Whitetail Hunting photo
Lance Krueger

Among humans, the dominant male often gets the cutest girl. Among whitetails, he gets the heaviest. And that’s good news for you, because by locating and patterning the biggest doe now, you can put yourself in prime position to bag the biggest stud in your hunting area as the rut begins to heat up. Here’s how:

Find Her: Too often we get hung up on scouting for buck sign. To make this strategy work, you need to get away from the rough cover and rugged terrain bucks favor. Instead, stake out the low-lying, easy-living quarters nearest the best buffet. Locate alfalfa, wheat, soybeans, acorns, or food plots with grassy or brushy bedding cover nearby. Then glass these areas early and late in the day to find the largest doe.

At first glance all does look pretty similar, but examine them carefully and you’ll notice the differences. The biggest doe will be thick-chested and plump, almost pot-gutted. She’ll resemble a good buck without antlers but with a large head and often a Roman nose. You can pick her out by behavior, too. She’ll be the wariest, coming into the open last and looking around most. She’ll also dominate the other does with kicks or bluff attacks.

Pattern Her: Mark where she enters or exits the feed. At midday, scope out the nearby cover. Odds are you’ll find a staging area of low brush and saplings. Follow her tracks or trail, which will likely lead to a gentle knoll, bench, pine thicket, or copse of cedars or bushes. That’s the home of the dominant doe. You may even find a large bed and several slightly smaller ones nearby, confirming that the spot is her group’s home. ****

Ambush Him: Now consult a topo map or use your knowledge of the area to determine the location of the nearest security cover–a thick swamp, steep brush-choked ridge, or tangle of blowdowns where a good buck may live. Next, determine how that buck will get from there to the doe’s hangout. A weedy ditch, brushy draw, overgrown fencerow, saddle, or line of dark timber are all good bets. Follow these likely travel routes slowly toward the security cover until you find a thinly outlined trail, large isolated tracks, or lightly rubbed saplings. Then hang your stand.

A buck is most apt to visit the biggest doe’s living quarters at dawn, dusk, or midday during full-moon periods, or after a sharp cold front blows through. Be patient, and you may find the king of the woods searching for his queen with the rut still weeks away. If not, just wait a little longer. The odds of his showing up outside the big doe’s bedding area only get better as the breeding season gets closer.