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Patterning Whitetail Bucks
 

Patterning Whitetail Bucks Today’s whitetail deer hunter is mainly focused on the harvesting of trophy whitetail bucks. After 30 years as a deer hunter with over 14 pope and young bucks to my credit I have realized there are only three ways to harvest a trophy whitetail buck. The three ways that hunters harvest trophy whitetail deer include either simply being lucky, learning to read aerial photographs thereby empowering the hunter to hunt in topographical advantages, or learning how to pattern whitetail bucks. I out of the 15 trophy whitetail bucks that hang in my trophy room I have patterned 7 of them, gotten lucky on 3 of them, and taken 5 of them by utilizing topographical advantages. A portion of the trophy whitetail deer I have harvested by utilizing top a graphical advantages are still deer which I patterned. Thus were learning how to pattern whitetail bucks is vital if one wants to consistently take monster whitetail bucks on an annual basis. A over the course of this article we will visit the question, “How do I pattern a whitetail buck?” For this is the question we all seek the answer to when hunting for whitetail deer. I will not only share with you viewpoints on how to pattern whitetail bucks that I hold dear to my heart, but will also share the viewpoints of other experts in the whitetail deer industry. The key to patterning big bucks is to first understand their behavior, their habitat, their food sources, their bed areas, and the overall instinctual habits of the whitetail deer. The first section of this article may be a tad boring to the reader, thus unless you are a novice you may wish to skip to the next capitalize section of reading and get straight into hunting strategies for patterning mature whitetail bucks. THE ANNUAL LIFECYCLE OF THE WHITETAIL DEER The white-tailed deer can be found in southern Canada and most of the United States, except for the Southwest, Alaska and Hawaii. A deer's home range is usually less the a square mile. Deer collect in family groups of a mother and her fawns. When a doe has no fawns, she is usually solitary. Male bucks may live in groups consisting of three or four individuals, except in mating season, when they are solitary. The white-tailed deer lives in wooded areas. In some areas, deer overpopulation is a problem. Gray wolves and mountain lions used to be predators of the white-tailed deer and helped keep their population under control. But because of hunting and human development, there are not very many wolves and mountain lions left in some parts of North America. Sometimes a bobcat or a coyote will kill a young deer, but people and dogs are now the deer's main predator. Because there are not many natural predators, deer populations can sometimes grow too large for their environment and deer can starve to death. In rural areas, hunters help control deer populations, but in suburban and urban areas hunting is often not allowed and deer populations can grow out of control. Other things can change deer populations. Disease and parasites like lice, mites and roundworms can weaken or kill deer. Young deer and old deer often get sick and die, especially in the winter. Winter is a dangerous time for deer. Their long narrow legs and pointed hooves make it hard for them to move around in the snow and ice and it is easier for predators like dogs to catch them. Deer and people are living closer to each other because of human development and growth in deer and human populations. Because humans and deer often share a habitat, there can be problems for both of them. When a deer's habitat becomes smaller because of human development, deer will often eat food from gardens. Deer need to cross roads to look for food and water and are sometimes struck by cars. People can also catch a sickness called Lyme Disease from the deer tick. The white-tailed deer is an herbivore or plant eater. It follows well-used trails to its feeding areas. It feeds in the early morning hours and in the late afternoon. A deer's diet changes depending on its habitat and the season. It eats green plants in the spring and summer. In the fall, it eats corn, acorns and other nuts. In the winter, it eats the buds and twigs of woody plants. The white-tailed deer is a ruminant. Its stomach has four chambers for digesting food. In the first two chambers, the rumen and the reticulum, food is mixed with bile to form the cud. The cud is regurgitated and re-chewed and swallowed. It passes through the rumen to the omasum where water is removed. Finally, the food enters the last chamber, the abomasum, where it is sent on to the small intestine where the nutrients in the food are absorbed. This digestive system lets the white-tailed deer eat foods like woody plants that other animals can't digest! If deer have enough food, water and shelter, their population can grow very quickly. Cows, bison, bighorn sheep, goats, llamas, camels and giraffes are also ruminants. White-tailed deer mate in November in the northern parts of their range and in January or February in the southern parts of their range. The female has one to three fawns after about six months after mating. Fawns are reddish-brown at birth with white spots that help camouflage them. They can walk at birth and forage for food a couple of days later. They are weaned at about six weeks. The mother leaves her fawns well-hidden for hours at a time while she feeds. If she has more than one fawn, she hides them in separate places. While they are waiting for their mother to return, the fawns lay on the ground with their heads and necks stretched out flat on the ground. This makes it harder for predators to find them. Female fawns may stay with their mother for two years, males usually leave after a year. When a white-tailed deer is alarmed, it may stomp its hooves and snort to warn other deer. It may also "flag" or raise its tail and show its white underside. When a mother deer is running, this white underside can help her fawns follow her. White-tailed deer are very good runners. They can run at speeds of up to 30 mile an hour. They are also good leapers and swimmers. PATTERNING BIG WHITETAIL BUCKS Let us first assume that you hunt our live in an area that holds trophy whitetail bucks. I say this because if you don’t, then you will need to go shopping for whitetail deer outfitter that you can trust. However assuming you live in an area which holds mature bucks large enough to qualify for the national record books there several strategies a whitetail deer hunter can employ to pattern big bucks which we will visit. The majority of whitetail deer hunters don’t possess the vast amounts of time to dedicate in sharpening their skills of patterning whitetail deer. Let’s face it, in this fast paced world we live in, finding time for studying whitetail deer properly while maintaining full time employment as well as spending the proper amount of time with family and friends is a difficult task. Your first chance to pattern whitetail bucks is one which is full of mosquito