On this podcast we talk to the Quality Deer Management Association’s Communications Manager, Brian Grossman. Brian is a native to Kentucky and now lives in west Georgia. In our discussion we dive into lots of great information for archery, public land hunting as well as the benefits of joining QDMA.
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Early season is upon us whitetail enthusiasts, and for the most part bucks have rubbed their velvet clean off revealing hardened antlers that they will carry all fall and winter. However, when bucks shed their velvet it’s almost as if they become a whole different animal to hunt. With that in mind, there is good news and bad news.
Bad News: Bucks seemingly become harder to pattern.
Bucks, for the most part, are no longer on their bed-to-food-only pattern. While some may keep this pattern exclusively many are preparing for the seeking and chasing phase of the rut. They’re looking for does and doe bedding.
Good News: Bucks break off from their summer bachelor groups.
This, in theory, creates a higher chance for you, the hunter, to get a shot at one. While bucks are not rutting yet their testosterone levels are steadily increasing. If you’re like me, hunting a smaller land parcel, the bucks may have been venturing through every couple of days or even every other week. Now that they are broken off the likelihood of you seeing one could be more frequent as they hopefully travel more often.
Bad News: You probably shouldn’t check trail cameras every week.
The more you go check your camera the higher probability of leaving something behind for that mature buck to smell. Eventually, that buck will pattern you and stay clear whenever he gets the slightest glimpse or whiff of you in the woods.
Good News: You increase your odds by not checking trail cameras
By not checking your camera as frequently you are enhancing your odds of running into a mature buck. Even better, if you have the means to purchase a cellular camera you won’t have to defile the area at all.
Bad News: Mature bucks prove why they are mature.
Mature bucks will start to travel less frequently during the day. Why? There are several reasons. Here are a few:
They start to feel pressure from hunters
Food sources are changing.
Habitat and bedding are altering.
Good News: It’s time to start hunting that mature buck
This is why we as hunters do what we love. This is why we hunt. The chase. The camaraderie. The venison. The chess match. This is what brings us back each and every year.
So good luck and good hunting!
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Small properties might be some of the most overlooked gems in the deer hunting world. While it’s difficult to keep and sustain mature bucks on the property for any amount of time it can be favorable to pattern them as their passing through.
That being said an ideal parcel will have bedding areas nearby that keep the deer close. Locating these and setting up accordingly could pay big dividends.
Keeping in that in mind, a hunter needs to identify the terrain features that sprinkle the landscape. Okay, so how do we do that?
1.) Scout from an observation stand
You might have to get creative with this one depending on the layout of your property. Take ample time to observe how the deer utilize the contours of the land to get from point A to point B. One of the small parcels I hunt took me nearly three years to figure out how the deer moved throughout it. Now, that might have been one year too long. I didn’t rigorously hunt this property the first year I had permission to hunt.
This leads me to my next point.
2.) Only hunt optimal conditions
I cannot stress this enough. If you hunt too much or when the wind isn’t in your favor it could mess up your whole season. Deer notice when someone is in their bedroom or trekking through their territory. The last thing you want is to force your only one or two mature bucks to go nocturnal or to shift their core areas.
3.) Enable good entrance and exit routes
Entering and exiting your stand is of the utmost importance. I’m still learning this. If you bump deer going into your stand good luck trying to make amends the rest of the season. Even worse if a mature buck sees AND smells your presence you might as well do one of two things. Hunt only the rut or find a different hunting property. Access is that important and might be the difference in a successful or unsuccessful season.
4.) Identify prime treestand sites
Because you’re hunting a small parcel your stand sites are limited. You have to consider the aforementioned access routes and wind tendencies. Placing a stand in the correct spot will change the game on small acreage. Try to get as a high as possible in your set, yet still staying safe. You might have to go up a hill or climb 5 to 10 more feet vertically. This will give you a better chance of getting above any air current that might be swirling where you are hunting.
Here’s the kicker. A majority of the time in order to be successful on small parcels all of these previously mentioned points must be put into action.
Good luck and good hunting!
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These five do’s and don’ts before deer season will put you on the track to success this fall.
Summer can be very busy, but summertime can also be very productive if you set your mind to it. The months of June, July and August are the three months every hunter should be thinking about October, November and December and for some even September. Here are five do’s and don’ts of summer that will help you identify what needs to be accomplished before the season opener.
