The rut is pretty much over and scrapes are no longer fresh. As a result, I decided to pull the trail camera from the best scrape on my property today. Since buying the property in '06, I've watched scrapes move from location to location. However, there is one scrape I found back in '07 that is used every single year. It is like clock work and some how draws the deer to it each year for a social party. See the photos and videos below of the bucks using this scrape.
The annual scrape I'm talking about is on a small beech tree on the north side of my property and is visited by just about every buck on the property and a large number of the does. Why and how this happens, I have no idea, especially since other scrape locations on the property move to different spots from year-to-year. What I do know is that this tree is a gold mine each year. It is a gold mine not because I hunt directly over the scrape, because I do not in fear of ruining use of the scrape. It is gold because I can put a camera on it and inventory all of the bucks during the pre-rut and rut. It also is in a location that provides easy access without disturbing bedded deer in the middle of the day.
The scrape has significance also from the standpoint that it is in a travel route that all of the deer seem to take on the property. Maybe this is associated with the topography? This does happen to be about 80 yards from where I shot my buck this year. But what makes this a nature travel corridor that entices bucks to mark their territory each year? There may be a scientific answer to this, but I do not know it. Please do leave a comment if you have some possible answers to this question.
What I do know is that this scrape helps me understand when the bucks begin to move and when they are pretty much done with the rut. Older bucks show up and the clock starts. Older bucks quit using the scrape it is pretty much over. Only the 1.5 year old bucks continue to visit the scrape after the rut is over. Thus, I can better manage the hunting pressure on this small property.
I urge each of you reading this to seek out this special scrape on your property. Hopefully it can provide information to make you a better and successful hunter. Please answer the survey below if you have found such a scrape on the property you hunt. Also leave comments and what insight you might have as to why this phenomenon occurs. If you didn't know this type of scrape possibly existed on the property you hunt, please also indicate on the survey.
Since purchasing the property in 2006, I was fortunate enough to harvest my third buck yesterday. I started hunting hard on November 4th, on stand through each day. As previously blogged, it was shaping up to be a difficult hunting season.
This buck was first noticed on the property on Nov. 6th (see video below). The buck visited the watering hole at 1:00 pm (didn't change the clock on the camera after end of daylight savings time as it reads 2:00 pm). This helps confirm that bucks do travel in the middle of the day. Since he approached from the west to the watering hole, I had a pretty good idea of the route he was going. There were one of two options. Over the years, I have come to realize that bucks travel on my property in a circular pattern. They travel through the food plots on an east to west or west to east line. That means they either circle from the north or south. I believe this has a great deal to do with the topography of the property. I gambled that he was working the north side.
As a result, I had been hunting the stand on the NE corner of the property since it was producing more sightings than any other on the property this season. This also has to do with the topography, plus the stand concealed me very well. The down side is that I had no shots further than 20 yards.
At about 8:30 am, a lone doe crossed to the north of my stand going towards the east. A few minutes later, a 1.5 year old buck followed her exact path indicating she was a hot doe. My hope was this would be a mature buck, but that was not the case. I started to think the morning was going to be a bust, when I heard another deer approaching. Upon glassing the buck, I could see immediately it was the main frame 8 point with a few kicker points. This was the biggest buck I had seen this year on the property, either on stand or via trail cameras. As a result, I made the quick decision to shoot at this one.
He followed the exact path of the doe, which meant my shot would be 20 yards. I picked up the bow off of the hanger and the routine that bow hunters practice took over. I drew and placed the pin behind the shoulder and tracked him until he eventually stopped right on my trail to the stand. He was quartering away from me and just barely in the shooting window I had. There was a tree to my right that if not careful could become an issue.
I released the arrow and the shot made an extremely loud POW! It sound as if I had missed and hit a tree directly. However, the shot looked good and I was confident that it was a kill shot. After the buck ran off, not limping, I started to rationalize that the shot must have passed through the kill zone and hit the opposite shoulder. If that were the case, I couldn't figure out why he ran off without limping. Upon climbing down from the stand, I could not find my arrow anywhere. This was evidence that maybe I did stick it in the opposite shoulder and hoped the tracking would be short.
The shot was made at 8:45 am and I waited 2 hours before going after the buck. It took 40 yards before finding any blood or hair...not a good sign. I then began to find blood and white hair. Now it was getting interesting. The blood trail became heavy with a lot of blood being lost. At about 150 yards, I had to make the decision to either back out or continue trailing. There was no evidence of the buck bedding down, but I did find two areas where he stood. I also found a set of weeds that had blood at high levels and in a spraying pattern, possibly indicating he was blowing blood. Could this have clipped a lung? I was hopeful.