bites, hot temperatures, late evenings, poison ivy, and a host of other irritating things. This is the time period when whitetail deer hunter in late summer months begins to watch whitetail deer on his or her property from long distances with high quality optics in an effort to determine what whitetail deer reside in his or her hunting area. When one does this it is advise after racks of whitetail bucks are nearly fully developed in late July through September the hunter must dedicate him or herself to spending evenings in vantage points several hundred yards from where the deer will come out to feed. If this is a time period you do not want to be detected. Do not scout from tree stands you will hunt from during the season. This is the time to identify the biggest deer on your property in order to pattern in whitetail deer for an early season kill. By watching the herd in the evenings and taking notes you will begin to realize were tree stands need to be positioned. Out of the 15 record book whitetail bucks I have taken, only three of them have been taken as a result of patterning whitetail deer during late summer months which resulted in kills the first two or three days of archery season. All three of these deer were taken during the evening. During early season most mature whitetail bucks have already bedded down prior to sunrise. On one occasion several years ago in pike county Illinois I watched a green soybean field about every other night for over a month. There was a low spot or ditch in the field were all the deer were entering to feed during evening hours. I watch the deer do this time and time again until it was evident I had successfully patterned big whitetail bucks. As several of the deer were national record book animals. At 10:00 AM on a Saturday morning when I knew the herd was nowhere close to the feeding area I hung a stand on the fields edge and did not return until a week later for the opening evening of the Illinois archery season in pike county. As usual the deer herd filed out just as they always had in each and every night I had watch them during preseason scouting. I knew the mature bucks would be the last of the deer to enter the soybean field. After waiting patiently for about 3 hours I sent a cold aluminum shaft the equipped with a rage broadhead through two lungs that unbeknownst to the monster buck had only a few more breaths to take that warm summer evening. This was a result of learning how to pattern whitetail bucks during early summer months. Another like incident occurred in the season of 2009. I had been watching many whitetail deer enter into a clover field in the state of Missouri night after night like clockwork. This particular herd of deer seen to be holding up just inside the timber prior to entering the clover field. After many many nights of watching this herd of whitetail deer do the same thing I interred mid morning a week prior to the season’s archery opener and hung my tree stand just inside the timber of the clover field. The very first night I hunted the stand I not only spooked any deer scoring over 170, but ended up a arrow lying 140 inch whitetail buck at 5 yards. Again this was not luck but resulted by many painstaking man hours in the field patterning whitetail deer and learning the exact travel routes whitetail deer were using in my area. In order for the whitetail deer hunter to successfully pattern mature whitetail bucks or simply pattern whitetail deer you must be dedicated and have the time to spend to accomplish this feat. Of course time is not an issue for me as I am a whitetail deer outfitter. It is my job. Prior to moving forward in this article let it be known I seldom get the hunt and literally picked the weakest location to hunt from during that time period so my hunters would have the best spots. The problem is not many whitetail deer hunters book whitetail deer hunts during early season with bow. This is a serious mistake that many hunters make when booking a hunt. Almost every one that phones me to book a whitetail deer hunt in the Midwest wants to hunt during the rut of the whitetail deer. No matter how much I try to educate them few hunters can stomach the thought of believing that during early season we literally have huge bachelor groups of whitetail bucks patterned and nicknamed, yet no one seems to have faith in this time period. There are many upsides to booking an early season archery hunt in the Midwest. They include lower prices, hardly any other hunters in camp, and being the first ones to hunt on the stands. Be wise and try and early season archery hunt with IMB Outfitters. As the phrase goes in the movie “Young Guns”, “I’ll make you famous.” One expert shares the story on patterning early season whitetail bucks. It started in early July while I sat next to a sizable field glassing the distant edge where the planted crops met brush. The sun was about to slide below the western horizon. Movement at the field's edge caught my attention. Behind the screening of weeds stood a deer, antlers fuzzy and tips well rounded, indicating they were not yet fully developed. He started into the field and then turned to look into the brush behind him. I watched three more bucks materialize out of the bushy edge - two nearly as big as the first, and the other one only slightly shorter of tine and an inch or two narrower in spread. All were in velvet. Three were obviously mature, judging from their body size and exceptional antler development. When they moved, they did so with extreme caution and care. They were mature whitetails, and they acted the way they were supposed to act. But they also moved carefully because their velvet-covered antlers were tender to the touch. They avoided having their antlers come in contact with limbs, barbed wire or anything else that might injure them. I watched from a great distance, hidden in an old tractor that had long ago been abandoned on the field's edge. I watched them through my 10X binocular, and then I drew rough sketches of their antlers so I'd be able to recognize and identify the bucks, should I ever see them again. The biggest had 10 long points, the longest already at least 12 inches. His shortest tines were his brows, but they were easily ear-length. The main beams spread about 2 inches beyond each of his erect and forward ears. His bases, though exaggerated because of the velvet, were considerably bigger around than his ear butts. He was my kind of buck! In rapidly fading summer light, I marked my map, indicating which trail the bucks had used to enter the field. I later returned to the wood lot to continue my scouting. After some looking, I located two trees that would be ideal for stands; they were back in the woods about 20 yards apart and about an equal distance from the edge of the field. I chose two trees in which to set up tree stands in order to "play the wind" properly once the season opened. Between those two trees, there had once been a trail that led to the field, but now it was overgrown with underbrush. Using a hatchet, I hacked a meandering trail about 3 feet wide