TIPS FOR SUCCESS AT A GLANCE
1. Have a Quality Hunting Area. In some areas of the whitetail world a buck scoring 180 points or more is considered a buck of a lifetime while in other regions a 120 point buck is a trophy. In my opinion, regardless of the buck’s score, having a quality piece of property to hunt is key to a hunter’s success. If your desire is to kill a 190 point buck, research should be done to select an area that is capable of producing that type of animal. Allen McKnight, a good friend of mine who works for the United States Forest Service (Wildlife Division) said it best. Allen said, “If a person is going to hunt an elephant, the state of Alabama would not be the hunting destination.” In other words to be successful, a hunter should hunt in an area where the type of animal that he or she wants to harvest actually exist.
2. Monitor the Weather. Deer activity is generally high as a weather front approaches an area and movement is even better after the front leaves. Planning hunting trips to take place at these times will increase one’s chances of success. (See Monitor the Weather chapter).
3. Have a Flexible Schedule. Having a flexible work schedule or being able to take vacation days on a short notice can be a plus during the hunting season. It is every hunter’s desire to be in the woods when deer are the most active. Try to schedule hunts around the time of the rut and weather fronts.
4. Scout the Area. When scouting a property use topographical maps and aerial photos to learn as much as possible about the property that will be hunted as well as the surrounding area. Use trail cameras to take pictures and talk to the property owner to gain valuable information about the hunting area and deer activity. (See Scouting chapter).
5. Proper Tree Stand Placement. Select your stand site after thoroughly scouting the hunting area. Then approach the area cautiously leaving a minimal trace of human odor. (See Tree Stand Placement chapter).
6. Element of Surprise. The odds of taking a deer are greater the first time a stand is hunted than at any other time. (See First Time Stand is Hunted chart).
7. Scent Control. Keeping one’s body, clothing and hunting equipment as scent free as possible will increase a hunter’s chances of harvesting a mature buck. (See Making Sense of Scent Control chapter).
8. Hunt During the Rut when Bucks are Seeking and Chasing the Does. This is without a doubt the best time to kill a mature buck. If a hunter will set up in the transition zones and feeding areas during the seeking and chasing phase of the rut, his or her chances of harvesting a mature buck are better then than at any other time. (See Rut chart).
9. Use the Wind to Your Advantage. A deer’s number one line of defense is their nose. Stands should be placed on the down wind side of the hunting area and the stand should be approached from that direction as well.
10. Select Good Hunting Equipment and Know How to Use It Very Well. Being proficient with our firearm or bow and knowing that we are able to hit the intended target is key. A hunter does not necessarily have to own expensive equipment, just be confident with the equipment that is being used. I know of outfitters that had clients come into camp and the outfitter later found out that the hunter had never shot a gun. In one instance the outfitter asked the paying hunter, “How is your rifle sighted in?” The paying hunter’s reply was, “I don’t know, my nephew sighted it in for me.” To be successful a hunter needs to practice a lot with the weapon of choice and know that when a big buck appears, he or she is capable of making the shot. It is a good idea to be familiar with our tree stands, 4 wheelers, safety harnesses, and all the hunting gear that we intend to use.
11. Deer Lures and Scents. There are many types of lures and scents available. Some are used to help cover human odor while others smell like another animal or type of food that deer prefer. The sexual attractants are used to make the buck think he is actually smelling a doe. Used properly, lures and scents can be very effective. (See Scents and Lures chapter).
12. Calling and Rattling. Never go hunting without a grunt call and rattle bag or antlers. I have been on many hunts where the only reason for my success was due to the use of these two pieces of equipment. (See Deer Talk-Learn the Language chapter).
13. Hunt All Day if Possible. We never know when that trophy buck is going to show up around our stand especially during the rut. The data that I have collected shows good buck movement during the mid day hours. Pack a lunch and plan on hunting all day. The results could be rewarding.
14. Be Patient and Have Confidence. Having a patient and confident attitude about a hunting area will enable a hunter to stay in a stand longer and make the hunt more enjoyable. Being patient can result in the harvesting of a true trophy.