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Do: Check all your gear
This always comes back to bite me every year, because there’s that one item I didn’t think about replacing or buying a new one before the season opened, and I find myself scrambling for the funds to purchase it after I’ve already purchased deer stands, arrows, broadheads, food plot blend, etc. Whether it’s bug spray, new socks or a scent eliminator be sure to check every item before the season begins. Then, check one more time and you won’t regret it.
Do: Spend time with the family
I can’t stress this enough. Don’t spend all summer at your hunting property. Pick a day or two to get things done and don’t go back until September unless you have to. You are going to be gone all of October and November, and the best thing you can do for your family over the summer is give them the time they deserve, especially if you’re taking a week or two for your rut vacation.
Don’t: Give too much credence to summer scouting
Bucks with velvet act a lot different after they rub their velvet clean off. They shift their core areas, they break out of their bachelor groups and some will hardly move anymore during the daylight hours. The average hunter cannot form too much of a game plan in July or August of where to hunt the hit-list buck because when the velvet comes off that buck’s testosterone level increases, and he essentially becomes a new man. If you’re using trail cameras take note of the pictures your getting but don’t get too excited just yet.
Do: Clean out the freezer
Unless you have four or five deep freezers it’s time to start cooking burgers, grilling steaks and marinating back strap. After you harvest your first deer you’re going to need room in the freezer. This will also be a good excuse not to go out to eat, in turn, saving you money for more important items like arrows and new camouflage before the season.
Don’t: Get behind on preparation
This is huge. When archery season begins you don’t want to find yourself playing catch up. Shoot your bow, set up your tree stands, check your release, set up your blind and the list goes on and on. I’ve found out over the years that the more prepared I am the more success I have in the deer woods. Waterholes, like the one shown above can be deadly. Make sure to freshen up the water as often as possible so the deer won’t be harmed by bacteria growing in the heat.
The more scouting I do beforehand the better my odds when I’m making a move on that big, mature buck. If I get my food plot planted, fertilized and watered with enough time the better chance I have of drawing deer within shooting range.
Late season scouting is essential for getting ready for next season.
These 3 late season scouting tactics will get you ready for next season.
As deer season nears to a close several hunters are packing it in for the winter months. They might try harvesting one or two more does for the freezer or try for that elusive giant that seems to be skirting daylight hours. Whatever the case may be, there are late season scouting tactics that could prove helpful for next year’s season.
Seek Out Bedding
A tactic that could make the entire difference in your deer season next year is locating bedding areas. Because much of the flora has lost its spring density deer are more limited to where they can bed – unless you created several bedding areas by hinge cutting in the off season. However, knowing where these bedding areas are could be dynamite for the rut, especially doe bedding areas. Additionally, this knowledge of bedding areas will provide a head start for locating buck movement during the late season next year.
Know the Food
Depending on the crop year depends on where whitetails congregate throughout the season. If orchards are present on your land then that might be the early season food of choice. If you planted clover then deer might prefer that throughout the summer and early fall. There are so many options it really takes knowing what your deer herd prefers. Also identifying what’s naturally growing on your hunting parcel will you give an idea of what deer eat on a day-to-day basis.
This year in southern Virginia we had a large white oak acorn crop. Deer, especially mature bucks, did not need to move as much because the acorns were literally feet from their bed. The hard part was figuring out which bed they were in. The catch 22 was that a neighboring property timbered several acres three years ago, and just this year the secondary succession was perfect for deer bedding. Needless to say it was quite the chess match.
However, if you don’t have a bumper acorn crop where are the deer focusing their feeding movements? Is it a cut corn field? Could it be alfalfa or brassica? It could be any or all of these. What’s pertinent is that you find what the deer are feeding on in your region. Up until this point this season, deer still are not feeding on the brassica which they have enjoyed in the past three years. It might just take another month or so before they shift to this. Unfortunately, it might be a month too late. Know what your deer feed on when, and it could be the difference of harvesting or not harvesting a mature buck this winter.
Find the Travel Routes
Late season can be tough because many deer become nocturnal and wait in staging areas until it gets dark. Find these staging areas, hang a stand, make sure the wind is in your favor and wait. I’ve witnessed deer hold up right inside a wood line until dark. I’m sure many of you have witnessed this as well. The reason is because deer have been pressured by hunters all year and are more wary of predators.
