Stand Sites for Mature Bucks — Scrape Trails & More

A difficult to hunt dominant buck finally taken on a trail leading from its favorite feeding area. (Son Ken 8-pointer 2012)

Hunters who hunt within sight of ground scrapes made by bucks 4-1/2 years of age or older are pitted against the most cunning and elusive of whitetails. Those who use grunt calls or rattling antlers without knowing what buck grunts and battles actually sound like are very unlikely to fool many bucks of such ages into believing they are actually hearing another buck or two they should investigate. Regardless, while accompanying a doe in heat, dominant breeding bucks are unlikely to move far from the doe for any reason other than suddenly discovering a hunter is dangerously near. Doe-in-heat buck lures have been used to attract bucks beginning in the early 1980s. Since then, mature whitetail bucks almost everywhere have learned it is dangerous to approach a site where doe-in-estrus pheromone is accompanied by fresh human odors emitted by a hunter (including impossible to suppress odors from human breaths and rubber boot soles).

Another fact that makes it difficult to hunt older bucks on deer trails is, they rarely use same trail twice in a row, especially during hunting seasons. The first time a buck uses a certain trail in the morning to get somewhere, a feeding area frequented by one or more does, for example, it will be heading into the wind to avoid ambushing hunters and locate the does. To use the same trail hours later, then traveling downwind, would be a mistake all whitetails older than fawns recognize. Nonetheless, all whitetails regularly find it necessary to travel downwind, while returning to a bedding area, for example. They do this safely by sticking to dense cover, widely detouring around sites and trails previously discovered to be frequented by hunters, often traveling crosswind, and by listening and watching ahead for movements made other deer and hunters until downwind of their intended bedding areas.

Despite all the reasons mature bucks are difficult to hunt on trails, about 40% of such bucks I have taken during my 72 years of whitetail hunting were unalarmed and walking slowly or standing on deer trails when I took aim at them and fired (using gun or bow). The deer trails on which I have taken most of these bucks were selected for stand hunting while scouting pre-season (mostly for opening weekend hunting) or scouting mid-season in a special way for the rest of the hunting season. Virtually all of those trails were very recently used by older bucks, as revealed by their fresh, buck-sized tracks and/or droppings. Many bucks were taken opening morning before they had a chance to discover my stand sites. Many others were taken after opening weekend within minutes to less than four hours after I began hunting downwind or crosswind of their fresh tracks, droppings or ground scrapes near stand sites never used before, taking them before they found my new spots. All but three were taken during the first 2–3 legal shooting hours of the day, most often near feeding areas.

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