Category Archives: Deer Hunting

Never Take Yes For An Answer

Don’t Take Yes For An Answer

In 1803 the United States acquired over 828,000 square miles of pristine wilderness at less than 5 cents per acre. This acquisition, which included some of the most breathtaking landscape in the United States, became known as the Louisiana Purchase.
One year later Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark began a perilous two-year expedition, which would provide not only a scientific discovery, but a detailed description of this newly acquired territory as well.
The monumental discoveries of the Lewis and Clark Expedition gave us glimpses into the backcountry of Montana, Idaho and what we know as modern day Yellowstone. But in light of their high-risk adventure, it’s only fair to ask ourselves: Why would these two men would risk their lives to lead an expedition into the unknown?
While we don’t know positively, might one reason be because Lewis and Clark refused to take yes for an answer?
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Some may wonder what correlations can be drawn between the early development of our United States and hunting—the answer is—several. For whether mapping a route to the Western half of the United States or planning for the upcoming hunting season, true success comes from approaching every situation or circumstance with humble curiosity.

Ditch Assumption

Recently, while looking through some Outdoor Life magazines from the 1960’s, I was awakened to this fact: Today’s hunters have it easy. Because we stand on the shoulders of the past, we can take from what others have learned, without possessing any personal experience gained from either success or failure.
The modern hunter needs nothing, our homework has been completed for us. We have the luxury of reaping from the experiences of those who have gone before us, and thankfully so. Whether it’s bowhunting whitetail, pursuing Dall sheep or hunting the mighty Wapati, much of our knowledge has been handed down to us—by those who learned the hard way.
Today there are outdoor gadgets galore and just as many marketeers whose job it its to seduce us into believing we’ll be a better hunter if we own the latest or most technologically advanced hunting gear. We have access to TV programming, which can take us hunting around the world without leaving the comforts of our couch. We are afforded modern conveniences, such as the trail camera, which allow us to ‘see’ deer we didn’t actually see with our own two eyes. And don’t forget Google search, hundreds of hunting websites and dozens of outdoor blogs, which assist in answering almost any question at the stroke of a keyboard.

Gone are the days when you had to experience it, before you could know something about it.

Due to the vast amount of information made available to us, modern hunters have a dilemma, a juxtaposition that forces us to assume rather than experience. On the one hand we are rich because of our heritage, on the other hand we are inexcusably poor—but there’s no reason to stay that way.

Learn Like They Did

April 15, 1452 marks the birthday of one of the most curious and creative minds in history. Possessing an imagination unparalleled in his time, Leonardo da Vinci dreamed of: A flying machine, a bicycle, an adjustable monkey wrench, hydraulic jack, a parachute (before the phenomenon of flight) and even a water-powered alarm clock. It is estimated da Vinci left some fourteen thousand pages of notes, which were the sum of his lifelong endeavor to know and to experience as much as he possibly could. Is it any wonder when Michael J. Gelb wrote How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, that he described Leonardo da Vinci by simply stating, “He wouldn’t take yes for an answer.”
I recently met an individual who purchased a bow in hopes to try their hand at archery. Unfortunately, they purchased the bow some time ago, and still haven’t shot it. And why haven’t they nocked an arrow and at least tried? Because they are scared something will go wrong. Even though they spent countless hours researching what bow to buy and why, they are scared to cross over the chasm of fear and experience the release of an arrow for the very first time.
Can we move beyond this type of trepidation? Yes, when we judge a successful outcome based around the experience, good or bad, and what we learn from it, the set boundaries that tend to define failure are removed. In the past authors, explorers and hunters lived wanting to add to their current roster of things experienced. Even Einstein said, “I have no special gift, I am only passionately curious.” When we live to experience—failure is redefined.
So to the man or woman who’s never shot a bow before—go do it. To the hunter who’s never planted a food plot before—go for it. To the hunter wanting to pursue a new species of animal but doesn’t know where to begin—do your best and let experience be your teacher. To the one who’s scared to write their first hunting article—write it. To the shy hunter who wants to ask permission to hunt a piece of property but hates knocking on doors—just try it. To the girl who wonders what people will think if she goes hunting—don’t let people stand in your way.
Don’t fear failure, fear missing out on the experience.

Buck Rubs

Buck Rubs: Ignore Them Or Interpret Them?

I’m going to be totally blunt. It is my humble opinion that hunting over buck rubs is a waste of time! Well, most of the time. You see, for years I subscribed to the notion that buck rubs were a hot ticket to success. Mostly because that’s what the hunting magazine in my hand suggested.
However, I’m more inclined to use a strategy if it actually works and that one simply did not. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never found a rub, hung a stand and had said buck return only to fall victim to a well-placed arrow.
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Big rubs equal big bucks. If you want to shoot a big buck you have to hunt where they live. A good-sized rub is one tell-tale sign that a trophy is in the area.

Maybe I’m doing something wrong. (It wouldn’t be the first time.) Still, even a blind squirrel finds the proverbial nut every now and then. Alas, it hasn’t happened to me yet. So, in my bowhunting rule book the odds simply do not lend themselves to consider hunting over a rub a worthwhile endeavor.
So what does all of this mean? Well, it means I don’t bet all of my chips on buck rubs. There is only one tactic that I bet everything on; but that’s a different article. Back to buck rubs. While I don’t believe they are ‘ground-zero’ for hanging a stand, they can in fact point you in the right direction if you know what to look for.