Simultaneously, you can begin looking at these funnels and pinch points for clues to next year’s season. Observe where these deer are moving and ask yourself, “why are the deer being funneled this way?” Is there a terrain feature? Is it the wind? Are there drainages that are impossible for the deer to cross? Search these out and take advantage of where it forces the deer. Sometimes in the winter it can be easier to identify these funnels, drainages and crossings because the leaves have fallen and line of sight is clearer.
Whatever your goals are for late season hunting, make sure to take every advantage to scout for the next year as well.It could be the difference.
Late season can be tough hunting. Cold temps and nocturnal bucks to name a few. These 3 keys will help you be successful in the deer woods.
These 3 keys to late season success will give you a great chance at harvesting a mature buck.
By Nathan Unger
For many hunters the rut is what they plan their annual vacation around. There is nothing wrong with that. The deer are moving, chasing, seeking and rutting and can make for an eventful hunt in the tree stand. However, one of my favorite times to hunt is from the last week in November until the end of the season.
Mature bucks revert back to their feeding patterns that provide hunters a great opportunity for a harvest. Here are some keys to successfully bagging a bruiser buck during frigid temps and food shortages.
Whitetails need food just as much as humans and other animals require sustenance in order to survive. Depending on where you are hunting deer may need more food. For example deer in Kansas may require more food during the snowy, winter months than, say, deer in Florida.Snow and cold temperatures are going to get deer moving and searching for high caloric food in order to maintain body heat and energy. It is true that mature bucks become nocturnal more so than they are in the rut. This could be from hunting pressure, less energy or just preservation of body heat. However, they have to feed periodically in order to survive.
If you are going to pattern a late season buck you need trail cameras. If you can pinpoint his movements in and out of his bedding area your chances increase drastically. The deer may only move 10 minutes before shooting light ends, so the use of trail cameras will help you locate his movements with minimum pressure on his home range. We pinpointed this deer with trail cameras throughout the unseasonably hot temperatures of the 2015 season. But on the first day of a cold snap, Unger capitalized on a food source as this buck was on his way back to bed.
I cannot stress enough how important the right clothing for late season hunting can be. It could be the difference between staying out for several hours or calling it quits at dusk because of the lack of feeling in your toes. Trust me, been there, done that. I make sure I have ample clothing, but not too much where it prohibits circulation. I also take along hand and feet warmers which have changed the length of time I’m able to stay in the woods during winter.
One last note I wanted to make. If you define success differently these tactics can still be useful. If you are simply trying to fill the freezer food sources and trail cameras remain important tools for the job. However you define success be sure to get out and hunt. The season is almost over!
These locations will be dynamite this fall. Be sure to get intel now for these deer stand locations.
By Nathan Unger
Each summer, as hunters, we’re often faced with the conundrum of where to place our deer stands for the coming deer season. Deer stand locations are important because it could be the difference between harvesting that big whitetail you’ve been dreaming about all summer long.
Hunters have to ask themselves a few questions before they set up stands:
Should I place a stand where I’m seeing summer bachelor group bucks?
Male whitetail home ranges can vary drastically once their velvet comes off and their testosterone level increases. Bucks will move from food-to-bedding patterns in the summer to looking for and chasing does in the fall.
These deer stand locations will account for some of these changes in home ranges, and will ultimately lead to success will a little bit of buck luck.
Find the food
The first location that will be good for the entire season is on the edge of a food source that is downwind of a bedding area where it funnels into that food source. This could include a food plot or a crop field.
If your state has an early bow season this could still be highly successful under the correct weather and pressure conditions in the early season as bucks are still easily patterned. Likewise, if the bedding area is a doe bedroom those bucks will be cruising all around during the rut and into December and January.
This is probably my favorite set-up because it’s good all year long.
The key? Early season scouting before dark or with trail cameras to see where the deer are entering the food sources to help narrow down which tree to precisely put a stand in.
While some of this terminology may be more familiar in the western states they can still be applied in south where I do most of my hunting.
There have been several times that I have bumped deer because I thought there was no way they would be located on a certain hillside or in a certain ravine, but over the years it seems as if they prefer certain terrain to better smell approaching predators.
Funnels are a specific point where several paths intersect that deer prefer to travel because of terrain features or obstacles.
