October 24, 2023
Finding a group of bachelor bucks in the summer is one of my favorite things. The velvet-covered antlers look a little bigger than they really are, and the bucks seem to have no problem traveling in daylight. This makes summer scouting trips, or even checking trail cams, a lot of fun. The entertainment value big velvet bucks provide is exactly what a bowhunter needs to get fired up for fall.
I find myself bursting with confidence in late summer. I brag to my pals that I have the big one “cased!” And then, BAM!, two days before the season opens, he vanishes. Nine times out of 10, this happens right about the time he rubs his velvet off. I refer to it as “rubbing the stupid off.”
It seems this chapter of a buck’s annual cycle is pivotal. In the summer, deer from a wide area will congregate around the very best feed. And during those summer months, bucks seem happy to hang with others of the same dominance. But once they rub their antlers clean, all bets are off. Things reset in their brains, sending them back to their home turf, where they have become the boss in previous years. This is when a buck goes home to start establishing dominance for the upcoming breeding season.
If I have a buck on my Stealth Cam that really excites me in the summer months, I obviously set up for him and make sure I’m prepared ahead of time. But I don’t stop there. I go back through old trail-cam pics from prior years and look for that same buck in the breeding season. If you can prove he has a past record of spending time in other areas, you need to set up in those spots as well. This puts you ahead of the game, instead of putting all your eggs in one basket and being left high and dry when he changes things up!
This is my advice for this fall. Don’t get mesmerized by a “reliable” big, old buck in the early season and get complacent. Be proactive and try to get ahead of him in case he pulls the pin for new country when he and his bachelor buddies grow apart.
The part of whitetail hunting I enjoy most is the process. Learning each individual buck and his habits is a huge part of that. If you pay close attention to a certain buck, you will learn that when he disappears at one spot, he will most likely show up at another, just like he has done years previous.
This reminds me of a situation last fall. I set up my wife’s best friend Liane in a blind for a certain buck we call Sky Scraper. I pumped this deer up to her and got her so excited to see him! Liane had no luck seeing Sky Scraper on her hunt that week, but my wife Kelsy, who was sitting a stand a mile from Liane, saw him twice! And we’d never gotten a picture of him there.
The cool part about big whitetail bucks is that so often we honestly don’t know their next move. It’s fun to think we can come up with foolproof plans, but at the end of the day, only that big buck knows what’s coming.