Today’s blog comes from Mike Hanback of Big Deer TV airing Wednesdays at 10PM EP. Mike has been writing about whitetails since the 1990′s and is considered by many as an expert on the subject. For more information about Mike, you can follow him on Twitter, find him on Facebook or visit his website at www.mikehanback.com
After a lackluster 2013, when the weather was tough and the herds were down and the rack growth was off in many regions, the whitetails are back, and back in a big way. From the trail-camera images I’m getting at my Big Deer Blog as well as field reports from all over the country, 2014 is looking to be a big rack year.
You should jump on this opportunity early. The first days of your bow season in September or October are second only to the November rut for best time to kill a big deer. Right now, the bucks have not been pressured for a year; they’re using small home ranges; and they’re walking predictable bed-to-feed patterns. A gnarly 8- or 10-pointer might be in your future if bowhunt hard and smart in a few weeks.
Food is the Key
Hang a couple of tree stands on the edge of alfalfa, corn or beans where you’ve been seeing some bucks come to pig out the past few weeks. You have been scouting and glassing right? If not, get out there. You’ve still got time.
Watch a field from several hundred yards away for several evenings in a row. If you see a shooter pop out the same spot—say through the same field corner or beside a round hay bale or big tree–move in one day at midmorning and set a stand right there on the edge by your landmark. Forget what you might have read about big deer not making it to the feed before dark. Right now, the animals have not been pressured, and they are fairly lackadaisical on their patterns. A 140-class shooter or even a giant might stroll out into the field feed in the last minutes of light.
Pick an afternoon to hunt when the wind blows right, preferably down a tee line and not back into the woods where deer are coming from, or out into a feed field where they will end up. Spray down liberally with Scent Killer Gold, sneak into your stand a good three hours before dark, climb up quietly and wait for the action to begin. Likely that will be in the last half-hour.
You can never go wrong by setting a bow stand near acorns that fall 100 yards or so off a field, food plot or water source. For sure some does and bucks will stop to stage and gnaw the nuts before heading out to a field later in the afternoon. There’s a good chance that many deer will feed entirely on the mast and never head for a field, as the animals prefer acorns over all other foodstuffs.
Find white or red oaks that are just beginning to rain their nuts, and set a stand that is easy to access on the downwind side of where you expect deer to appear.
Every time John Schmucker spotted the 36-point giant in the summer of 2006 (see the amazing buck in the picture) he was traveling with three smaller bucks. When Schmucker went out hunting with his crossbow on September 30 that year, the first deer he spotted was one of those little guys. He figured the monster was close so he got ready. A few minutes later there he came! John’s bolt was spot-on. The Schmucker buck, with a non-typical net of 291 2/8, is the largest buck ever shot with a crossbow in Ohio.
It is an eight-year-old lesson that is still pertinent today: John killed one of the nation’s all-time biggest whitetails by thinking and being smart. He remembered the makeup of that summer bachelor group and used that knowledge to his advantage. Do the same. As you glass and/or study trail-camera images of a buck group in late summer, study the makeup of that group and get to know those bucks, because those deer will likely run together into October. If you spot one of the little bucks, get ready. The big boy is apt to show any time now.
Warm-Weather Deer Care
- The first weeks of bow season, it is too hot to leave a deer overnight. If you stick a buck late, round up a buddy, get powerful lights and go find your deer before it spoils. Look all night if you have to.
- Field-dress a deer quickly, and hang it in an open shed or in a shade tree and skin it. Carry the carcass to a cold-storage facility, or bone out the meat and store in a fridge or pack on ice. Yeti Coolers are the best we’ve used for icing down back straps and boned cuts of venison.
Bug Tip: Depending on where you hunt in warm September, the gnats, black flies and mosquitoes will be bad to miserable. After settling into your stand or blind, set out a Thermacell and fire it up. New models emit an earth cover scent. If you’ve never tried one, they work.