I elected to continue tracking the deer. He began to take the low road sticking to the edges of ridges and valleys. Fortunately, he did not leave the property and actually turned back south following the creek. At one point, he entered the creek going back and forth and crawled through some dense brush. The blood trail continued to be heavy. With that amount of blood, it was clear the deer was going to die so I pressed on.
Fortunately I found him about 100 yards later. He was just on the other side of the creek and was walking around a point. Convention wisdom is to simply back out on a shot like this, which is probably what I should have done. However, it worked out and I was able to eventually find him at about 1:30 pm.
Upon investigating, my shot was a liver pass through shot. I never did find my arrow and believe it must have glanced off of a log on the ground which resulted in the sound I heard. I do plan on looking more later on to see if it can be found.
The buck was the biggest bodied buck I have shot. His live weight was 260 lbs., with field dressed weight of 210 lb. I haven't put a tape to the rack yet, but he will not score high given he is a main frame 8 pointer. I like the split brow tine and the two kicker points and believe he is older than 3.5 years. How much older than 3.5 years old needs to be determined once the jaw bone is removed. I hope to send the teeth into a lab for confirmation, but have heard that this process is a little costly.
In conclusion, I feel fortunate to harvest this mature buck. I've been told to shoot the biggest buck on your property each year and I believe this was it. There is obviously the possibility that the rut would have brought through a bigger buck. However, the sightings and trail cameras were telling me this was the biggest buck so I took the opportunity on this mature 8 pointer. Now on to hunting with the kids and trying to thin the doe heard.
I want to thank my wife and kids for putting up with this addictive hobby. This definitely is a stress reliever for me and becomes more a part of me each year. Tom and Cindy Rothrock at Lonesome Elk Archery are good friends and continue to provide a good bow set up for me. Todd Crane of Crane Excavating for helping with the habitat improvements. I also want to thank countless others that share their stories and talk with me about hunting throughout the year.
Stay safe this season and keep checking back. We will begin in a few weeks to work on plans and property improvements for '14.
It's early November and the season is presenting some interesting challenges. It has been a while since I have written anything, so I'd thought I take a few minutes and provide an update on what is going well and the mistakes I believe were made.
Let's start first with the successes. The watering hole put in earlier this year has been huge. The deer are hitting it regularly and the 2.5" of rain received a week ago have it full. I've seen it first hand from the stand two nights ago and the trail camera is capturing visitors throughout the day. As the rut hits it's stride, I expect the bucks to catch a quick drink before they continue their chase.
Another success has been the new stand placed in the NE corner of the property. I have sat there twice and observed multiple bucks traveling unaware of my presence. It allows easy access and is located where the topography funnels deer. The bucks were not shooters, but will quickly mature if they make it through the gun season. It is close to a staging area where chasing during the rut will heighten.
Today's weather was ugly with constant rain and high winds. The weatherman predicted rain, but I think he missed the mark on the continued rain throughout the day. The evening hunt proved that having a good set of rain gear is essential for deer hunters. I bought this set a couple of years ago after getting soaked to the bone. If I had followed the forecast, I would not have worn the gear. My gut told me to wear it and it paid off huge.
Now for the bad. The tree stand I placed near the watering hole is a failure. It is completely out in the open and not high enough. I was busted by three different deer walking by. Each of them looked right up at me and spooked. Cutting shooting lanes when installing a stand is always a fine line to walk. I've had sets where I missed shots because I didn't cut enough. This time, I cut way too much and stick out like a sore thumb. The only way to salvage this stand it to move the lock on to the opposite side of the tree and use the trunk to hide behind. Even then, I'm skeptical of getting picked off.
Another mistake I made was with one of the fall protection ropes set. The tree the stand is in, must be higher than normal. The rope is too short making it difficult to attach my backpack and also my harness to the Prusik Knot. I'm made another rope that is 10' longer, which will allow safer and easier use of the stand.
The season is setting up to be a difficult one. I don't have any resident shooter bucks this year and the bucks that normally show up in October when the crops are harvested have not shown up. That means I'm waiting on the transient bucks to arrive with the rut. As a result, I don't have a real plan or a buck patterned as done so the last two years. Both bucks shot the past two years were patterned using the trail camera and on stand observations. The trick is staying close to the does that will attract the bucks, without the alpha doe growing wise of stand locations. I've had this happen before and they ruin everything. A doe will walk out and stare right at you stomping and blowing once they know the stand has been used.
I've got seven more days off of work to hopefully get the job done. I feel like the heat is going to turn up anytime. A hunter has to be in the woods in order to capitalize when the switch is flipped.
Please remember to send me your entries to the ATW Big Buck Contest. More entries are needed. Email your photos and details to email@example.com.
Andy Hayes is a devoted husband and father of 4 kids living in West Central Indiana. Outside of his family, his passion is hunting whitetails. He does not claim to be a professional hunter, but simply wants to share what he learns during his quest to improve whitetail habitat and hunt mature bucks.