John's Journal...

Deer Hunting Tips to Take More Bucks

Day 2: Kentucky Has White-Tailed Deer, Elk and Bears to Hunt

Editor’s Note: Dennis Garrett of Harlan, Kentucky, lives in the Appalachian Mountains, is a member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff ( and hunts public lands – thousands of acres - where most of the mountaintops have been clear-cut and mined for coal, using strip-mining tactics. Most of this property has been reclaimed, and the public lands are owned by mining companies. There aren’t many trees on the hilltops, but down in the valleys and along the creek edges, you’ll find plenty of big trees.

Click for Larger ViewIf I get off work at 3:00 pm and reach home by 4:00 pm, I can hunt until dark and then come out of the woods after dark. On weekends, I go into the woods before daylight and don’t come out until after dark. I don’t want the deer to see me, and I don’t want other hunters to know where I'm hunting. A good spot to consistently take nice bucks is very hard to find, to get permission to hunt there and to do the work required, so the landowner will continue to let you hunt there. I've found that no one else knowing where you're hunting is just as important as finding a great place to hunt.

Generally I don’t use a flashlight or a GPS receiver to get from where I leave my vehicle until I reach my stand site, because there's usually only one small path in to my stand site and out. However, if I'm hunting on flat ground, I may get lost. Then I’ll use my GPS to help me to return to my vehicle. I know the mountains around my home well - like the back of my hand. The only problem with walking in the dark without a flashlight is that our region does have a really healthy bear population.

Click for Larger ViewSoutheastern Kentucky also homes the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi River. I put in every year for a tag, but I still haven’t been drawn to have an opportunity to take one of these elk. In the afternoons, I’ll often load up my children and take them to some of the reclaimed strip mine land to let them watch the elk. My children have been able to watch 6x6 bulls bugle at less than 60-yards from them.

I guess the bear numbers have been increasing by feeding on the elk and deer. Last year was our first archery season on bear. The state only allows a harvest of 10 bears. After 10 bears have been checked in, the season is closed. I check every night at 9:00 pm to see if bear season is open. I've been working part-time at the bow shop, Mountain Outdoors ( in Baxter, Kentucky, owned by Brett Turner. Mountain Outdoors is a check-in station, and state biologists and conservation officers are in the shop regularly. When a bear comes in to be checked-in, these state people take blood samples to get DNA. They also pull a tooth and a claw from each bear, besides taking tons of photographs of the bears. Although the biggest bear taken from our county weighed a little over 500 pounds, most of the bears checked in here will weigh from 200 to 250 pounds. The season’s usually in December when most of the females bear are denned-up. Archery bear season usually runs for 10 days or until 10 bears are taken. Then gun season starts and runs for 10 days or until 10 bears are taken with guns. Kentucky offers several hundred elk tags each year. But since I haven’t been drawn yet to take an elk, that’s why I concentrate my hunting on whitetails. I may see bears, and I usually spot elk anytime I want to see them, but getting a tag to hunt them hasn’t been easy.

Click for Larger ViewIn the wildlife zone that I hunt in - Zone 4 – I can take one buck and three does per season. I struck out last season. I hunted the entire bow season before gun season arrived, hoping to take a doe. My family loves to eat venison. But during the entire archery season, I never saw a doe. When gun season came in, I had four does under my tree stand. One doe bedded-down within easy bow range, but we’re not permitted to take does during Kentucky’s gun season.

Click for Larger ViewI had a really weird hunting season in 2013. I passed-up two good bucks, because I was waiting on one buck I’d found that was an absolute giant. I'd hunted that big buck for 3 years. Usually when I didn’t see him, I’d take a smaller buck. But in 2013, I made the decision that I wouldn’t take a smaller buck and was going to hold out for the big buck. Although I had two opportunities to take him, I couldn’t get a shot at him. I have three years’ worth of trail-camera photos of this buck that will score in the 170s. One of the neighbors to the property I hunt saw the big deer coming through his backyard and told me, “He’s an 11-pointer this year - a true monster.” So, I'm hoping I’ll get a shot at him sometime.

To get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks and print books on hunting deer, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” “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,” “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” and “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows,” or to prepare venison, “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.

For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from

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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: Take White-tailed Deer by Leaving Home

Check back each day this week for more about Deer Hunting Tips to Take More Bucks

Day 1: Find the Best Deer Hunting Spots and Get Permission to Hunt Them
Day 2: Kentucky Has White-Tailed Deer, Elk and Bears to Hunt
Day 3: Take White-tailed Deer by Leaving Home
Day 4: Don’t Move or Panic When a Big Buck Deer Is Close - Watch His Eyes
Day 5: Texas Deer Management Can Help You Produce More and Bigger Bucks

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Entry 849, Day 2