Several years ago I wrote an article titled “The Best Time to Kill a Buck”. The lesson I shared in that article is worth repeating here because like a lot of good information regarding hunting mature bucks, it hasn’t changed.
So when do you think is the best time to kill a mature buck? Most whitetail hunters will probably say that the rut is the time to get it done. That opinion can be backed by the fact that more big bucks are killed during the rut than at any other time. Some serious buck hunters have learned that the late season can be a great time to tag the biggest buck in the woods. My answer to this question will likely surprise you; I believe the best time to kill a mature buck is right now!
When I was just a green beginner struggling to put the pieces of the puzzle together I met a veteran whitetail hunter who was getting it done consistently. Alan Foster stressed the importance of post-season scouting in preparation for the upcoming season. Al’s advice stuck and in the decades since I have learned that what a hunter does in the off-season will dictate his success when hunting season opens in the fall.
Today my post-season “hunting” entails a lot more than just scouting. This is also the time when I look for shed antlers, hang stands, plant foodplots, approach landowners, and generally do everything I possibly can to put myself in a position to kill a mature buck next fall. I well rememebr a time when I was in the same position that many whitetail hunters find themselves in today; I hunted hard but was always one step behind the deer. I was hunting them in a way to take advantage of something that had already happened. Today I know what is going to happen with the bucks in my hunting areas and “when” it will happen as well. Whether the mature bucks in my hunting areas are on a feeding pattern or rutting, I am there in the right spot at the right time to take advantage when it happens.
The reason I chose this topic to write about now is that I have spent the last few days getting some new stands in place. I am a firm believer that a lot of hunters tip off the bucks they are hunting right before season opens by putting their stands up in August and September. I typically like to have my stands in place before things green up in the spring and then will not return to them until the day I hunt them. I will admit that I am about a month behind with my treestand work this spring but getting them up in May sure beats September.
I also go to great lengths to turn really good stands into GREAT stands by doing whatever I can to funnel more deer past the site and to make my entrance and exit to the stands as unobtrusive as possible. In the past couple of days I have placed 2 stands that really have me excited. They are literally a couple of the very best stands I have ever hung. I honestly believe I could kill a 150″+ buck from either stand every year. One of these is a brand new stand on a new property and the other is a location where I have had a stand but I went in and done some extensive work to increase the deer traffic past it and create a better access route for myself. While I curently target bucks bigger than 150″, I know that I am in position to kill the very biggest buck living on any of the properties that I hunt, however big that might be.
You may still believe that the best time to kill a mature buck is during hunting season but I can assure you that the whitetail hunters who are in the woods at this time of year are the ones I will be putting my money on next fall. There is still time. Next weekend you might want to leave the fishing rods and golf clubs in the garage and head to the woods.