By Michael Lee
-- November is what we deer hunters like to call THE month for whitetail hunting in most of the United States. Opportune hunting conditions are usually in full swing. Hunters flock to the woods in search of an abundance of fresh venison for the freezer as well as a potential trophy to add to the decor of their walls at home.
Many hunters will tag these elusive bucks that only don the woods during the "golden" time when they are seeking or chasing females until their urges have been met. Focusing on a few key items such as feeding areas, bedding areas and travel corridors can add to your success.
There's no doubt that deer, just like us, need to feed. The simple point with my experience below is this - find the food and you will find the deer.
Catching movement in the hardwood finger to my left, I looked through my binoculars as the buck walked into a clearing. That was just what I wanted to see all season. The buck posed momentarily, and I knew it was a shooter. Easing up my rifle, I aimed for the next clearing the buck would have to cross. As the buck walked into my scope, I squeezed the trigger, and the buck disappeared. I felt good about the shot but gave him 20 minutes just in case. Sure enough, the buck dropped right where it stood.
This hardwood finger jutted out into a planted pine cutover that a timber company had clear cut, planted, and fertilized a couple of years earlier. With the pines getting the fertilizer, so did all of the native vegetation. This drew deer in like never before in the area. It was not uncommon to see 10-15 deer each hunt with a good amount of does. With this in mind, I knew that the rut would be a prime time to take a buck in this area with that many does around. Hunting where the does were paid off for me on this trip. The main-frame 10-point buck, with a couple of stickers, now hangs on my wall as a reminder each time I look at it.
Putting It to Bed
Bedding areas are something that we need to know more about. Rule number one: do not get too close. Yes, we know the deer are there, but deer will definitely change their patterns when they are pressured. For example, if you hunt the edge of a bedding area with the wrong wind, the deer will more than likely not move, or they will leave the area from down wind and you'll never see them.
In the same aspect, if you go right into the bedding area and setup, you will more than likely bust the deer out and they may head to a new area altogether. The key to success is to hunt just close enough to the bedding area. The enough part comes in where you can hunt and catch the deer coming or going from the area. During the rut, the big bucks will follow does in and out of the bedding areas, as well as cruise through the territory, looking for receptive does. This is when you can really be successful and catch sight of the big boys, especially during the daylight hours.
The Roads Most Traveled
Another burning question asked by deer hunters is where is the best place to setup for a chance at a good buck. This question is extremely difficult to answer because a mature buck during the rut is totally unpredictable. The deer could be here today and a mile away tomorrow. What you can do to put odds in your favor is to hunt where bucks want to be. This is certainly easier said than done.
Bucks put down sign all season long via rubs, scrapes, etc. What you have to do is decipher which sign is good and which sign is not so good. Bucks rub their antlers early in the season to get velvet off and to strengthen their necks for fighting during the coming rut. Finding this sign in November and hunting it most likely will not work. The sign that you want to focus on is the fresh rubs. Pine trees and cedars are prime woods that bucks like to rub. Fresh pines will have sap dripping that is still sticky and can cause a mess. Cedars will still have a wet look if the rubs are fresh. One easy way to tell if the rub is fresh it to cut a small strip of bark off the tree. If the coloration is a close match, then the rub is fresh.
Scrapes are a huge focus, as well. There are two types of scrapes in my opinion: traveling and territorial. Traveling scrapes may be used by several different bucks at any time. Territorial scrapes are those that most hunters find. These can be used by multiple bucks, but mainly by bucks marking their territory. These will usually be in a line. They may be 20, 40, or more yards apart that mark a buck's area. These areas that the bucks travel can be very productive especially during the rut. Bucks will visit these areas multiple times of the day and night looking for receptive does in the area. Finding these travel areas from the bedding areas to the feeding areas can allow you to see the best bucks around.
While it's every hunter's dream to take a big buck during this magical time in the deer woods, there is certainly more to the game that simply being in the right place at the right time. In short, seek out quality food sources, hang back from bedding areas and be on the look out for scrapes and you could be visiting your local taxidermist this November.