How To Hunt That Big Buck

Lesson one: Study Individual Bucks
For Kisky, pinpointing a given buck's core area is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. The first piece he places might be a shed antler found in spring, the next a summer sighting or a trail camera photo, then perhaps a big rub. His initial goal is to create a snapshot of a buck's preferred non-breeding range, which he says commonly encompasses less than 200 acres. Then, by continuing to compile sightings and other clues, he nails down specific core areas within that range. "These can be as small as 10 or 20 acres, letting you really zero in on your buck." Assignment:
Put together a scrapbook for individual bucks. Note the location and hour every time you see the deer or get a trail photo of it. If your off-season scouting turned up other clues, record those as well. "Every piece of sign and every sighting is crucial," Kisky says. "There are no coincidences. Even if all you get is a five-minute glimpse one summer evening, you'll know that buck will be somewhere nearby come fall because before the rut starts, he occupies a lot less territory than you might think."
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Lesson Two: Monitor Their Food Sources
You need to identify your buck's current feeding spot because (a) it's part of his core area; and (b) he'll bed and spend most of his time nearby. Stay on top of this, Kisky stresses. "Core areas aren't set in stone. If a buck's primary food source changes, he may move closer to the new feed. In Iowa, soybeans and food plots can be really hot in early fall. But once October 10 hits, acorns start dropping and you can't find a buck near those fields to save your life. Give him a week to get sick of eating only acorns, though, and he'll return to set up shop again." Assignment:
Observe, observe, observe. Even if all you have is 10 minutes on the way to work, or a half hour afterward, glass or set up trail cameras to monitor likely feeding areas. Once you figure out where your buck is eating, keep tabs on him until you?re ready to hunt. "I'm no different than most guys," Kisky says. "I don't get a lot of time to hunt in the early season because I'm on the combine all the time. But I always have my binoculars on hand, and if all I can squeeze in is 20 minutes one day, I'll race to a spot to glass."
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Lesson Three: Make a Surprise Visit
Now that you know where your buck is dining, consult your scrapbook to help determine the rest of his core territory, namely where he beds and his transition routes to the feed. Then wait for the right wind and spring the trap. "I put a 5-pound stand on my back and five tree steps in my pocket, and I hunt that spot immediately," Kisky says. "This gives me the element of surprise. In the last few years, I've come to believe this is a huge advantage when I'm hunting a big whitetail." Assignment:
On an early-season evening, don rubber boots, mist yourself with scent-eliminating spray, grab a lightweight stand, and head directly to a good ambush site. This might be the edge of a small food plot or oak stand or a staging zone off a cropfield. In either case, get there early so you have time to hang your stand quietly and prune conservatively. And, Kisky says, bring a set of rattling antlers. "We've killed many pre-rut bucks that came to light rattling. Bucks are curious and often aggressive when they hear sparring in their core area. If your deer believes there are intruders, he may waltz right under your stand.
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