John's Journal...

How John Scott Hunts Big Buck Deer on Small Properties

Day 3: How John Scott Took a 10 Point Buck Deer Hunting on 15 Acres

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 ViewOne year I decided to focus all my attention on the 10-point buck that I had trail-camera pictures of for 3 years in a small 11-acre plot I hunted just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. This buck I named Bully didn’t seem to be a part of the bachelor group of bucks I’d been hunting for 2 years. He came in to the spot that I was hunting from a different direction. He had his own group of bachelor bucks always with him. In years earlier, I’d already taken two huge bucks on these very-thick, hard-to-reach 11 acres. I believe that he was another dominant buck that lived close to this feeding area but perhaps didn’t bed or stay with this other group of bucks that I already had taken two trophy bucks from in the 2-previous years. I think he had his own social group with which he traveled, bedded and fed.

I noticed a distinguishing characteristic about Bully. In my trail-camera pictures, from the previous 2 years, when another deer came into the feeding area, Bully wanted to fight. He’d want to fight during the early season, the rut and the post-rut. I think Bully was such a strong, dominant buck that every time he had the opportunity to prove that he was the most dominant of all dominant bucks, he’d pick a fight. I'd seen Bully fight, break antlers and push around other deer. My trail-camera pictures reported this same type of activity after dark. The trail-camera pictures I had of Bully when he wasn’t fighting, showed his hair always would be bristled-up, and his ears laid back. He was daring any other deer to challenge him.

Bully was 3-years old when I took the first of the big bucks there. I first found Bully when I put out a trail camera on the other side of the river from where I was hunting. The landowners had an additional 15 acres across the river from the spot where I took my two huge deer. But getting to those 15 acres was much more difficult than getting to the 11 acres where I had taken the two big deer the 2-previous years. To solve the problem of reaching the 15 acres across the river, I had to find the landowner who owned the property that bordered the 15 acres. I had to obtain permission to cross 700 yards of his land just to get to the 15 acres I wanted to hunt. The landowner told me that I couldn’t take a truck, a 4-wheeler or any other type vehicle across those 700 yards. I would have to walk in and walk out. If I took a deer, I would have to drag it all the way back to where I’d left my truck.

As soon as I put trail cameras out on the 15 acres, I saw Bully. I recognized him because of the trail-camera pictures I had of him when he was on the other side of the river. The 2-previous years I only would get two or three pictures of Bully on the other side of the river. I think that the two bucks that I harvested on the other side of the river were dominant bucks in that area, during the 2 years I hunted there. I believe that Bully only crossed the river a couple of times when he could sneak into that feeding area and eat the persimmons and acorns without having to fight those two dominant bucks. However, on Bully’s side of the river, I know he was the dominant buck. He had his own group of bucks that was a completely-different group than the ones on the other side of the river. He bullied the subordinate bucks on his side of the river. But when he crossed the river to feed, he always showed-up when the other bucks weren’t in the feeding area on that side of the river.

Click for Larger ViewWhen Bully was 4-1/2-years old, I had the drop on him. I knew I could shoot him. He didn’t know I was there. Since I thought he would be a bigger buck when he was 5-1/2-years old, I let him walk without ever drawing my bow, which was probably a mistake. Once Bully was 5-1/2-years old, his rack wasn’t as big as when he was 4-1/2-years old. He had gained some mass in his rack, and he’d picked up a drop tine, but he also had lost quite a bit of width in his rack. His antlers weren’t as long either as they had been the previous year. However, he was still the dominant and biggest buck on that side of the river.

Bully always was very slow to move into open spaces and let the spikes, the 6-pointers and the small 8-pointers walk in front of him. When he got to an opening, he’d stand there for a long time before he crossed that opening. Also, I’m convinced Bully had a sixth sense of danger. I saw him five times during opening weekend of the season he was 5-1/2-years old, and each time he’d go around the spot where I had my tree stand and never presented a shot. I hunted him every day of opening week, always with a favorable wind. I never spooked him to cause him to run out of the 15 acres. Some of the subordinate bucks did get downwind of me and smell me. Perhaps that’s why he was skirting my stand site.

Five different times Bully was within 5 to 10 yards of the effective range of my bow, but he never would take those few more steps that I needed to draw and shoot. Every single time he came into my hunting place, he’d come out of a privet hedge thicket, move to one white oak tree that was dropping acorns and feed. My tree stand was overlooking a group of water oaks where the other bucks always fed. After watching him go to that same white oak tree five different times, I decided to take one of my climbing tree stands into that region and move closer to the white oak tree with the lock-on stand I’d been hunting out of that I’d put up earlier in the summer. Before daylight, I carried my climbing tree stand across the 700-yards access to reach the 15 acres I was hunting and set the tree stand up 10-yards from the white oak where I’d been seeing Bully.