Consider The Location

In my experience some rubs carry a lot of meaning and others are simply made in random places that are mostly insignificant. The trick is understanding which is which. For the most part, when you find a buck rub near a high-traffic area (human interaction) you can bet it was done under the cover of darkness.
Deer, especially mature bucks, are very keen to human intrusion and know exactly where we’ve been and the areas we like to frequent. So, when you find a rub in one of those areas it’s a good bet it wasn’t done during legal shooting hours. Therefore ignore them.
On the flip side, buck rubs found in thick cover, near bedding areas (buck or doe) or along travel corridors in heavy cover can have significant value. These are the types of rubs that bear further investigating and can often lead to a killer stand site.

Which Side Was Rubbed

Once I find the type of rub I’m looking for I start inspecting not only it but the surrounding terrain as well. And even though I live in and hunt ‘Mountain’ bucks, I feel confident you can use the same investigative procedures as I do.
One of the first things I do is consider which side of the tree was rubbed. Why? Because I can check theories about bedding and feeding areas based on which side of the tree is rubbed.
What do buck rubs mean

A rub is more than a rub. Close inspection can offer a multitude of clues to the overall whitetail puzzle.

For example, if the rubbed portion of the tree is facing a suspected bedding area then I assume the rub was made in the late evening hours when the buck was leaving its bed to feed. Conversely, if the rub is facing a suspected feeding area then I assume the rub was made in the early morning as the buck made its way back to bed.
While both pieces of information are great ‘clues’ to the overall whitetail puzzle, they are hardly smoking guns. You still have to not only hang a stand in the right location but you have to consider the ‘timing’ of the stand, so to put that buck in your lap while the sun is up. Not an easy task.

Timing Is Everything

Like I mentioned, trying to figure out when the buck made the rub is critical. Quite often I find that I have to set up away from the rub in order to catch the target buck on his feet. Such was the case with the buck that made the rub in the image below in 2012.
Buck Rubs and bowhunting

To kill this buck I hung my stand in a funnel about 100 yards away, not right on top of the buck rub like conventional wisdom would suggest.

Hanging a stand near this particular rub was a gamble because the immediate area was void of any reliable funnels. Instead, I choose a pinch point about 100 yards away. This funnel had a greater chance of putting the buck in my lap than did the rub which had very few (if any) natural funnels nearby.
I killed the buck in 2013 as he made his way through my funnel during a heavy snow fall. Watching the direction that he came from, and knowing the terrain, it’s highly unlikely I would have killed him had I set up right on top of the rub I had found during my post-season scouting.

Random Rubs In The Right Place

Whenever my post-season scouting doesn’t uncover a ‘kill’ rub I typically keep my eyes open for randomly made rubs in just the right place. Because I hunt in mountainous terrain with no agricultural fields, I base a lot of my strategies on the urge to breed. In other words, I concentrate on does.
I typically like to set up on the fringes of doe bedding areas. But, despite where my stand is hung I am constantly looking for clusters of buck rubs to show up in and around my hunting area. It’s been my experience that this typically means a buck(s) has moved into the area in search of a receptive doe and is marking his territory.
Interpreting Buck Rubs

Here is the buck from my 2013 season. Despite the fact that I had never seen him on the hoof I was still able to develop a game plan based on his rub locations and the surrounding terrain.

Buck rubs that show up in November typically do so for a reason. Just keep in mind that while big bucks make big rubs they also make little rubs. I shot my largest buck to date in the middle of a fresh cluster of small rubs adjacent to a doe bedding area.


In my book buck rubs are most often unworthy of sitting directly over top of. However, with a little investigative work a much better location typically reveals itself. And when that happens it’s time to clear some space on your wall.

Quality deer management

Start Now To Make 2015 Your Best Season Ever

There’s an old, albeit very popular and accurate, saying that goes, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” It’s a simple old adage, but it sure does make a lot of sense, especially when it’s applied to hunting mature bucks.
Simply, it’s extremely difficult to just wake up and waltz into the whitetail woods every deer season and consistently put mature animals on the ground. You need a plan, you need to prepare, and you need to execute.
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Now is the perfect time to improve the habitat and hunting on your property. Simply fire up your chainsaw, cut down undesirable wildlife trees, and you’ll be immediately providing deer with instant food and cover.

Since the majority of my posts here on 365 will be geared towards Quality Deer Management (QDM), I think it’s only fitting that my first post be about laying the foundation for your 2015 success from a management perspective. In this post, we’re going to discuss three things you can do right now to make you a more successful hunter this fall.

