John's Journal...

Twelve Ways to Find Your Buck Deer to Hunt

Day 3: More Techniques to Pinpoint Deer to Hunt

Editor’s Note: Tagging a deer is easy. All you have to do is get a deer in your sights, squeeze the trigger, and let your bullet do the rest. But finding a white-tailed deer can be difficult. Thousands of outdoorsmen spend days attempting to take a deer in areas the animals rarely frequent. Many hunters sit in tree stands or ground blinds day after day waiting for a deer to appear, because they have seen a few tracks or droppings. Some hunters set up their ambushes close to trees where a buck has rubbed his antlers. Although these outdoorsmen are hunting over deer sign, there is no guarantee that the hunters are in a good place to take a deer.

Click for Larger View* Realize deer will overcome many obstacles to feed on their favorite foods. Empty white oak and water oak acorn shells directed my friend Allen O’Dell to a hardwood bottom in a southern river swamp one year. O’Dell knew the deer were feeding on the acorns in this particular bottom, because he had found many tracks, droppings and cracked acorns while scouting, but heavy rain fell before O’Dell could hunt there. The flats where the deer ordinarily fed were flooded with 3 to 8 feet of water. Most of the ridges were very narrow with little food on them, but the ridges were the only places where the deer could have gone.

Click for Larger ViewAs O’Dell started to wade across a slough toward a ridge, he spotted some movement in the water out of the corner of his eye. At first, he thought it was caused by ducks, but he stood motionless. Then he saw a doe standing chest-deep in the slough 20 yards from the bank, feeding on floating acorns. “Apparently, when the water came into the bottom, fallen acorns had floated-up and formed a ring about 20-yards from dry ground,” O’Dell later told me. “The deer stuck her nose into the water, picked up the floating acorns and then let the water run out of her mouth before popping the shells.” For the next 2 weeks, O’Dell hunted the slough and, though he saw many deer, he didn’t get a shot. “I would see as many as 20 to 30 deer in a drove moving through the slough,” O’Dell says. “They were eating the acorns out in the water, but bedding on the ridges.” Usually hunters don’t expect to find deer in water, but because of the flooding, these deer went after their preferred food until they exhausted the supply.

* Identify the trails whitetails travel to their main food source, which is what O’Dell did. “There were three places where the deer crossed the bottom,” O’Dell explained. “After some investigation, I found these three crossings where the deer forded the slough in comparatively-shallow water. They could cross on these fords and only be in 3 or 4 feet of water.” Once O’Dell pinpointed these three trails the deer were traveling through the slough he took three bucks and saw between 150 to 200 animals by taking stands near the fords.

Click for Larger ViewThe trails the deer utilize to go to a favored food source are often the best places for a sportsman to take his stand. Sometimes, several trails will lead to a particular food source, and many hunters will try to guess which trail is used the most. “One of the best methods I’ve found to determine whether or not deer are using a trail is to check the place where the trail goes under a fence,” Dr. Ross Shelton, former extension wildlife specialist with the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service, explains. “There will be deer hair in the barbs of the fence if the deer are using the trail. Remove the hair each day. Then check daily to see it new hair is stuck on the wire.” A heavily-used trail will have many deer tracks on it, and you’ll discover a large amount of fresh deer droppings. The freshness of the droppings can be determined by squeezing a few between your thumb and index finger. A fresh dropping is soft, but an old dropping is hard and dry, unless there’s been rain recently.

Click for Larger View* Funnel the animals to your stand, if the deer are using several trails to go to feeding areas from their bedding grounds. “When there are three or four possible trails the deer can use to get to a food source, I build natural barriers with limbs and branches across all the trails except the one I want to hunt,” Dr. Shelton says. “I build these barriers 4 or 5 days before I use this stand. This tactic is especially useful for the bowhunter who has to bring the deer in close for a shot. Generally, a whitetail won’t attempt to leap these barriers, although a deer can clear a very-high barrier from a standing start when it is frightened.”

For more deer-hunting tips, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” "How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” and “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” or to prepare venison, get “Deer & Fixings.” Click here on each, or go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Hunt a Preferred Food Source and Make a Drive to Find More Deer to Take

Check back each day this week for more about "Twelve Ways to Find Your Buck Deer to Hunt"

Day 1: Discovering Ways to Find Your Buck
Day 2: Tips for Locating Deer to Hunt
Day 3: More Techniques to Pinpoint Deer to Hunt
Day 4: Hunt a Preferred Food Source and Make a Drive to Find More Deer to Take
Day 5: More Routes You Can Follow to Locate Deer and Take Them

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Entry 742, Day 3