John's Journal...


Discovering the Core Areas of Southwestern Deer

Editor’s Note: If you can find the core of a buck's home range, you'll enjoy much-better odds of taking him, since he'll spend most of his time in daylight hours there. But what does the core of a buck's home range look like, what ingredients must that core area have to hold a buck and how can you find or create a core area to take more big bucks each season? To learn the answers to these questions and others, we've interviewed some of the nation's leading biologists and deer hunters.

Click to enlargeBrad Harris of Neosho, Missouri, the general manager of hunting accessories for Fieldline, primarily hunts in Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. "The number-one priority for a big buck in our area is cover. Since a lot of the Midwest is farm country, I search for the thickest cover I can find where I hunt to try and locate a buck's core area. When I'm squirrel or rabbit hunting in thick cover, I look for trails, scrapes, rubs, marshy swamps and places duck hunters like to hunt. If I can identify a part of the marsh that's not acceptable for duck hunters to hunt, often I'll find a big buck's core region there. During the rut, big bucks go out at night, find estrous does and herd them into their core areas so they can breed the does and stay with them during the daylight hours without being seen. I think big bucks know that they are the most likely to encounter danger when they leave their core area. Therefore, they try to do everything they can during hunting season to stay in their core area during daylight hours, and only travel outside their core region at dark.

Click to enlarge"Once I locate a productive core area that probably homes a trophy buck, I won't hunt there until the wind is right, and I know I can get close to that core area without the buck's seeing or smelling me. I'll only hunt that site for three days out of each hunting season since I know that after three days a buck will have figured out what and where I am and how to stay away from me. I've found the best time to hunt a core area is during the first day or two of deer season or just prior to the peak of the rut. Immediately before the peak of the rut, a few does will be coming into estrus, the buck will remain close to his core area, and he'll return to his core area after he checks for estrous does. During the peak of the rut, a buck will be chasing does all day and all night, which will make him hard to pattern and even harder to take."

Using A Tactic That Always Works:

Click to enlargeI've learned a strategy that's very reliable for identifying a buck's core area. However, this tactic requires a commitment of time. You must spend time learning whether or not a big deer lives in your hunting area on public or private lands and also where other hunters hunt. Bucks won't set up a core area near hunter activity. Since hunters tend to go to places they've always hunted before, even when they haven't had success there, I recommend you let everyone else on your hunting lease or club pick the places they want to hunt first. Select your hunting site last. Or, if you're hunting public land, get a map, and mark the spots where most of the hunters will hunt with one color and the places where no one ever hunts with another color. Generally the biggest buck on any property will have his core area in an undisturbed site like this. To take an older-age-class buck, you must pinpoint his core area first. To bag that trophy buck, you must hunt him at a time and in a place where he least expects to see you.

Check back each day this week for more about A BUCK PICKS HIS CORE AREA...

Day 1 - Identifying A Buck's Core Area
Day 2 - Determining If The Core Area Has Moved and Finding the Northern Core Area
Day 3 - Locating the Core Area of Northwestern and Southern Bucks
Day 4 - Discovering the Core Areas of Southwestern Deer
Day 5 - Discovering the Core Areas of Southwestern Deer


Entry 266, Day 5