On my hunting forum SHS Hunting Chat I opened a poll in which I ask. “What's the best time to kill a big buck?” Is it in the early hunting season? The Rut? In the Late Season? Or All of the tem? I voted that in my opinion shaped by experience, the best time to kill a big buck is the late season (Winter). And here is why!
While it is true that good bucks can be taken at any time during the hunting season. One look into the trophy record books shows that most trophies are taken in the late winter. And for good reason.
Consider this. In the early season the vegetation is thick, plenty of cover that makes it hard to see a deer. Food is plentiful and everywhere available to the deer. Most hunters generally agree that the early season is the toughest time to take a buck, or any deer for that matter, simply because they are hard to pattern.
During the rut a buck travels non-stop in search of hot does. Bucks do not eat during the breeding season, in fact they will loose as much as 25% to 30% of their body weight. A smart hunter will stay with the doe's and set up a treestand in the thick stuff downwind from doe feeding and bedding areas. Other hunters will sit over a scrape for days on end, like a brooding hen over eggs. But all this will not ensure that a buck can be killed, simply because, and here it comes again, it is though to pattern a buck that could be here today and gone tomorrow.
Now comes the winter, food is scares, in many places there will be a lot of snow and it is cold, very cold. The rut is over with and the buck's priorities change again. Now his only concern is to eat as much as he can in order to gain his weight back and make it trough the winter. Eat and sleep that is all a buck does in the winter. Very often bucks will bed close to the available food source to conserve energy. In other words the bucks become now very predictable, their once huge territory has shrunk that a few hundred yards. This is the reason why I voted for the late season, because it is now much easier to find a buck and set up on him. Often I snow track bucks in the deep winter just after a new snowfall is the best time. Another plus to the late season is that most hunters never leave the house again after the rut is over and so I have the woods all to myself, even deer are aware of this fact and are nowhere near as spooky, nocturnal bucks move now during day time again too.
In the southern regions of North America it may not be so important for a buck to find food and quickly gain back lost weight as the climate generally is milder and food is available in decent quality and quantity for much longer. But in the northern parts where the snow lays in thick layers for many months this may be the best time to kill a big monster buck.
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