October 26, 2023
It’s always a great time to be in the deer woods, but I’ve learned along the way that sometimes less is more. Here are some tips that may result in you having more quality hunts and scoring more big bucks.
1. Bigger is Not Always Better
There’s an old saying, “You can’t kill big bucks where big bucks don’t live.” That certainly makes sense and holds true for tracts of all sizes, though many people seem to overlook hunting smaller parcels. Over the years, several good bucks have found their way into our freezer from small properties within wildlife corridors that are near big woods, which receive little to no hunting pressure. Finding a few of these spots really increases your chances of harvesting one or more good bucks. And Florida’s rut varies so much that if your hunting spots have different breeding dates, that can further maximize your chances of harvesting multiple good bucks in a season.
2. Keep Out!
During the summer months, and once the season begins, try to stay out of your hunting areas as much as possible. Only enter your spots when hunting, to cut access trails or shooting lanes, or to do any supplemental feeding if on private land. Where cell signal is sufficient, use cell cameras to be able to monitor the deer without having to access your areas. In spots where you don’t have a signal and can only use old-school game cameras, resist the temptation of going in too often to pull SD cards. Only do so while hunting or when doing maintenance—and then go in mid-day when deer movement is low, and even better if it’s about to rain. All of this will help minimize your scent to not alert a mature buck of your presence.
3. Take Good Notes
Except for the beginning of archery, my experience is that the best chance of seeing a mature buck in daylight during hunting season is when a doe comes into heat. And contrary to what a lot of people think, the timing of the rut has nothing to do with temperature or the moon. Does coming into estrous is a genetic trait that is directly related to the decreased hours of daylight and occurs around the same time year after year—almost to the day. To hone in on when that happens in your hunting areas, pay close attention each year to what you see, what your cameras show, and make note of the dates on such rutting behavior. The first rub of the year, the first scrape, the first time you see a buck chasing a doe, darkened tarsal glands, does swishing their tails, and most importantly, when you get a picture of a new or a mature buck in daylight—all are pre-rut and rut indicators you want to key in on.
4. Maximize Sits with Strategy
Once the rut hits, you should hunt as many mornings and afternoons as life allows until that window of opportunity is over. Having more than one hunting area and different stands will allow you to mix it up and keep the bucks guessing, while bouncing back and forth and not burning out a spot. Consider wind direction and timely information from your game cameras to help decide where and when to sit. When it comes to does, I personally choose not to harvest any. Does feeling safe in my hunting areas means that when they come into heat, they are my bait and biggest draw for luring a big buck into shooting range. FS
Published Florida Sportsman Magazine October 2023