I went to my stand early in the afternoon. Before long I saw a spike, a 6-point buck and a young 8-point buck. About five or six minutes later, I spotted Bully. All the bucks had come in from behind me and gone to the white oak tree first. Once they saw Bully, they left the white oak and went to nearby water oaks. Bully walked straight to the white oak where he’d fed under in the past. When Bully stepped behind some brush, I came to full draw. Once he stepped into the opening where I knew I was going to take the shot, I released my arrow. I had a really-steep angle shot, because Bully was only about 20-yards from my tree. My shot went a little bit low. Bully took the arrow, spun around and started running the way he had come in from behind me. I nocked a second arrow. Bully stopped about 15-yards from me, looking around as though he was trying to determine what had happened. By the time Bully stopped, I was at full draw, and I released the second arrow. Although I made a good shot, Bully turned around again, ran past my tree and away from me toward the river, but he wasn’t moving very fast. My brain was screaming, “Don’t let Bully get into the river. Take the third shot.” I estimated the distance at about 20 yards and aimed with my 20-yard pin for a spine shot. But later when I ranged the yardage, I found that Bully was actually at 37 yards, and because I misjudged the distance, the arrow hit right behind Bully’s hindquarters. I stayed in the tree - not wanting to spook the deer. I didn’t hear or see him fall.

Click for Larger ViewLike always, I called my brother, Jim on my cell phone and told him, “I've just shot Bully.” After a long pause, Jim said, “You know we’re going to have to drag that deer more than a quarter of a mile don’t you?” I said, “Sure I do. That’s the reason I'm calling you.” In about 2 hours, Jim joined me. We always show and tell each other exactly where we’re hunting. We know if either one of us takes a big deer on some of these little properties, we’ll need help to get them out. Once Jim arrived at the tree stand, night had fallen about an hour earlier. I’d remained in my tree stand. Jim and I only went about 40 yards before we found Bully. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were. Bully had stopped and gone down about two steps away from a really-high bluff that dropped off into the deepest part of the river. That was the good news. The bad news was he was on the very back side away from my truck on the 15-acre property I was hunting. Then Jim and I still had a 700-yard drag across the other landowner’s property. Almost the entire distance we had to drag the buck was uphill. We had field-dressed Bully before we left the river. I knew I was going to mount him. We had to keep his head high to keep from dragging hair off his cape. The time was early bow season, so the deer was still wearing most of his summer coat.

This time was the first time I’d hunted the 15 acres on the other side of the river from the 11 acres where I had taken the two big bucks earlier. I harvested three nice bucks in 3 years off the 26 acres that were divided into two different parcels - 11 acres on one side of the river and 15 acres on the other side of the river - all in the suburbs. Bully scored 125 the year I took him, although the previous year, he would have scored about 135. Too, every day I hunted Bully I had a 9-pointer that would score about 140 under my tree stand - often within 10 yards of the base of the tree where I was hunting. From looking at his antler configuration, I felt pretty certain he was an offspring of the first buck I took on the other side of the river. I didn’t take him, because I wanted to give him one more year to grow to see what he would become during the 2014-2015 bow season.

One of the big advantages of hunting small properties where no one else hunts is you can manage your bucks and watch them grow from year-to-year without being concerned that any other hunter will take them, before you hunt them the following year. Of course, these deer don’t just stay in the 26 acres that I've been hunting. A big tract of land is nearby where no one is permitted to hunt. Part of that land is being developed. The deer have plenty of big woods they can live in, but they feed in these 26 acres along the river and use it as a daytime sanctuary. The deer have everything they need along this river - food, sanctuary, cover and no hunting pressure.

Click for Larger ViewJim and I have decided that if we only take one dominant buck from the 26 acres that I hunt and the 45 acres he hunts across the road, we each can take an older-age-class dominant buck from these properties each season. Or, we can pass these bucks up one year, if the young 3- or 4-year old bucks aren’t fully mature.

When we finally got Bully close to the truck, the landowner who had given me permission to cross his property to get to the 15 acres that I hunted came out of his house. He asked, “What are you boys doing?” When he saw Bully, he said, “I can’t believe there was a big buck that size on the back side of the property. We've never even seen any deer on our land.” He was very excited for us.

Jim and I find these little places where no one believes big bucks will live on small pieces of property on the edge of suburbia. We generally can get permission to hunt them and are able to take quality bucks there.

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.

Share this page with a friend!

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: Bowhunter John Scott Harvests Two Missouri 11-Pointers on 11 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

ALL CONTENT PROTECTED UNDER THE DIGITAL MILLENIUM COPYRIGHT ACT. Content theft, either printed or electronic is a federal offense.


Entry 801, Day 3