The key? Make sure your stand is on the downwind side of these funnels and that you’ve done your research on where that buck is traveling from.
A lot of times that mature buck will make a ‘J-hook’ to sniff out the area before entering a certain location. Oftentimes this is specific to bedding, however deer don’t always follow the rules.
These can be successful during the rut primarily as bucks are chasing does and can be careless from time to time especially if the wind is in your favor.
These unique, topographical ledges are exactly what they sound like. Imagine a hillside being the backboard of a bench and the seat being an off-shoot of that hill. These off-shoots are some of mature bucks favorite bedding areas because they can see anything coming from below them and smell anything coming from above them.
Numerous times have I gotten too close to these areas and bumped deer because they caught my scent. Setting up a stand on the downwind side of the entrance to these benches will be great sites to place a stand.
The diagram above highlights food sources, “F”, bedding areas are marked with a purple circle,”X” marks stand locations and the purple lines are streams running through the property. The three X’s that are immediately adjacent to the red borders are the funnels specific to this property where the terrain or stream forces deer into this specific location.
The X’s that are not located on a food sources or immediately next to the red border are benches where the deer will sometimes bed or travel in between food sources or bedding areas.
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment. By no means is this a one-size-fits-all formula, but for the majority it will lead to hunting success this season.
A lot of times we think the more times we go hunting the better chance we have of killing a big buck. That might not always be the case.
Quality sits far outweigh quantity of sits.
As I mature as a hunter and learn new tips and tricks with experience I’ve come to find out that it is not the quantity of sits in a tree stand that leads to success but the quality of sits.
Oftentimes we think that the more hours we put in the better chance we’ll have of shooting a nice mature buck. When in reality this is not always the case.
If a hunter constantly walks into his tree stand on poor weather conditions or when the wind isn’t right or late in the evening after work he or she increases the odds of educating a mature buck. I recently heard somebody say, “if someone walks into your house you’re going to know they are there.” The same goes for these old bruisers as well.
Another reason I don’t feel guilty for sleeping in is because if you’re like me and you have trail cameras and you’re not getting any pictures of mature bucks during legal shooting hours then don’t think he’s randomly just going to show up under your tree stand when you’re hunting. Am I saying it isn’t possible? Not at all. Crazy things happen. What I’m saying is the majority of mature bucks are going to change their pattern especially in the early season when they are in their food-to-bed routines.
Additionally, because of the change in food sources during the early season, if you’re not getting pictures at all of those mature bucks that you were getting during the summer it’s probably because they have switched food sources. The key is finding out what that new favored food source is.
A similar factor that has been dictating deer movement in my home state of Georgia is the lack of rain. We haven’t had rain in over a month at least, and the deer are sticking close to where the water sources are. Be sure to plan your sits around a water source during these times of drought because most of these mature bucks will be bedding during the day, going straight to food and water and directly back to their beds. If you are not hunting somewhere in between chances are you’ll never see him.
What if I only have one week to hunt?
My answer to that would be save it for either the rut or late season when the weather is cooler. Unless you have ample camera data where that mature buck is moving during legal shooting hours I wouldn’t even risk using a weeks vacation in the early season. I understand not everyone can go hunting 30-to-40 times a season, so choose wisely the time of year you can take off. I certainly wish I could go more than I do, but I also realize I’m fortunate enough to go more often than a lot of people can. In which case if you only have one week you have to go.
The experience of deer hunting far outweighs not going at all just because the conditions are not perfect. Maximize weather conditions (i.e. wind, rain, temperature, pressure, etc.) the best you can and enjoy the process. It’s better to be out hunting rather than sitting inside and not hunting at all.
It’s that time of the year again when bucks begin to drop there antlers and hunting season kicks back in! Not with a bow or a rifle but with your eyes, friends and maybe even a dog! Yes, it’s shed hunting season and not the kind that houses your lawn mower in the backyard. The kind where you cover miles of ground maybe just to find one or two pieces of bone. The reality is you can increase the possibility of finding more sheds in a smaller amount of time if you focus on these high percentage areas instead of aimlessly wondering through the woods. Here are a few to get you started!
1.) Bedding Areas
This is probably the location that even the amateur shed hunter is familiar with because you want to, with any location, find where bucks are spending most of their time. Bucks are traveling the minimum they have to in order to survive the harsh conditions of winter. Many times they’re going straight from their bed room to a food source. This is why if you can find the bedding area then there is a pretty good chance you will find antlers if they have already dropped. This leads me to our next location.