Food is King

There’s a very popular debate among deer hunters and deer managers regarding what mature bucks need the most of to live on a certain tract of land, food or cover. Well, there’s no wrong answer. On properties lacking food sources, increasing the amount of available food sources preferred by whitetail deer will allow you house more bucks on your property. Properties that look like a state park due to their lack of cover are a hunter’s worst nightmare due to their lack of mature bucks; increasing the amount of cover on your property is the cure here.
However, in my experience, I’ve found that mature bucks are more likely to live on a property that has prime food sources, more than they will on a property that has ample cover. Simply put, deer, especially mature bucks, are slaves to their stomachs. So, what can you do right now to increase the amount of deer food on your property?
The most common response is food plots. Yes, this is a perfect time of year to plan and prepare to plant your food plots for the 2015 season. This is a great time of year to take a soil sample, which is vital to the success of your food plot. You can also create new and more food plot acreage this time of year with a bulldozer. Further, and it’s the most unexciting, though a rather important step, you should planning your food plot strategy now.
Most folks think of food plotting as throwing down some clover in the spring and watching it grow all spring and summer. There’s no doubt that will work. You’ll experience better hunting and the deer will thank you for it with heavier body weights, bigger antlers, and healthier fawns. But that’s not maximizing the potential of the ground you manage.
Consider double cropping. That is, planting two different seed blends to maximize the attractiveness and health of your plot. I like planting buckwheat in the spring, letting it grow all summer, watch the deer hammer it during the late summer, then till it under and plant the same area with winter rye, crimson clover and forage oats. This in turn provides year round food availability.
In addition to prepping your food plots for this planting season, you can also provide immediate food this time of year with your chainsaw by cutting or hinging less desirable trees. Hinge cutting is a very popular management technique that involves cutting a tree midway through and tipping it over, leaving the trunk intact. In turn, this keeps the tree alive and it will fruit and flower normally; only now the crown is at deer level providing instant browse and cover. It also opens up the canopy and allows sunlight to penetrate the forest floor to allow early successional habitat, the kind on which deer thrive, to grow. This time of year I mostly target poplar and maple trees and bring them down for immediate and long-term deer browse.

Thicker the Better

I’m aware that I just wrote a lengthy topic on how important food is when hunting mature bucks, but thick cover is a necessity as well. Mature bucks often reside in the thickest, nastiest cover they can find because that’s where they feel the most safe.
Fortunately, though, the same tool you used to create deer food this time of year can also create prime bedding cover; your chainsaw. Again, this is a perfect time of year to fire up your chainsaw and cut down less desirable trees in strategic locations to encourage deer to spend more time on your property, thus increasing your chances of harvesting them.
However, when running a chainsaw, always remember safety first. This means ALWAYS wearing a hard hat, eye and ear protection, gloves, chainsaw chaps, and steel-toed boots. If you’re lacking any one of those items, forget about running your chainsaw until you pick up whatever it is you’re lacking. No deer is worth dying for, and your family is counting on you to come home safely.
quality deer management tips

Just because deer season is over doesn’t mean it’s time to put away your trail cameras. This is an ideal time to locate the bucks you’ll be hunting next season by finding out which bucks survived the previous year.

Who Made It

Another useful management practice this time of year is taking late season inventory. It’s always good to know what deer made it through the previous hunting season, so you can begin planning how to hunt those deer the following year. In addition, capturing trail camera photos of a deer this time of year can help you identify a missing link in your game plan that you can fine-tune for the upcoming season.
To capture mature bucks on trail camera this time of year, locate late season food sources; in farmland that could be a standing corn or bean field, or a harvested field that hasn’t been tilled under. In heavily forested areas, look for clear cuts or other open areas where deer browse is plenty. Another popular option this time of year is baiting deer with corn or minerals. Where legal, this is a very effective strategy used to get deer in front of your camera letting you know which deer made it and which deer didn’t.


As a deer hunter and a deer manager, this time of year seems about as exciting as the October lull. With spring green months away, and fall bow season even further, hunting and management can easily get put on the backburner. However, now is actually the perfect time of year to start laying the foundation of your 2015 success. Consider the above management strategies now for a more productive hunting season this fall.

Film Review: Salt Of The Earth

An author’s words have an uncanny ability to either capture us or offend us. A single phrase can motivate us to turn the page or close the book. Beyond the letters and words woven into sentences, a story must contain some form of tangible emotion, something we connect with, something we feel.
A good story can take our minds on a journey. A great story can move our hearts. But a successful story changes our will.
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Salt of the Earth is a story, yet it’s much more. Each turn of the page is met with the revelation we are walking on holy ground. Each frame makes us aware these stirring images are tied to the very soul of the man who shared them with us.
To describe this work as art would inadvertently put a price tag on the priceless. To say it is another short film centered on hunting whitetail would rob it of its worth. For it would be disrespectful to Cody Altizer if we tried to measure the immensity of his heart, his life, his very being.

“…mainly because no matter how insignificant it may seem I believe that every hunt,
and especially every animal, deserves a genuine appreciation and sincere respect.
Whether it’s through a photo, a video or the written word, it’s important to me
that they live on long after they die.“

Salt of the Earth has a depth that is unseen in outdoor television. The voice that speaks tells all we need to know—Altizer is genuine.
No charades, no games, and no masks are what makes Salt of the Earth speak to the viewer. Beyond a collection of tasteful videography is a heart—one that cares deeply for the animals it pursues. Salt of the Earth is nothing more and nothing less than a young man who possesses an authentic appreciation for hunting telling us his story, his why.

In less than 20-minutes you will be left with a challenge, a decision to be as the film is entitled—Salt of the Earth.
To be released Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 10am EST. Find the film here – Salt of the Earth.
Salt of the Earth Cody Altizer Film Review

