Monday, October 02, 2006

What's the best time to kill a big buck?

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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15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I highly agree with late but rut ist the best time to kill they are stupid then

Anonymous said...

bucks are stupid during rut ,but its a matter of when and where at that time.their pattern of travel is different every day.its easier to find a pattern of a buck when everything is frozen or snowed in.late season is when qiuet approach really matters

Anonymous said...

I think early to mid deer season. in the early deer season deer are not use t people killing them plus they is corn or bean farms that deer love to eat. in the mid season the rut is in a then the bucks become stupid and then they come running out in front of hunters throwing cation into the wind for them and thats why i think the early and mid season is yh ebest tiem ti kill bid bucks.

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you boy's how to kill that big buck you have been dreaming about mounting right above the headboard of youre bed. The trick is to kick back many cold ones during the day with your buddy and dont forget to unload his gun while he is taking a leek so that when it comes killing time you will be the only one with the bullets and youre nerves will be chilled as well. Good luck...

Anonymous said...

I personally like the October lull to hunt big deer. I've found that when the temps just start to dip and beans start to get harvested you can begin to get an understanding of what bucks will be in the area for the remainder of the season. Food sources are now more limited browsing grasses and tender bean shoots are not available, if you have a food plot or a corn field with quite a bit of corn on the ground these areas may be the prime food sources. The bucks know the ruts getting closer so they must feed heavily to prepare and thus we enter the pre-rut if you can find the trails taken by deer into the field trace them back to possible bedding areas and setup just far enough away from the suspected bedding area as not to disturb mr. Antlers and keep pressure minimal. If you can be patient and hunt this stand only when conditions are optimal you may end up with the buck of a lifetime.

Anonymous said...

i personaley think that rut is the best time to kill a big buck because that usually when i kill one the bucks get careless during rut they aint worried about a hunter just hot does i hunt mostly during rut an late season just for the fact that some does come in late for rut

Othmar Vohringer said...

It's interesting how many hunters think that the rut is the best time to kill a big buck. Yet, one look at the B&C or P&Y trophy books will tell you that the majority of big bucks are taken after the rut.

The reasons for that are explained in my article. During the rut bucks can appear anywhere at at any time. In other words. It's hard to predict their travel patterns.

After the rut bucks stick to a small core area that provides them with food and shelter. Hence their movement patterns become very predictable.

-ov-

BBD said...

the early season in North Carolina is the time to kill a big buck i kill 166 4/8 last year in the second day of archery season on the side of a corn patch beside a mossy oak food plot it was down wind from me and every thing it was not spooked so i say the early season all the way

Anonymous said...

OV has given some very good advice on how to kill a big mature buck in this article. Depending on many different factors I will agree with him. I myself have seen mature buck pre rut, peak rut, and post rut and for whatever reasons didn't harvest them all but did learn from each experience. Early season a buck can be killed coming to food but they can be hard to find because of the abundance of food supply in the woods/fields (depending where you hunt) The rut is a prime time to kill bucky but you do need some luck because as mentioned they can appear anywhere. Sometimes smack dab in the middle of a field in broad daylight but out of reach in a shotgun only season. Three of the bucks I killed beween 130-155 were killed during the rut but were very elusive. Especially the 5.5 yr old. Since 2005, 2006, and 2007 I have hunted the early-prime stages of the rut and have had very limited sighting. I always managed to take a doe for food but didn't happen to "cross paths" with a shooter. Until I met an experience hunter who told me just what this article mentioned. Last year I took him on his advice and recovered from a unsuccessfull rut hunt and waited till the temp dropped and snow covered the ground. The first snowfall I was out with or without bow scouting and really like OV said located a small area with alot of food and alot of fresh sign. I left it a bit longer and capitalized on a 200inch plus giant on the perfect wind. This buck was worn out with not a speck of fat on him and was in need of food. I have also made notes of other kills and sightenings late season from the harcore hunter who has bundled up at went out.

Whatever we do it's impossible to really figure out what the heck these things are going to do or where the does are going to run the bucks around. Once thing that is for sure is if there is limited food supply a worn out buck needs food or he will die. As long as I hunt the right stand on the right wind late season over food I think my wall will look better :)

Good luck hunters and have fun

daniel said...

I hunt in missori and rite near my stand are about 6 scrapes and tons of rubs. I can't call anyone of em in this year and don't know why..... Wut is the best way to call em in and should I hunt morning or evening? The temp is about 50 degrees and I'm seeing a lot of doe but can't find that big one I know is out there!!!! Any advice would really help this year...or maybe this isn't my year idk.... Thanks everone and good hunting. And be safe out there

Othmar Vohringer said...

Hi Daniel and welcome to Whitetail Deer Passion.

Sounds like you found a buck staging area. You can call bucks by making challenging buck grunts that lets them think another buck moved on to their turf. You also can make doe-in-heat-bleats, although it is a bit early for that now. Rattling can bring the bucks in too this time of year.

If you can see does but no bucks then I would try to hang the stand further back into the timber.

Like I said at the beginning. From your description it sounds like you found a staging area where bucks hang up.Look for trails that come out of thickets and lead to that staging area and then hang a stand closer to the thicket. That way you might catch a big boy early evening as he leaves his bed and heads to the staging area. Be in the stand a couple of hours before sundown.

Hope this helps.

O.V.

Anonymous said...

I got 2 bucks 2 years in a row that scored 170 and 172 and it was early october in Iowa and I had trail cam pics of both of them all summer and the 1 i seen 3 times before I was able to shoot him but rut is fun because u get to see so many deer and the bucks are so stupid

Anonymous said...

I agree ive shot more after rut than during

Anonymous said...

It's late December now in Georgia and I've tried patiently hunting a gaint buck on my land that I know is here but no luck at all. There is scrapes and big horned trees everywhere but I'm not seeing any deer at all, not even does!! I seen a spike a few times and a few other small bucks earlier in the season but it seems like they just vanished! Ive had my trail camera out and no pictures but there is still fresh sign everywhere, I dont understand it! The trees that are being horned are huge and not from a small buck! What should I do? I've tried to hang in there because I know he is here but he just not showing up.

Othmar Vohringer said...

It's quite possible that buck/s making the sign on your property only visits at night. Big bucks do that often. I don't know how big your property is but going by your description it is possible that the bucks spend the daytime hours on another property, perhaps one that is not hunted. The only advice I can provide you is to scout the perimeter of your property for likely buck travel routes. Look in the thick stuff for trails that lead onto your property.
Wishing you the best of luck.

Othmar

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