Big Buck, 10-Pointer, Summer Pattern, Deer Hunting, Scott Bestul

Much has been said and written about summer and early-season bucks being easy to pattern. The assertion isn’t total hogwash, but it can be pretty misleading. A “pattern” suggests a kind of day-after-day, same-place-same-time predictability. And while this does occur, it’s not all that common in the whitetail world.

I’m currently watching a buck that at first glance seemed to be exhibiting one of those steady summer patterns we all hear about. The nice 10-point pictured here has been hanging around one of my farms, and a couple of hunting buddies and I had repeatedly spotted him moving toward or feeding in this particular soybean field. After a week of almost nightly appearances in the beans, though, the buck disappeared.

A couple of days later, one of my buddies spotted him after dark walking the edge of a woodline about 300 yards away. Then two nights ago, I was glassing a different beanfield on the same farm and spotted the 10-point feeding with another buck. That sighting was close to a half-mile from our original group of encounters.

So here’s the thing. It would be very easy to register that first week of almost nightly sightings in a small area and say that the deer was on a steady summer “pattern,” or to call him highly “patternable.” But if it where the early-bow season, and I’d set up on that buck the 8th night and he didn’t show, I’d have probably thought I spooked him from the normal routine. When in fact he was not boogered at all; he’d just set up shop in a different part of his range where he felt equally comfortable.

Big Buck, 10-Pointer, Summer Pattern, Deer Hunting, Scott Bestul

I was talking about this with veteran Wisconsin guide Tom Indrebo ( the other day, and here was his take on the topic. “I’ve seen where a mature buck is very faithful to a small bedding area, but he just didn’t visit the same food source every evening. So one day he’d get up and head to a beanfield, the next night a nearby cornfield, and then maybe he’d hit a hay field two or three evenings in a row. Whether he’d visit those food sources because of the wind direction, because he knew there were other deer there, or whether he was just hungry for something different, I don’t know. So I guess there’s a general pattern, but that doesn’t mean he’s doing exactly the same thing every evening. This is pretty common.”

I think QDMA biologist/forester Matt Ross was explaining this same phenomenon when we were chatting awhile back. “Whitetails are not really browsers or grazers,” he said. “Instead, they’re concentrate selectors, which means they focus heavily on whatever food is in season or meeting their needs at a given time.”

This description matches my experience with deer in my neighborhood—animals that have an wide array of food to choose from, especially during summer. In areas where multiple crops are on the ground for much of the year, I think deer tend to switch frequently from one forage species to another, just because they can.

Many hunters are quick to blame themselves when a buck doesn’t do something they expect. But most of the time, you probably didn’t spook the buck. He’s just making little shifts within his range, not running on a train track. So, yes, when you see a buck doing the same thing a few days in a row, it is a sort of pattern. But it’s important to understand that it probably won’t last long, even in the early season. So you’d better act fast.