Drakes Adventures Kids Books Series

Drake’s Adventures: 2015 ATA Best Of Show

Drake’s Adventures deserves some kind of recognition from the Archery Trade Association for possessing the most forethought and presenting the most innovative product at the 2015 ATA show.
While most manufacturers at the 2015 ATA Show developed and displayed products focused around the existing hunter—Drake’s Adventures set out to recruit ‘new’ hunters.
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It’s no secret that hunter recruitment is serious issue, especially among youth. Video games, shopping malls and electronic devices lure more young people than hunting ever will. Research has shown for some time that in spite of the growth in bowhunting, archery and outdoor recreation, we are not retaining as many hunters as we are losing. This issue cannot be ignored.
To tackle the hunter recruitment issue, Keith Beam, former owner of Double Bull Blinds, has come up with a brilliant way to create interest in the outdoors when kids are still young. Beam recognizes if we wait until they’re in their teens, it may be too late.
Drakes Adventures Kids Hunting
At the 2015 ATA Show, Beam launched what he is calling Drake’s Adventures. Joined by outstanding artist Steve Karras, this two-man team is filling a giant void in the outdoor industry. Beam and Karras have partnered in order to create a series of kids books, which are sure to impact hundreds if not thousands of future hunters.
Drake’s Adventures will be a series of easy reading and interactive books depicting what the child can, and hopefully will, experience during a hunting or fishing trip.
The first book in the Drake’s Adventures series is entitled Spring Thunder. This well illustrated volume allows the reader to join the lead character, whose name is Drake, on his very first turkey hunt—but that’s not all.
All through Drake’s hunt the reader can experience the real sounds of a turkey hunting adventure. From an owl hoot, box call, friction call, purr, gobble, etc., at the press of a button the story comes to life. (Play video below for a demonstration.)

The book has been professionally designed and crafted so as to make parents happy—it even includes a headphone jack to keep sanity intact. If the child is too young to read, the book also offers read along narration.
Beam and Karras said we can expect the Drake’s Adventures series to take us on a whitetail hunt, a fishing trip, an elk hunt and we’ll even enjoy some waterfowl hunting.
Drakes Adventures Kids Books
As a father who has attempted to raise three little hunters, I find Drake’s Adventures a must have for any parent who is serious about passing on an appreciation for the outdoors. Educating and creating interest in our children will be the only way we can ever hope to preserve our hunting heritage.
For more information on Drake’s Adventures visit Be sure to like their Facebook page and even if you don’t have kids, buy one or more of Drake’s Adventures for someone who does. When it comes to our hunting heritage, what we do today is sure to impact our tomorrow.
Drakes Adventures For Kids

Dont Be Mr Noisy

Don’t Be Mr. Noisy

The wind was perfect, the barometer was rising and the anticipation of seeing a mature whitetail was at an all-time high. I had saved this particular stand for late season and knowing it hadn’t been hunted in over a month left me feeling positive.
To the east was cut corn, to the west an acorn flat and my stand was placed over a well-used staging area directly in between the two prime food sources.
Walking in that evening I noticed a multitude of tracks along with several piles of fresh droppings. It was obvious these late season deer were feeding in a small patch of cut corn located at the very back of the farm.
It seemed everything was in our favor, or so we assumed.
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‘Swisssssssssh, swisssssssssh, swisssssssssh,’ what was that noise? To the south a deer bounded across the corn, through a deep ravine and into the thick oaks. Was this the sound of deer running in the corn stubble? Was this commotion more secondary rut activity as we had seen the night before?
Lifting my binoculars in an attempt to locate a source of the racket, I froze in disbelief. Through the thicket at the far end of the field I could see a fluorescent orange hat. And it was moving in my direction.
‘Swisssssssssh, swisssssssssh, swisssssssssh, thud, whap, swisssssssssh,‘ this source of racket, now getting closer to my treestand, was a fellow hunter. He too had figured out where these late season whitetail were feeding.
‘Swisssssssssh, swisssssssssh, swisssssssssh,’ was the sound of the hunter’s ground blind dragging through the brush.
‘Thud, thump, whap, whap, whap, whap!’ Mr. Noisy was providing me with play-by-play sounds of him dropping, unpacking and unfolding each side of his extremely stealthy (not so much) ground blind.
‘ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzztttt,’ there’s one zipper. Wait for it… ‘ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzt,’ there was zipper number two. ‘Thud, thump,’ and the sound of Mr. Noisy getting settled into his ground blind echoed across the field.
‘ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzztttt,’ there’s one zipper. Wait for it… ‘ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzt!’ Ah, Mr. Noisy was now snuggled securely into his blind. And I was getting ready to pay him a visit. This so-called hunter had not only trespassed onto private property, but had set up less than one hundred yards from my treestand.
As I snuck down the edge of the cornfield, I wondered what on earth this hunter was thinking? Maybe he was unaware that whitetail have ears—two of them. And not only can whitetail hear, but they can pinpoint the location of a sound from a considerable distance.
“Doesn’t this guy know you can’t be careless in this kind of weather?” There was no wind, the air was heavy and the slightest sound could be heard for hundreds of yards. Undoubtedly, Mr. Noisy had already spooked all the deer in that area.
‘ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzztttt,’ there’s one zipper. Wait for it… ‘ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzt,’ Mr. Noisy was now on his way to meet me. Attempting to salvage any remaining possibility of seeing a deer that evening, I asked in a whisper, “Do you have permission to hunt here?” The answer came much like his grand entrance—in an above normal voice that was sure to send every whitetail scurrying into the next county.
“Yes,” he said loudly, “we lease the adjoining property and we have permission to shoot in this field.” His answer was either a loud lie or yet another display of blatant ignorance.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get ahold of the property owner, so I tried to sneak back to my stand. All the while listening to Mr. Noisy loudly talk on his cell phone concerning his presumed rights to hunt property he had not leased.
Once in my stand I tried to digest the reality of a hunter with a muzzleloader was now set up to shoot in my general direction, had trespassed onto private property and made more noise than a herd of elephants in the process. “Stay positive, stay positive, stay positive,” I repeatedly told myself. Maybe this night would end much better than how it started?
So I hoped.
As legal shooting light faded, it suddenly occurred to me. I bet Mr. Noisy will leave exactly the way he came. And I guarantee he will wait until the deer are almost to the field, then he’ll fire up his ground blind band.
Sure enough!
Just as several deer were approaching the staging area I heard the foreboding sound, ‘ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzztttt,’ there’s one zipper. Wait for it… ‘ZZZZZzzzzzzzt.’ ‘Whap, whap, whap, whap.’ ‘Swissssshh, Swisssshh, Swissssh, thud, whap, swisssssssshh.’ I shook my head in disbelief.
And combined with Mr. Noisy’s nerve-racking orchestra was the sound of several deer running as fast as they could.
Thanks, Mr. Noisy.
No matter who we meet, we can learn something about hunting. And there’s a lot to be learned from Mr. Noisy.