15. Have a Backup Plan. Always have a B, C, and even a D back up plan. If a hunter is not seeing deer from a certain stand, change locations and maybe that will prove productive. Sometimes by changing hunting tactics such as still hunting instead of stand hunting or trying to rattle a buck in can be successful. Planning organized drives with strategically placed shooters and checking out isolated areas that are seldom hunted will often be the key to success. Staying in a stand for longer periods of time and taking advantage of that last minute of shooting light may be the way to take a trophy buck.
16. Always Think Safety First. Take care of yourself, your hunting partners, others that may be in the area and the environment. Putting safety first will enable you to return home to the family that loves you. (See Safety chapter).
ILLINOIS FIRST SEASON - NOV. 16-18, 2007
My four day Kentucky hunt had come to an end so I left Hopkinsville, Kentucky about 8:00am on Nov. 14 and headed to my next hunting location, Southern Illinois. The property that I am going to be hunting on is in a place that we have hunted since 2005. We have been fortunate and luck has gone our way. We have taken some good bucks from the property.
This area consists of mostly hardwood with hollows and creek drainages passing through it. There are a few stands of young and old pine with clover fields and food plots spaced throughout the area. The particular stand that I want to hunt this year is a tree that I found the second season of 2006. The tree is in a hardwood creek drainage bordered on the north by a clover field and it is a major travel corridor. This is the area that I want to look at. It was Wed. the 14th of Nov. and I had that afternoon and Thursday the 15th to get my stand into position before the season opened on the 16th. Dad, Lebron and Greg came up early on the morning of the 15th. They checked into the motel and we went to hang our stands. Dad was going to hunt on the west side of the property below the barn. Lebron went to the same tree that he hunted in 2006. Greg was going to hunt the stand that he used in 2005 and 2006. I put my stand in the tree that I had been looking forward to hunting since the 2006 season. We were set, stands were in place and I felt good about the area. Now we were ready for opening morning. That night we went and had supper and turned in a little early looking forward to the next morning.
Nov. 16 - Opening Day - Illinois
It was set to be a good morning. It could have been a great morning. The reason I say that is Tommy Garner was scheduled to video this hunt with me but things happened at the last minute and Tommy had to cancel the trip. Looking back on it, I sure wish we would have been able to film this hunt. Here is why:
The weather was clear and cold, a light wind, 1st quarter moon and rut activity taking place. I got into my stand about daybreak and about 30 minutes after first light I saw my first deer. It was four doe. About 15 minutes later I saw a small eight point, then a spike. 20 minutes later another eight point followed by a five pointer and a doe. Later on a three point, an eight point and three doe came through. By 8:30 I had I had already seen 14 deer. Six were bucks, eight were doe.
Then at 8:50 I saw a good buck crossing the creek and headed west but I did not have a shot. I grunted and tried to stop him and used my rattle bag to turn him but nothing worked. He just kept going west. Then at 9:40 I looked to the Southwest and here came a big buck directly toward me. I looked at him again and determined he was a shooter.
He kept getting closer and closer. He got to within 30 yards and came through an opening. I made the sound Maaaac. He stopped and I settled the cross hairs behind his left shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The Remington 870 did its job. The buck ran about 35 yards and piled up. I turned on my radio and told dad that I had a buck. I then learned that Lebron had taken a high racked nine pointer. I got down out of my stand and went to recover my buck. He was a big and heavy high racked eight pointer with heavy beams and long thick tines and 240 pounds of live weight. I was proud.
I went and found Lebron and took pictures of him and his deer. Then he came with me to my buck and returned the favor. Later in the morning Greg came and helped me drag the deer out of the river bottom. I knew the deer was heavy but I found out later that it was the second heaviest deer I have ever taken. We put the deer on the truck and I went to get dad and show him the deer. Dad had seen a lot of deer but nothing that he wanted to shoot. We then went and loaded Lebron’s buck on the truck and spent the rest of the day taking care of the two deer.
