Taking Advantage of the Buttonhook

Apple Creek Whitetails Photo

Big bucks have the nastiest habit of looping back on their own trails in order to see if anything is following them. I only had to be button hooked by big bucks a kajillion times before I figured out what they were up to.

Eventually and with some reluctance on my part, I discovered if I paralleled the deer’s trail 30 to 40 yards on the downwind side I had a much greater chance of intercepting him. It doesn’t wor k every time, nothing does, but for a change I was putting the odds in my favor.

The first time I tried this technique I killed a big 4 x 4 buck lying in his bed at seven yards. He was watching his back trail, expecting to catch me following him and was totally unaware of my presence until it was too late. I’ve been able to trail and harvest several big bucks over the years with this technique.

You can learn more about this and other techniques in my new book, Buck Naked; The Straight Dope on Trophy Whitetails. Available in bookstores and on the Internet.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,
Jim:

The Buck Communication Hot-Line

Apple Creek Whitetails Photo

Most communication between mature deer is through the use of scent. Every hunter knows about scrapes and some even understand their importance in buck hierarchy. While scrapes are important, they don’t start showing up until immediately before the rut. This leaves us wondering where the bucks are the rest of the year.
While all scrapes are used to communicate a bucks presence to other bucks, all scrapes are not equal. The scrapes which are most important are the ones with a well used “licking branch” above them. These are the scrapes which will be visited by several bucks.
The most important roll of scrapes to a hunter is in helping him to locate these “licking branches”.
To a deer, a licking branch has more meaning than a scrape. Bucks use “licking branches” throughout the entire year. Licking branches hold scent better than scrapes. Urine deposited in scrapes dissipates quickly. Pre-orbital scent on licking branches stays considerably longer.
One way to really get the a buck’s attention is to remove a licking branch from one area and place it over a scrape in an area where you plan to hunt. It won’t take long for the bucks to notice an intruder is in their area.
Licking branches get way more attention than scrapes.
-Jim

Buck Analytics for Dummies (Part 1)

Buck analytics is a method of turning data into insights which will allow us to better predict deer behavior. It helps the hunter to segment this data, uncover hidden patterns, and to make optimal decisions on where and when to hunt. The challenge is to figure out what data is useful and what should be ignored.

Turning data into predictable insights includes:

Finding the ideal buck to hunt.
Locating the ideal stand location.
Optimizing your valuable hunting time.
Increasing your success rate on big bucks.

Today hunters can find all of the data they need to dramatically improve their hunting success. There are harvest reports from wildlife departments, satellite images from outer space, and trail cameras. Our ability to gather data has changed the way we hunt forever.

While gathering data has become relatively easy, segmenting that data can be difficult. Start by defining what you want to achieve through analytics. What will have the biggest impact on your hunting? Is your focus on finding new locations to hunt or are you trying to determine how to better hunt an existing location? Perhaps your biggest concern is limit unproductive days? The questions you ask yourself up-front will narrow the amount of data you’ll need for any scenario.
-Jim

Early Season Stand Placement

Apple Creek Whitetails Photo

There’s an old saying, “When the velvet comes off, the brains go in.” By now the majority of bucks have shed their velvet and are entering the transition period between summer hangouts and the rut.
Bucks who were as predictable as clock work have seemed to vanish. Bachelor groups are now breaking up and the bucks are establishing a pecking order.
Early season hunting is not as productive as it will be when the weather cools and the rut kicks in. Early in the fall, stand placement is critical for success.
This time of year I do most of my hunting in the afternoon. It’s just too easy to spook deer while trying to get to your stand in the early morning. I focus on feed and place my stand between bedding areas and the primary food source.
Big deer like to enter a field on a inside corner and this is an excellent place to place a stand. Mature bucks are always the last to come into a food source. Often the bigger deer don’t show until it is too late to shoot, for that reason, I prefer to place my stand a 100 to 200 back form the inside corner of a food plot.
I like my stands high and 20 feet above the ground works real good at keeping your scent above the deer. Be sure to hunt only when wind direction is favorable. You don’t want your scent blowing towards the trail where the buck will becoming or blowing directly towards deer feeding. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been busted by my scent drifting down on feeding does.
Jim

Staying Flexible in a Changing Hunting Environment

Photo courtesy of Apple Creek Whitetails

Think of yourself as stretchable, expandable, and able to adapt to anything new. Who wants to view themselves as static, inflexible, and unable to adapt? Changes in the hunting environment are unpredictable, and we will be asked to adapt to changes we never anticipated.

