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ScentLok ambassador, Jason Say, enjoys teaching other hunters how to manage their land more effectively to foster trophy growth. Based in Pennsylvania, he consults with clients in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
As winter blankets the landscape, deer enthusiasts and hunters alike turn their attention to the well-being of whitetail deer herds during the colder months. This time of year was once a period for hunters to become bored and often fall victim to a strong case of cabin fever. However, in recent years, hunters have gained respect for the winter months and witnessed their off-season results of taking the time to care for the wildlife pay off
Late in the season, deer are primarily driven by the need for food to survive harsh winter conditions. Randy Birdsong, a seasoned hunter from Headhunters TV, emphasizes the importance of targeting food sources during this time.
A deer hunter's difficulty in harvesting a mature buck is a challenging task and scoring a big buck year after year is even more trying. Annual success takes a large amount of dedication and hard work. When a hunter concludes the hunting season, only to realize that they still have a buck tag in their pocket, they often begin a mental checklist of what went wrong. To prevent the feeling of defeat at the end of the year, avoid these common mistakes made by deer hunters.
Too Much Pressure
One of the most common mistakes mature buck hunters make is trying too hard. When a big buck is found on game cameras or seen near a hunting area, it is common to want to spend every moment possible pursuing that animal. The problem for hunters is that when a mature buck senses the presence of human danger to the point of feeling uncomfortable, he will move out of the area to avoid danger.
Instead, hunters must choose their days wisely, only hunting when the odds are in their favor and the target buck is predicted to be in the area. When the moon, weather, and wind are promising, it is time to hunt, otherwise, stay away and don’t risk over-pressuring the area.
No Mature Bucks On The Property
Many hunters go into the beginning of a hunting season with high hopes of getting a 160” buck. They may pass on mature bucks throughout the year in pursuit of something more prominent. The problem that many have are the lack of 160” bucks on or near the property they are hunting.
Sometimes reality can be the most formidable challenge that hunters come up against when trying to harvest a mature buck. When a hunter takes inventory of their property, they must evaluate the number and size of the bucks—also, taking into consideration if there is enough food, cover, and water to hold them there and whether there is a genuine potential to grow bigger bucks with the resources they have.
I have recently witnessed this misconception while hunting near my home in southern Missouri. After hunting a specific property for five to six years, I have never encountered a buck over 150” on game cameras or with my naked eye on this land. After talking to neighbors and evaluating the land more closely, we have noticed that the genetics in the area do not have the potential to grow bigger bucks without a significant change in their diet and a stricter “do not shoot” program for surrounding neighbors. The hard truth is that the chance of harvesting a giant buck is doubtful with minimal food due to the presence of livestock and natural habitats. The reality is that mature bucks can vary in size depending on where you are hunting.
Didn’t Hunt Early Or Late Season
It is no secret that the most popular time to hunt for big bucks is during the November rut. The popularity stems from the best overall buck movement during the breeding season. Many assume that the best time to harvest a mature buck is also during this time. However, to outsmart one of the earth's most intelligent creatures, hunters must widen their horizons and hunt during the early season in September and the late season in December and January.
Many veteran trophy hunters will agree that some of the easier times to pattern a mature buck are during the early season when they are still in their summer feeding patterns and during the latter part of the year when they spend much of their time near food, replenishing their bodies from the rut and preparing for the upcoming harsh winter.
The early season may be the best time to harvest a buck if you have experienced mature bucks on game cameras throughout the summer, only to have them disappear throughout the fall. Even though the temperatures may still be warm during this time, when a buck is easier patterned, it may be your only chance to harvest him.
After the rut is over is also a great time to find mature bucks who have been M.I.A. throughout the fall. After the breeding season, bucks tend to travel to different areas where food is more plentiful, and competition from other bucks is less. During this time of year, spending time sitting over a significant food source can reap big rewards. It may not be as exciting of a hunt as during the rut, but the possibility of seeing the buck of your dreams step into shooting range makes the earlier portion of the season that was spent hunting hard and waiting worth it.