myself an average hunter, I believe this way is how the ordinary hunter thinks. But to bag a trophy buck in high-pressure regions, you must out-hunt the average hunters.
When I rethought my original stand site priorities and considered what the other hunters in the area probably would do, I realized some important factors affecting the selection of the best stand sites.
Stand Site I
The white oak tree itself was an obvious feeding hotspot. Any hunter who had scouted the region at all would have drawn this same conclusion. The ground beneath this tree had all the indications that deer would appear there. Since so much obvious sign lay beneath the tree, I knew this spot would be the first place another hunter would choose to hunt. Therefore, I eliminated Stand Site I from my stand site consideration.
Stand Site II
An experienced woodsman rarely will take a stand at the point where he expects the buck to appear to feed, bed or cross a stream. He usually will set up a stand down the trail he supposes the buck will travel to reach that specific location. An experienced hunter also will assume a novice hunter will take a stand close to the feeding site, like the white oak tree. To out-hunt the novice, he will take a stand on the well-defined trail leading to the white oak tree in hopes of bagging the buck before the other hunter sees it.
I realized I must eliminate this stand site also.
Stand Site III
I decided to follow the dimmer trail 200 to 300 yards away from the white oak tree. My experience had been that older age-class bucks, usually the biggest bucks on the property, rarely utilized the same trail as does and younger age-class bucks traveled to get to a food source, except during the rut. Often an older buck's trail would not be as well defined as a doe or a younger buck's trail was.
Another factor that made the third trail the best choice was the wind in my section of the country usually blew from the northwest. Since this trail came to the white oak tree from the northwest, I knew that more than likely on the days I hunted, the wind would be in my face and carry my human odor back to the food tree, which would stop most deer from coming to the tree. Too, the wind would blow my human odor directly across the well-defined trail, which would keep any deer from moving down that trail. Probably these deer would funnel onto the trail where I hunted.
On opening morning of the season, I sat in my stand before daylight. I could hear a hunter on the well-defined trail go up a tree with his portable climber just before daylight. As the first rays of light pierced through the dark canopy of leaves above, I saw a fine 8-point buck cautiously coming down the dimly marked trail. I picked up the buck in my Nikon scope.