John's Journal...

How John Scott Hunts Big Buck Deer on Small Properties

Day 2: How John Scott Pinpoints Small Sections of Land Holding Mature Buck Deer

Editor’s Note: John Scott and his twin brother Jim, who both live near Birmingham, Alabama, have hunted deer with their bows for 20 years. As John says, “I’m not a very-good deer hunter in big woods. But in little woods, I feel at home and comfortable. I can find, pattern and harvest big bucks every season.”

Click for Larger ViewThe real secret to consistently finding and taking mature bucks on small properties is the scouting process that my twin brother Jim and I go through before we ever put boots on the ground. When we find or learn about a small piece of property that no other hunter probably will hunt, the first thing we do is go to Google Earth ( and get an aerial photo of the property. We’re looking for a pinch point, a thicket or some type terrain break. If there’s a buck in that area, he’ll have passed through these areas where we should get a 40-yard shot or less. We’re seaching for gulleys, ditches, creeks or funnels.

One of the greatest new tools we just started using last year was the maps provided by The new maps they had dramatically changed our ability to pinpoint little places that held big deer. These new maps from not only showed boundary lines of properties in areas where we wanted to hunt, but they also showed the name of the property owner. From these maps, we knew exactly where property lines were, who owned the property, how to contact that person and get permission to hunt on these small sections of land that probably no one ever had requested permission before to hunt there.

Using these maps, I identified a piece of property I thought I wanted to hunt and learned the landowner’s name. I went to go to and ordered a second aerial photo of that specific property to learn where the roads, creeks, funnels and pinch points were on the property. I could tell the difference between the fields and woodlots and pick out what I presumed were travel corridors. From the map that showed the property lines and the owners, the other property owners all had the same last name. I called the county courthouse, and the lady there said if I’d come to the courthouse, she’d give me the addresses, and I could put the addresses into my GPS and go right to the house to ask permission to hunt. When I went to talk to the first landowner to hunt his property, I asked him about the other lands. I got permission to hunt all the family’s property.

By using those mytopo maps, I then knew:

* the size of the property;
* the boundary lines of the property;
* the names of the other property owners on all sides of the land I’d selected;
* the importance of having an aerial photo of that property to study the places I wanted to hunt and/or hang trail cameras;
* the importance of talking to the landowner and asking him about adjacent landowners and their properties.

Click for Larger ViewThis system of map scouting drastically has decreased the amount of time that Jim and I have to spend looking for and finding small properties to hunt on and getting permission to hunt these small properties. This scouting system keeps us from having to go from door-to-door in an area trying to find a place to hunt. Instead we can go to one door and ask for permission to hunt what we believe may be the most productive big-buck spot in the region.

My twin brother, Jim and I identified one small acreage where the landowner also owned the real-estate company where Jim’s wife worked. So, getting permission to hunt there was no problem. Another reason this property was so attractive to me was because directly across the road there was 5,000 acres of hardwood timber - absolutely beautiful woods.

Here’s what Jim and I search for - small patches of woods close to really big woodlots where subdevelopments are being built, or where hunting clubs have leased the land, and hunt that property intensely. Hunting clubs and developers push older-age-class bucks into small pockets of woods that the bucks use as sanctuaries. We realize that little properties can’t hold large numbers of deer forever. Therefore, next to these small sections of land must be places where deer can feed, walk around and breed at night without a threat of any kind. We've also noticed that mature bucks tend to isolate themselves from large groups of deer, except during the rut. Even then, those older, mature bucks have learned to stay in sanctuaries in daylight hours and only breed after dark.

Jim and I really don’t like to hunt big woods, because in big woods, the best we can be is average hunters. But we enjoy identifying these small acreages that nobody is hunting, study the terrain, study the maps, study the deer sign, put out trail cameras and try to learn and see every deer using that little patch of woods. We pick out the best buck that’s using that sanctuary, determine when he's moving during daylight hours and then attempt to take him.

Click for Larger ViewAlso, I like studying the young bucks staying in the sanctuary and watching them grow for 3 - 5 years. When they're mature, I enjoy hunting and taking those bucks. We prefer to take big dominant bucks on small properties. We manage the deer herds on those little lands, watch the bucks grow into the older-age-classes and only take them when they're as big as we think they’ll be with racks as big as we think they can grow. Using this strategy, Jim and I can hunt from July all the way through March. Before the season, we’re putting out and checking trail cameras. After the season, we’re still checking trail cameras, and we hunt during bow season.

Although many hunters would love to hunt 2,000 to 5,000 acres with nothing but big hardwood timber, I'm totally lost in those type woods with no terrain breaks, no transition areas and no diversified habitat to make patterning deer easier. But if there’s a creek crossing, a privet hedge thicket, a patch of trashy nasty woods that no one else wants to hunt, those areas are where I'm at my best. Sometimes I feel like B’rer Rabbit in Uncle Remus’s book “Song of the South” written by Joel Chandler Harris. B’rer Fox had caught B’rer Rabbit and was planning to take him home for dinner. As B’rer Fox walked home, he went by a big blackberry patch full of thorns, briars and undergrowth. In the story, B’rer Rabbit started squealing and hollering, “Please, B’rer Fox, don’t fling me in that briar patch. Take me home, kill me, cut me up, and eat me for dinner, but don’t throw me in that briar patch.” B’rer Fox soon was convinced that the best torture he could give B’rer Rabbit was to fling him in the briar patch. He threw B’rer Rabbit into that terrible patch of thorns, briars, tangles and thick cover – actually where B’rer Rabbit had been born and bred.

I like to hunt those kinds of places most hunters hate to hunt. I've learned that on small properties older-age-class bucks establish trails they use in those thick-cover spots, which makes the bucks much easier to pattern, to study and to harvest. I think I've become very, very effective at taking deer on small properties. But once again, on big properties, I’m lost.

Many of my friends and my brother’s friends tell us we’re very lucky to take as many big deer as we do. My answer is, “No, we’re not lucky at all. We do the work to pinpoint the property, locate the deer on it, find where the bucks are and hunt without spooking deer. We don’t go in the woods hoping to take a buck. We select the buck we want to take well before the season. We’ll let other really nice bucks walk, so we can take the best bucks on the property.”

Click for Larger ViewJim and I don’t gauge our success on harvesting big bucks. We consider ourselves successful, if we get trail-camera pictures of a big buck, or if we visually see a big buck. When we can find a buck that no one else has discovered or been able to take, we feel as though we've beat the buck at his game and won. When we see the same deer over and over again for several years, we know that we've got him, whether we harvest him or not. When you can see the same mature buck more than once in my home state of Alabama, I believe you’ve been highly successful.

To learn more about deer hunting, you can get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” (John’s latest book), “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” “How to Take Monster Bucks,” and “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” 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.

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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: How John Scott Took a 10 Point Buck Deer Hunting on 15 Acres

Check back each day this week for more about How John Scott Hunts Big Buck Deer on Small Properties"

Day 1: Why John Scott Started Hunting Small Properties for Big Buck Deer
Day 2: How John Scott Pinpoints Small Sections of Land Holding Mature Buck Deer
Day 3: How John Scott Took a 10 Point Buck Deer Hunting on 15 Acres
Day 4: Bowhunter John Scott Harvests Two Missouri 11-Points on 11 Acres
Day 5: How John Scott Found a Big 10 Point and an 11 Point Buck Deer in Suburbia on 25 Acres

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Entry 801, Day 2