John's Journal...

Road Map to Whitetail Rendezvouses

Let the Does Do the Work

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Effective hunters utilize a combination of various road maps to bag their bucks because they know that four driving forces – food, water, fear and sex –cause deer to move in a direction or toward a destination where a hunter can intersect with a buck. These outdoorsmen also understand that whitetails are creatures of habit using the same paths and performing the same routines every day, except when changes in the weather and the availability of food affect these routes. They are aware of the deer’s acute senses – good hearing, a keen sense of smell and sharp eyes. Although color-blind, deer can detect the slightest movement of a hunter. Here are routes to follow that will direct you to a whitetail rendezvous this winter.

Road Map #10: Find escape routes from fields and bedding areas, and plan a spook-hunt. Many hunters disregard bedding sites as places to meet a buck. Of course, the chances of taking deer in the bed are remote. However, by knowing where deer bed, a hunter can look for escape routes (trails whitetails travel when they’re spooked) because an excellent method for bagging a buck is employing the tactic of spook-hunting. Bedding sites can be distinguished by leaves or grass packed-down in the outline of a deer’s body, or in soft snow, by a depression in the snow showing dry leaves in the bottom of the bed where the deer has scraped the snow away. By mid-morning, the deer will have fed and bedded-down. AlthouClick to enlargegh the deer, a ruminant, can eat his fill in an hour due to his compartmented stomach, he will bed down in a safe place, regurgitate the partially-chewed food and then re-chew it. One hunter can take a stand along a deer’s escape route from the bedding site. The second hunter can walk boldly into the bedding area from the opposite direction of the first hunter to spook a buck and make him run down the escape trail, into the sights of the first hunter.

Spook-hunting also is successful on ornery field deer. These deer are always standing in the fields when hunters pass by, but never allow sportsmen to get within gun range. I remember the soybean field buck I hunted a few seasons ago. As I approached the field, I saw his high rack and large body at the edge of the field. Each time I approached, the buck left the field by an escape trail. I tried taking a stand on this trail in the morning and the evening, but the buck never appeared. However, each time I spooked the deer from the field, he ran along this trail. I convinced a friend to help me bag this fine buck. We crawled up to the edge of the field and saw the white antlers above the beans. “Give me 30 minutes,” I told my companion. “Then stand up and walk toward the deer.” During the next 30 minutes, I circled the field, found the escape trail and positioned myself 50 yards in the woods from the field and 30 yards from the trail. “I should be able to see the buck from here,” I thought. As I looked at my watch, I heard the beans swishing and saw the buck on the run. Twenty yards from the field, he slowed his gait and began to walk down the escape trail and right into the center ofClick to enlarge my scope. I squeezed the trigger. The fat soybean field buck dropped. By knowing the trail a deer utilizes to escape danger, hunters may be able to more-specifically pinpoint the crossroads where they will meet bucks.

Road Map #11: Locate the buck’s line of scrapes, and take a stand in the center of the scrape line or in the region between the scrapes and the feeding area. Many articles have been written and much information is available on hunting deer during the mating season (the rut). One of the most-familiar tactics to taking antlered whitetails in the rut is scrape-hunting. Scrapes are pawed-up places in the earth with a strong urine smell, hooked bushes and crushed leaves and twigs over the scrape, which act like a stop sign for does ready to breed. A doe will be in heat for 30 hours and then come back in heat 28 days later. Bucks frequent these places to meet willing does during the rut. So, scrapes are spots where bucks will return to meet does periodically. Oftentimes, the freshness of the scrape will reveal the frequency with which a buck visits the scrape. One of the best methods to determine the freshness of a scrape is to pick up a handful of the pawed-up earth and smell it. Since a buck generally urinates in the scrape each time he checks it, a strong urine smell will indicate a fresh scrape.

However, Dr. Skip Shelton of Mississippi believes that scrapes aren’t always sure bets for bucks. “Suppose a buck has a line of six scrapes, and the hunter takes a stand close to scrape No. 3,” Shelton comments. “When the buck comes to check his scrapes to see if a doe is close by, he may find a female at scrape No. 6. The buck may spend all day with this doe, walking with her and waiting on her to stop so he Click to enlargecan service her. Finally, she stops on the second day. The buck stays with her until the third day, hoping she’ll permit him to breed her again. The hunter hasn’t seen another deer in those three days. Maybe on the fourth day, the buck is back working his scrapes and stops at No. 1 scrape first and finds a doe. You can see from this scenario that scrapes aren’t always a sure way to take a buck during the time you plan to hunt.”

Road Map #12: Discover does during the rut, and let them lead you to a buck. Although scrape-hunting can be productive, Bit McCarty, my hunting buddy in Alabama, has found another route of hunting the rut that keeps him in close contact with deer, and often within shooting distance of a buck. “I hunt the does,” McCarty says. “During the rut, the buck is looking for does to breed. Oftentimes, when he finds them, they aren’t ready to receive him. So, like any anxious bridegroom, the buck waits to consummate the relationship. By moving through the woods close enough to a group of does to see them but far enough away for them hopefully not to see me, I’ve found plenty of bucks during the rut. If the buck isn’t with the does, he often will be standing 20- or 30-yards behind or to the side of them. Sometimes, I’ll see does feeding in a field or a hardwood flat and catch a glimpse of a horn in a fallen treetop or a patch of thick cover. The old buck may be bedded-down close to the does so he can watch his harem.” Utilizing these road maps won’t work in all locations. However, you’ll be on a straighter course to deer-hunting success and greatly increase your chances of bagging a buck this season by following this road map to white-tailed rendezvouses.


Check back each day this week for more about "Road Map to Whitetail Rendezvouses"

Day 1: Ambush a Buck
Day 2: Utilizing Food Sources
Day 3: More Road Maps for Hunting Bucks
Day 4: Funnel Deer to Your Hunting Spot
Day 5: Let the Does Do the Work



Entry 381, Day 5