2.) Food Sources
This is arguably the second best place to search when looking for sheds because this is where bucks are going to frequent. Why? Because a buck has to eat to survive. Often times you will be able to see white bone sticking up among the food unless of course it has snowed you’ll probably have to walk the food plot. This is when training your dog comes in handy. Between the two of you (and a dog’s nose probably counts as two) you will be able to cover a lot more ground in a shorter time span.
3.) Deer Highways
This is quintessential just as much as the other two because how do bucks get between a bedding area and food source? Via the highways they travel. This is a great place to look because bucks will rub against trees or shrubs while they are traveling which can jar the antlers loose, or even when they duck below limbs it might be ample movement to lose the left or right side. You should especially be on the look out for rough terrain such as a gully, ravine or stream crossing. Anything that might force the deer to add extra movement could be just enough for that bone to come loose!
4.) Fence Crossings
Last but certainly not least are fence crossings. Anytime a deer attempts to jump over a fence or duck below a fence is perfect for finding sheds. The jump can jar sheds lose as well as barbed wire that catches the antlers when a deer tries to go underneath. If the deer have lost their antlers towards the end of winter, and you know where a fence is, there’s a high percentage chance you will find some bone. As long as the squirrels or neighbors haven’t beaten you to it!
As I’m writing this I’m driving to my home state of Virginia for one last shot at a mature buck that has filled my dreams since January. The season is almost over and I’m not sure where it even went! So in an event to reflect on this past season, instead of giving out some pointers, I wanted to reminisce on what this year has meant to me and talk about some of the tokens I’ve gleaned from the experiences.
This has been one of those years where the experience has had to be more important than the kill. This is mainly because, thus far, I’ve struck out on a mature buck. I’ve been in the woods 25-30 times this season which is pretty good considering I work a full time job. However, with limited time and fluctuating temperatures, I’ve had one heck of a time trying to match up the perfect conditions, and the few times I did, I still didn’t have any luck at a mature buck.
However, looking back on the season, I have constantly asked myself one question.
“Did I do everything possible to put myself in a position to succeed?”
My answer to that question, quite simply, would be, “No.”
Due to unusually warm southern temperatures the deer have been suppressed to nocturnal movement much of the season. The two opportunities I had were difficult and required extreme patience which is my first token I took from this season.
1.) You can never have too much patience while hunting
I was hunting the weekend before Thanksgiving in northern North Carolina which during that time of year, during the rut, I typically see several deer. This specific day I hadn’t seen any. My first mistake was assuming that I wouldn’t see anything just because I hadn’t seen anything the first two hours in the stand.
I knew better than this.
At 9:30 a.m. after three hours in the stand I decided to adjust my swivel seat in our box blind. Low and behold I didn’t get a chance to spray some WD40 on it and it squeaked as I rotated. Next thing I know something behind me less than five yards away jumped up out of the thicket and pranced off. As I turned around trying to get a peek at what it was I caught a glimpse of white bone bouncing through the pine trees which leads to my second token I took from this season.
2.) Preparation leads to success
Had I either not moved or properly fixed my seat beforehand I would have had a nice mature 10 pointer at less than five yards. As I sat there mentally beating myself up for squabbling the opportunity, within minutes I heard more movement. After seconds of looking to see what the noise was, there was another mature buck trotting in the thicket behind me having no idea I was even there. My Horton crossbow was still sitting next to me because I never would have thought a second mature buck would have followed the first one I spooked. Clearly I was wrong!
3.) You HAVE to maintain mental toughness
Deer hunting, especially archery hunting, can be one of the most mentally taxing endeavors a hunter can experience while he or she is in the field. As I continue to gain experience bow hunting I never stop learning this. As many of you know, and many of you will learn, you will hunt often times without shooting anything, and sometimes you may not even see anything. This has discouraged me all season, but until you can learn these valuable lessons you can never truly enjoy the experience of being outdoors. As I’m writing this a young spike buck walked 30 yards from me and, for me, just seeing that young deer makes my hunt worth every hour even if I don’t shoot anything.
All this to say, don’t give up, don’t be discouraged, enjoy the experience and keep hunting!