Whitetail Deer: Kill Time to Kill More Bucks
Up your odds by staying put in the big woods
Brad Kuhnert is one stubborn whitetail hunter. The Wisconsin telecommunications engineer regularly sits in the same treestand from daylight until dark for five or more straight days. “If I don’t see the buck I’m after for three or four days, I figure my odds are improving,” Kuhnert says. This sounds daffy—until you learn that Kuhnert has bagged numerous Pope and Young bucks, including a 200-plus-inch nontypical giant. So what gives?
Most hunters switch to a new treestand site if they don’t see a good buck after a couple of days. And so will Kuhnert—when he hunts farmland, where whitetails frequent the same bedding and feeding areas daily. But not in the big woods. Years of tracking bucks in the vast public forests near his northern Wisconsin home have taught him that some big-woods trophies move on a long, circular route, visiting several bedding and feeding areas along the way. “It might take a buck three to five days to complete his circuit,” Kuhnert claims.
In order to position himself along a big buck’s route, he scours the woods for large tracks. Oak ridges and clear-cuts are top spots to find those of a feeding buck. He also focuses on bedding zones. “In the hardwoods, bucks like to bed high on ridges near cover,” Kuhnert says. In conifer swamps, they seek ground that’s slightly higher and dryer than the surrounding lowlands; an elevation increase of only a few feet is all they need. Once Kuhnert finds a good track, he searches for lightly defined trails that link the feeding and bedding areas. Locating the occasional rub or scrape helps him stay on track.
Prep, Then Be Patient
Kuhnert’s go-to strategy is to set up on an exit trail within 150 yards of a known bedding area, someplace where he can get in and out without alerting the deer to his presence. “When I find a spot that I have confidence in, I usually set two or three treestands to take advantage of any wind direction.” Then he moves in and gets good and comfortable. “If you do your scouting thoroughly, all you really need is patience,” Kuhnert stresses. “If you’re lucky, your buck may show on the first day or two. If not, just hang in there. You’ll get your chance.”