Hunting Strategies For Deer On A Food Cover Pattern (Episode 422 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

GRANT: I'm still deer hunting but it's time to think about New Year’s – new beginnings, new seasons, and most importantly – new opportunities to spend time in the field with family and friends. Make plans for you and your family to get outside and enjoy Creation.

GRANT: We've had an incredible week of hunting here at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: Cooler weather has moved in and deer are back to a food-cover-food-cover pattern. There's not many acorns this year at The Proving Grounds, so food typically means deer traveling to and feeding in food plots.

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GRANT: Recently, our Reconyx cameras have taken several pictures of bucks on a ridge we call Boomerang.

GRANT: We call the ridge Boomerang because it's shaped like a boomerang. And in the central portion there's a steep valley with premium, quality bedding cover.

GRANT: We created this bedding cover by cutting the cedar trees and using prescribed fire to restore native grasses and forbs.

GRANT: The winds tend to swirl in that valley, so given a quality cover and the constant swirling winds, it's an ideal deer sanctuary.

GRANT: Knowing deer frequent the area is one thing but finding the best ways to hunt it, well, that's another.

GRANT: Through the years, we've learned the only practical way to hunt the Boomerang area – especially with a bow – is on the ridge top where the winds are more constant and predictable.

GRANT: Recently, four mature bucks have been frequenting a portion of the Boomerang ridge we call Boom Back. We call these bucks Octo, Ringer 8, Swoops and Hitch. And they've been very active at one of our Code Blue scrapes and a food plot.

GRANT: Even better, recently we had video of Ringer 8 and Hitch close to one of our stands.

GRANT: Based on that MRI – most recent information – Daniel and Tyler decided it was time to move in, try to tag one of those bucks.

GRANT: With a strong northwest wind forecast, Daniel opted to go to a set of Summit stands that's about 150 yards from one of our food plots. And it's between that food plot and a saddle, or low spot in the ridge, where bucks like to cross.

GRANT: Daniel believed that at least one of the bucks would be feeding in the plot, drop down the ridge, and cross that saddle to a bedding area.

GRANT: Some folks may wonder, “Well, heck, Grant, why didn't you have the guys hunt a plot if you've got video of bucks in the plot?” The answer is simple. It's difficult to approach plots – especially here in the morning – without alerting deer on your entry. It's better to come in the back door; stage up 100, 150 yards away; and let the bucks come to you.

DANIEL: (Whispering) It's December 12th and Tyler and I are in a hot spot. There are four good bucks running around this area. Pulled cards yesterday. Just up the ridge about 150 yards, several bucks dropping off the side of the hill. So, we're actually back off of the food plot in a saddle and kind of cutting deer off as they come down and side slope after they feed in the morning. So, four bucks; we've got a great wind. It's cutting across our nose – which we love for hunting mature deer. It may happen this morning.

DANIEL: (Whispering) I think we're in the game. Swoops, maybe not, but Hitch. Hitch is pretty active up here.

TYLER: (Whispering) Hitch has broken brows, right?

DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah. Oh, deer.

TYLER: (Whispering) Where?

DANIEL: (Whispering) Right here coming down the slope.

GRANT: Not long into the hunt, Daniel spotted the first deer moving through the saddle. It was a young buck.

GRANT: Based on this buck's travel pattern, it looked like Daniel had a good plan.

GRANT: This buck came from somewhere up by the food plot and traveled through the saddle. Hopefully, more deer would follow.

GRANT: About mid-morning, Daniel spotted a buck apparently searching for acorns.

DANIEL: (Whispering) That's the big wide eight.

TYLER: (Whispering) Yeah.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Does he have like good brows?

TYLER: (Whispering) No, that's Hitch.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah. Yeah. That’s Hitch, yup.

DANIEL: (Whispering) I don't know, dude. Can you swing to the left? I think he's going to come. I think my shot is over here.

DANIEL: (Whispering) He's eating acorns like crazy.

TYLER: (Inaudible)

DANIEL: (Whispering) He's right at 60.

DANIEL: (Whispering) His brow is broke, right?

TYLER: (Whispering) Yeah.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah.

GRANT: Hitch milled around and finally came to within about 50 yards of the stand.

DANIEL: (Whispering) That's my shot right there.

GRANT: Hitch offered Daniel a quartering away shot at 50 yards. But Daniel wisely passed. There's just too many things that can happen in that quiet setting when trying to shoot a deer at 50 yards.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Whoo. I'm still shaking, and I don't know. I know the cold has a little to do with it. But I know it also had to do with Hitch was at 50 yards.

DANIEL: (Whispering) I just didn't feel comfortable with the shot. I would have had to really lean out. It wasn't worth it. Man. Man, that got my blood pumping – Hitch at 50 yards. The plan worked. He was just out of range. Man!