late season staging areas

Hunting Late Season Staging Areas

It was the unmistakable sound of deer, not just a couple deer, but several. No more than 20-yards from my stand were a number of deer walking on the outside edge of the cornfield.
While the lack of light prevented me from seeing anything but silhouettes, what I could see was these deer had staged a considerable distance beyond my stand—the setup was ‘20-minutes’ too far South.
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Late season bowhunting normally takes place near prime food sources. And while it’s easy to think of deer making a beeline from bedding to food, in most cases deer ‘stage’ before feeding.

These ‘staging’ areas are where deer transition to after they exit a bedding area. Think of staging areas as a safe and secure area where deer loiter, and then move through while on their way to a preferred food source.

So if the deer you’re hunting are arriving after dark, the trick is to locate and hunt staging areas. This might mean moving your stand beyond its current location. And while no bowhunter wants to move a stand this time of year, if the deer aren’t visible during legal shooting hours, you might not have a choice.

Weather, Terrain and Pressure

Depending on the weather, the type of terrain, and the amount of hunting pressure, staging areas can differ from location to location. I’ve seen bucks use a cedar thicket, a grassy field, a small but secure food source and even a fairly open oak flat to stage in.
It’s important to remember late season staging areas will usually correspond with the three aspects we’ve already mentioned— weather, terrain and pressure.
When hunting late season whitetails there are things we know positively, other things we’re pretty sure of and a considerable amount of things that take time to figure out exactly. Late season staging areas fall into the last category—it takes time to find the exact location where a mature buck is staging.
Preferably, staging areas should be located post season, however, that’s not always possible. As Bill Winke says, “Picking the perfect tree is really an evolution that occurs over the course of several seasons—at least two or three seasons.“ So don’t get discouraged, learning where deer stage can take time.


Whitetails are known to bed with their back to the wind. When a whitetail, especially a whitetail buck, leaves its bedding area it will normally travel at a 45-degree angle to or directly into the wind. As a buck exits his bed, and begins moving towards the food source it will then ‘stage’ in an area downwind of the food source until last light.
If a buck cannot enter the feeding area with the wind completely in its favor, it may stage at a vantage point where it can visually scan the field before moving into the open.
Finding late season staging areas begins by studying aerial maps and researching prevailing winds. This research will assist in giving you an understanding of how and where a buck might enter the food source using the wind to its advantage. Now that bucks have been pressured for several months, and are very wary as a result, they are much more likely to stay on the downwind side when entering a food source.
After researching terrain features and wind movements, draw some conclusions. Then carefully go in during an afternoon and backtrack on the main trails leading to the food source. Staging areas are often found 50-100 yards off a primary food source and may not be all that far away from your current stand location.
late season staging area

Thermal Cover

During extreme cold deer will often stage in adequate thermal cover. This cover, such as a cedar or pine thicket, will provide some form of protection from the severe winter weather.
Due to whitetail needing to conserve energy during extreme cold, I’ve seen them stage in thermal cover for a considerable amount of time, especially if it’s windy. Winter winds are known to subside as darkness falls and during the late season deer will take advantage of staging areas that offer a wind break.
When searching for staging areas in thermal cover, take note of any prior signpost activity, such as rubs or scrapes. Also pay attention to any fresh droppings or a significant amount of tracks, these can be telltale signs you’ve found where a buck stages before moving to a food source.


If hunting in an area with ridges and valleys, bucks will either stage on a vantage point, such as a knob or bench, where they can view the feeding area before entering it, or they will stage in a low area where they can remain completely out of sight.
Several years ago I hunted a staging area that was located at the back of a large wheat field. At the back of the field was a deep depression that prevented anything or anyone from seeing the deer as they entered the field.
Each evening up to 40 deer would pile into that depression. They would wait until dark then move into the open field. The issue for these deer wasn’t necessarily cover, but security.
Currently I’m hunting a farm where the bucks move from bedding, up the ridges and then stage on various acorn flats. These flats are relatively open but surrounded by young saplings, which provides a type of sanctuary.
Each hunting area will have its peculiar differences and must be hunted accordingly. Whatever the terrain, staging areas will be unique places where deer feel secure.
Hopefully these tips will get you started in the right direction, but nothing can take the place of firsthand observation. Sometimes you have to set up and observe in order to pinpoint the behavioral characteristics of the bucks within the terrain you’re hunting.
staging areas


