Bruce: The Trophy from the Other Side of the Tracks

Rut Reporter Eric Bruce has been writing about hunting and fishing for newspapers and magazines for 25 years and hunts … Continued

Rut Reporter Eric Bruce has been writing about hunting and fishing for newspapers and magazines for 25 years and hunts deer all over the South, including near his Georgia home. States covered: AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, FL.

I finally heard more details from Preston White and his great Louisiana buck that I mentioned yesterday. Here are more photos and a description of the hunt straight from Preston, who followed his instincts last weekend to take a real trophy:

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“Every seasoned hunter has some tactic that seems to work best for them. Mine is no different: I prefer to hunt big bucks prior to the chase phase of the rut, or just after when bucks are coming off lockdown and once again are beginning to cruise those familiar ridgelines.

“You can see the sign. Bucks love to make scrapes during the pre-rut. However, most scrape lines will leave you empty-handed during the actual chase phase when bucks are tending estrous does. They don’t stop long enough to eat in most cases, so don’t expect that big buck to be cleaning out beneath a low hanging limb when that doe has already answered his calling. He is no longer writing love letters. He is out courting some young lady, now. However, immediately after the chase phase, big bucks will stay with that doe just a short while during the slower period of lockdown, only moving when really necessary. He is in love, or at least, he thinks he is. Hunting the lockdown means anticipating slow mornings with little to no visible deer activity. Don’t hang your hat just yet. It’s not over.

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“Once the initial lockdown period of the rut has passed, bucks will once again start tending scrape lines. Those leaf-filled scrapes will suddenly revitalize with new visitations. The second period of the rut is quickly approaching. Approximately 28 days after the initial breeding period, a whitetail doe that did not successfully breed will come into estrus again. And just prior to this second event, you can catch bucks cruising just about anywhere you previously seen scrapes along those hidden corridors between bedding and feeding areas. This old tactic made me successful on my largest buck to date: a mainframe ten with heavy mass scoring somewhere in the mid-160s.

Most hunters have given up after Thanksgiving. Maybe, it’s too much turkey. Use this to your favor. The woods are quiet and many hunters are back to work. The second week of December is my favorite time to be in the deer woods.

“The morning of December 11th, 2010, was quiet and uneventful for the most part, not even the squirrels seemed to be scurrying about the frost laden leaves. But, I knew the potential for seeing that once-in-a-lifetime deer was lurking somewhere in the forest.

Truthfully, numbers are not important; hunters only need to see one deer: the deer he has been dreaming of all season. Yet, the morning came and went without seeing a single animal, so I moved to a different location that was a proven bed-to-feed between ridges with lots of cover for the evening hunt. The walk in would be an arduous task involving the crossing between railcars stretched along a seldom used track. The other side of the property would be heavily bordered by a restricted area. The site would provide lots of seclusion without easy access to other eager hunters. It just seemed logical, the right choice.

“I chose a stand parallel to the top of a ridge, the wind in my face. After climbing, I ranged the location and searched for possible shooting lanes, then settled in.

I never heard a sound. As all hunters have done, I just happened to look over my left shoulder anticipating a deer meandering through the woods, and there he was in all his glory. I shouldered my shotgun and searched for the vitals. The buck paused, and I squeezed the trigger. Click! I had made the rookie mistake of not loading my gun after crossing through the train tracks. In my defense, it is unlawful to hunt from a right-of-way in Louisiana. Unloading is a legal requirement when crossing public roads, train tracks, and the like while on foot in my home state. I had done the right thing, but it would be costly. I managed to open the breech and remove a slug from the shell band on my stock. The big buck was now staring me in the face. One wrong move and he would be gone. I quickly relocated the vitals and settled the crosshairs behind the shoulder, then squeezed. The buck fell in his tracks and the celebration began. My best deer ever was laying 75 yards from my tree.

“In retrospect, I wouldn’t do anything different. Well, I might load my gun this time (wink). No matter, it’s the entire experience, the sum of it all, which truly makes the hunt. Use this tactic on your future hunts. Good luck!”