John's Journal...

How to Hunt Bad Stands to Take Great Buck Deer

Day 4: How to Hunt Deer in Pine Plantations and Thick Cover

Editor’s Note: "To take the biggest buck on any piece of property, always hunt the worst stands," Dr. Keith Causey, a former wildlife researcher at Auburn University, told me. "I let everyone in my hunting club pick the stands where they want to hunt, and I go to the places left. Since no one hunts these areas, the older-age-class bucks can hold there to dodge hunting pressure. If you take the worst stand on your hunting club or public land, then that stand will be the best stand to see an older-age-class buck, 90% of the time."

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewThe thicker the cover, then the less likely it is that any hunter will try to penetrate it to see or take a buck. However, even in the densest cover, you often can spot deer through an opening in the cover. To pinpoint hidden honey holes in thick cover, fly-over the land you plan to hunt in an airplane. Take a GPS (Global Positioning System) hand-held receiver with you. When you spot an opening in the middle of a thick-cover area, fly-over that spot and mark it with your GPS receiver. Then when you go to your hunting club, use the waypoints you've marked from the air to move to that break in the cover to look for a stand site. This tactic also works well in young pine plantations. Many times you'll see skips in the pines where the planted pine trees haven't grown, creating an opening in the cover and providing productive places to hunt. While in the air, you also may notice that the clearing of land for pine plantings piles-up much of the brush and tree trunks in rows like windrows. As the pine trees and the undergrowth expand, those windrows become hidden by 5- to 10-year-old pines. However, if you go out into those pine plantations and find those windrows, you often will discover a hot spot to bag a big buck where no one else hunts. Those windrows in pine plantations will grow-up with Japanese honeysuckle, blackberries, greenbrier and other shrubs and grasses that deer prefer to eat. Older-age-class bucks can stay in those pine plantations where other hunters don't hunt, feed on the vegetation that has grown-up on the windrows and bed-down in the pines. These older-age-class bucks rarely if ever will get spotted by the hunters who hunt that property.

A Honey Hole:

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewTo create a big-buck hot spot, hide in a honey hole. Find the thickest, worst site on your hunting club where no one else wants to hunt or will hunt. Get on the downwind side of that thicket, using the prevailing wind in your region as the downwind side. For instance, in Alabama where I live, most of the time during the winter months, our winds come from the northwest. I'll enter a thicket from the southeast side and travel toward the northwest, moving into the wind. However, before I go into the thicket, I'll try and pick a landmark close to the thicket, like a large tree, a tree with an unusual shape, an outcropping of rock or a tree hit by lightning, that I can find either by day or by night. Then I’ll crawl into the thicket once I have a landmark. I take a small hand saw and cut a trail 2- to 3-feet wide toward the center of the thicket. I use a compass or a hand-held GPS receiver to cut a straight line toward the northwest to the center of the thicket. With a saw and pruning shears, I’ll cut a circle big enough to set-up a ground blind – one that totally conceals me. Next I cut three shooting lanes averaging 3-feet wide and about 30- to 40-yards long, that poke out from the blind. Then I mark the trail from the blind site all the way out to the edge of the thicket with my GPS receiver.

The last week of hunting season when a wind comes from the northwest, take your blind and gun, crawl into the thicket, get to your trail, walk to the blind site, set-up the ground blind, and watch the three shooting lanes. The older-age-class bucks will stay in thickets during the last weeks of deer season. More than likely, you'll see those deer crossing a shooting lane and can get a shot at one. Remember to hunt inside a thicket where no one else in the hunting club wants to hunt or will hunt. If you'll learn how to hunt bad stands and how to convert a bad stand into a good stand, you'll take more and bigger bucks than anyone else on your hunting lease or in new places you hunt.

To learn more about hunting deer, get John E. Phillips’ new eBooks “How to Hunt Deer like a Pro,” “PhD Whitetails” and “Deer and Fixings.” Go to, type in the names of the books and download them to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

Tomorrow: How to Use Maps to Aid You in Finding Deer

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Hunt Bad Stands to Take Great Buck Deer"

Day 1: How to Hunt – Remember Deer Hunters Don’t Like to Get Wet
Day 2: How to Hunt Deer by Being Invisible
Day 3: How to Hunt Buck Deer near Telephone Poles and Other Places
Day 4: How to Hunt Deer in Pine Plantations and Thick Cover
Day 5: How to Use Maps to Aid You in Finding Deer

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Entry 688, Day 4