Tips from the Guides: Stalk Late-Season Bucks on Food Sources

Don’t let a buck beat you. If you can’t kill him with the usual tactics, try something off the wall.

Illustration by Andre Malok

The Guide: Patrick Willis
Buck Country Outfitters (buckcountryoutfitters.com), Caneyville, Ky.

His Secret
"Don't let a buck beat you. If you can't kill him with the usual tactics, try something off the wall."

I enjoy the challenge of the late season,” says Pat Willis. “I love figuring out offbeat ways to kill the toughest bucks.” Where he hunts, deer are just about guaranteed to hit a hot food source when it’s cold out, but the smartest ones never seem to enter in the same spot twice, making it tough to get your stand in the right place. Willis’s answer: “Let him come out, and then go get him.”

Photo by Lance Krueger

Of course, that only works if you’ve got cover to hide your approach. So Willis makes cover by dragging brush, cedar trees, and hay bales out into the field, creating a sort of man-made hedgerow. He gives the deer a day or two to get used to it, then sits in his best stand. “If the buck I’m after comes within range, great. If not, I climb down and use that cover to sneak in close enough for a bow shot.” Another option, he says, is to set two or three ground blinds along the introduced cover. “Start with your best guess, and if your buck comes out way off, crawl to the blind that gives you the best chance.”

Willis pulled this hedgerow trick on a 140-class 6-pointer last year. “I crawled to within 40 yards of him but misjudged the distance, and my arrow went just under his belly. Finally, in January, I snuck along the same cover into chip-shot range—only to find that the son of a buck had dropped one of his antlers.”