On the way back to the motel two guys from Kentucky followed us into the parking lot. They wanted a better look at the bucks and they liked what they saw. These guys were very friendly and even invited us to hunt in Kentucky in the 2008 season. It was nice being able to talk to people like that.
Day 1 recap: Everybody saw a lot of deer. I saw eight doe and eight bucks. I took an eight point 240 pound live weight buck. Lebron took a nine pointer.
Nov. 17th - Day 2. The weather was clear and cool, 1st quarter moon.
Lebron and Greg hunted the same stands they used on opening day. Dad hunted a stand we refer to as “on the point.” It is a perfect natural elevated stand overlooking a creek drainage. I still had a doe tag so I elected to hunt behind the horse corral. It is rolling hardwood ridges bordered by a pine thicket. I saw some deer but did not get a shot opportunity. Everyone else saw a lot of deer. Even though there were no bucks taken on day 2, dad and Greg did manage to see two big bucks that Illinois is known for. Later in the morning, Greg did take a doe with his doe tag. After having lunch and loading Greg’s deer, we headed for home planning on hunting Illinois again.
Illinois 2006 2nd Season
The second Illinois hunting season was scheduled for November 30th – December 3rd. Greg and Lebron were unable to go on this hunt, so Dad and I would be the only ones to make this trip. Unlike the perfect weather in the first season two weeks ago, bad weather was in the forecast this season. In fact, the weather channel was forecasting heavy snow accumiliation in parts of the Midwest. We decided to drive my silver Toyota 4x4 truck in case we were to need a 4 wheel drive. Dad and I left home at about 5:00 am on November 29th. As we made our way through western Kentucky a cold rain started to fall. We made it to southern Illinois and checked into the motel around 11:00 am.
From there we went to see Mr. Brown, because he had told us on our first trip that if we came up again this year he wanted to show us his other farm. We found Mr. Brown, got into his truck and went to the farm with the cabin on it. He showed us the cabin and property and let us know that we were welcome to hunt on this farm also. It looked like prime hunting, but so does every other piece of property in Illinois. The cabin was nice, just a small A frame type. The kind of place you would want to stay in so you could get away from everything and everyone. You absolutely have to have a 4 wheel drive to get to this cabin. Mr. Brown and his family spend time at Thanksgiving and Christmas in this cabin. I think that is nice.
When we left Mr. Brown told us you can hunt either farm, meaning the cabin farm that we just looked at or the farm we hunted in 05 and first season of this year. Dad and I decided to set our stands on the property that we had already hunted and knew more about. After getting our stands ready Dad and I went to the motel. That night we went out to eat and it being a Wednesday night we went to church. After church we went back to the motel and watched the weather. The forecast was rain for the first day of the season then that night changing to snow. We went to bed, got up the next morning and yes it was raining. We waited until daylight and decided to ride back up to the cabin farm and just ride around in the truck. We did that until about 9:00 am. Then we went over to the other farm. We sat in the truck for about two hours and the rain was not letting up so we went to the motel and ate lunch and rested. We decided to try and hunt the last 1 ½ hours of the day so about 3:30 we went back to the hunting property. We got lucky the rain stopped about the time that we got to the property. That evening I saw two does about 30 minutes before dark. End of day one. Recap: Not much hunting, a lot of rain, and two does.
