With archery season about two weeks away, I’m sure there are quite a few hunters who are looking for that special buck. The fact is most of the large-antlered bucks I have measured for the record books are taken with the bow and arrow.
Last year, I was seeing a large number of big bucks driving the country roads and checking my trail cameras. This year, the number of big deer seems sparse.
Perhaps I have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and my camera was on the wrong team. Or maybe the deer movement is just starting to pick up.
There can be a variety of reasons for spotting fewer deer with big antlers.
While visiting a land owner in the southern part of the county, we were discussing big bucks. Every hunter likes to dream and talk about bucks with oversized head gear.
There seems to be three commonly used methods of finding a big buck.
First and most common is cruising back roads and watching open fields. This can be done just before dark or later with a spotlight.
In either case, the person looking needs to show the courtesy in both not interfering with traffic or bothering the landowner.
It’s amazing how far a little consideration goes.
Another fairly new method is the use of a trail camera.
These cameras are a wonderful aid to locating big buck. Placed along a trail, it’s amazing what is moving around on the back 40 after dark.
Many times, they are strapped to a tree pointed toward bait, which entices the deer to come into camera range. When this is done, it is illegal to hunt that spot for 30 days after the bait has been removed.
This 30-day period is mandated even if someone else baited the location. It’s the hunter’s responsibility to make sure the spot has not been baited.
Baiting is one of the most common deer hunting violations, and there is no specific distance limitation written into the law. After all, a hunter could bait a hillside and then sit across the valley, watching the bait at a distance of 300 yards.
The third, and best, method of locating a big buck is to spend time in the woods and observe what’s around you. Check rub trees, taking into account the size of the tree. A buck entering the rut likes a tree that pushes back.
The real purpose of tree rubbing, contrary to the common opinion of removing the velvet, is to strengthen the neck muscles for what is to come. While big bucks might rub a small tree, it is not common for a small buck to rub a big tree.
This is based more on body size, but a big-bodied deer should carry a decent set of antlers.
Another good sign is ground scrapes that can be found under an overhanging tree branch. Check the footprints in the scrape, looking for size. Again, remember a small print might be made by a visiting doe, and the deer’s front hooves are bigger than the rear.
Taking that into consideration, an oversized print is the sign of a good buck. Find a scrape line along a ridge and you have found the baliwick of a buck.
The best sign of a buck is visual. Sit with good optics at dusk and watch. Not only will you be surprised at what is seen, but the rack can also be judged. I have measured many live deer in my mind this way.
I don’t think many hunters are using this latter method and that is sad. We live in a busy society and need to take a break every now and then.
Preparing for archery season by taking a trip to the deer woods is relaxing, exciting and fun. Try it.
• I mentioned last week that Will Orndoff’s outdoors shop was in Claysville. It’s actually in Graysville.
George H. Block writes a Sunday Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.