Hunt the "Edges" for Deer
The massive buck eases up through holly, elm, gum, bay and oak trees. He skirts a dense tangle of trees and a blown down white oak, ever so slowly. At 6.5 years old, he is one of the monarchs in the forest.
Normally secretive and entirely nocturnal, these shortening days find him still roaming in spite of the coming daylight.
A light dusting of frost lies on the ground, the first of the year, and acorns crunch underfoot, but hunger is not on his mind.
Romance is, however.
The cold weather is like a spark plug to him – he is keyed up and very alert…
Not quite yet daylight, he stops below the crest of the hill, allowing the slightest of wind currents to come gently to him. Using the incredible power of his nose, he is searching for what he must find – a receptive doe… while he must remain aware of any foes that may be in the area. He knows that a fight can erupt at any moment this time of the year and he is entirely unafraid – but still wants to know of other bucks in the area.
He knows where his pawed areas are and he will check them.
Moments pass and only the faintest aroma of male comes to his nose… nothing to indicate a receptive female.
Scanning left and right, he is also very aware of an increased human presence in the woods and constantly searches for that scent, as well.
Moving upwards, toward the crest of the hill he stops and rakes his antlers, slowly but with tremendous force, on a 5” cedar that he has used a signpost for the last three years. Shredded bark falls as he grinds the tree. The trunk of the tree is twisted and gnarly looking from years of abuse.
The black darkness that was pure night a moment ago has begun to fade to shades of gun metal grey… but still he stands, listening and checking the wind currents…
Finding no news on the now freshening breeze, he steps fully into the old logging road. The road separates the planted pines on the top of the hill from the old hardwood growth as the land falls down toward the creek.
Scrapes dot the road for many yards in both directions under the overhanging oak limbs. Some of the scrapes are 48” in diameter and 4-5” deep and many reek of fresh urine and feces. The licking branches are laced with male buck smell.
Completely shredded pine trees also line the area, some bent over and destroyed by the aggressive bucks in the area.
This is a deer intersection, where trails all converge. It is the equivalent of where Main meets First Street in Anytown, USA… It is a gathering place for does and bucks alike… even more so during the rut – as the scrapes and tree rubs all indicate.
The buck moves forward to the deepest of the scrapes and begins the process of raking deeply into the dirt and then raising up on his hind legs to gain the higher of the licking branches, biting and chewing to leave the most scent possible. He knows many bucks and does visit the area and wants to take full advantage of this – by leaving his “presence” as best he can.
What he is entirely unaware of are two things.
The first is that darkness has been replaced by the first faint light of morning.
The second is that exactly 143 yards away and 17 feet up in a pine tree, a hunter sits in a climbing stand and the reticle of the Leupold scope rests squarely on his shoulder… the hunter relaxes her breath, holds it in ever so slightly, and begins to apply the faintest of pressure to the 3 pound trigger, waiting for the feel of that little tiny glass rod breaking. When that point is reached, the 7mm-08 sends the 139 grain Light Magnum Hornady bullet out of the muzzle at almost 3000 feet per second.
The buck is standing just quartered to the stand… in less than 1/20th of a second; the bullet enters high on the forward part of the left shoulder, immediately breaking that set of bones. It has already started to mushroom and passes 2” under the spine, delivering a hydraulic shock that is at once massive, yet merciful. The fact that it breaks his right leg as it exits the deer is inconsequential. He is dead already – but gravity has not had time yet to do its all pervasive work.
As if you unplugged him, he falls not sideways, but straight down on his chest and rolls gently over on his right side.
The hunter, with trembling hands and the tiniest bit of a sad feeling, ejects the casing, catches it on the fly and pushes the bolt back home, following that with the audible click of the safety.
She will wait and enjoy the moment.
Find this crossroads and you find activity.
You will find rutting activity – when deer drop their guard… and make mistakes.
You may see them make mistakes that a mature buck simply WOULD NOT make if it were not for the rut.
Look for the edges, where one type of timber meets another, or where a dense thicket opens up to less dense forest. These edges are VERY often the key that will help you unravel the deer mystery.
Look for old logging roads.
Look along the edges of old logging decks.
Look along the lower or most hidden parts of agriculture fields.
Look for slight, wooded hills that open slightly on top – particularly if there is some opening in the canopy above where just a little more sunlight filters in.
An abandoned home place is often a bonanza for this type of sign.
Think back to most scrape ridden areas you have found… they were likely areas as listed above…
Recognize the right height and type branches that deer prefer to use as a scraping area. Often, you will see these at a distance – even 100 yards away – and walk over and find a scrape (or scrapes!) there.
Walk these areas, leaving as little scent as possible – wear rubber boots that are clean and not soiled by walking in gas station and restaurants, touch nothing as you pass through and when you have looked – get out…
Looks for rubs along these areas, as well… often the rubs may be just off of the edge type cover or they may follow a path that leads into and out of this type area.
Once you find these areas, think about the bedding and feeding areas that are adjacent – where might the deer be coming from – and then going to… and then set your stand up accordingly. It may pay to have a few alternative areas in mind – so you can play the wind… and further elevate your chances for success.
Also, if you have access to the same property year after year, a lot of times, these areas offer the same opportunities on an annual basis.
This is the “Magical Time of the Year” for deer hunters – make sure you do all you can to tilt the odds in your favor!
These is no true science to this and there are a LOT of variables in the mix, but if you locate areas like this and you are in position at the right time, you may be like our hunter at the start of this hunting tip – relaxing in your stand as you look at yet another great buck that met his demise while living “on the edge”!
I have attached an image of one of the areas I am hunting this year. The red pin is my stand, which is a ladder stand in a dense patch of large holly trees. The field to the west is a cut corn field and the large one to the south is a just drilled winter wheat field. I chose this area in the spring due to the funnel effect of the woods here. The yellow pins are scrapes that have popped up in the last 2 weeks or so... three in the field about 100 yards away (I can not quite see them from the stand but the leaves are coming off rapidly) and the others are all on a very old fire break that you just can make out the outline of... these range from 150 or so to 200 yards from the stand. The firebreak is on the edge of a slight hill with mature pine / hardwood to the south and swamp type growth to the north... just above this area is the Coosawhatchie River. My point is that all of these are on the "edges"... I am not going to move the stand - rather I am going to try to take advantage of buck travel between these areas - and see how it goes!