That night we again watched the weather. The forecast was cold, very, very windy and little if any snow. The snow was going to stay to the north and west of us. The next morning we got up and it was cold, very, very windy and no snow. We got to our stands about daylight and deer started moving quickly. I was seeing deer all morning. I called Dad on the radio and ask “How many deer have you seen?” He said “I lost count.” Despite the wind, it was a good morning for deer movement. At 11:30 I saw a shooter buck coming in from the east. As he came into range (75 -80 yards) I grunted and he stopped. I rushed the shot and missed. He ran to the west. I could feel something running from my forehead and dripping off my nose. It was blood and a lot of it. The recoil from the gun made the scope hit me on the forehead above my left eye. I knew I was bleeding but I also was trying to watch the buck I had just shot at. He turned to the south and I was going to get another shot. I put the cross hairs on line, squeezed the trigger and nothing happen. I chambered another shell and again nothing happened. Can you believe my luck? I miss a good buck, cut my head, and my gun breaks all on the same shot. After checking and making certain that I missed the buck on the first shot I headed for the truck. When I got there Dad said “Boy what happened to you?” I looked in the truck mirror and I could see why he said that. The cut was nasty and deep. I thought “I need stitches. I had to have stitches in 2001 while hunting in this same area. Now I thought here I go again. I went to the local drugstore and came up with another plan. I discussed things with the pharmacy and got the things I needed and went to the motel and patched myself up. I looked like I had been through a war, but it was not bleeding anymore. Problem one, solved. Remember I have a broken gun and the hunt is not over yet, so how do I solve problem 2. No gunsmith is listed in the phone book. So I decided to become one. I got my tools out of the truck and took the trigger assembly out of my Remington 870. I really did not know what I was looking for, but I found that the sear spring that resets the trigger had come out of place. I put the spring back in place and the gun worked perfectly. That spring will be replaced with a new one soon as I get back home. We went back to the property to hunt that evening. The wind had layed down some, still cool temperatures. I saw some does and a small buck, but no shooters.
Recap of day 2: Deer sighted-too many to count, 1 shooter buck missed, 1 forehead cut open, 1 broken 870 Remington.
That night we had dinner and talked about our next days hunt. The 3rd day, December 2nd the weather was good cold temperature and clearing skies, full moon. We got to our stands about daylight and today the deer movement was not as good. Although we did see several deer no shooter bucks were seen on day 3. We hunted until early afternoon and called it a hunt.
Recap of day 3: Saw 9 does, 2 small bucks, again it was cold with clear skies and full moon.
We loaded our gear and started toward Georgia. While driving home we discussed our plans to hunt again in 2007.
The first time I heard about Lynn Ketner and the thirty-five years of detailed documentation he had done on deer movement I was impressed. When I talked to Lynn on the phone, I knew I had just hooked up with a kindred spirit. When Lynn forwarded me the charts that he had complied, I was fascinated by how dedicated someone has to be to keep a detailed account of every deer that he has seen from a stand for that long of a period of time and the fact that it was not one isolated location somewhere, but his hunting trips had taken him in numerous states in the south, southeast, mid-west, Saskatchewan and Canada. More intriguing is the fact that the data collected and recorded by Mr. Ketner makes it applicable about anywhere there are whitetails.
After a year of spending many hours on the phone and in person with Lynn Ketner, I have come to believe that he is one of the most knowledgeable whitetail hunters that I have ever met. I am very grateful that he chose me to help him bring his lifelong project to life to share with the other deer hunters in North America. I truly believe that any deer hunter on the planet can pick up this book and learn something from it, regardless of their experience or lack thereof!
I am amazed how God works sometimes by putting special people in our path. Lynn Ketner is one of those special people and I am blessed to call him a friend. I have to also thank Garry Mason, Founder and Executive Director of Legends of the Outdoors National Hall of Fame and Director of Tourism for northwest Tennessee. It was Garry that instantly knew that Lynn and I should join forces to bring forth this special project. Like the pieces of a puzzle, all of the elements fell in place to create what I feel is one of the greatest tools available to help the whitetail deer hunters in their quest for a mature buck. Our greatest weapon in the search for whitetails is our mind. Knowing what a big buck is going to do before he does it puts us a step ahead in the game and the detailed documentation of whitetail deer movement contained in this book will help each of us know when, where and under what conditions a mature buck will be on his feet during daylight hours.
Take the time to read the wisdom contained in this book, study the charts and apply what you have learned to your hunting situation and I am certain that you will be a more successful hunter. Our quest for knowledge will never be completely satisfied but this book will scratch a serious itch to help you know more about the movement of the most fascinating game animal in the world, the whitetail deer. Tommy Garner