Successful Whitetail Deer Hunting

Dan Braman

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With whitetail deer populations higher than they’ve ever been it is no wonder that deer hunting has become the most popular of all hunting sports. In some areas it has become as simple as walking out into the field and killing a deer. Yet in other areas one must hunt hard to just see a deer. The one common factor that most hunters share is the goal to take a big buck. There are many tactics that can contribute to ones success in the woods.

Management is probably the most needed and effective tool in the arsenal of whitetail hunting tools. It is easy to understand that if you have more big bucks, your chances of finding one increase. Deer management consists of various practices that all work towards a common goal. Big Bucks.

Buck to doe ratio is a huge part of a management plan. Culling the less superior bucks from the heard is very important. Some bucks simply don't grow big antler; obviously if he breeds a doe his off spring could produce the same trait. Some people don't like to kill doe; this is something that people are simply going to have to get over. By getting the doe populations down one create a better environment. With the doe numbers down to an optimal number there is likely never a shortage of food, less inbreeding, and less stress on the over all heard.

Texas created a unique and very promising program call Management Land Deer Permits (MLP). The Texas Parks and Wildlife service saw the need for big landowners to manage their property in a positive way. They created a formula land owners can use to obtain a count on deer per acre on a given piece of property. Then based on this number one is issued permits for that amount of deer. This program has three levels to it before it is at its full potential.

The first level the landowner receives permits for just doe, the second level is for doe and spikes, and finally on the third year one receives permits for both doe and mature bucks. With this one must at the very least do some improved habitat with food plots etc. With the Management land program, the landowner is given a log in which to record data on each animal that is taken. On this log, dressed body weight and an age is required for doe. For bucks the Texas Parks and Wildlife requires dressed body weight, main beam length, number of points, and an age.

Ageing deer is another tool that far too many people don't know how to do. It's not easy but it is something that is very important. With the ability to estimate a deer's age with a good degree of accuracy a hunter is less likely to make mistakes while managing the heard he is involved with. There are several really informative books on ageing whitetails. Local wildlife officials have a vast knowledge in these areas and most would be glad to talk to you about it. I’ve been involved with a ranch under MLP for four years now. During these four years we built a graph in which we averaged body weights on bucks. After the second year these body weight have consistently gone up. Likewise we are seeing an obvious increasing number of bigger bucks. It would behoove every state to form something like the MLP.

Scouting is another tool with great importance in successful deer hunting. For many professional hunting guides scouting begins the day after the season closes. Shed antlers are sought, spring food plots are planted, and fawn crops are watched. As the spring unfolds into early summer many guides and good hunters will begin to watch antlers grow. This is just as good a time as any to notice the bucks with better then average antler development. As mid to late summer comes around one obviously has a better idea on what these bucks horns are going to look like and where they live.

Although many people have become aware of preseason scouting I’ve noticed how this scouting stops once the season opens. Perhaps it is a lack of knowledge of what to look for, but if more people would truly get a better idea for detail they would have much more success hunting deer. Bucks leave sign as visible as tracks in the snow if one looks for it. The more obvious signs are scrapes, rubs, tracks, and droppings. There are however less obvious but equally important signs that a hunter should become aware of.

Have you ever been watching a buck walk down a trail and every few yards he will stop and nibble at a low hanging twig? Likely after nibbling on this he will rub his eyes all around this twig. Sometimes (not always) he will make a scrape under this twig. Even if he doesn't make a scrape in these areas there always the ever-present one or two twigs lacking vegetation. Also, these twigs will have the obvious nibbled look to them. In seeing several of these twigs with obvious nibble marks on them you can be sure a buck is in the area. I would recommend that you sit and watch a buck do this; allow him to move away and then study this twig to familiarize yourself with what it looks like.

Deer beds are another sign that a lot of people walk by and never notice. One would think these beds would stand out, but in certain areas they don't. Also, in areas where there are many species of wildlife it is hard to be sure of what you’re looking at. It has been my experience that deer beds normally measure about 3-4 feet in length and around a foot and a half wide. Deer beds tend to be usually under some kind of under growth as if to protect them from the elements. Where deer are feeding is relatively easy to identify. If one walks out into an area looking for deer sign and notices the vegetation is ripped apart rather then cleanly cut it very likely is deer. Deer do not have incisors thus they cannot bite the vegetation. One must be careful in cattle country as they share the same trait.

With the number of deer hunters today it is incumbent that they all become educated in deer management. If one is a trophy hunter and doesn't like taking management bucks or culls, I am sure he knows someone that would jump at the opportunity to harvest a buck like this. Likewise, disabled people and wounded vets would love an opportunity to hunt these unwanted bucks and doe. There are a plethora of hunters out there with terrible mindsets and ethics. It is my opinion that it isn't up to the game wardens to cure this problem; it up to us, the outfitters, guides, and general hunters with good ethics to educate our fellow hunter. It is up to us to teach children the right way to do things. The game wardens can take care of the people that just won't listen.

Posted by Dan Braman under Deer Hunting on May 31, 10 09:46 PM | Permalink

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