Depending on where your hunting property is located, you may be hunting heavily pressured bucks. So far they’ve survived archery season, the rut, firearms season and they’re keyed in to one thing—survival.
When hunting pressured bucks during the late season, bedding and staging areas can seem impossible to locate. If they could, these bucks would wrap themselves in an invisible cloak. They’re not taking any chances.
I remember watching three late season whitetail bed in a small patch of grass located smack-dab in the middle of a harvested grain field. Later in the day I watched three hunters walk within 10 feet of that little patch of grass. I shook my head wondering if the deer had moved without me seeing them. But, at last light all three deer stood up and made their way to the food source. This was a perfect example of how late season whitetail react to pressure.
Hunting pressured whitetail requires us to think like one. Where would you go to escape hunting pressure, yet be within proximity of a prime food source? Again, this is where satellite imagery and topographical maps can help you figure out where a buck might be hiding.
Often these pressured bucks will head to a small patch of cattails, a deserted pasture, an abandoned orchard, a small bench, a point off the end of a ridge, or a small island in a body of water. Wherever they locate, it will be impossible for any predator, human or otherwise, to approach without being detected. These bucks know that locating and staying in an out-of-the-way sanctuary is their only means of survival.
This is where a trail camera can assist in locating a pressured buck’s staging area.
Although I would be very careful in taking anything into a staging area that might make a buck uncomfortable, you can consistently relocate a camera farther down a main trail leading to a food source. Continually moving the camera toward the direction a buck is coming from will give you a good idea where the buck is staging.
Be sure and hang the camera off the trail (I like to hang the camera high so it is inconspicuous) and if possible stay off the trail when entering and exiting the area. The same goes for when you hang your stand in or near the staging area—always stay downwind and off the main trail.


As always, be extremely careful when locating late season staging areas. Remember, scent control is paramount and never hunt a staging area unless the wind is perfect. These staging areas are like a ‘safe house’ for whitetail and if you’re not careful about scent and sound, that buck may not return this season.
While we’ve touched on only a few aspects of locating and hunting staging areas, once found these magical places can hold the secret to late season success.

Late Season Deer Hunting: A Different Animal

Late season deer hunting doesn’t appeal to everyone. Bone chilling temperatures and brutal conditions can make even the most seasoned hunter wonder if the odds of notching his or her tag are next to nil.
But, don’t let the word ‘late’ make you feel pressured or lure you into predicting how the season might end. Late season deer hunting continues to offer plenty of potential when it comes to killing a mature buck.
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Late Season Deer Hunting

Late season deer hunting means it’s time to rethink strategy. And while most would advise when hunting the whitetail rut to focus on the quantity of time spent in the stand, late season is the time to focus on the quality of time spent in the stand.
This means paying special attention to the details. For the details will sort out why, where and when you need to be hunting during the late season.

Weather Determines Whether

In December of 2012 my son and I experienced a memorable late season deer hunt. We had set our stands overlooking a cut cornfield, and by the amount of fresh tracks in the snow, our chances of success looked very high.
Around 4:00 that afternoon several does started funneling into the corn stubble. A few minutes later a buck we had never seen before joined the procession. This buck would have easily scored 150 plus inches and was feeding while there was plenty of daylight.
We immediately recognized there were two significant items at play here. Coupled with the attraction of the cut corn, the weather also determined this buck’s movements. Responding to a falling barometer and an approaching snowstorm, the buck was on his feet earlier in the day in an attempt to find food before it was covered in several inches of fresh snow.
Late season deer hunting requires the hunter to pay close attention to the weather. When a winter storm is getting ready to dump on a prime food source, deer will usually be up and feeding well in advance of the changing weather.
Extreme dips in temperature can also result in deer being increasingly active and more visible during daylight hours. This is due to a whitetail’s need to increase its calorie intake in order to stay warm.
The opposite is also true. If the weather has been extremely cold for an extended period of time, then breaks, and is followed by rising temperatures, this change in weather can also initiate a spike in deer activity.
Whether warmer or colder, be sure to take advantage of any weather that may increase your chances of killing a late season buck. During late season deer hunting, weather can determine whether your chances are increased.
late season deer hunting

Eager For Energy

If your mother ever threatened to make you pay for the electric bill because you left a light on, then you’ll understand how whitetail think during the late season—especially whitetail bucks.
Post-rut bucks enter into ‘survival’ or ‘conservation’ mode after the rut. Depleted energy stores, from days (and nights) of chasing estrus does, means bucks need to consume plenty of calories in order to rebuild fat stores for the upcoming winter. To efficiently rebuild its worn out body, a buck will decrease the size of its winter range in an effort to conserve energy.
‘Energy savings’ is why late season bucks can often be found bedded not far from a prime food source. The shorter the distance they have to travel the less energy is consumed.
This is an important element to consider when deer hunting late season. For if the distance between your stand site and a buck’s late season bedding area has decreased, preventative measure should be taken on your part. Late season deer hunting means the hunter must be very careful when entering and exiting a stand site.
Depending on your stand placement and entry and exit routes, consider taking extra precaution if hunting row crops in the morning. If you’re going to risk spooking deer off the field or out of a nearby bed when approaching your stand, it’s best to change your strategy and hunt only in the afternoons.
Taking into account these significant changes in behavior patterns can make all the difference when deer hunting late season.
tips for deer hunting late season

