John's Journal...


Click to enlargeMidwestern Bad-Weather Bucks

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.

Click to enlargeBrad Harris of Neosho, Missouri, a longtime, avid deer hunter, prefers to hunt these sunny hillsides during the middle of the day when the sun shines the brightest, the deer movement peaks, and hunter pressure lessens. A little knob on the side of a hayfield, not necessarily a major mountain range, with a south-facing slope can become a productive place to find a trophy buck when you hunt in bad weather during the late season. "I wait until 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. before I go to my stand site,” Harris explains. Then I have the sun to keep me warm, and I can stay in my stand during the time the bucks usually become the most active." Hunting secondary food sources next to bedding areas has proven a productive tactic for Harris' late-season hunting. Deer must feed every day. During bad weather and intense hunting pressure, a trophy buck will feed in places closest to his bedding site, even if the region doesn't provide his favorite food. "Look for honeysuckle vines, honey-locust leaves, blackberry Click to enlargebushes or any other type of plant the deer will eat close to its bedding area," Harris suggests. "You may know of a clover or a wheat field nearby where the deer feed, probably at night. If deer want to feed during daylight hours when they know hunters can take them, they must eat the food closest to their sanctuary, even though that food may not be their preferred food."

Deer tend to follow the same types of feeding habits during bad weather as humans. If you have to walk two miles through rain, sleet and snow to eat a steak with all the trimmings or go to a hamburger stand half a block away to get something to eat, where will you go? Personally I'll order a sack full of hamburgers and run back to the house. Harris also emphasizes that no matter where you hunt during the late season you must use bad-weather conditions to allow you to approach your stand undetected. "Older-age class Click to enlargebucks have a higher sensitivity to hunter pressure than younger bucks," Harris mentions. "I never approach my big-buck stands unless I have a howling wind, a blowing rain or fresh snow to mask the sound of my movement. The less likely a buck is to hear, see or smell me, the greater my odds for success will be for bagging that late-season trophy buck." Our experts agree late-season trophy bucks represent the toughest deer to take. At the end of the season, you must hunt when and where no one else does to find the trophy bucks that have dodged other hunters all year.

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