Once you decide to target a real monarch—the buck of a lifetime—it means putting all your chips in the game. It means making life-altering sacrifices. You have to be dedicated, focused and determined. Are you ready? Here are steps seven and eight of a 10-step series to help you kill the biggest, best buck of your life. (Click here to see the fifth and sixth steps.)
Find Mr. Big Beforehand
It’s go time. By midsummer you’ll want to have a location chosen, scouting cameras in place and time set aside to scout. Your goal now is to find Mr. Big before the season and determine his home turf. If you go the outfitted route, you might be able to skip this step, but if the outfitter is open to it, offer to come during the summer and set up stands, help scout and learn the terrain.
Most outfitters I query suggest scouting more than hunting. One outfitter friend of mine says scouting should be 70 percent of your efforts and hunting 30 percent. Don’t be excessively enthusiastic, though, and one example is with scouting cameras. Many hunters can’t seem to leave their cameras alone, and visit them too often to check for signs of Mr. Big.
Too much disturbance of hunting areas is a no-no. The result is a big buck patterning you instead of vice versa. That can lead to fewer photos, fewer sightings and the likelihood of turning a mature whitetail into an unkillable critter.
Scout smart and visit scouting cameras sparingly. Purchase maximum memory storage and battery power. Plan a route and a schedule so deer become accustomed to the visits, and always back up your digital data with real-world sightings to pattern bucks that might otherwise slip by undetected. Click here to learn more lethal tips for integrating a scouting cam in your big-buck strategy.
By midsummer you’ll want to be in full-force scouting mode—cameras included.
Hunt The Best Times
Last fall I shot one of the best 4×4 bucks of my career, and I did in September. What’s my point? Don’t overlook early and late seasons. Most hunters squirrel away vacation time to hunt the rut, but today you can hunt from September and well into January with plenty of big-buck action in between. Plus, archery might rule these fringe periods, but more and more firearm seasons are popping up for those who shun primitive hunting tools.
September hunts will discover bucks still leading a late-summer routine, complete with bachelor groups of bucks that feed in the wide open that pattern surprisingly well. Besides the rut, September ranks as a top pick to topple a Booner buck.
If you can’t get in on the early-season pattern of bachelor groups, the pre-rut is your next best option. Bucks follow a routine—scraping, rubbing and visiting areas of high doe density—while waiting for the first does to come into estrus. Once the breeding begins, bucks abandon a pattern and travel fervently to find any does in heat. Stay out all day long for a shot at a “loverboy” buck during the rut.
Finally, late-season hunting can also be effective in areas where winter weather forces bucks to feed voraciously in an attempt to ward off death from rut weariness and winter’s fury. Watch food sources like soybeans and corn to increase your success.
Don’t overlook early and late seasons. This old brute was taken in September.