through the dense thicket. Yes, it was a hot job, but I hoped it would help heat up some action come fall. I learned many years ago that whitetails, even mature bucks, often walk the path of least resistance. That same day, I set up two ladder stands and cut shooting lanes, leaving limbs that would help hide me during the fall. Mission accomplished! I would not return to the immediate area until before daylight on opening day of deer season. Homework done, deer located, stands hung. It was now a waiting game. During the remaining month or so before deer season, I spent time honing my shooting abilities, double-checking equipment and waiting. I'm a firm believer in scouting early, especially immediately after the deer season closes, and then staying out of the area. Mature bucks are different. If they feel pressured, such as might occur when someone tries to pattern them during early fall, they change their way of doing things. Some vacate the area while others practically become nocturnal. Both circumstances or degrees of either greatly diminish your chances of taking that buck once the season finally opens. Scouting during the late summer equates to setting up and watching from a distance to make certain your plans are working. Be careful not to put too much scouting pressure on the mature bucks. I rely heavily on farmers and ranchers to keep me informed on deer patterns. I talk to rural mail carriers and school bus drivers. Deer become familiar with these people and don't perceive them as a source of danger. If the situation feels right, I'll set up a trail camera to photograph a particular deer. Setting up such a camera on a trail or perhaps where a trail comes into a field or other feeding area is a way to document the deer's presence and confirm that he is indeed the one you're after. But I use trail cameras more during late-winter scouting than during late summer. When's the best time to take a mature buck? That's simple: It's at the earliest legal opportunity. Early-season whitetails are animals of habit; they normally follow the same routine daily, although the times may vary a bit. Late-summer and early-fall deer feed in the same areas, especially where there are fields and crops or possibly falling acorns or fruits that ripen early. When you find these food sources, you're in pretty good shape, especially if you don't have the time or the opportunity to scout throughout the rest of the year. In more arid areas and before cool weather brings rain, deer tend to go to drink at the same place late every day. Find a pond or stream that has a trail covered with deer tracks, set up some distance away and watch to see what comes to drink. This is not only a good scouting method but is also a good way to take a big buck. Deer, even mature bucks, are creatures of habit throughout the early stages of pre-rut. If you don't disturb them too badly, you can use their habits to your advantage. Early-season bucks often travel in bachelor herds. Such bachelor groups can provide excitement if you're sitting in your stand and a group of them comes along. Remember that when you hunt bachelor herds, there are many more eyes looking and noses scenting for anything out of the ordinary than you'll normally have to deal with when hunting a single buck. Hunting near crop fields early in the season, I prefer to set up on a trail back in the woods, such as the one I had created during the summer. Quite often, large-antlered, mature bucks tend to hang back and do not enter open fields until after dark. These woods-edge staging areas are where they stand and wait. That is where a hunter will have a better chance of bagging mature animals. Staging areas are usually 10 to 25 steps off the field's edge. You can determine where they are by looking at tracks. Find where a deer has walked back and forth across a trail, rather than staying on it. Try to locate these staging areas well before the season starts. When setting up stands or selecting stand sites, I'll trim limbs and trees long before the season opens. I certainly don't want to do anything out of the ordinary that might alert a mature buck that something is amiss on his home turf. It takes only a few days of hunter activity in the woods for bucks to change their habits, especially where there is considerable hunting pressure. When I was growing up, if you did not shoot a deer the first week of the season, your chances of even seeing a buck the rest of the year were greatly diminished. Hunting pressure causes deer to change how they do things. But, to be quite frank, deer would likely change routines anyway because of the onset of the breeding season, changes in food supplies and even changes in cover. I set up several stands so I can take advantage of wind and sun, changes in food supplies, early harvest and/or early acorn drops. I hunt stands no more than three days in a row. If I haven't taken a deer within those three days, I'll shift to a new location. Mature bucks tend to pattern a hunter if the hunter spends too much time in an area. I'll move in hopes of taking another buck that was located during my scouting forays. If I don't do any good in the new location, I may return to my original stand after letting the area "cool down," encouraging the buck to return to his previous normal activities and routines. During the early deer seasons, most bucks have recently shed their velvet, and testosterone levels are increasing. They spend more time rubbing their antlers on trees, shrubs and bushes. The first few days after the velvet comes off, bucks are all still the best of buddies. They lick and groom each other. Freshly out of velvet, they spar with each other, pull their racks apart and look around to see which other bucks might be watching. Later on, all that changes. Sparring matches can become serious fight-to-the-death matches. The sound of the rubbing antlers often attracts bucks. They come to watch their "competition." I have often "rubbed up" bucks during the early season, starting almost immediately after they've shed the velvet from their antlers. A few years ago, I was hunting a tract of land that held several rack bucks, as evidenced by the sheds we found. Occasionally, one of my hunting partners would take or miss an outsized buck. We knew they were there! The property held an abundance of squirrels that liked to chew on cast antlers. It was a race to find the sheds before the squirrels did. That should also tell you we had an abundance of mast-bearing trees, ideal food sources for squirrels and deer. I only hunted the property the first week of the hunting season, because of other commitments. The week before the season opened, on a rare scouting trip to that hunting area, I glassed several bucks. They stepped into the field late; it would have been too dark to shoot if the season had been open. The biggest buck had cleaned the velvet from his antlers. Before stepping into the field, he stopped on the wood's edge and thrashed low-growing bushes and saplings. Because of the distance of that hunting area from my home, I only scouted it the