John's Journal...

How John Scott Hunts Big Buck Deer on Small Properties

Day 5: How John Scott Found a Big 10 Point and an 11 Point Buck Deer in Suburbia on 25 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 ViewThe 25 acres I was hunting on the edge of suburbia, had been select cut to harvest the mature timber and allow some sunlight to get to the ground. This beautiful piece of property was flat and then rolled off into a mixed pine and hardwood bottom with plenty of thick cover. I saw numbers of scrapes, rubs and other buck signs on the flat that had been select cut. A friend of mine had told me about the property and said,” If you want to hunt it, I can help you get permission.” He took me to the land, and I looked it over. When I spotted those scrape and rubs, I told him, “If you can, please get me permission to hunt here.”

When I put my trail cameras out, I started getting pictures of a mature 10-pointer that would weigh at least 200 pounds and would score between 120 and 130 on Boone & Crockett. I was also getting pictures of several other bucks coming out into this select cut. I took my wife with me the first time I went to the property. She helped me hang a lock-on stand where I wanted to hunt. As we walked around the property, my wife asked, “Why would you want to hunt this property?” I answered, “I believe this select cut is a buck sanctuary - a place where bucks can move in the daytime, hang out, feed and not be harassed. It hasn’t been hunted, and the adjacent property owner is a game warden. I’ve met the game warden, who’s a real nice fellow. He made sure I knew where the boundary lines were.”

On opening weekend of bow season, I got to the property on Friday early in the afternoon. While going to my tree stand, I spooked some does. I was afraid I’d blown my hunt and ruined my opportunity to take the 10-point buck. But I was already at my tree stand, so, I decided, “I’ll just sit here and see what happens.” Before long, a nice 7-point buck showed up by coming across a dirt road. He came to within bow range and started rubbing pine trees with his antlers. He stayed in my area for about 15 minutes - not feeding or looking for does. He was just walking around, being a deer. He’d been gone for about 10 minutes when I started hearing rattling antlers like two deer sparring. I looked behind my stand and saw the 7-pointer I’d just been watching sparring with the 10-point buck about 75- or 80-yards away from me. I didn’t think the 10-point would come within bow range. Then after 20 minutes, the 10-pointer started to walk toward me when I only had about 30 minutes before dark.

Once the buck was at about 20 yards, I came to full draw, because he was broadside behind a bush. If he’d step out from behind the bush, I’d have a shot. I was so focused on the 10-point buck 20-yards away, I forgot about the 7-pointer that had been sparring with him. Suddenly, the young 7-pointer stomped his foot, looked straight at me and made eye contact with me. The 7-pointer kept looking back and forth between the 10-pointer and me. The 10-point buck was locked up and didn’t know what had upset the 7-pointer. The 10-pointer remained motionless behind that bush for 45 minutes. Finally, the woods became so dark I couldn’t even see the 10-pointer or the bush. I was very upset, because I had had the 10-point buck within range and had come to full draw. All I needed was for the 10-pointer to take two steps from behind that bush, and I would have had a shot. I realized then that when hunting these little spots that concentrate a lot of deer, and you spot a nice buck you want to take, you can’t disregard and ignore the other bucks in that same area. Once I saw Big 10 coming to me, all thoughts of the little 7-pointer vanished, until I heard him stomping behind me.

Click for Larger ViewI stayed in my tree stand for 45 minutes after dark, since I realized the big 10-pointer was probably still around, and I didn’t want to spook him. Finally, I used my pull-up rope to let my bow down as quietly as possible to the base of the tree, climbed down and picked up my bow. I walked right in from of my trail camera and heard it taking my picture. I sneaked out of the woods, hoping I hadn’t spooked the Big 10. I decided to rest that spot on Saturday, since I knew no one else was hunting there.

On Sunday morning, I got in my stand before daylight. As soon as the sun burned away the darkness, I picked up my bow with the intentions of drawing it just to get my muscles loosened-up to make a shot, if I got the opportunity. Before I could draw the bow, I heard a twig snap and saw the 7-pointer with the 10-pointer behind him. The wind was blowing the wrong direction, and the two deer had come in downwind of me. I said to myself, “I'm not going to see these deer for very long, before they smell me.” Then to my surprise, the 7-pointer walked away, and the Big 10 swished his tail and walked toward me. When he was 7-yards from the tree that I was in, I shot him. He only ran about 20 yards before he expired.

I started dragging the deer out. Since I had to walk right by my trail camera, I took the flash card out and carried it back to my camphouse to try and see what had happened in that area. Going through the pictures on my computer, I saw the picture the camera had taken of me on Friday night, when I had stayed in the tree stand 45-minutes after dark. Big 10 was looking at me as I was walking out. We were in the same photograph. This was the first time that I'd ever had a deer watching me come out of my tree stand when I walked within 15 yards of him and then got our pictures made. However, the buck never spooked.

Remember when you hunt little places that other people never hunt, you're encountering bucks that never may have seen a hunter in a tree stand previously. I don’t know why that buck and the 7-pointer came back to that same area 2 days after I’d hunted it. I think I didn’t spook them, although they were downwind of me, because of the thermals moving up and taking my smell above the deer.