GRANT: Even though Daniel didn't get a shot, it was great to see his plan worked. And you can bet we're continuing to strategize to have another encounter with Hitch.

GRANT: That same morning our cell phone camera sent us a picture of deer in a plot we call Big Cave. When we studied the pictures, we could tell there was a good-looking buck in the distance.

GRANT: This past summer we added an extension to the Big Cave food plot.

GRANT: This extension is only about 40 yards wide and probably 150 yards long. But it serves as a great staging area for deer to enter the larger plot.

GRANT: Deer tend to move up from the bedding area on the south-facing slope, come through the extension, and enter the larger plot.

GRANT: Before season, we hung a stand on the southern corner of that extension so we could hunt it when the wind was out of the north.

GRANT: Knowing that there were deer in the area and a north wind was forecast, Daniel and Tyler headed to the Big Cave extension.

DANIEL: (Whispering) This morning Tyler and I were hunting; had a awesome encounter with a four-year-old buck we call Hitch. Had him at 50 yards, just didn't have a shot opportunity. So, Hitch got a pass but what a great encounter we had.

DANIEL: (Whispering) As we were sitting there in the stand, we actually were getting texts of deer here in Big Cave from an email camera sending pictures to our phone. And there was a pretty good-looking buck up here on the horizon in the middle of the food plot. So, I’m thinking that the group of bucks that are here at Big Cave just drifted off the hill, have bedded on the south-facing slope, and will come back up to feed this afternoon. We'll see if our plan works.

GRANT: Not long after the guys got settled in, Daniel spotted a doe and two fawns coming from behind them.

GRANT: Then Tyler whispered a young buck was coming up from the staging area.

DANIEL: (Whispering) I got a doe fawn looking at me.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Can I turn around now?

GRANT: Daniel turned to see if a larger buck would be following.

DANIEL: (Whispering) You need to get on that back buck.

DANIEL: (Whispering) I’ll shoot that deer.

GRANT: Daniel's hunch was correct, and another buck was behind the young one.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Don't move. Don’t move.

GRANT: Unfortunately, the larger buck turned and stepped into the timber.

GRANT: A few moments later, a group of does quickly moved through.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Dag-gum-it.

GRANT: Then the two bucks came back into the plot, started nudging the does out into the center of the larger field.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Oh, man.

GRANT: Daniel and Tyler had been watching this group awhile when they noticed there was another buck in the field.

TYLER: (Whispering) Are you sure?

DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah.

TYLER: (Whispering) No. That's Southpaw.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Nuh-uh.

TYLER: (Whispering) That's Southpaw.

DANIEL: (Whispering) The deer in the back?

TYLER: (Whispering) No, the deer to the far left.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah. That's Southpaw?

TYLER: (Whispering) Yes.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Are you kidding me?

TYLER: (Whispering) I'm dead serious.

GRANT: (Whispering) It was Southpaw.

TYLER: (Whispering) That is Southpaw (Inaudible) on the right side.

GRANT: Light was quickly fading, but this added another important piece to the Southpaw puzzle.

DANIEL: (Whispering) (Inaudible) We get looking and we're like, “Man, that, that buck's a little bigger. That buck's a little bigger.” And it was Southpaw. Whoo!

DANIEL: (Whispering) We have encountered multiple hit listers today. Deer are hungry. They're on their feet.

GRANT: Daniel and Tyler had an incredible day. We almost never have encounters with two hit list bucks on the same day.

GRANT: A few days later, Rae and Tyler headed to a Redneck Blind mounted on a trailer in a plot we call North Field.

GRANT: This was the same plot where my older daughter, Raleigh, had seen a buck we call Cactus Jack during Missouri's opening day of archery season.

GRANT: Cactus Jack had been missing for several weeks but recently returned to the North Field.

RAE: (Quietly) It is Sunday, December 17th, and we're up here in North Field today. It's pretty misty outside and looking a little bit dreary but we're hoping that that’ll get the deer to come on out; work on in. I'm using the crossbow today. So, hopefully, they'll move on into range, and I'll get a good shot and get my buck.

RAE: (Quietly) So, this season I've been hunting a lot and I passed up a handful of, like, pretty good bucks. Well, I'm just waiting for that one that I think is like “the buck,” and that makes me pretty happy. So, hopefully, we'll see that tonight.

GRANT: It was a misty, foggy afternoon, and Rae was hoping Cactus Jack would show once again.

RAE: (Whispering) (Inaudible)

GRANT: As the fog became more dense, it became difficult to see the end of the plot.

GRANT: Suddenly, Tyler thought he saw a deer.

GRANT: The fog made it difficult to tell, but Tyler thought it was Cactus Jack.