Saturday before the season opened. I had, however, kept up with what was going on with the deer by talking with the farmer. He told me about seeing a sizable buck in a "growing back field" not far behind a dilapidated farmhouse and barn. On opening morning, I was set up on the edge of the field of mostly knee-high, native grasses dotted with a few oak saplings. Shortly after first light, I noted movement at the far end of the field. As quietly as possible, I swatted a mosquito that had found an exposed spot between my glasses and my head net. Then I took the right-hand side of my rattling horns and began rubbing on a nearby evergreen. I hoped to accomplish two things. One, obviously, was to imitate the sound of a buck rubbing his antlers. The other was to surround myself with a natural cover scent, released by the rubbed evergreen. I rubbed for about 30 seconds, stopped for nearly the same length of time and repeated the action, all the time watching the deer. He heard the rubbing sound the moment I started. He stared in my direction. Curiosity got the best of him, and he started walking my way, coming toward me from an upwind position. His antlers were big! His neck was not yet swollen, but it was fairly easy to see he was mature, complete with "flappy" jowls and sagging belly. I seriously doubt that he ever figured out he had been duped by a hunter. He fell a short distance from where he had been shot. Kneeling by his side, I noticed his rack was still a light color, stained only at the bases with blood that had dried there when the velvet had come off. And, yes, his venison, typical of early-season bucks, was sweet and succulent! What of the buck I mentioned seeing at the beginning of this story? I hunted him and found him the first afternoon of the season. He walked within easy range. He was an absolute monster! My knees shook. My heart pounded heavily. I hate to admit it, but I missed. Early season? Can't wait! Three exciting whitetail stories on how to pattern whitetail deer early on. PATTERNING WHITETAIL BUCKS BY OTHER MEANS WHEN ONE DOESN’T HAVE THE TIME TO DO IT THEMSELVES Due to ever increasing demands of our time and the expansion of technology and services there are a couple ways to pattern whitetail bucks without having to be present in the field. These include trail cameras, and participating in a hunt with a whitetail deer outfitter. Trail cameras have evolved from mere pieces of string attached to wristwatchs to to modern day trail cameras that not only take pictures, but also take video clips of deer as they pass by a specific area. Trail cameras can often times be a wonderful thing and no doubt are a great tool with which 1 May be able to pattern whitetail deer, however I find trail cameras to be much less effective than good old-fashioned scouting done in the field with binoculars and spotting Scopes. Trail cameras are effective for watching a very very small area or specific deer trail and often times do not reveal all deer in that area. I have successfully used trail cameras to pattern whitetail deer over mineral licks, scrapes, and deer trails. However to really study and understand deer movement and your area there are no shortcuts other than booking a deer hunt with a whitetail deer outfitter. While booking a hunt can be the experience of a lifetime, you must be careful who you book a deer hunt with. Each day whitetail deer hunters phone my business, IMB Outfitters, located at www.imbmonsterbucks.com And I am quick to remind them they are purchasing something they cannot see from someone they do not know. Obviously if you’re serious about harvesting the deer of a lifetime and are located in a state that does not possess a high population of trophy whitetail deer an outfitter may be your only course of action. Here at IMB Outfitters we maintain a fulltime staff that is effective in Patterning Whitetail Deer all year long. Even while you are in the woods hunting are experienced guides are watching trophy deer with binoculars and spotting Scopes from safe distances in an effort to make sure you are hunting the hottest locations during your stay with us. HOW TO PATTERN TROPHY WHITETAIL DEER DURING THE OCTOBER LULL As been failed began to turn brown and acorns begin to fall in the timber whitetail deer seem to just disappear before our very eyes. Normally this occurs in mid October. This is the time referred to by many whitetail hunters as the October lull. It is during this time I have watched the best of hunters fold their hands and throw their cards to the center that table. Prior to me being able to perfect my skills at patterning whitetail deer at this time of year I did the same. However this period of time is actually now my favorite period of time to hunt trophy bucks. Perhaps it is because I am forced to hunt deep in the timber in those majestic oak ridge’s where one can almost feel very presence of god. Patterning whitetail bucks during this time period is nothing short of art. During this time the whitetail deer hunter must be aware at all times in regard to what Colonies of oak trees are producing acorns. Your whitetail deer herd will literally move from one colony of oak trees to the next as different oak colonies throw acorns to the ground at different times. The first step to patterning whitetail deer during this time is to use your ears. Quietly the wind in your favor investigate wooded areas on days with little wind and listen for acorns following through the leaves in route to the ground. This is how you will discover what a oak Colonies are producing acorns. It is not wise to set up a tree stand on the first colony of white oaks that is bearing acorns. Other factors are involved in patterning whitetail deer during the October lull. There are three things I look for in white oak Colonies during this time to pattern whitetail bucks. #1. Rubs. Normally the biggest rubs are made during the rut or pre rut thus just because only small rubs are located in an active white oak colony does not mean it’s a small buck using the area. In fact the biggest bucks normally make the first rubs of the season which often times are small. However while it be a fact big bucks make small rubs you can also be assured big rubs in active white oak Colonies during this timeframe are being made by the buck you seek. Seven years ago and the state of Missouri to friend of mine and I discovered three huge rubs in an active white oak colony. Within 60 yards of the rubs the oak timber turned to a dense bed area. It was very evident a monster buck was walking out of the bed area into the oaks and eating acorns in the same spot in each evening. A blind man could have figured it out. We patterned this whitetail buck without even seeing him. We flip the corn to determine which one of us would hunt the area. I lost the coin flip. My friend Brent Thomure took to the tree stand his first evening and arrowed a 155 inch whitetail buck. We had successfully pattern this whitetail buck without even seeing him. The second thing I look for inactive white oak colony is excrement. Normally mature bucks