October 20, 2016
By Travis Faulkner, OutdoorChannel.com
If you have any personal experience tangling with white-tailed deer during the fall season, then you know too well these four-legged master escape artists can be very challenging to hunt. Highly-developed senses coupled with an uncanny knack for surviving and fooling hunters undoubtedly has given them some serious street credit. In fact, it’s a safe bet there are probably a few mature bucks in your neck of the woods that have earned much-deserved nicknames like Houdini, Shadow, or The Grey Ghost. These veteran bucks that have survived a few seasons are not supernatural, but they do know exactly how to play the game and stay off the hunting radar.
As a result, many big buck hunting myths have emerged over the years that are simply more fiction than fact. Some of the most recognized and repeated of these theories and personal opinions have been passed down from one generation of hunters to the next. Below I will breakdown some of the more popular whitetail hunting theories you really shouldn’t give any attention. I also will cover some deadly myth-buster hunting strategies that will help you debunk these theories and consistently score big each deer season.
Myth 1: Larger tracts of land hold and produce bigger bucks
Vast acres of open land that contain consistent food sources, plenty of thick cover and hard-to-reach hiding places can definitely produce trophy-class whitetails season after season. These also are the types of places that generally receive the most hunting pressure. On the other hand, small isolated tracts of land often get overlooked by hunters and these little honey-holes can potentially attract and hold some absolute monsters.
Vast tracts of land that encompass consistent food sources, water, and cover are great, but hunters looking to tag a giant shouldn't overlook smaller pockets that receive far less pressure. (Travis Faulkner photo)
Myth-Buster Strategy: Focus on smaller tracts of timber, thickets and woodlots located away from larger tracts of heavily-hunted land. Prime hunting spots can be found near residential areas, isolated islands on lakes or rivers, and pockets of cover situated along the edges of small towns. These pint-size areas are often the best places to connect with overgrown giants.
Focusing on smaller tracts of timber, isolated thickets, and wood lots located near larger, heavily pressured areas is a great way to connect with a shrewd too-heavy buck. (Travis Faulkner photo)
Myth 2: Hunting pressure reduces big buck encounters
It’s a common misconception that other hunters being in the woods will somehow limit your chances of pinpointing, patterning and connecting with a trophy buck. The truth is outside hunting pressure can actually be very beneficial, if you know how to use it to your advantage. Pressured bucks will often follow very predictable routines that can easily be exploited season after season with the right setups and hunting strategies.
Intense periods of hunting pressure can make mature bucks switch over to nocturnal patterns and tougher to hunt, but the right strategies and setups will allow you to turn this problem into a distinct advantage. (Travis Faulkner photo)
Myth-Buster Strategy: Customize your setups to target escape routes that lead away from high-pressured areas. Pinpoint the thickest and nastiest cover in the woods and hunt along the edges of these protected sanctuaries. Go the extra mile and concentrate on hard-to-reach locations that lazy hunters generally avoid. Hunt these hotspot areas at daylight and during the early afternoon hours when other hunters are entering and exiting the woods. The trick is to utilize hunting pressure to your advantage and capitalize on the situation.
Customizing your setups to exploit escape routes and hard-to-reach thickets that serve as protected sanctuaries can generate consistent big buck shot opportunities within heavily pressured areas. (Travis Faulkner photo)
Myth 3: Warm weather shuts down the rut
Without question, warm temperatures can dramatically impact the amount of daytime rutting activity observed from the stand. However, a sudden decrease in whitetail chasing and actual breeding activity during legal shooting hours does not mean the rut has stopped or been momentarily paused. According to biologists, it’s the shortening of days that actually triggers the rut. Anytime temperatures heat up, the majority of whitetail breeding activity occurs at night as things cool down. This immediate drop in daytime rutting action is exactly why many hunters falsely believe the rut has temporarily stopped or in some cases not even started yet.
Myth-Buster Hunting Strategy: When daytime rutting activity decreases due to unseasonably warm weather, try setting up extremely close to known doe bedding areas and concentrate on early morning and late evening hunts.
Myth 4: Mature bucks get stupid and easier to hunt during the rut
Dominant bucks with massive racks and high-testosterone levels aren’t afraid to step out-of-the shadows during the rut, but that does not necessarily mean they’re going to throw caution to the wind or be any easier to hunt. The reality is mature bucks with previous nocturnal tendencies are now focused on does and more active during the day. This makes them appear to be not as wary or cautious, but they can actually be much tougher to pattern and hunt. Big buck patterns and routines drastically change during the rut, which can make things chaotic and unpredictable.
Myth-Buster Strategy: Think like a lovesick buck and focus all of your attention on the does. Your setups need to target doe high-traffic areas like the edges of current feeding zones, major travel corridors, and known bedding locations. Try attacking all three of a buck’s primary senses with rut-based calling, decoying and scent-application tactics.
Myth 5: Nocturnal bucks can’t be tagged over scrapes
It’s true a lot of mature buck scraping activity takes place well after dark. However, this does not mean you ignore setups overlooking red-hot scrapes. In fact, concentrating on fresh scrapes near big-buck bedding locations and staging areas can be extremely productive. For good reason, these night-shift bruisers have a tendency of checking and working these scrapes right at daylight and just before dark. It’s also important to note bucks will typically return to freshen up scrapes immediately after a period of rainfall or snow.
A good deal of scraping activity takes place at night, but you can still utilize existing scrapes and even mock scrapes to coax a shooter into close range during the daylight hours. (Travis Faulkner photo)
Myth-Buster Strategy: Place a series of mock scrapes along the edges of mature buck bedding locations and staging areas. Utilize electronically timed scent dispensers over these mock scrapes to condition nocturnal bucks to visit during the day. Hunt over mock or existing scrapes during the early morning and late evening hours or immediately after it rains or snows.
Utilizing a series of well-placed mock scrapes near big buck bedding areas or electronically time scent-release dispensers over existing scrapes is a lethal way to connect with tough nocturnal giants. (Travis Faulkner photo)
Myth 6: Big bucks only rub big trees
As hardcore whitetail addicts, we all love seeing mammoth-size rubs on big trees. In many cases, hunters will focus their attention and setups on large rub trees. There’s nothing wrong with that logic, but we should also take a closer look at well-established rub-lines on smaller trees. Big bucks will absolutely destroy small cedars and sapling trees on a consistent basis throughout the pre-rut, rut and secondary rut transitions. The resistance, flexibility and break-over of the smaller trees allow bucks to strengthen neck muscles and prepare for upcoming battles.
Fresh rub-lines on smaller trees doesn't necessarily translate to smaller bucks. The resistance, flexibility, and break-over of smaller trees allows bucks to strengthen neck muscles and prepare for upcoming battles. (Travis Faulkner photo)
Myth-Buster Strategy: All well-established rub-lines big and small need to be monitored with a series of game-cameras. This type of 24-hour surveillance will tell you exactly what bucks are making the rubs and more importantly when they are traveling through the area.