John's Journal...


Midwestern Bucks

Click to enlargeEditor’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.

A master woodsman, Brad Harris of Neosho, Missouri, looks forward to end-of-the- season hunts because he knows where the trophy bucks will stay in his home state. "At the end of our season, the rut is over," Harris says.Click to enlarge "We don't have the advantage some states do in hunting scrapes where does congregate to find trophy bucks. Taking a trophy buck here often is difficult during that time." Like most of the other late-season, trophy-buck masters, Harris plans all year for his end-of-the-season hunt. He starts immediately after the season ends the previous year. "I walk into thick-cover areas and jump bucks out of those spots to learn where the trophy bucks have remained all season," Harris explains. "I also religiously hunt sheds after the season, because shed antlers will tell me if I will have a trophy buck to hunt the next season and the general area where that trophy buck holds and I can expect to find him."

But Harris doesn't stop his scouting program for trophy bucks after the season. During the summer months when the deer sport velvet antlers, he once again deliberately goes into thickets to spook trophy bucks and learn where they live. Also prior to the beginning of hunting season, Harris hangs tree stands in thick-cover bedding areas. But he doesn't Click to enlargego to these stands until the very end of deer season. "Also, you must choose the best day to take a trophy buck in thick cover at the end of the season," Harris emphasizes. "I wait until I hear a howling wind or see rain pouring down to hunt these bedding sites. Since the buck already knows what a hunter sounds and smells like, I use the wind and the rain to blow my scent out of the region and to cover the sounds I make as I approach my stand. If bad weather takes away the buck's ability to smell and hear me, the wind’s moving through the thick cover also masks the deer's ability to see me. By using the elements of nature, I'll enter an area I've never hunted before without spooking a deer, and I can hunt that spot undetected."

Click to enlargeMissouri's sub-zero temperatures toward the end of the season also give Harris another advantage. Most hunters don't want to sit in a tree stand during those bitter cold days to wait for a buck to appear, especially if they have to contend with a plunging wind-chill factor or rain that makes hunting conditions even more miserable. "Christmas season two years ago, the wind howled and the temperature fell to around -9 degrees," Harris recalls. "Because the weather remained so bad and the wind blew very hard, I got into thick cover within 80 yards of a very nice buck without his hearing, seeing or smelling me and bagged him." Harris also places tree stands in areas where he anticipates bucks will hold during snow and ice storms. "I put tree stands on south-facing slopes with plenty of brush and cover since most of the wind and snow we get comes from the north," Harris reports. "The deer move onto these hillsides during a snowstorm to dodge the wind and ice and to get under the cover and brush the south slope provides. In the middle of the day when the weather warms, these bucks will stand up, feed and move some. When they do, if I'm in my tree stand using my binoculars, I can spot them and get a shot."


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 4