It was exactly one week ago I welcomed the first hints of daylight as I was perched in one of my favorite tree stands. It wasn’t long before several small bucks appeared, chasing young does. After four hours of sitting in that tree the thought of a hearty man’s breakfast and a hot cup of coffee sounded better than staying in that stand all day. Not mentioning my backside was getting a little sore, even with periodic stints of standing. Now is the time of year I knew better.
“Sore butts save bucks’ lives,” I said to myself, as I unfastened my safety harness.
Several hours later, on a full belly, I headed back to the woods. In the few short hours I was gone, a buck had made a scrape directly in front of my stand. The ground was pawed clean under the red oak tree and limbs were snapped off at eye level. No doubt this was a good buck that had left his calling card for amorous does.
“Sore butts save bucks’ lives,” I said again.
As deer hunters, we become conditioned to hunting the first and last hours of daylight. We call it “prime-time.” We live for it, we love it and seldom do we miss those moments in the stand. But as the air cools and daylight draws short, things change. In fact, November is the month bucks are on a mission. This is the month for which for which the monarchs of the woods are created for. They are on the prowl in search of opportunities to fill their God-given purpose in life.
Now, more than any other, is the time to hunt mid-day. We all talk about seeing bucks chase does all over the landscape. Young bucks think they are big stuff and chase does with no regard to terrain, hunting pressure or time of day. However, mature bucks know when the time is right and when the girls are ready. They didn’t get big by being dumb.
I can’t tell you the number of bucks I’ve seen chasing does at first and last light and without a doubt the majority have been in the 1 ½- to 2 ½-year range. But the mature bucks I have seen this time of year were active between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It was a couple years ago my youngest son, Anthony, was determined to stay in the woods all day. He was rewarded with a giant 11-pointer dressing out at 220 pounds. He tipped that buck over at 1:15 in the afternoon.
During the month of November and during the rut we call it “Mid Day Magic.” But really there is nothing magical about it. The bottom line is we create our own magic this special time of year and that happens by staying in the woods all day. We take advantage of this through endurance and persistence.
Let’s face it, we’ve heard it for years, but how many of us actually adhere to it? I include myself. Hunger, boredom, work schedules, school and other facts of life keep many of us from staying in our stands more than a couple hours in the morning or evening.
It becomes a little easier starting this weekend with the beginning of the regular deer hunting firearms season. It’s the time vacations are planned around, not mentioning several holidays thrown in. We can also mix it up a bit by combining stand hunting with still hunting.
As I mentioned earlier, smaller bucks chase does like crazy at dawn and dusk. They seem awkward and unaware of what the big show is all about. They run does in and out of the timber like an adolescent teenager jacked up on energy drinks. But the big bucks have played the game before. They know the routine, so they wait for the does to bed and then make the rounds to scent check the bedding areas.
Young bucks don’t seem too concerned with the arrival of hunting season and will chase does regardless. Big bucks, however, know when opening day arrives and quickly alter their movements.
Through modern technology we can scout deer like never before. With trail cameras we can pinpoint deer movement, arrival times and consistency of travel in and out of the woods we hunt.
But here’s the deal. No matter how much time we spend in the woods, we are only part-time hunters, hunting full-time deer. And a trophy buck is a totally different animal. Through what nature gives them, they can pattern us much better than we can pattern them. They know when and where we enter the woods. They know how often we are there and that our presence means danger. You can be sure all of our careless travel in and out of the areas we hunt will put them on high alert.
So this year, maybe try something different. Go into the first week of gun season with a renewed passion for getting the job done at mid-day. Remember to eliminate any barriers keeping you from staying in your stand all day. Bring a book, pack a lunch or play on your smart phone. Even more important, sit in the most comfortable stand you have and always remember, “sore butts save bucks’ lives.”
It’s easy to tell the rut has kicked in as evident by the number of good bucks being collected. Here is this week’s report listing those hunters who have taken deer to one of our area’s state check-in stations or checked-in their harvest electronically. This information includes weights after field-dressing.
Cory McGuire — 180-pound, 10-point buck; Ryan Shuey — 115-pound doe; Robert Blume — 160-pound, 10-point buck; Todd Combs — 160-pound, eight-point buck; Ralph Harvey — 185-pound, eight-point buck; Neil Fowler — 160-pound, eight-point buck; Ryan Shuey — 160-pound, nine-point buck; Noel Evans — 115-pound doe; Steve Martin — 145-pound, seven-point buck; Cory Carter — 180-pound, eight-point buck; Jim Martino — 120-pound doe; Herschel Conyers — 107-pound doe; Jerry Rose — 150-pound, eight-point buck; Shawn Stevens — 190-pound, nine-point buck; Jerry Rose — 120-pound doe; Mike Gammans — 125-pound, two-point buck; Chuck Nunnally — 60-pound doe; Steve Nunnally — 60-pound button buck; Jeff Vanover — 75-pound doe; Zack Huff — 172-pound, nine-point buck; Clint Lawson — 120-pound doe; Mark Watson — 170-pound eight-point buck; Steven Wright — 125-pound, seven-point buck.
John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.