Fall Tips for Tagging the Perfect Buck
Sweat collects in his brows as he stays infinitely still in the lingering summer heat. The season’s signs of change are visible in the trees and the browning grasses. Acorns pop and crack onto the wrinkled and long-dead leaves of spring, and his imagination runs as wild as his eyes while searching for a break in the brush.
It came effortlessly, as if on cue, but it wasn’t what he’d been waiting for. Not a 10 pointer, not even an 8 pointer, but a doe. She was old, wise, and full of attitude. He had barely lifted his bow when she was already tipping her ears in every direction, and bowing her head up and down. She had indeed, heard him, and she didn’t like his noises. He kept as quiet as humanly possible, hardly breathing, and she unknowingly tested his patience.
Several moments that masked themselves as hours in the presence of her insecurity seemed to drown him, as if he’d fallen into the nearby lake. The beads of sweat were now dripping into his eyes, and he was becoming as frustrated as the doe. They danced in the fall breeze together, him stringing and caressing his bow, and her indecisively patting at the ground in a two-step. What was his next move? What was hers?
He decided: she was not the one. He thought about it, though. Oh, how his fingers lingered on the arrow that was aimed at her chest. But she was not his, and he didn’t want her there. With a final pinch of hesitation in passing up the meat, he tapped his belt buckle against the pole on his tree stand, and the CLANK was more than enough to convince the doe that it was time to flee.
She pranced back into the brush and in less than a second, she was nothing more than a memory. Brief in time, yet forever in heart, as he reminded himself that patience was key. He would wait, yet with more sweat droplets, and with more barely-breaths, and he would pierce the chest of the perfect buck. He sat back in his chair and sighed, then narrowed his brows and began to survey the clearing once more.
More often than not, we forget what and important role patience plays in our lives, from our daily routines, to those special hunts we take pride in. Beyond practical advice, if you’re looking to level-up in your technique, follow these expert hunting tips for fall season, and you may just come home with your dream tag.
- Look for Water
Water sources are excellent hunting grounds during the Fall season, especially early fall and in areas where the weather is still warm. Deer have very specific feeding patterns, and they don’t deviate from their source of water, either, being that the heat will dehydrate them. Where there is water, there are deer.
Nowhere near a water source? That’s fine. Try digging an artificial watering hole and fill it up, or let the rain do its job, and eventually deer will show up. Be sure to do this on your property in the summer, so that the area has time to settle, and the deer are able to find it on their own accord. You can follow up with food plots or scent lures as well, to attract them to the site so they know it is there.
A water source that is completely surrounded by trees and has good cover is ideal for hunting that big buck. Bucks will be traveling, sometimes in small groups, and as they shed and the dry periods are still heavy in the southern parts, they’ll be looking for a secluded place to cool off and take a drink. Set up your bow stand here and wait. The patterns will appear, the amount of droppings and nuzzle holes will start to increase, and soon you’ll spot the perfect big boy to take down.
- Be Tech-Savvy
Trail cameras can be tricky to use, simply because so many people either misuse them or don’t know how to properly set them up at all. If you’ve got a system going with your trail cameras that works for you in the fall (especially early fall) then don’t stop; keep doing what you’re doing. If you are a hunter looking for a new technique or perhaps instruction on how to start incorporating trail cameras into your hunt, then try these methods:
Set up your trail cameras near proper food sources, or developed food plots. You don’t want your camera deep in the thick of the woods, where a mature buck will mostly like only wander to, rather than keeping a pattern. In order to track the buck’s habits, his movements and his routine, you’re going to want to place your camera up in the trees where the acorns are starting to drop. Acorns, as we know, are to deer, like Planters mixes are to humans. They’re just delicious. And the deer will be after them during this season.
Track slow. Most of your decent images and sightings will be in the darkness of night, with plenty of coverage, so watch them for a while to see what kind of pattern develops. You’ll have to be sure to shoot at last light, just before the time runs out, because the big buck won’t move into the area until dusk or after. If you don’t get the chance then, it’s not time wasted. You know the pattern, and you can set out acorns and lures alike, to attract the buck back every time. You want them to remain comfortable, so try not to deviate too much from their normal pattern, and for goodness’ sake, control your scent!
- Control Your Scent
Use buck scent over doe scent. It just makes more sense this time of year. In the spring and summer, doe scent would work like a charm, but right now in the fall season, doe scent seems out of place. A buck is much more likely to follow another buck’s scent, because protecting territories and antler shedding will be a top priority.
It is important to control your own scent as well. If you’re a seasoned hunter, this has probably been engrained in your skillset for as far back as you can remember: Control your scent, and hunt the wind! It may seem impossible at times, because you check your cameras, you know the patterns, you set the food plots, and you still don’t see a deer in sight. Your strong odor (even though it may seem subtle) is probably what is scaring them off. Get rid of the coffee, spray yourself down with odor neutralizers, and for Pete’s sake, don’t start chomping on jerky when you’re getting antsy. As stated before, a good hunter has an unsurpassable amount of patience.
- Think Like a Deer
When all else fails, you must realize that you have to think and act like a deer to get close to one. This means you must understand the deer’s senses, and when you do, you’ll likely be surrounded in a field with them in no time flat.
Deer can see and smell things far better than you ever will, so remember that your movement and your scent are number one. There have been times where hunters have been perched in their stand, waiting for the right moment, and then all of a sudden they kick their step or fumble their weapon and BAM! The deer is gone…
Keep an eye on your target at all times, and if you can’t see the target, don’t think that it isn’t able to see you. Deer are much more adapted than you are, this is their turf. When a buck approaches your clearing, he may hesitate, nodding his head up and down if he thinks he’s seen or heard something. This is done because a deer’s eyesight, while nearly 5 times better than yours, is still limited, and to get a clear image, they must move their heads around. You have the advantage of seeing them before they see you. Any good predator knows not to move until the timing is perfect. With that in mind, the deer will “bop” their heads from side to side, and up and down, to catch any movement there may be in the distance. So, stay still and stay stealthy.
According to a study done at the University of Georgia, deer have a hard time seeing reds and greens, so keep these colors in mind when shopping for gear. Deer are also far-sighted, so minimizing your movement and making sure that nothing is shining in their direction is a plus.
There are plenty of tried and true methods to tagging that trophy buck, especially in the fall season. As we head into the later months, methods will change again. This is why it is important to stay up to date on your technique, and test new products out to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Remember, “you don’t gain if you don’t gamble.”
If you haven’t established food plots on your property by now, don’t worry about it. Save that task for early spring, and they’ll be ready to go by this time next year. In the meantime, focus on your range. What are you comfortable with, yardage wise? How sure are you of your timing and accuracy? These are all good things to brush up on before winter shows up. So, turn up the heat on these bucks this fall, and you’ll return home satisfied every time.
Things to Remember:
- Invest in a base layer for scent control.
- Do not move!
- Trail cameras are long-term strategies.
- Hunt the wind.
- Look for acorns.
- Use buck scent over doe scent.
- Check trees for shedding marks.