GRANT: Unfortunately, the buck stayed well out of range until it was dark.

GRANT: That same afternoon, Clay and I were hunting a plot we call Boom Pond which is on the southern end of the Boomerang ridge.

GRANT: Our strategy was to hunt out of a soft-side blind that was placed to overlook an area of the plot we've protected with the Hot Zone electric fence.

GRANT: We put this fence up during the late spring to protect the beans in that portion of the plot.

GRANT: The fence had worked perfectly because the beans inside the fence, well, gosh, they're deer tall. The whole plot was planted with beans the same day, and outside the fence, you can't even tell any beans were planted.

GRANT: When the bean leaves started dropping, we broadcast Eagle's late buffalo blend – a blend designed to germinate very late in the growing season into the standing beans.

GRANT: This technique worked perfectly, and we had bean pods and greens in the same area.

GRANT: About a week ago, we opened up a portion of the fence to create a bottleneck and allow deer to feed on those beans and greens.

GRANT: (Whispering) December 17th and a cool, misty afternoon. Clay and I are at BBP, Boom Pond Powerline, where we've had a Hot Zone fence protecting beans all summer. We just opened up the fence a little bit ago. Not many bean pods left but we think some bucks will be coming in here searching for those last few pods. And another advantage of the fence is the buffalo blend is doing better in there, of course, where it's been protected than outside. We've had a wicked drought. So the browse pressure outside the fence is taking the buffalo blend down. But inside it looks pretty good, so. Had Herman and Swoops and a couple other mature bucks in the area. Hoping they're coming by to grab some of those last beans as cold weather sets in.

GRANT: Like Rae, Clay and I were staring into the fog trying to see deer that afternoon.

GRANT: Not long before dark, we finally thought we saw movement about the edge of our visibility.

GRANT: It was a doe but it appeared like a grey ghost.

GRANT: She and some more antlerless deer came out of the fog and started feeding in the edge of the plot.

UNKNOWN: (Whispering) I'm good.

GRANT: One of the does finally fed right up through and entered the gap where we'd removed the fence.

GRANT: This plan, that started in planting season last spring, was now paying dividends.

GRANT: It's difficult for me to pass up a doe that's broadside at a great range but we've almost met our doe quota here at The Proving Grounds for the year. And several of my other team members are eager to punch their tags. So, knowing this, I kind of grinned and gritted a little bit and kept my hands off the bow.

GRANT: Clay and I were busy watching all these deer. The deer that had already fed into the beans, they almost disappeared the beans were so tall. That's quite a testimony, given we’ve been in a wicked drought.

GRANT: While we're watching all these deer, Clay whispered he saw a buck.

CLAY: (Whispering) Oh, there's a buck…buck.

GRANT: (Whispering) He's a good buck.

GRANT: I could easily tell this buck had big shoulders and was probably mature about the time Clay said it was Herman.

CLAY: (Whispering) Ahh. He may be shed on one side. I can't tell.

GRANT: Herman’s a mature 10-pointer. We've chased that buck for several years. He's like a ghost whether there's fog or not.

GRANT: As Herman turned his head, my heart sank. After years of chasing this buck and he's a step or two from shooting range, he'd already shed one side.

GRANT: It was great to have Herman within shooting range but I wasn’t gonna use a tag on a buck that had already shed one side.

GRANT: That disappointment was overshadowed by the joy of watching our plan work. We’d used the Hot Zone to protect the beans; made a fence gap a few days ago; and rapidly deer had learned to use that gap and were funneling in just like a plan.

GRANT: I shouldn't have been surprised when Herman turned and I noticed he’d already shed one side. Recently, we've had several comments on our Facebook page about hunters finding sheds.

GRANT: The primary stimulus for bucks dropping their antlers is a decrease in the number of hours of daylight. This triggers a decrease in testosterone production which then results in other chemical reactions that allow the antlers to fall.

GRANT: Even though the primary antler cycle is controlled by the amount of hours of sunshine each day, within that, stress – such as drought, lack of food, and other factors – can control how early or late within that period bucks shed their antlers. There's been a wicked drought here for several months. In fact, locally, September, October, and November were among the driest ever recorded. The drought is limiting the amount of nutrients forage can transfer, and, therefore, bucks are under stress and are likely to shed early.

GRANT: This is an advantage of tagging does to meet your quota during the early portion of the season. There's more food during the late season for the deer that are going to survive, and there's less of a chance of tagging a shed buck thinking it's a doe.

GRANT: During the next few days, we'll be hunting hard trying to tag one more buck before they all drop their antlers.

GRANT: A great way for us to reduce stress is take some time every day to get outside and enjoy Creation. But the best way is to be quiet every day and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.