looks great feces that are not pellets but rather clumps, much like manure of a larger animal. The third thing I look for in order to pattern whitetail bucks during the October lull in an active oak colony is deer tracks. Normally on the steep oak ridge’s there are wet areas in the bottoms between the ridges where sand or moist dirt are exposed void of any grass or weeds. Look in these areas for crossings leaving to the active white oak colony you’re investigating and see if any large buck tracks lie in the deer runs. Another expert says this, I have enjoyed my most consistent success on mature whitetail bucks during the period known as the October lull. In fact, five of my better whitetails, all scoring over 145 inches, were taken between October 10th and 22nd. For those who have never heard this term before, "October lull" refers to the middle two weeks of October. It is a time of transition for the whitetail deer--the time between the early fall feeding patterns and the upcoming rut. Deer, especially mature bucks, seem to curtail their movements drastically during the lull, causing deer sightings to drop off significantly. This is a great time pattern whitetail bucks. More than one expert has advised hunters to take a break during this period so as not to burn themselves out before the rut heats up. Even with the success I have enjoyed, I have certainly noticed this pattern playing out year after year and support the claim of many experts that the October lull does indeed exist. I don't, however, agree with the advice to take a break. The more I hear and read from others, the more convinced I become that it is their hunting approach and stand placement that limits their success during mid-October. Find someone giving advice on whitetails in October and you can almost count on hearing the virtues of finding the food source. Therein rests not only the problem but the entire recipe for failure if your goal is to tag a trophy before the rut gets going. While many nice bucks have been taken from October food sources, how many bowhunters are doing it consistently on lands that receive reasonable hunting pressure? I would bet there aren't too many. If you want to spend the rest of your bowhunting career hunting October food sources for a big whitetail buck, you may get a shot. However, if you want to have a chance at a good buck every October, then you better move your stand. This is how you pattern whitetail deer. Successful trophy whitetail hunting is not nearly as complicated as some would have us believe. It basically requires sound hunting practices, a good hunting area, time, luck and the ability to tap into your mental capabilities. Too many hunters follow hunting practices they have learned from others or continue by habit without ever thinking about what they are doing. When we think about hunting mature bucks in October or any other time, it only stands to reason that we must hunt them where they are spending the majority of their time. If they have slipped into a slower gear and decreased their daylight movements, how can we expect to kill them at a food source that is primarily being used at night? Bedding areas are where the action is; even if that action is very limited. This is where we must focus our attention if we are to have a realistic chance to succeed. In one way, this is actually an advantage. If we were to take a birds-eye look at our hunting area, the bedding locations actually comprise a small percentage of the overall habitat. It really cuts down on where a buck is likely to be. During the rut, on the other hand, a buck can be anywhere. He could be in a bedding area or just as likely chasing a doe around the middle of a wide-open 300-acre field, or be anywhere in between. Mid-October movement may be curtailed but at least we know where it is likely to happen. Every buck that I have taken in October was killed in or within a few steps of a bedding area. The buck I killed on October 10 last year is a perfect example. I was hunting from a huge oak in the corner of an old grown-up Weeds and saplings had all but consumed the once grasses and, thus providing ideal white-tail bedding cover. As the setting sun began slipping below the horizon, I actually witnessed the buck rise from his bed a mere 60 yards from my stand. Oh yeah, you can truly pattern whitetail bucks easily at this time. It took the buck a full 30 minutes to close the gap to my comfortable shooting range of 30 yards. Daylight was fading fast as I slipped the arrow through his chest. The 150-class 5X5 never knew what hit him. At the pace this buck was moving, it would have been well past dark before he made it to any of the nearby feeding areas. Before we can hunt bedding areas we must find them. Initially, I stumbled onto this hunting tactic by looking for concentrations of early-season rubs to hang my stands. It became clear that these rub concentrations were often located near bedding areas. I began hanging my stands at the edge of these bedding locations and soon I started killing good bucks at a time of the season when it had previously been close to impossible to even see them. I still look for these early-season rub concentrations when scouting new areas. At this time of year the bucks aren't covering a lot of ground. If rubs are located, chances are good that a buck isn't far away. It isn't hard to figure that they are spending their daylight hours in a nearby bedding area. If these rubs happen to be on larger than average trees, I give the area extra attention. Note: I mentioned this in my synopisis of how to pattern whitetail deer earlier in the narrative. Locating Stands Many of my bedding area stands are located in trees where I have had stands for several seasons. The reason for this is simple. I have noticed that bucks will follow patterns from years past. In other words, if you find a bedding area being used by bucks during the October lull, chances are good that in the future more bucks will follow this same pattern. I have had three stands in different areas that all produced multiple opportunities at mature bucks during mid-October. I had one stand in particular where I actually killed three October lull bucks over the years and almost tagged a fourth. Now here is the interesting part; I never saw a good buck from this stand outside of mid-October in spite of seriously trying for over 10 years! For some reason the big bucks in the area seemed to hole up there every October but once the rut got going they were gone and wouldn't show up again until the next year. If you find a spot where a good buck is bedding, in mid-October, write it down. The successful whitetail hunter that truly learns how to pattern whitetail bucks does take notes. Getting Situated Hunting bedding areas is always a tough proposition. During October it is a tactic that I only employ on evening hunts. There are simply too many opportunities for failure on morning hunts. A buck moving into a location where he plans to bed for the day can be counted on to scent-check the area first. He is also likely to be bedded down before the