Fixated On Food

Beyond weather or travel patterns, the number one motivator for late season whitetails is food. Therefore, finding a quality food source is the number one priority if you’re going to kill a late season whitetail.
During the late season it’s easy to become enamored with standing corn or corn stubble, but don’t ignore an opportunity to hunt over standing soybeans or an acorn flat.
As we mention in Field Crops, Row Crops And Whitetails, “Beans will provide a late season smorgasbord for hungry whitetail, even when there’s standing corn nearby. Soybeans contain a considerable amount of protein and fat, and winter whitetails know just how much nutrition is held within those pods.” If you have access to a standing bean field, by all means get to hunting it.
Then again, row crops aren’t the only food on a whitetail’s menu. Don’t be misled into thinking you need to only hunt row crops during the late season.
Most areas in the Midwest have seen an abundance of acorns this year. A bumper mast crop cannot be ignored when trying to target a late season whitetail.
As whitetail guru Scott Bestul states, “After the rigors of the rut, with winter weather moving in, late-season whitetails seek acorns because they provide lots of fat, are easily digested and, unlike corn and bean stubble, are located within the security of the woods—which is critical to pressured deer. In some heavily forested habitats, acorns may be the only substantial high-energy food source at this time of year.”
Let the deer tell you what late season food they prefer. Once you locate what food sources the whitetail in your area are fixated on—go hunt it.
deer hunting late season

Triggered By Testosterone

The testosterone level in a whitetail buck doesn’t come with an off and on switch. Just as there is a gradual increase of testosterone during the summer months, there is a gradual decline after the rut. And while most bucks will not show the same aggressive behavior seen during the peak rut, they still have a desire to breed during the late season.
Depending on the amount of estrus does in an area and the buck to doe ratio, the testosterone level of a whitetail buck can remain elevated for some time.
Take advantage of this by locating and hunting doe groups during the late season. Bucks will still be scent checking does on a regular basis even before the ‘secondary’ rut arrives.
The ‘secondary’ rut comes approximately 28 days after the peak rut. For most of the Midwest this means some time in December, but can stretch out as far as February. During the secondary rut mature does that were not bred will cycle into estrus a second time and 7-8 month old doe fawns will enter their first estrus cycle.
And while the hunter cannot expect to see the same rutting activity he or she saw in November, there is a good chance of seeing a mature buck if you continue to hunt where there is a concentration of does.


Late season deer hunting isn’t for the faint of heart. But, these late season tips can be your ticket to success. Plan wisely, stick to a strategy and hunt intentionally.

pre rut scrapes

Pre-Rut Scrapes And Daylight Bucks

Late October is an exciting time of year for any bowhunter. The pre-rut is well under way and the visible signs of whitetail signpost behavior—scrapes and rubs—are showing up in their usual places.
This time of year also reignites the age-old debate surrounding the hunting over natural or mock scrapes and whether bucks will use these scrapes during daylight hours. But before you reject the thought of hanging a stand near a well-used scrape, here are a few details you may want to consider.
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Pre-Rut Scrapes And Daylight Bucks

If you’ve spent any amount of time researching why and when whitetail use scrapes, you’ve undoubtedly found most biologists agree that bucks will visit scrapes primarily under the cover of darkness.
Biologists form these opinions through monitoring numerous scrapes over an extended period of time. These studies place trail cameras directly overlooking several scrapes and monitor the buck activity at these various scrape sites. What these studies do not take into consideration are the bucks that checked the scrapes from a distance.
Bernie Barringer recently wrote an article in which he addressed this very issue. Barringer penned, “I have two issues with these studies. First off, they did not add any attraction to their “sample” scrapes, which can completely change the dynamics of a scrape’s activity patterns, and secondly, they only recorded photos of the bucks that actually stepped into the range of the motion-detecting camera. That’s a big issue that few people have talked about.”
Hats off to Barringer for offering a (very uncommon) common sense approach to hunting near scrapes.

Empirical Evidence

First, I’m not a wildlife biologist, (I wish) so all the evidence I’m asking you to consider is empirical. The opinions I’m going to share with you were formed by glassing whitetail through a spotting scope for countless hours.
From over 400-yards away and over 200-feet above a primary scrape, I’ve watched how a variety of bucks (and does) have used a ‘primary’ scrape during daylight hours. Furthermore, I’ve harvested several mature bucks within the general vicinity of the same primary scrape.
whitetail scrapes and bucks

A Peculiar Place

It’s important to understand that not all scrapes are created equal. And while there are a variety of titles used in an attempt to describe scrapes and their purpose; such as secondary scrapes, territorial scrapes, boundary scrapes and so forth, the ‘primary’ scrape or hub scrape is what we’ll focus on. A primary scrape is used by several different bucks, and will also be used by does throughout the breeding season. Furthermore, a primary scrape will generally be in the same location year after year.
In their book Bowhunting Pressured Whitetails, John and Chris Eberhart write, “Primary scrape areas are my top priority because they have been my most productive hunting locations for dominate bucks. These areas are perennial unless there is a severe change in habitat such as occur due to crop rotation, logging, or property development. A stand in an active primary scrape area should be one of your best when hunted properly.”
I couldn’t agree more.

Delivered Downwind

While biologists are still baffled at what all information whitetail communicate through a primary scrape, we do know these scrapes play a part during the breeding cycle. Through urine, saliva, tarsal glands, and preorbital and interdigital gland secretions, whitetail are able to establish a very detailed social network.
Pictured below is a primary scrape at which we have seen a variety of 1 ½ to 5 ½ year old bucks visit on a regular basis. And it was at this particular scape where we watched how mature whitetail use a primary scrape during daylight hours.
whitetail scrapes
There is a caveat.
The majority of mature bucks that visited this particular primary scrape during daylight hours always checked the scrape from a downwind vantage point and never up close. Sometimes it was checked from up to 50-60 yards away or farther.
As either a doe or buck approached the scrape, they would make a semi-circle until directly downwind of the scrape. Once directly downwind they would stop momentarily, scent check the scrape and move on.
Numerous times we have watched a doe travel to the exact location a buck had visited just moments before and mimic the bucks behavior. The doe would stop where he stopped, check the wind and move on.
Again Barrie Barringer concurs with my observations. Barringer says, “The temptation may be to put a stand up right over the scrapes, and sometimes that works. But remember what I said earlier about the bucks scent-checking them from downwind—once they smell something of interest, they will make a J-hook and approach the scrape from an angle that quarters them into the wind if the terrain and cover allows it. Keep this in mind as you choose your stand location.”

