Have you ever hunted a big buck for an entire week, stand hunting at a different site every half day within sight of the buck’s very fresh tracks and droppings without ever seeing it? I have, several times. I knew where this particular buck fed twice daily, a thirty acre lowland dominated by black spruces, tall aspens and alders loaded with favorite winter foods of northern Minnesota whitetails, mainly red osiers. I knew two major routes the buck used to travel daily between its feeding and bedding area, located along opposite sides of a high wooded hill with steep sides. I knew where it bedded, on the commanding tip of a rocky ridge almost a half-mile south of its feeding area. I stayed away from this bedding area because bucks such as this so often discover hunters waiting in ambush near them, their safest refuges thus ruined, after which they are very likely to abandon their entire home range for the balance of the hunting season. Wherever I sat that week, stand hunting, that buck somehow contrived to browse on the opposite side of the feeding area or use the trail on the opposite side of the steep hill. It was uncanny.
On Friday evening when my three sons and a son-in-law returned to camp from college and jobs, asking, “Did you get the buck Dad?” All I could say was, “Nope,” finally adding, “I’ve decided I need your help to get it.” I was somewhat reluctant to say this because whenever I said it in the past, one of my sons got the buck.
The help I had in mind was a large-group stand hunting tactic I created several years earlier called, “Cover-All-Bases Buck Hunting,” Though it always worked, success was dependent on superb forest navigation in darkness before first light in the morning by all hunters taking part. Every hunter had to know exactly how to get to a specific stand site without alarming the intended quarry and other deer along the way. It also required an extensive knowdge of trails and sites currently frequented by a mature buck. In this case I instructed two hunters to stand hunt at certain sites on opposite sides of the of the feeding area and the two others to hunt downwind of the trails on opposite sides of the high hill, leaving the bedding area for me.
It was snowing heavily at first light the next morning when I heard something that sounded like someone had just slammed a large barn door shut, obviously a gunshot. With that, I swung my portable stood to my back and headed downhill toward the origin of the shot, the site taken by my son-in-law. Upon arriving, there, however, no one was there. While wondered where to go next, someone slammed that barn door three times behind me, at the site taken by my son, Ken. This is the Nordberg signal meaning help is needed to drag a buck to camp.
As I rounded the north end of the steep hill, I spotted a sizable bonfire ahead. Next to some branches sticking up left of the fire stood my son, Ken, and my son-in-law. As I drew nearer, I noted Ken was grinning from ear to ear and the branches sticking up were antlers. “My buck,” I murmured, Cover-all-bases had worked again, with the usual dreaded results.
For complete information about when and how to use this large group stand hunting method and why it works so well, go to my newly-published Whitetail Hunters Almanac, 10th Edition.