He exists in your dreams and in your pictures, a monster smirking in the greenish ghostly light of a trail-camera flash. There’s a standard prescription for how to put this creature of the night in a gunnysack–hunt the peak days of the rut hard and all day long, in the hope that lust will trump his love of the dark. But here are ways to peel back the covers of night during the rest of the season.
You’re betting on a buck’s rising from his daytime sack (A) and nosing around the bedding cover for a few crucial minutes before heading out to feed (B), or slipping back in after an all-night munch. A month before you hunt, hang a lock-on stand (C) as close to cover as you can quietly access. Here’s what else is required for a successful hunt.
Look for interior edges between bedding cover and grub, formed where different habitats meet inside the woods. Good bets: where pine stands abut open hardwoods (D), thickets along swamps (E), and overgrown farmsteads (F). Bucks will hang up here on these edges, waiting for black-dark before venturing into fields and open cover.
Find an indistinct buck trail that parallels established travel routes (G), and hang a stand where it dives into tangled bedding cover.
There are no second chances when it comes to a mature buck’s snout. If the wind is less than perfect, stay away.
One Michigan whitetail hunter shared a tip with me: He always places a skinned birch log horizontally at the end of his shooting lanes. A quick glance reveals if a deer is in the lane, silhouetted against the log.