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Where Are My Big Bucks?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: I hunt in east Texas on a 100-acre family farm with mostly open pasture land. This is my first of many years hunting to utilize a game camera. Over the past several years I have consistently harvested deer, 18 since 2000, yet have never seen or harvested anything bigger than a 6-pointer.

I've always attributed this to the openness of our hunting habitat. Now that I've had a chance to utilize a new trail cam, however, I'm finding there are several mature trophy bucks, but they are only caught on my cam at night. Would there be any strategy to change their pattern? - Ronny S.

Where Are My Big Bucks?ANSWER: There might be ways to change their patterns, but it will be far easier and more effective to change yours.

The first, and perhaps most obvious thing you can do is to stop shooting 6-pointers.  These are likely young deer, and if given another year or two, will sport larger racks.  You might have to live off of does for a couple years, but ultimately you'll have more older, larger bucks to choose from.

Next, consider changing your hunting tactics. Another reason you might only see smaller, younger bucks is if you're hunting feeders.  Deer, especially older ones, are much more wary around these artificial concentrations of deer, food and human scent. They tend to avoid them more than younger deer. 

Mature bucks will, however, approach downwind to scent-check for other deer, particularly during the rut. Look for major approach trails, and even set your cameras back 100 yards or so on the downwind side. You might also consider rattling, particularly during the rut.

Study the terrain and habitat as well.  If, as you say, it's mostly open ground, hunt the thick cover where older bucks feel more comfortable moving around in daylight.  Even better, look for that type of thick cover downwind of your feeders and you might find it twice as productive.

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