Keys to Hunting Pressured Bucks

The question I get asked most often at seminars is,  "In heavily hunted areas, what do you do differently than other hunters?"

The answer is simple. During the rut phases I hunt through midday or all day whenever possible. I shot four of my last six Michigan bucks between 11:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Midday and all-day hunting are two of the most talked about methods, yet least seldom practiced.

Daily timing during the rut phases is of utmost importance, and now is the time to put in long hours on stand. Sitting through midday or all day does not simply mean the more hours on stand the better. For any chance of consistent success your location must offer perimeter cover and transition cover to and from it. Midday movements almost always take place within cover and that is why it goes largely unnoticed by hunters.

On morning hunts during all rut phases, be on stand and settled in an absolute minimum of an hour and a half prior to first light. If a buck passes by prior to daylight without detecting you, he may pass back through during midday when scent-checking his core area. But if your odor spooks him prior to daylight, the likelihood of him passing by later is slim.

On my rut hunts in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri, due to the lack of hunting pressure, the early arrival time and midday hunting was not required to take mature bucks because they moved in a normal morning and evening pattern with the rest of the deer.

They have a midday movement pattern just as pressured bucks do, but they were more vulnerable during normal hunting time frames.

It is important to note that none of the 11 mature bucks I killed in those states had wounds from previous hunter encounters, whereas just about every mature buck I have taken in Michigan did, with many having several. When there are no consequences, there is no need to alter daytime movements; it’s a very simple concept.

During the rut phases long hours on stand in the right locations will provide your best opportunities at mature bucks. If your schedule allows, and you hunt in a heavily hunted area, try to sit all day at least three times during the pre-rut or rut phase.

John Eberhart is a regular D&DH contributor.

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