Deer Hunting Strategy: How to Tag a Hit List Buck (Episode 354 Transcript)

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

ADAM: Huh. That soybean in his mouth.

GRANT: Our Reconyx cameras are picking up some patterns on hit list bucks. The number one hit lister here at The Proving Grounds this year is a deer we call Handy. We’re gonna share with you our strategy to tag Handy this fall.

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GRANT: During the past few years we’ve tagged some hit list bucks primarily due to information we gained by using trail cameras. We look at both MRI, most recent information, and historical data on individual hit list bucks. That’s fairly simple to do using the data in our BuckView software.

GRANT: Deer season opens really soon and we’re having a lot of fun checking out the videos and pictures from our Reconyx cameras. But we’re not just looking at antler size. There’s another characteristic that’s just as important for punching your tag.

GRANT: We look at the shape of the body to estimate age, not antlers. How deep the chest sticks down. Is the back swayed, the belly swayed? Does the neck extend all the way to the brisket – even this time of year – versus merging high up on the chest?

GRANT: But even above the age of the bucks that go on our hit list, we want to look at which ones we think we can tag.

GRANT: For example, some bucks are totally nocturnal. This time of year that’s acceptable. But coming into the hunting season, if we don’t see some daylight action, we’re not gonna mess with hunting that area for fear of just alerting those deer and making them more nocturnal.

GRANT: But another factor we look for that I don’t think a lot of hunters do is their behavior. And what we’re looking for is bucks that are really dominate or aggressive, might respond to a grunt call. Or the other side of the spectrum, very subordinate and probably gonna be pushed out of that area once the bachelor groups break up.

GRANT: Case in point is our favorite buck this year – Handy.

GRANT: Handy is in a bachelor group with a couple of other hit list bucks, including Southpaw and Funky 9. But what we’ve noticed – Handy is subordinate. And he’s got a large rack, most likely, but he’s subordinate in behavior. And we believe that once the velvet sheds and the bachelor groups break up, Handy is gonna bust out of that area and probably go to a different part of his range because that dominant/subordinate relationship.

GRANT: Recently we discussed how Handy has a tradition of hanging on the northern part of the property in a bachelor group until about velvet shed, then shifting to the central part of The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: We believe, after watching the videos of both Handy and Southpaw at Trophy Rock and Antler X Treme station on the northern part of the property and seeing Southpaw continually nudging Handy around, is why, once the velvet shed occurs, Handy moves to the southern part of his home range.

GRANT: Handy is obviously very uncomfortable around Southpaw. And Southpaw, last year, stayed in the area where that bachelor group is now. Handy, on the other hand, for two years in a row, has drifted to this part of The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: Based on this information, we’ve already developed a strategic plan to tag Handy this fall.

GRANT: Two years ago, Adam passed Handy crossing a powerline about 200 yards right behind me. Very tempting. He was a great three year old. Last year, we had Reconyx pictures right in this area of Handy – even though, during the summer last year, he was hanging a half mile or more to the north.

GRANT: We’re counting on that same pattern this year. And we’ve got the Hot Zone Fence right here protecting these beans. The rest of the food plot is heavily browsed. So either, early season we’ll open up the fence, or, if we start getting some rain and everything looks good – the rest of the food plots start coming on strong, we’ll leave the fence up and protect these beans for late season when we’re very confident Handy is gonna be in this area.

GRANT: We don’t have any beans on this part of the property anywhere near this tall or mature. They’re simply over-browsed due to the drought. So these beans are doing great, they’re flowering. It looks like they’re gonna make a lot of pods. And on a cold day during the late season, this portion of beans protected by the Hot Zone Fence with pods will be just the attraction we need to put Handy right in front of the Redneck Blind.

GRANT: Not only have we planned ahead for Handy with the Hot Zone Fence and the Redneck Blind set up, but we’ve got another trick up our sleeve.

GRANT: We’ve moved down the ridge just a couple hundred yards where we’re gonna set up one of our secret tools in an effort to get Handy.