sun ever rises. I feel so strongly against hunting October mornings that over the past several years I have averaged less than three morning hunts during the month of October. The key to a successful hunt near or within a bedding area is getting into a stand undetected. Let's face the facts: A bedded buck is in tune with his surroundings. For a bowhunter to sneak in close and then scale a tree without being detected requires some luck as well as skill. To begin, an approach route must be available to the stand that uses cover and wind direction to conceal detection from a buck's senses. Luckily, the leaf cover at this time of the season is still significant enough to hide us from a buck's eyes under many circumstances. The wind will keep our scent from a buck's nose both on the approach to the stand and while hunting from it. All we have left to worry about is his ability to hear us approach. I have often walked more than a mile to a bedding area stand and spent more time moving the last 50 yards than I did the first mile. The closer you get to these stands, the less room there is for error. A snapped or fence wire can ruin the whole hunt before it ever actually starts. For this reason, I prefer to hunt on days with a steady wind. Not only is this more likely to keep my scent from bedded bucks but as I near the stand, I time my movements to coincide with wind gusts. This allows me to move through the cover without being heard; these wind gusts will also move the vegetation and help conceal my movements. This tactic has often allowed me to slip into a stand with deer bedded remarkably close. On more than one occasion I have spotted deer bedded near my stand before I even had a chance to pull up my bow. During the October lull I have found that bucks will not spook from an area as easily as they might at other times of the season. If you can get into and out of a stand without being detected and you believe that there is a good buck nearby, don't give up too easily. I have patterned whitetail bucks that I ended up killing that I had never laid eyes on that made the record books. I can think of several occasions where I eventually saw good bucks after several hunts in an area. In one instance, I had spotted a bachelor group of bucks on a trail just out of range of my stand one evening. The next evening I decided to carry a stand in with me and relocate to the trail the bucks had used. I slipped in early and got the stand in place and was feeling pretty good about pulling it off without spooking any deer. That feeling quickly soured when I watched a 150-class 5X5 walk within 15 yards of the stand I was in the evening before. On another occasion, I had hunted an old faithful stand a couple of times and was not seeing the amount of deer activity that I expected. Once again I decided to carry a stand in with me on the next hunt and move to another location along the edge of the thicket. I arrived at the chosen spot well before dark but could not find a suitable tree to hang the new stand. Reluctantly I slipped over to the original stand and climbed up for the evening hunt. To make a long story short, I ended up arrowing a 169-inch 5X7 that evening! If you have found mid-October to be a tough time to tag a buck, you could always take a break and wait for the rut. However, if you are to white-tail hunting like me that is not an option. In this case, maybe you simply need to move your stand closer to a bedding area. All you have to lose is a possible trip to the taxidermist. new areas. At this time of year the bucks aren't covering a lot of ground. If rubs are located, chances are good that a buck isn't far away. It isn't hard to figure that they are spending their daylight hours in a nearby bedding area. If these rubs happen to be on larger than average trees, I give the area extra attention. HOW TO PATTERN WHITETAIL BUCKS DURING THE RUT One would think this the rut or breeding time of the whitetail deer is the easiest time to pattern whitetail bucks, however this is far from the truth. Whitetail deer biologists report that during the peak of the rut whitetail bucks may travel up to 9 miles a day. While I have found this to be far less the facts still remains whitetail bucks roam about without much thought to a travel route or pattern in search of whitetail doe’s estrous. Because of this it may be more difficult to pattern whitetail deer during the rut. Almost always during the rut I position hunters in topographical advantages such as funnels, spider webs, inside L’s, low spots, terrain breaks, and travel routes slim in width in order to intercept trophy whitetail bucks chasing doe’s. While this may be the most exciting time to hunt whitetail deer according to hunters across the nation, again it may also be the most difficult time to a pattern whitetail bucks. Let us review some strategies to implement in order to stay in hot pursuit of monster bucks during the rut. Again I say that topographical advantages are your best friend during this period of time, however the subject of this article is how to pattern whitetail deer, thus let us visit the clues that need to be investigated in order to be successful at this art during the rut. Many exist! You must know and be aware of where the hot scrapes are present. Often times during the peak of the rut many scrapes are not used by the whitetail herd and longer. However the scrapes that are being used will be red hot. I have noted in the Midwest during the peak of the rut for whitetail deer that the hottest scrapes normally are the size which exceed 4 feet across. These are what I call breeding zone scrapes. These scrapes are visited often as well as sign post rubs. A whitetail deer is made, usually during the rut, when the deer paws the ground to the bare earth and then rub-urinating on it. Rub-urinating means the deer urinates down his back legs onto his tarsal glands, which are located on the inside of his back legs, he then rubs the tarsal glands together squeezing old strong smelling urine onto the scrape. This odor is so strong that it can be smelled by humans. Scrapes are always made near a small tree or overhanging branch. The buck rubs his head on the tree and licks or rubs the branch leaving more of his scent. A scrape is a definite sign that a buck is using the area. Scrapes are usually made where they can be easily found, near feeding areas, trail intersections, along roads, fence rows or edges of clearings. Afterall it is a calling card for does, and an excellent place to intercept monsterous whitetail bucks. Scrapes will help you pattern whitetail bucks during the rut. Which scrapes should you hunt? That depends on when and why the scrapes are used. Scrapes made early in the season may be made simply out of rutting urge, and they may not be used again. Scrapes made near early seasonal food sources may not be used after the food is gone and the does stop using the food source; this often occurs after the breeding period. Recently used scrapes made after the breeding period may be the scrapes of subdominants that begin scraping because the older