Daylight Dreams

So do whitetails use primary scrapes during daylight hours? It depends on the definition of ‘use.’
I believe mature bucks will ‘check’ primary scrapes during daylight hours. This is based upon several years of watching the same primary scrape and how numerous bucks behaved when in its vicinity. (Such as the unusual event pictured below where a young buck came in to the scape and actually laid beside it for some time.)
pre rut bucks
My personal belief is a primary scrape is definitely a good place to hunt ‘near.’ Depending on how the wind carries the scent from the scrape will determine how a buck will approach it. And understanding how a buck will approach the scrape from a downwind location is of paramount importance when choosing your stand location.
For those who hang scent drippers over mock or natural scrapes, this is another element that will increase the chances of success. Fresh urine in the scrape will undoubtedly increase curiosity, odor and throw confusion into the pecking order.
Again, I’m not a wildlife biologist. These opinions are from a passionate whitetail hunter who has tried to spend time watching whitetail in their natural environment. Hunting near scrapes has worked very well in the past and I firmly believe they attract mature bucks during daylight hours.
So, if you know of a primary scrape in your hunting area, I sure wouldn’t ignore it. You may want to hang a stand downwind of it and see if you can intercept a pre-rut buck.

whitetail and barometric pressure

Whitetail Movement And Barometric Pressure

It was only one o’clock in the afternoon, yet several deer were already feeding in the field. Seeing this unusual phenomenon I turned to my son and said, “It’s going to storm!”
Whitetail have an innate sense for knowing when bad weather is approaching. A couple of days before the weatherman predicts a drastic change in the forecast—based upon radar and weather models—deer already know. But how?
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If you’ve spent any amount of time watching whitetail, you’ve seen how deer respond to an approaching rainstorm or snowstorm. Whitetails are often seen feeding days in advance of a change in weather. And those well-versed in whitetail behavior believe deer are simply responding to a change in barometric pressure.

Barometric Pressure

Barometric pressure, also known as atmospheric pressure, refers to the amount of air pressure exerted by air molecules against the earth’s surface. Combining the force of gravity with literally miles of air molecules equals approximately 14.7 pounds per square inch of pressure at sea level. It’s the increase or decrease of this pressure that is known to affect animal behavior.
Meteorologists often talk of either ‘low-pressure systems’ or ‘high-pressure systems’ when referring to the weather. These terms simply refer to increased or decreased barometric pressure within a weather system.
If the air molecules above the earth’s surface are not as compressed, the result will be a decrease in barometric pressure. The resulting low-pressure system is known to usher in clouds, rain and/or snow.
After adverse weather moves beyond an area there will be an increase in the compression of air molecules, which in turn causes the barometric pressure to rise. A high-pressure system is often characterized by a combination of clear skies and windy or breezy conditions.

Warm And Cold

Another interesting fact concerning low-pressure areas is how they produce the weather surrounding the advancing storm. The counterclockwise circulation of a low-pressure area will result in cold air forming to the north and west, while warm air is formed on the south and east.
This explains why colder winds and temperatures can accompany a north or west wind. Remember this tip when checking barometric pressure and wind direction prior to a hunt.

Barometric Pressure And The Bowhunter

Whitetail are very in tune to changes in barometric pressure and the resulting atmospheric conditions. Deer will bed, feed and move according to if the barometer is ‘rising,’ ‘steady’ or ‘falling.’
Most hunters who have made a study of barometric pressure and how it corresponds with whitetail behavior, believe whitetail are more active when the barometer is either rising or falling and most active when the barometer is rising. My personal preference is to hunt a rising barometer immediately following a storm. I generally see more deer movement following a hard rain or right after a blizzard.
These observations also suggest deer activity is best when the barometer is 29.90 or higher. Ideal conditions are when the barometer is close to 30.0 inches, is rising and has nearly peaked. This is a recipe that usually results in increased deer movement—especially in bucks.
It would seem from collective observation, when the barometer is falling deer anticipate the possibility of weather impeding their ability to feed. This results in more aggressive whitetail movement as deer attempt to feed for preventative measure.
When weather such as a snowstorm or rainstorm is about to subside and the barometric pressure begins to rise, deer will again feed actively due to their lack of eating while they waited out the severe weather. While not comprehensive, hopefully this practical application will give you an idea as to how whitetail respond to changes in pressure and a few reasons why.
A whitetail’s response to barometric pressure gives the bowhunter insight into knowing how to plan the next hunt. With numerous weather related websites and weather apps to keep us informed, our chances of being where we need to be when we need to be there should also be on the rise.
While the barometric pressure is only one contributing factor to deer movement, it is an important element that should not be overlooked. With fall weather already upon us, use the barometer to your advantage.
If you have any additional tips or would like to share how you use barometric pressure when planning a hunt, please feel free to comment below.