GRANT: It’s not really a secret tool. We’ve shared before how we love to use mock scrapes. And we’re gonna put up a mock scrape in an area where we had Reconyx of Handy using scrapes last year.

GRANT: To create this setup, I need to use a lot of the same precautions I use when I’m going hunting. That means I’m gonna put my rubber boots on, spray down with Dead Down Wind and get in predator mode.

GRANT: Last year we built a mock scrape right here and had Reconyx images of Handy using this mock scrape. Assuming he’s gonna make that range shift again this year, we’ve already hung a couple of Summits about 25 yards behind me; get the deer in the area using it; getting a lot of scent in this area and assume that Handy is gonna come in and join the crowd.

GRANT: We’ve shared in the past how easy it is to construct a mock scrape. Today, we’re just gonna go ahead and do it. We’ve already picked our location and I’m gonna drive the t-post in the ground. We’re gonna get an oak branch, or small sapling, to put on the t-post.

GRANT: Oak just holds their leaves really well and are very durable ‘cause these mock scrapes can take a lot of abuse during season.

GRANT: You want to take that one low one off there?

ADAM: Yup.

GRANT: You want to make sure you really secure the tree well to the t-post because we have video of bucks literally tearing our scrape tree off the post. They’re so aggressive with these mock scrapes.

GRANT: Very good.

GRANT: Some hunters may think it’s a little early to start putting up mock scrapes but our Reconyx has been getting a lot of great footage of bucks in velvet using scrapes. I want to make sure this particular mock scrape is a communication point for this ridge. We’re right on top; the wind direction is gonna be very predictable and it’s easy for us to approach, hunt and exit without alerting deer. So, we’re putting a lot of energy behind this mock scrape.

GRANT: A little additional we’re gonna do is put Tink’s Power Scrape here, get that scent flowing. Get the local deer using it early so when mature bucks start moving in the area, they’re gonna come right here as a central communication point.

GRANT: A couple of tips we use is make sure the scrape dripper is high enough up – it’s actually dripping on the overhanging limb. And remember, in addition to scent, visual cues are very important.

GRANT: We’re gonna scrape out the ground really good, make it look like an active scrape. When the deer is cruising through this food plot, they’re gonna see it, smell it, and start using it.

GRANT: I’m gonna kick out the ground first and then I’ll apply the dripper.

GRANT: I’m simply gonna tie it to the upper limb. And I double tie – those old bucks can be very aggressive.

GRANT: Once I’ve got it exactly how I want, I simply take the cap off and let it start doing its thing. It will drip very slowly. A couple ounces will actually last several days.

GRANT: We want all deer in this area to begin using this mock scrape as a central communication post. We want it to be the focus of deer activity on this portion of the ridge.

GRANT: We anticipate lots of deer will be using this mock scrape and leaving their scent there. By the time Handy makes his range shift and goes to that portion of The Proving Grounds, he’ll want to participate in that communication post and check out the other deer in the area.

GRANT: Patterning bucks in timber country can be difficult. Certainly a lot more difficult than patterning bucks in ag country – especially after the crops have been harvested and there’s limited cover.

GRANT: However, by using the tools we’ve shared with you today, it’s a lot easier to get a plan to take that mature buck.

GRANT: We’ve had a lot of questions about the ponds we recently sealed and we promised to keep you posted. We’re in a wicked drought here at The Proving Grounds and I’m happy to report both ponds are still holding water. Even better, they’re attracting deer because water sources are becoming limited due to the drought.

GRANT: If it doesn’t rain between now and when season opens, you can bet we’re gonna be placing some Summit stands close to these water holes because water is a limited resource and should continue to attract deer.

GRANT: I’m excited that James was correct and that he could really take this rock pit that’s never held water and convert it into a wildlife pond.

GRANT: If you like following the progress of these habitat improvement projects or our hunting activities, check out the clips tab at as we often post clips in-between regular episodes.

GRANT: I’m really excited that deer season is opening soon. It’s a great time to get outside, be quiet and enjoy Creation. But, more importantly, take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.