John's Journal...

Twelve Ways to Find Your Buck Deer to Hunt

Day 5: More Routes You Can Follow to Locate Deer and Take Them

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* Locate a buck’s line of scrapes, and take a stand near the line or between the scrapes and the feeding area. Many articles have been written on hunting deer during the rut, and many of them discuss scrape hunting. Scrapes are bare, pawed-up places with a strong smell of deer urine. Hooked, splintered twigs and crushed leaves over the scrape act as a stop sign for does ready to breed. A doe is in heat for 30 hours and then comes back into heat 28 days later. Bucks make scrapes and frequent them to meet willing does. The bucks return periodically to freshen-up their scrapes. One of the best ways to determine if a scrape is fresh is to pick up a handful of the pawed-up earth and smell it, if you’re very, very careful with your odor so as not to run-off the buck. A strong urine odor indicates a fresh scrape because a buck urinates in the scrape each time he comes back to it.

Dr. Ross Shelton, former extension wildlife specialist with the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service, however, believes that scrapes are not always sure bets. “Suppose a buck has a line of six scrapes,” he reports, “and the hunter takes a stand close to scrape No. 3. If the buck comes to check for a doe, he may find a female at scrape No. 6. The buck may spend a lot of time with that doe, walking with her and waiting for her to stop so he can service her. The buck may stay with her until the third day, hoping she will permit him to breed her again. Meanwhile, the hunter doesn’t see anything for three days. On the fourth day, the buck may work his scrapes again, but he may stop at scrape No. 1 first and find a doe. Hunting scrapes is not always a sure way to take a buck.”

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger View* Let a doe lead you to a buck. Although scrape hunting can be productive, Bit McCarty, a good friend of mine, has found another productive way to hunt during the rut. “I look for does,” McCarty says. “During the rut, the buck searches for does to breed. When he finds does, none of them may be ready to receive him. The buck often stays near those does for a long while. I’ve located plenty of bucks by moving through the woods close enough to a group of does to see them, but far enough away, so they don’t see me. If the buck isn’t with the does, he often will be standing 20- to 30-yards behind them or to the side of them. Sometimes I spot does feeding in a field or a hardwood flat and catch a glimpse of horn in a fallen treetop or a patch of thick cover. The buck is waiting nearby, so he can watch his harem. Then, it’s a matter of making a stalk or waiting for him to make a move.”

* Remember that bucks travel a lot in search of ready does only where the buck-to-doe ratio is high but not when the ratio is 1:1. The state’s deer biologists can tell a hunter where he’ll find what ratios of bucks to does. In areas where there are many does for every available buck, bucks simply can bide their time and wait for does to come to them. In such places, few scrapes are made, and scrape hunting is impossible or not productive.

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.

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 5