With all of the political nonsense clogging our airwaves, it is about time that we turn our attention to the more important epidemic that will soon be consuming sportsmen across the country: HUNTING SEASON!. We may not be able to control the mainstream media, but the photo stream from our trail camera this time of year is sure to get our hearts pounding and imaginations ballooning. Trail cameras give us the inside scoop of “who’s who” of the bucks wandering our properties. Don’t get discouraged quite yet if you aren’t seeing as many buck pictures as you’d like. The season is still young and I’ve got five tricks that just might bring social media status boneheads into your rut news feed.
I often ask myself, “If I were a buck during the rut, where would I be?” I guess I would be hitting up the local woodland drinkery in search of a hot looking mama of a whitetail. This is why above all else, bringing local bucks into your neck of the woods first requires attracting the local does.
Doe habits do not change quite as much as the bucks during the breeding season. Finding the does on your property can be as simple as focusing on established food plots such as crop fields or oak stands, and determining the location of bedding areas on or near your property. If your plot does not have these key features, the deer probably still travel through your property to get to the ones on your neighbor’s property. To ensure that your stand locations have plenty of doe crossing signs, situate each stand sight between two of the naturally occurring attractions on the neighboring property. This ensures maximum buck drawing potential during the peak of the rut as the does drag them between food and bedding areas.
Although they are rare in our state, some properties may not have very attractive food or bedding areas directly on the adjoining properties. This is where my second tip comes in handy: use scent to attract does. Last year, I harvested a mature doe after bringing her and six of her best girlfriends within bow range off of the neighboring piece of land using a scent trap. A dominant doe may not be using your property, but in all likelihood there is one within smelling distance of your hunting location. Dominant does, like bucks, will get territorial when they smell a hot doe in their area before the rut is in full swing. When they get jealous and decide to check your property for the intruder, they will bring the bucks in tow. Find your favorite brand of doe in estrus scent and pack it with you as the rut is approaching. Set sent wicks around your stand at thirty yards in all four directions from your location. This will ensure that the area is fully saturated with dominant hot doe scent no matter which way the wind blows.
Using scent and the wind brings me to my third tip: use the wind. So the big bucks may not be using your property, but it doesn’t mean they don’t get close. If you know that bucks like to hang out in a certain neighboring tract, set up closer to that property line. I am not telling you to sit on the fence and shoot over the property line, but if the wind is right, you can utilize scent attractants to bring bucks in from a downwind property. Find an active trail that connects your neighbor’s property to yours, and set up thirty or forty yards inside of your boundary line. Hang an estrous scent wick thirty yards upwind of your stand and let the wind do the work. If a buck is working your neighbor’s tract, the scent floating in from your property may be enough to bring him into your sights. Just be sure to shoot the deer only when he is unquestionably on your property.
Speaking of boundary lines, tip number four incorporates both legal and figurative boundaries. We know that rutty bucks mark their respective properties with a scrape line right? Often times these scrapes follow our legal boundary lines such as fence rows. If this is the case in your area, and the scrapes are “browner” on the other side of the fence, try using a mock scrape line to bring a dominant buck to your side.
If you know of an active scrape line, or even one from last year that is on a neighboring property, establish your mock line about twenty to thirty yards from the property line. I like to play the copycat method here by placing a mock scrape every time the real scrape line has one. This gives the buck more opportunities to sense the trap and come investigate. I like to use both dominant buck and hot doe scent for this method. I like to alternate scents over each mock scrape, and drip both scents onto the dirt, working it in with my boots. I have had several adjacent property bucks come over the fence during the wee hours of the morning or right at dusk trying to figure out who is working the same fence line they are. I think I even heard one grunt, “This fence ain’t big enough for the both of us.” But then again, I am not fluent in deer.
Tip number 5: Start early and always keep improving your land! As mentioned before, bucks change their routine when the rut approaches. You may have a hard time getting bucks to check out your property, but if you start implementing factors such as establishing food or bedding areas on your property early in the year, the deer will work your land into their day to day routine. This goes for attracting both bucks and does onto your property. Whether you allow a farmer to plant a section of your property or incorporate the DNR’s CRP program into your ecosystem, do so as soon as the previous season ends. This not only ensures that the deer will keep coming to your property during the off season, it also ensures that the area becomes a routine travel corridor.
Early implementation of these tricks can also bring nocturnal bucks to your property during shooting hours. We all know those giants that show up routinely on camera at two in the morning but never during shooting hours. If you keep the does moving through your area, there is a good chance the rut will alter his routine and convince him to take a cruise through your stand location while you have an arrow knocked or hammer cocked.
If there is anything we know about hunting the rut it is that anything can happen and nothing is 100% predictable. However, these five tactics can do the trick in convincing a bruiser buck that the grass is greener outside of his regular hangouts. As always, make sure you know the legal ins and outs of using food sources and scents on your property to attract deer during all times of the year. Be patient, and hopefully by starting early, attracting does, and working the property lines you will be able to tag a buck on your property this season.