Saturday, October 24, 2015

Halloween Bucks and How to Kill them

        If you are a believer in the moon phase and how it affects deer movement, like me, you should be chomping at the bit. Considering what we already know about the early part of the rut and combining it with the basic theory of full moon deer movement, we could be in store for a wild and wicked Halloween weekend.
Author with a Buck harvested at 11am a couple days
after Halloween. Stand was located in a transition area
used by does. The Buck was rattled in to 20 yards.
        I find that mid-day hunting during a full moon phase can be a great time to capitalize before the intense chasing starts. Typically the full moon, which falls on October 27th this year (2015), will cause bucks to move heavily at night. Although this tends to damper the intense evening and morning hunts, it offers phenomenal mid-day hunting. A buck will rarely lie down all day during the rut. He’s got breeding on the mind and he is going to move at one time or another, even if just a short distance.
       During the early part of the rut bucks are notorious for roaming the woods and looking for does. They often make scrapes and do most of their rubbing during this time. Although setting over a scrape is not my go to plan for this time of the year, it can be effective.
This Halloween I will be setting all day in a transition area used by does. This area will include heavy cover on the edge of a food source. In my case, hunting public land in northern Michigan, I will be no more than 300 yards from acorns. This area would also be a travel route used by does to get from feed to bed. Spots like this are often littered with scrapes and rubs due to bucks roaming the thick cover in hopes of cutting the track of a hot doe.
      With the wind in my face and travel routes used by does, in seeing distance, I can expect bucks to be cruising the area. This type of area is frequented by bucks that are keeping tabs on the does. The does will not be ready to breed for at least a week or two but this will not stop bucks from roaming the area, stopping only to make a scrape or rub a tree.  I already have one of these spots in mind and you had better find one as well.

     Bucks will also be very curious of other bucks in the area. It’s likely of them to be sizing up the competition in the area this time of year. It would be wise to pack some tarsal gland scent and a grunt call. A cruising buck will stop for little but a quick whiff of what he believes to be another buck in his territory could turn his wheels and have him marching towards your post.
     Grunt calls are great for getting the attention of a buck. Like I previously stated, bucks are curious of their potential competition. Being vocal could get bucks off their path and in front of your sights. This includes rattling. Although not as aggressive as a buck fending off competition while tending a hot doe, a semi intense sparring sequence could gain the attention of bucks nearby. It’s like when a fight would break out in school. If you could hear the yelling and chanting, it was almost impossible not to go over and investigate.
     With this information in mind, get looking at some topo and satellite photos. Find a spot where you suspect bucks will be trying to intercept does. Pinch points leading to a food source are great areas to start. If you’ve already came across some rub lines, it wouldn’t hurt to be within shooting distance of them as it’s a clear indication of a bucks travel route. The conditions will be ideal for an all-day sit. Although you may not actually see deer all day, you can be confidant that they could show up at any time. Best of luck and happy Halloween!


Friday, October 23, 2015

Early Rut: 4 Essential Tools to Bag The Buck

         About the last week of October, just as my brain starts focusing on the rut, I always make sure I have 4 tools packed in my bag. Without them I could cost myself a chance at a trophy buck. It’s enough just to be in the woods during the early rut. You have to be prepared to play the game. Using fool proof tactics to entice and attract bucks can increase your odds greatly at getting them into bow range. Here is my suggested gear list that will get bucks closing this distance during the early rut.
Rattling Antlers
      Rattling Bucks is not popular everywhere but it can be effective. Where I hunt mostly in Northern Michigan, rattling is thought to be a tactic that only works where a buck to doe ratio falls around 3 to 1 or better. This is not always true. Yes rattling is more effective with those conditions, but that’s not to say it won’t work in an area with poor management. How you rattle is most important.
      Because Northern Michigan is not known for huge bucks, you would never find me in the woods with a trophy set of antlers, banging them together. A smaller set of antlers are more realistic and far more convenient to pack with your gear.
      Rattling during the early rut is a challenge from one buck to another. Very rarely is it a fight to the death. Aggressive sparring is what some may call it and that’s what you should try to mimic. The epic clash of the titans sequence can be saved for the high fence bucks. You want to mimic what sounds like a couple young bucks sizing each other up. This will be more realistic and will catch the attention from more dominant bucks looking to prove their rank.
      Rattling can be effective from the last week of October to the third week of November. Not to say it won’t work outside of that time frame but I would even consider its most effective time to be right around Halloween.
Grunt Call
      Unlike a fighting sound that rattling mimics, the grunt call can be used in many ways. It’s very effective with different sounds throughout the season. But for the early rut we are going to cover just two ways to use the call.
       A social grunt can be used when hunting the exterior of a bucks bedding area. Three to four soft grunts could entice a bedded buck to come check who is in his area.  This also works when a buck is working a scrape or a rub from a distance. Getting that buck’s attention with a grunt call could strike his curiosity and bring him into bow range.
       Another call I like to use if a buck is within my sight but too far out of range is what I call a challenge grunt. Blowing into the call, as if saying “Tuck, Tuck, Tuck”, will mimic a buck that is vocally discontent with the other bucks presence. This is could make the buck feel challenged and bring him into range.
       There is one thing to remember when using calls, if you get the buck’s attention, stop calling. That buck knows where the sound came from. The last thing you want to do is give your exact position away.
Tarsal Gland Scent
       Tarsal Gland scent is a scent I feel most hunters use during the wrong time of the season. Rather than using it during the peak chasing or breeding phase, the early rut is when I consider the best time. During the early rut, bucks are more curious of each other rather of the does. This is especially true with your older bucks that know the does will not be ready to breed for at least a week or more.
        Using tarsal gland scent is a good way to attract a buck from a distance or to even cover your scent down wind. A buck curious of his competition will investigate what other bucks are roaming the area. By the time the peak breeding phase arrives, bucks will seemingly avoid other bucks in fear of getting into an unnecessary fight. Unless there is a hot doe in the area, bucks are liable to skirt around your area just out of sight.
        Unless you are lucky enough to have fresh tarsal glands straight from a buck, I suggest picking up a bottle of any leading brand. Use it as a drag going to your stand and once there, hang it about two feet off the ground from an overhanging branch. This has worked for me in the past and will for you as well if used the right way. Like any scent I suggest, use sparingly!