When changes occur it’s best to think ahead, but not too far ahead. Instead of abandoning our efforts, focus on changes we can make in the immediate future. I mean think of how you can get ahead of the deer, not next time, but right NOW!

The most important strategy for staying flexible during change is to prepare for various change scenarios. If we create a plan for each possible set of change circumstances, we are prepared to engage change in any way that affects us in the field.

Jim

The Houdini Effect

Apple Creek Whitetails Photo

Bucks seem to appear out of nowhere and vanish into thin air. It’s so common, we expect it. Houdini couldn’t preform such magic or could he?

The magic isn’t in the buck’s movement. In reality, it’s a problem within our own minds. Understanding how we see and what we don’t see can greatly improve your hunting success. More often than not, the deer moved in plain sight. We just failed to see it.

A deer’s eyes are on the sides of its head to help in the detection of movement. Our eyes are located on the front of our faces to ad in depth perception and focus. However, we are only able to achieve sharp focus in about 1/1000th of our entire field of vision. Everything outside of our center of vision becomes blurry and darkened. It’s a loophole in our brain and the deer take advantage of it. This ability to focus keeps us from seeing a lot of what’s going on around us. It’s the same tactic magicians use to fool us with “sleight of hand” tricks.

Let me explain:

Have you ever seen the magician’s trick where he hides a ball under one of three cups? Quickly, he moves the cups around and we are to guess which cup the ball is under. We get it wrong almost every time. While we focused on the cup the ball was originally under, the magician slides the ball to another cup. We missed it. This happens because our minds have trained our eyes to focus on objects and not on the gaps between objects.

Humans focus in extremely high resolution. This leaves our peripheral vision capable of only low resolution. Our minds can only focus s on one thing at a time. We draw associations of where we expect the deer to appear or re-appear, when the buck doesn’t show where we expected, we sharpen our focus and miss any movement in our peripheral vision. A lot of this movement is in plain sight, believe it or not. An enhanced field of vision is an illusion.

The more we concentrate our focus, the less we see in our peripheral view, and the more action we miss. This tendency to focus on objects, rather than the gaps between objects, is called unintentional blindness.

As hunters, our eyes focus on trees, rocks, and limbs. We wait for a deer to appear and miss a lot of going on in the gaps. Those gaps are where the deer are moving. We just missed it. The brown color of the deer just makes its escape easier.

Try not to let your mind see what it expects to see. You’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll see, if can lose this concentration and become more aware of everything around you. It doesn’t matter if you are still hunting, tracking or stand hunting, if you ease up on your concentration and instead look into the gaps, you’ll see a lot more deer.

Jim

http://jimcollyer.com/

Keep the Sun at Your Back

Photo courtesy of Apple Creek Whitetails

Always approach deer or place your stand where the sun is at your back. A face bathed in sunlight is just too easy to be seen by the buck. I often use one stand for morning hunts and another for evening hunts to take advantage of the suns angle.
Jim

http://jimcollyer.com/

Rattle Downhill from Bucks when Possible

Apple Creek Whitetails Photo

Bucks like the advantage of being on the uphill side of a sparring match. Giving the buck a path to respond to rattling which allows him to come in from an uphill location will greatly increase your chances of calling. Be sure to avoid any obstructions the buck won’t want to g o around. Ledges, large blow downs and the like often discourage a buck from coming in.

Jim

http://jimcollyer.com/

Take Careful Shots

Apple Creek Whitetails Photo

Too often a buck will come in from behind you. Be patient and don’t take shots at an extreme angle. A missed shot and your chances of seeing that deer again will go to slim to none instantly.

Jim

http://jimcollyer.com/

Dress for Success

Apple Creek Whitetails Photo

Invest in hunting clothes that will keep you comfortable. A good camouflage pattern won’t help you if you’re freezing your buns off. I prefer to dress in layers. This way I can remove layers to keep from overheating and add layers when I ’m not moving.

Jim

http://jimcollyer.com/