bucks have quit checking their scrapes and exerting dominance over the younger bucks; the older bucks are busy chasing does. Once you have found a secluded area scrape that looks like it is recently used try to determine whether or not it is being used frequently. The best way to do that is to check it daily, and if you have the opportunity you might as well hunt it while you are checking it. Frequently used scrapes that do not show recent use should be noted because they may be traditional scrapes, used at specific times during the season. Try to figure out why the scrape was used and when, then use the information to hunt the area next year. Patterning whitetail bucks usually will result in you visiting the same areas year after year. Travel routes normally stay travel routes and bedding areas stay bedding areas. Look at all the hunters that you know that have taken monster buck after monster buck from the same exact tree year after year. If a scrape is near an all season food source (browse, clover) and a more preferred food source (acorns, corn) becomes available, the deer may abandon the area. A scrape in this area may be re-opened later if the food source is still there. Frequently used scrapes showing recent use should be watched closely and hunted. Frequently used scrapes of any type are often traditional; used year after year; used by subsequent dominant bucks; used by numerous bucks; and are possibly checked by all bucks in the area. Frequently used traditional scrapes in secluded areas may be used during the day and often occur in travel corridors and near doe use areas. Scrape Lines to pattern whitetail deer. It is difficult to predict which scrapes to hunt, and when to hunt them; because most scraping occurs at night; because bucks begin to scrape more in the day during the Pre-Primary Breeding/Scraping Phase and Primary Breeding Phase; and because scraping by individual bucks does not occur on a regular schedule. Since there is no reliable way of predicting when or how often a buck will scrape, the best thing to do is choose the right area and hunt it when the conditions are right. Although hunting individual scrapes can be productive, you may be better off hunting near areas where numerous scrapes occur; areas referred to as scrape lines, especially if the area contains several traditional scrapes. These scrape lines will help you pattern whitetail deer during the rut. Scrape lines often occur in travel corridors connecting daytime bedding areas and nighttime food sources that are used by both does and bucks. These travel corridors may contain several traditional scrapes. Scrape lines may also occur in staging areas, often downwind of food sources. Scrape lines containing more than one traditional scrape should be your first choice as a hunting site. Remember, because of their semi-open location, many traditional scrapes are used at night, but they are likely to be used during the day in the Pre-Primary Breeding Phase. Groups of Scrapes to help you pattern whitetail deer. Groups of scrapes often occur in staging areas that are near food sources. Although these may seem like good areas to hunt, they may not be. Bucks often scent check scrapes from downwind before they approach the scrape, and they may not even approach the scrape. This means that bucks are extremely wary near scrapes, particularly where there are numerous scrapes that numerous bucks may be using. The best way to hunt scrape lines and staging areas is to find the rub routes the bucks use as they approach the scrapes, and then set up crosswind or downwind of where you expect the bucks to check the scrapes from. This is how you can pattern whitetail bucks during the rut. HOT DOES HELP YOU PATTERN TROPHY WHITETAIL DEER As spoken about earlier in this article regarding the necessity of a hunter knowing what oak Colonies are producing acorns, likewise during the rut the wise whitetail hunter will continue to stay on the alert to locate hot doe’s in the area he or she hunts. Locating hot doe’s on your hunt property or in your area in which you hunt will always assist you in patterning whitetail deer during rut. Finally, hunting doe concentrations is a productive way to stack the odds during the chaos of the breeding phase. The point is, if we can anticipate which food sources will be the hottest and which rut phase will be occurring, we can make stand choices that improve our odds of seeing the buck of a lifetime. A simple formula for patterning whitetail deer and increasing hunting success goes something like this: the way to a deer's heart -- and a filled deer tag -- is through it's stomach. "During the rut, it's really pretty simple," Some say "The does are going to try and eat on their regular schedule, in their favorite dining areas. The bucks are looking for the does. Therefore, to find the bucks you have to find the doe pockets, which are almost always located near a preferred food source. I know some hunters who spend all their time hunting a deep-woods rub line or an isolated scrape, when their best bet for day-in, day-out success is to set up on trails leading to and from food plots and greenfields, especially in the afternoons. That's where the girls will be. And, eventually, so will the boys. HOW TO PATTERN WHITETAIL DEER POST RUT Perhaps the most brutal time of the season for pursuing trophy whitetail deer is after the rut, under post rifle hunting conditions and the dead of winter months. However where there is a will there’s a way. Let’s visit the subject of how to pattern whitetail bucks during late season. Remember that in the Midwest peak of the rut for whitetail deer normally falls during the middle of November. Any doe that isn’t bred during this timeframe come back into heat 30 to 45 days later. This is called the second rut. Although the second rut isn’t as strong in the focus of whitetail deer is mainly the food source you can successfully pattern whitetail deer during this time by utilizing the same techniques used earlier in the year during the peak of the rut. As aforementioned during late season months their focus of the whitetail deer is food. It is cold, food sources are scarce, and whitetail deer are forced to travel to certain food sources or simply starve to death. When this scenario begins remember the techniques we used to pattern whitetail deer during the early season months. Once again spend time scouting food sources from a distance with high quality optics. Once you locate any late season food source or whitetail deer you are destined for opportunity, and often times the biggest whitetail bucks of the season are killed during this time. Why? The biggest and the smartest bucks elude whitetail hunters during the season, and few hunters take to the field to hunt trophy whitetails during the bitter cold temperatures of December and January. This time of the season is a world all of its own. Because it is cold you will want to locate the densest bed areas which afford whitetail deer the warmest of conditions during late winter months. Hunt those thickets. Hunt those low spots. Hunt those