Wilson Post Blogs
It's not too early
JOHN L. SLOAN
Not a tinge of color in the leaves or even much of a chill in the air. It is early October.
An occasional dove bombs the field and somewhere a dog is barking. Over 100 yards away, on the edge of the alfalfa, five bucks are browsing. Two are well deserving of an arrow and a place on my wall. Unfortunately, the arrow that scored was not mine but that of a friend, Bob Shebaylo, who I had placed in one of my stands. I knew I should have hunted that stand.
A huge misconception exists in the realm of deer hunting. Many believe that the only time a hunter can kill a monster trophy buck is during the rut. For us, that would be mid-November. To subscribe to that theory is to overlook some of the best trophy hunting of the year.
No question about it, bucks may be more visible during the pre-rut and rut. They travel more and spend more daylight hours moving. They are more susceptible to the calls and scents and other gimmicks hunters use to coax one within range.
However, the early season provides a chance at a big buck a hunter can never get later in the year. It provides a shot at the unsuspecting buck, the less wary one, the one that is still, to some small degree, still in a pattern.
I am of the firm opinion mature bucks cannot be patterned. The reason for that is simple. They have no pattern. Mature bucks, those over 3.5 years of age follow no pattern 95% of the time. That leaves 5% of the time to pattern one and most of the time, when we try to do that, they pattern us first and avoid contact. There is an exception.
If done carefully and correctly, the hunter does have a chance. Careful observation of a buck during the late summer, just prior to the opening of the archery season can give us a glimmer.
This is best done by non-invasive scouting. That means staying out of their territory. No walking around scouting, leaving our scent in their dining room or bedroom.
A spotting scope mounted on a car or truck window is my preferred method to scout and open crop fields are what I scout. I look for the buck I want. Usually, at that time of year, he will be in a bachelor group. That is good and bad. The good part is, you have a glimmer of knowledge as to what order the bucks enter fields and travel. That allows you to be forewarned. The bad part is the number of eyes and noses is increased.
However, armed with some scouting information, i.e. where the bucks enter the field and in what order, the hunter can now place a stand well in advance of hunting it. That allows the deer to become accustomed to it.
Downside: The food source changes and they quit entering the field. That is my forte. That is where I tend to shine. When it comes to hunting for a mature buck, for me, given the right circumstances, forget the fields and give me some oak trees.
My goal is to find an oak, preferably a white oak that is bearing mast and in a good location. I’ll hang a stand there and leave it alone. By doing my scouting for a food source instead of deer sign, I eliminate the chance of spooking the deer. How can I? I am doing my thing before he even knows he is going to be there. The first time I hunt that stand, providing I have timed it right, is the best chance I have of killing a mature buck.
One sweat-dripping hot morning in Alabama, I let six bucks walk past me before shooting the seventh. That deer was 5.5 years old and one of the biggest ever killed on that property. I had never been in the tree before other than to hang the stand. The deer were coming to a group of five oaks that were raining acorns.
It was cool and crisp, not frosty but a nice morning to be in the tree in Cheatham County. I hung the stand a week before. The fourth buck to come by was a dandy 10-pt by Cheatham County standards. For once, I actually hit where I was aiming and he went less than 100 yards.
Yes, the rut is a great time to hunt. However, for me, when it is bow season, I’ll take October.