John's Journal...


Click to enlargeNorthern Tactics

Editor’s Note: They've been chased, shot at, cussed at, spooked and aggravated all season long. But the biggest, the oldest and the smartest bucks on any property you hunt have managed to survive until the end of the season. These large, older bucks write the textbooks young bucks study to survive. Some of the nation's best hunters employ strategies that will take these end-of-the-season bucks each year. These masters of the hunt tell us their tactics for bagging late-season bucks.

Many northern hunters consider Paul Butski of Niagara Falls, New York, the owner of Butski Game Calls, one of the nation's top deer hunters. The deer Butski hunts have had sportsmen breathing down their necks all season long. But Butski has learned some techniques that men willing to brave the elements can employ to bag Click to enlargethe bucks no one else takes. "Our gun season begins around the 20th of November and usually occurs at the end of the rut," Butski says. "Typically our area has very cold weather and often snow at this time of the year. Because of the extreme weather conditions, most hunters will venture out only for an hour or two in the morning and in the afternoon, spending most of their daylight hours fellowshipping around a campfire. Deer pattern hunters just like hunters pattern deer. They understand that in cold and/or snowy weather, the least amount of hunting pressure will exist in the middle of the day. Therefore, the deer will move more frequently in the middle of the day. Also, although the rut winds down, many bucks still will remain mobile with hopes of finding that last estrous doe. For these reasons, I Click to enlargehunt all day at the end of the season."

Butski also searches for the thickest cover to hunt in at the end of the season. "Deer look for places to hide where no hunter will move into," Butski reports. "Deer must remain in thick cover to survive at the end of the season. You can improve your odds of finding a buck to take by hunting a thicket area." Butski starts to hunt these end-of-the-season trophy bucks beginning in August and September. "I hunt without my gun," Butski explains. "I find the thickest cover I can. I go into those spots and put up a tree stand to hunt from at the end of the season where no one else can find it. I don't reenter this area until the last few days of the season. When I do come to this tree stand to hunt, I feel I have the best chance of taking the biggest buck in the region because he must hold there to have survived."

Click to enlargeButski also utilizes man-drives at the end of the season. "In thick cover where I don't have a tree stand, I'll put on man-drives," Butski comments. "Man-drives remain one of the most-effective ways to pull big bucks out of thick cover late in the season. But don't drive the area where you've placed your stand if you plan to stand hunt any more there during that season. I prefer to hunt from my stands in the mornings and the afternoons and drive the regions where I don't have stands in the middle of the day." Butski usually has the opportunity for a shot when he sees a buck moving ahead of him in thick cover or when he jumps a bedding buck as he follows the trails through thick cover. While extensively glassing well ahead of the deer's track, Butski looks for deer standing in the cover. If he spots the deer, often he'll have to take a long shot to bag the buck. "Also many times during daylight hours, the bucks will bed down," Butski mentioned. "When I follow a trail, a big buck may jump up right from under me. I'll then have to take a quick, running shot." Butski also tracks deer at the end of the season. "If fresh snow covers the ground, I can spot a big track, follow it and walk all day if I must get close enough to take a shot at a buck."


Check back each day this week for more about WHERE THE PROS HUNT AT THE BITTER END...

Day 1 - Northern Tactics
Day 2 - Middle State Strategies
Day 3 - Southern Techniques
Day 4 - Midwestern Bucks
Day 5 - Midwestern Bad-Weather Bucks


Entry 279, Day 1