Buck Urine
      Buck urine can be used relatively the same way tarsal gland scent is used. It is a great scent to use if you are unsure of where the herd is in the breeding season. A buck smelling another bucks urine rather than tarsal gland will not feel quite as challenged by the smell. Buck urine is not specifically a scent used for breeding purposes. However, I suggest using a little buck urine in conjunction with the tarsal gland scent just to make the scene that much more realistic.

Putting them all together
      In the perfect situation during the early rut, I would position myself in a transition area used by does. I would try to be within 80 yards or so from a good rub line. With the wind in my face, I would walk to my stand with a scent drag moistened with tarsal gland scent. I would dab a couple drips of buck urine on the bottom of my boots. Once I get to my stand I would hang the drag rag in a tree and climb in into my stand. After things have quieted down I would begin a soft rattling sequence every 20 to 30 minutes, followed with some soft social grunts. If I encounter a buck but he fails to close the distance, I’ll use a couple challenge grunts to entice him to come investigate.
     I hope this gives you a good understanding of how to use these tools during the early part of the rut. If you are a non-believer in any these tools, I suggest trying them in the conditions I mentioned. I am a firm believer that if you have enough tools in you arsenal, one will work.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Gut Shot Deer and How to Recover

There are many ways you can hit a deer but none is more dreadful than the gut shot. Not just because there is little to no blood for tracking, but it is almost always fatal. The gut shot will kill a deer given the correct amount of time. Also, a gut shot deer tends to leave a big mess. But a gut shot none the less is fatal and can be recovered if the right steps are taken.
After shooting a deer in the guts, or paunch as some refer to it, you will most always get a complete pass through as there is nothing in the mid-section to stop the arrow or bullet. If you are archery hunting, your arrow will often be covered with a green or brown body fluid and even half-digested stomach matter. There will usually be little to no blood on the arrow. This is a clear indication of a gut shot.
If you suspect a gut shot has been made on a deer, whether you or another hunter did so, back out. Get down from the stand very quietly and leave the area. A gut shot deer will most likely run 100 yards or so and stop. A deer experiences a great deal of pain when gut shot. Unlike a double lung or heart shot, a Deer will tend to give into the pain and find a place to lie down, but not die right away. If you spook the deer however, it can run for miles. This is why it is so important to let the deer expire, undisturbed.
I have heard many time frames in which you should leave a deer lay after being gut shot. If you shoot it in the morning, I suggest leaving it until the evening. If the deer is shot in the evening I would wait until morning. None the less, I suggest always waiting at least 12 hours before attempting to retrieve a gut shot deer.
Image From:
A gut shot deer, along with extensive pain, will feel flu like symptoms once the intestinal toxins reach the blood stream. This is likely the reason a deer will try to find water. I always tell hunters who have a hard time finding a gut shot deer to find the closest water and continue the search there. If you’re lucky and leave the area without alarming a deer that has been gut shot and has ran off, there is a good chance at finding it within a couple hundred yards from where you shot it. This is why backing out is so important.
Many hunters will ask if a gut shot deer is safe to eat. I can say from my own experience that with proper care a gut shot deer is usually fine to eat. Yes, I have made the mistake of hitting a deer in the guts. However, I considered myself lucky to have even found the deer considering horrible tracking signs or that the lack of. Once again, I backed out quietly and came back after giving the deer at least 12 hours to expire.

If you are like me and process your own venison, I myself will dampen a towel with vinegar and wipe the questionable sections of the deer. Vinegar will kill any bacteria forming and it is obviously safe to consume. From there I continue to process the meat into steaks or roasts.
The obvious best way to recover a gut shot deer is to not shoot it in the guts at all. Always allow for a good broadside or quartering away shot. The last thing any hunter wants to do is make a bad hit and have a deer suffer. But with that being said, if you hunt long enough, you will make a bad hit. Very few experienced hunters can say they have always hit their mark. Although very frustrating and saddening for you and the deer, it is important to give your best effort to recover that animal. This includes not attempting to recover the animal until ample time has been given for it to expire.