raids sides which face the rising sun in the East. Think alike an animal that is cold and starving and adjust accordingly. The truth is the key to being able to pattern whitetail deer is to think like whitetail deer. Even so, we're still enjoying our hunting despite the increasing cold and the reduced deer movement. That's when the tips from neighbors and rural mail carriers and late-shift workers and sheriff's deputies come in handy. Take note of where deer, particularly antlered bucks, are being reported. Those are great spots for post-rut hunts to begin. If taking note of sightings is the first step in planning your end-of-season hunting, the second is to save a few spots just for that purpose. Have some places set aside, in your mind if not on your map that you choose not to hunt during the first two-thirds or so of the open season. Save them, undisturbed, for the latter days. They can be on public land, such as in a national forest or wildlife refuge. One or two should be well away from where you see most of the hunter traffic during the early and middle parts of the season. Check a map to find tucked-away spots that others seem to overlook. Many will be near paved roads, sometimes even within 50 yards. Most, of course, will be remote. Those places are ideal spots for scouting fresh food sources and bedding areas - habitat that will attract old bucks after the stresses of the rut have passed, when their bodies are most in need of rest and recuperation. These are the places you need to pattern whitetail deer. Those special spots are what some of us call "smokehouses." They're where we go to get meat. We keep them pretty much to ourselves. It's not that we're selfish by nature, we just like to check in a "big deer" now and then after the other hunters have hung it up for the season. Special spots like these may often times be the answer to not having to pattern whitetail deer at all during late months. A primary reason for staying away from those special spots is anchored in whitetail buck behavior. You don't walk through their living room or bedroom without their knowing it and without leaving your scent. Once they know they have a visitor, bucks change their patterns, sometimes temporarily abandoning their core living area. It's best not to thrash around in all of the woods and bottoms and thickets available to you. Whether private or public land, hunt on some tracts and save some for later. Post-rut bucks are largely nocturnal. Because of this you must sharpen your skills of patterning whitetail bucks. They have reverted to the movement patterns for which they are naturally programmed. They also prefer darkness now because they have learned that darkness brings an absence of motor noise and footfalls, of muffled voices and whiffs of sweat in the wind. Late-season hunters need to adjust their behavior patterns as well. My method is simple: to abandon the open woods, where the bucks once dogged does, and to seek out the thickets and draws in which they spend their days. This means passing up permanent stands and ladders. It means loading a light pack, strapping on a climbing stand, and spending serious time high over the thickest of thickets I know about or can find. Brushy slopes and bottoms in cutovers are fine places to climb for big bucks. Old fields with brushy terraces, especially those with south-facing slopes, are ideal, if a hunter can find a high tree to climb safely. For obvious reasons, wintering deer like to bed down on southern exposures, out of the wind. In my area the stand trees of choice are sound, straight pines, and if it isn't too windy I usually climb to the first limbs. I go high for two reasons: to be able to see better and to take my human scent up and away from game. If you get smelled by a deer it won’t matter how good you are at patterning whitetail deer. Young pine forests, with trees chest high or better, are commonly full of blackberry briers, tall grasses, myrtles and other shrubby growth. The poorer soils of abandoned farms and pastures often have lots of cedars, which make good cover and windbreaks. All such places, whether remote or close to human habitation, make excellent escapes and refuges for deer. I love to hang a stand around these. After going in the dark and climbing a pre-selected tree - most often one left as a seed tree for natural regeneration - even on the coldest of days two things will warm me up: a glimpse of antler or the welcome sunlight as the rays finally fall on my back. On cloudy days, with or without misty rain, I can only hope for a buck, but that's okay. Bearable misery is part of the hunting experience. Another aspect of post-rut hunting is to locate food sources. Bucks don't chase does all year, but they eat all year. If you've got your hunting grounds properly scouted, you know where the right oaks are, where the honeysuckle is thickest, where the apple, pear, locust, and persimmon trees are - and which ones have nuts and fruit on them going into the fall. Hunt close to those places, including the trails leading to them, as long as the food lasts. Pick a stand tree with a good shooting lane. Climb on the downwind side, and stay low if you must in order to see the area beneath the tree. Get close enough to see a target animal in weak light, because a nocturnal old mossback will most probably show up only in the first or last light of any given day. An exception is when the food source, an acorn-laden oak, for example, is in a place remote enough to offer him the confidence to come for a midday snack. If a buck feels secure, from lack of disturbance and the absence of human scent, he is more likely to move about in broad daylight at the tail end of the hunting season. Because of a lack of hunters you may see yourself patterning whitetail bucks a tad easier during late months. All deer leave their beds during the day to urinate, stretch their legs, groom, and maybe browse. It's reasonable to assume that while they're up, and knowing those big acorns are just a few yards away, they'll come for a little taste, particularly if they're tired bucks in need of restoring body fat that'll be needed for surviving the stresses of January, February and miserable old March. I make it my business to find those hidden-away places just for use in the post-rut period. INSTINCTUAL PATTERNING OF WHITETAIL BUCKS I’m not sure how to relate this without sounding a tad weird, however I will do the best I can. Whether it be early season, the middle of October, the rut, or even late season after you have whitetail deer hunted long enough instinct will begin to help you pattern whitetail deer. I recall after many years of fishing with my grandfather, that eventually I could motor into a piece of water and just know in my gut that fish were here. For those of you who have time and will dedicate yourselves to the woods you will begin to develop a instinctual manners of a predator. These instincts through years of trial and error will eventually reveal how to pattern whitetail bucks.

Darrin Bradley

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