With velvet shed, bachelor-group breakups, and shifting food sources now throwing a wrench in predictable late-summer patterns, hunting can get tough. With the rut still weeks away, bucks aren’t moving big. They are mostly homebodies. But they are still moving, and Minnesotan Brett Schmit proved that just last week by tagging a brute he’d nicknamed Lefty. How? By simply by knowing the deer’s favorite places and by hunting unobtrusively.

“I actually missed Lefty last fall, on Halloween morning, when I rattled him in for a 15-yard shot,” Schmit says. “It was very cold that morning, and when I touched off the shot, my release just froze up. I kept my face on the string for a couple seconds, waiting, and then I pulled away to see what was wrong. At that moment, the release triggered and the arrow sailed 4 feet over the buck’s back. I was sick. I figured Lefty was done for; he was a very active buck who was all over that farm. With two gun seasons approaching, I was sure he’d get tagged.”

Nonetheless, Lefty made it through the 2012 season, and Schmit felt confident he might get another crack.

“I went out with my nephew last week (we film each other for fun) to a stand we have in a spot called ‘The Strip.’ It’s a small patch of woods, only about 50 yards wide, in the bottom of a big valley. But that small cover connects two big blocks of timber and is bordered on one side by CRP and by a big cornfield on the other. Plus, there’s a creek flowing through. It’ a great funnel; we’ve killed two nice bucks from that spot in previous years.”

So Schmit headed to The Strip that afternoon.

“It was warm, and I figured the creek would be a big draw for deer,” he says. “We’d seen a couple does, and then I looked up and there was Lefty, coming out of the timber. I noticed right away his mouth was hanging open, like he was hot. So I was praying he’d want that creek, and sure enough, he covered about 400 yards on a steady walk. He walked into the creekbottom, where I couldn’t see him very well. He must have been drinking down there, and when he came out he walked right toward us. He paused at 30 yards, and I was hoping he’d come closer, but he started acting a little strange and I knew I better make it happen.”

Schmit made good on the shot and redeemed himself on a buck that had beat him the year before. The 4-1/2 year old whitetail is both an outstanding trophy and an excellent reminder that bucks remain active even during difficult periods. If, like Schmit, you get to know a buck’s core area and pay close attention to his favorite places to travel, bed, and feed, you can score big now. Keep at it.