I really enjoy finding and hunting these little places with lots of deer that haven’t had hunting pressure, because I have an opportunity to watch them, get video pictures of them and see them grow and develop over several years. Often, I get to see them do things that I don’t think I’ll ever see if I’m hunting in high-pressured areas with other hunters. The good news is that plenty of these little spots all over the nation are available that deer hunters never hunt. They’ll look at a 5- to 20-acre place and automatically think, “That’s not a big enough place for a big buck to live.” I always think, “Well, bless their hearts.”

The Double Shot 11 Point Buck

Click for Larger ViewMy brother Jim and I had obtained permission to hunt a small 20-acre tract also on the outskirts of suburbia. I located the property and got permission to hunt it for both Jim and me. I asked Jim to scout it for us. When he came back, Jim said, “John, I jumped a bunch of deer. That little 20 acres is loaded.”

The first morning I decided to go hunt the property, I wasn’t feeling well. But since the alarm clock had gone off, and I was already awake, I felt I could push through the sickness and go to my tree stand that I had set-up. I told myself, “I can be sick in the tree stand just as easily as I can be sick in the bed.” But once I got into my stand and pulled my bow up, I knew I’d made a bad decision. I thought, “I need to get down out of this tree and go home.” I let my bow down with my pull-up rope and started climbing down the tree. When I was about halfway to the ground, I heard a deer walking. I looked over my left shoulder and spotted a 160-class 11-point buck coming toward me. He was a real freak of nature. Instantly, I said to myself, “I’ll never be able to climb up in the tree, pull my bow up and get a shot at that buck without him seeing me.” I slowly climbed back into the tree, one step at a time, while watching the buck. Finally I got into the stand and eased myself into the seat. If I stood up, I felt the buck would see me. As I pulled my bow back up into the tree, I could see the buck was watching my bow. He wasn’t spooked. He just didn’t seem to understand what the object was going up the tree. Before I could get the bow into the tree and into my hand, the buck started to feed away from me. Once I got my bow in my hand, I quickly nocked my arrow and kept my eyes glued to the buck. Then, he turned and started walking back toward me but spotted me as I drew my bow and took off running away from me. Now I was sitting in my tree sick and disappointed.

In less than 15 minutes, I again spotted the same buck on full alert, looking in the tree and all around the area. He knew something was there that he didn’t understand. As the buck kept coming in, he reached one of the shooting lanes I had cut earlier. I came to full draw and hollered at the buck. The buck stopped at about 30 yards. Since the buck was already at full alert when I released the arrow, the buck dropped-down to get ready to jump (jump the string). My arrow hit him in the spine, and he fell to the ground, got back up again and crashed into the woods.

As usual, I called Jim and told him what had happened. He said, “Let’s let him be - at least for 4 hours before we try to find him.” The skies were getting dark, and big thunderheads were moving my way. I told Jim, “Jim, we’ve got to go after this deer because a storm’s headed this way.” The rain came down and we didn’t find any blood, my arrow or any other sign to prove I actually had hit the deer. But I told Jim, “I know I hit him good.”

By now the time was 2:00 am, and both Jim and I had to go to work. Finally, I said to Jim, “I’ll just have to come back tomorrow and start walking the grid until I can find that deer.” But as I shined my light on Jim’s feet, he was standing in a puddle of blood. We blood trailed the deer for another hour, however, the rain had washed out the blood trail. We had to give up the hunt. For the next 3 days, I went back to this property. I believe my feet hit every inch of ground on the property, but I didn’t find the buck. You get a sickening feeling when you know you’ve made a good hit on a nice buck and can’t recover him. That type of hunt is a bowhunter’s worst nightmare.

Click for Larger ViewA month later, gun deer season arrived. Jim decided to go back to this same small property to see if he could take a deer with his bow. From Jim’s scouting earlier, he had a lot of confidence in this new little 20 acres. At that time I’d only hunted this property once, and he never had hunted it. Jim called me on the phone and told me exactly where he was hunting. We call each other when we get to a tree stand for two reasons. If we’re fortunate enough to take a deer, we want the other brother to know where to meet us to help drag the deer out. The second reason is for safety, since Jim and I often hunt by ourselves. If we have an accident or encounter a problem, we want the other brother to know where we are and how to get to us. We adhere to the philosophy of anytime you're hunting alone, someone needs to know where you are and how to reach you.

About an hour later, Jim called me and said, “You're not going to believe this, but I found your deer.” Excitedly, I said, “You’ve got to be kidding. Where did you find him?” Jim told me, “Right now he's about 5-feet from me, flopping like a fish, since I just shot him.” I went to help Jim drag the deer out of the woods. When I looked at the buck, I could see the arrow had broken his back, but his spinal cord was intact. Jim said the buck had been walking around feeding, before Jim shot him. “If I hadn’t taken him, I believe he would have fully recovered from John’s shot,” Jim explained.

This hunt that took place in 2013 was probably the most-unusual hunt and circumstances that Jim and I ever had experienced. Although Jim and I both shot the deer, Jim was the one who finally harvested this fine deer on only 20 acres.

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.

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 5