John's Journal...

Twelve Ways to Find Your Buck Deer to Hunt

Day 4: Hunt a Preferred Food Source and Make a Drive to Find More Deer to Take

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 ViewClick for Larger View* Hunt a preferred food source at the right time of day. Since deer are primarily nocturnal feeders, the best time to hunt a preferred food source is either in the morning, when the deer are leaving feeding areas, or in the late afternoon when the animals are returning to their feeding areas. “If a hunter moves into a feeding area before daylight or at daylight to take a stand, chances are extremely good that he will spook the deer that are already feeding,” Dr. Ross Shelton, former extension wildlife specialist with the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service, explains. “The morning hunter will do better if he takes a stand near the trail running from the feeding area to the bedding area.” Many afternoon hunters hunt over green fields or agricultural crops. These sportsmen sit on the edges of the fields and wait for the deer to come out of heavy cover to feed in the fields. However, outdoorsmen who want to hunt in the afternoon should consider the advice of longtime deer hunter Ron Fowler, who says, “The hunter who finds a deer trail that runs from bedding cover to a field should take a stand on the trail 50- to 100-yards from the field. This method works better than sitting on an edge and depending on the deer to come out into the field. The larger bucks often stay 20- to 30-yards back in the woods and wait until nightfall before they come into the fields.” The hunter who meets his buck on the trail leading to the field may take a bigger and better buck than he will if he waits for the deer to step into the field.

* Stage a deer drive if you can find escape routes leading away from bedding areas. Many hunters disregard bedding sites as likely places to shoot a buck. The chances of taking an undisturbed deer in its bed are remote. However, if you find the escape trails whitetails use when they are spooked from their beds, you often can bag a buck. Deer beds can be distinguished by locating areas where leaves are packed-down in the outline of a deer’s body. In snow, there is a depression with dry leaves on the bottom where the deer has scraped the snow away. By midmorning, generally the deer have bedded down after feeding. In an hour, deer can eat their fill, then bed down in a safe place, regurgitate the partially chewed food and chew it again before finally swallowing it. One hunter takes a stand along a deer’s escape route from the bedding site. The second hunter walks boldly into the bedding cover from the opposite side to spook the deer to drive it down the escape trail and into the sights of the first hunter.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewI remember a buck I hunted in a soybean field a few seasons ago. As I approached the field, I saw his high rack and large body, but he was always out of range. Each time I attempted to get closer, the buck left the field by an escape trail – no matter how carefully I stalked him. Every time I spooked the deer from the field, he ran along his escape route. Finally I got a friend to help me. We crawled-up to the edge of the field and saw the white antlers above the beans. “Give me 30 minutes,” I whispered. “Then stand-up and walk toward the deer.” I circled the field, and positioned myself on the escape trail 50-yards from the field and 30-yards from the trail. Then I heard the beans swishing and saw the buck on the run. Twenty yards from the field, he slowed his gait and began to walk down the escape trail and right into the center of my scope. I squeezed the trigger, and the buck dropped. That was a simple two-man drive. In some areas, notably Pennsylvania, big drives with several standers and drivers are common.

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: More Routes You Can Follow to Locate Deer and Take Them

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 4