Ken with 5th opening morning buck taken at one stand site
The fifty-yard-long section of an old logging trail not yet taken over by the surrounding forest reeked with signs of a big buck. In deep grass at the center was a freshly renewed, six-foot diameter ground scrape with clumps of sod scattering up to ten feet away on one side. Two trails intersecting near the scrape were deeply pockmarked with fresh, four-inch-long deer tracks and scattered clumps of shiny inch-long droppings. A bright, four-inch-diameter antler on an aspen at one end of the opening and a six-inch-diameter rub on a pine near the other end made it obvious this secluded deepwoods hideaway was much coveted by an enormous buck. At 9:45 AM two weeks later a 300-plus-pound 12-pointer emerged from the dense evergreens on the left side of the opening and halted next to the scrape. My neck shot dropped it in its tracks.
Though other mature bucks have continuously lived in this area since that day, subsequent stand hunting at that particular site has been a total waste of time. Maybe the wolf-like racket and an incredible accumulation of human scents made by my gang of jubilant hunting partners who insisted on accompanying me back to the site to see the big buck, take some photos and help drag it back to camp had something to do with it. Maybe the site simply failed to impress other older bucks that since adopted the 12-pointer’s home and breeding range. Whatever the reason, the short history of a once great stand site is a common tale in the annals of whitetail hunting. There is hardly a hunter in America who has taken a big buck, including myself, who could resist the urge to sneak back to the same stand site the following opening morning. Unfortunately, it’s rarely worthwhile, unless you happen to be my son, Ken. He has found and used two stand sites where he took ten mature bucks (five at each), some for the wall, ten opening days in a row.
Keep in mind, I’m talking about hunting mature bucks only here. I currently have several stand sites where I am certain to enjoy watching mature does, fawns, yearling does and yearling bucks feeding one or more times per hunting season. If all I was interested in was venison, I think I could easily fill my freezer annually without adding a single new stand site.
Studying probable reasons why some of our stand sites were productive for taking a mature buck only once, why others were productive twice in 3–5 hunting seasons and why two were productive five years in a row has been an eye-opening exercise. Eight reasons why some stand sites are likely to be to be productive for taking one mature buck were explained in previous blogs, but trying to pin down reasons why a certain few provide opportunities to take mature bucks annually up to five years in a row has been difficult. Thus far I have come up with three probable reasons. Two are unusual. I’ve never heard them mentioned by other hunters before. Now all I have to do to make sure these reasons are significant is keep track of them for a decade or so (assuming I’ll live that long). Meanwhile, I’ve decided not to wait to spill the beans.
Take reason #3: each of our four best stand sites for taking multiple bucks could or still can be reached without the hunter being positively identified by nearby deer. This is a no-brainer, though probably the most difficult challenge a whitetail hunter faces. Stand sites with such an advantage are difficult to find.
Here’s an example of one of the most productive buck stand sites (though not annually productive) during the past fifteen years in my hunting area. To begin with, it can only be reached via a rugged two-mile hike. To get there on time in the morning — 30 minutes before first light — the hunter must depart from camp in darkness at 5 AM. The final 100 yards zigzags up a particularly high and steep slope through very dense trees and brush and then levels off through a maze of fallen trees up to eight trunks deep. At the top of the slope is flat-topped granite outcropping covered with young evergreens and more fallen trees with a 10–15 foot wall on the west side. Out in front of it is an old clearcut, which also happens to be a favorite feeding area of whitetails throughout summer, fall and early winter. Though sections of it are gradually being smothered by second-growth aspens and evergreens, at least 50% remains relatively open and is covered with grasses and deer-tall browse relished by whitetails beginning in early November. This feeding area is shared by three mature does and their young, fawns and yearlings, that live in adjacent separate home ranges — living lures for mature bucks in fall. It is also a favorite battleground for bucks during September and October. After that, it becomes part of the exclusive domain of the dominant breeding buck, showing up periodically whenever one of the does is in heat.
The hunting value of this west-facing stand site has been well preserved for several reasons. For one, like few other stand sites I know of, there is virtually no chance that a deer in the clearcut is going to positively identify a soft-stepping hunter approaching the stand site via sight or hearing.. For another, it is doubtful any deer has ever visited the stand site, meaning no deer that feeds in the clearcut has a reason to fear the stand site. Add to this the precaution of only using this site while the wind is blowing from the southwest, west or northwest, meaning, no deer in the feeding area has ever smelled a hunter at the stand site.