Patterning Mature Bucks

By GrowingDeer,

  Filed under: Deer Hunting, Deer Management, Hunting Blog

I enjoy researching and managing deer. I’ve spent my career learning about deer – their behavior, how to improve their habitat, etc. However, my passion is driven by being a hunter – and learning how to pattern mature bucks. Patterning bucks simply means learning their habits, personality, and range.

Two tools that I use to pattern mature bucks are Reconyx trail cameras and Trophy Rocks. Even though it’s more than four months until deer season opens in Missouri, I’ve started patterning a mature buck I call Split Brow.

Mature Whitetail Buck with split brow antlers

A mature buck, Split Brow, in October 2011

This is a picture of Split Brow from last fall. He was one of the bigger bucks that I knew about at my place. My Reconyx camera captured lots of images of Split Brow, but almost all of them were at night. I didn’t hunt for Split Brow as I had no indication he was moving during the day with any regularity. To my knowledge, he maintained this nocturnal only pattern through the hunting season. That’s not to say Split Brow wasn’t occasionally active during the daylight. However, the vast majority of pictures of him were at night. Hunting in his core area would have likely alerted him and I would have had a very small chance of seeing him during daylight. So, I hunted a buck that tended to be active more during daylight hours.

Whitetail buck known as "Split Brow" is blind in right eye

Split Brow after going blind in right eye

During the late season Split Brow apparently was in a tough fight. He was blinded in his right eye and broke the G3 of the left side of his rack. Disney got it wrong — life is not fun and games in the wild.

White-tailed Buck Known as "Split Brow" aftr shedding his antlers

Split Brow after shedding his antlers

Split Brow shed his antlers soon after he received these injuries. I was worried he wouldn’t survive due to a secondary infection or internal injuries. Knowing that Split Brow had just shed, Tracy and Crystal (her lab) went hunting for his antlers. Since we had a Reconyx image of him that morning at a Trophy Rock with both antlers and another that evening showing he had shed both antlers, I knew Tracy and Crystal would have a relatively small area to search. Within an hour they had found both of Split Brow’s sheds.

Shed Antler Hunting: Antlers from Bucks Seen on Trail Cameras

Tracy and Crystal find the sheds from Split Brow

Bucks aggressively seek trace minerals during the spring and summer (when antlers and fawns are developing) time of year so it was easy to see if Split Brow was alive by putting a Trophy Rock and Reconyx in his core area. It will be very interesting to watch his antlers develop this year and see if his antler configuration changes substantially.

New Trail Camera Photo of Whitetail Buck "Split Brow" Spring 2012

Split Brow at Little Cave

Patterning bucks throughout the year helps me as hunter! It also teaches me much about how bucks use the existing habitat and what I need to do to improve it from a manager’s and hunter’s point of view. Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted on how Split Brow develops this year and if his pattern changes to include more activity during the daytime. If it does, he’ll be at the top of my hit list.

In the mean time, grab some Trophy Rocks and dust off those trail cameras. It’s time to start patterning bucks where you hunt!

Growing (and patterning) Deer together,