If you hunt whitetail deer with a bow you know just how difficult it can be to just lay eyes on a mature buck let alone harvest one. There is nothing better than time afield for honing the skills to consistently harvest mature deer but articles like this one can help you understand what your are experiencing in the woods. Mature whitetails, bucks as well as does, may act a little differently than younger deer and if you want to target mature whitetails you must approach your scouting as well as hunting a little differently as well.
I chase big bass throughout the warm season and have found that big deer and big bass take a different approach if that is what your after. If you enjoy seeing a lot of deer and some sparring and bucks chasing does all around your stand then by all means continue to enjoy those times but if you want to harvest really mature bucks then you just might have to forgo the multiple deer sightings and activity. There are definitely times when big bucks are out there in the action with the herd but these times, especially during shooting light, can be few and far between. Learning about mature deer can help you harvest those mature whitetails that hang back and approach every movement with caution and with a watchful eye. I hope this article can shed some light on some of your past as well as future experiences afield.
Locating rubs like this one early in the season can mean you are in the area of a mature whitetail buck and don't let the size fool you. This rub was made by a giant 10 pointer. I watched him one evening, just out of bow range, make this rub. Photo by Ken McBroom
EARLY RUBS:You should begin your scouting early in an attempt to locate the first rubs of the season. Mature bucks almost always make these rubs because their testosterone levels rise sooner than lesser bucks in the area. When you locate good rubs between say September and October, depending on what part of the country you hunt, mark the spot or hang a stand because you are in the living room of a mature buck. These rubs are not easy to locate, as they are few and far between not to mention the foliage can still be thick limiting visibility during the early season. Take your time and you can find these important sign post.
There is more going on during the early season than you might think. There are fewer mature deer in the woods and this is why this activity goes unnoticed oftentimes taking place well away from fields and food plots. Mature does often seek out the more mature bucks in her area to breed. This all happens earlier than all the movement we enjoy in November. This is mother nature's way of assuring that the strongest bucks breed the strongest does. The purpose of early season scouting is to locate one of these areas that have early rubs, and get a stand hung. The action will be slow but when it happens you just might be surprised at the buck that has been living in your deer woods for years.
When searching for early rubs stay back off the fields and food plots. More times than not the earliest rubs will be in the thickest cover in the bucks area and not down where the does come out to feed. When you locate some early season rubs pay close attention to the tree or sapling. A great way to tell if you are in a big buck's area is if there are licking branches on the rubs. These are little branches or sometimes fairly large branches that the buck has chewed on and rubbed his brow to leave scent to let other deer know he is there. Locate several of these in a small area and you might want to stop and hang a stand because you are close to where that buck spends a lot of his time and to move around much more could just push the buck out of the area.
The same giant 10 pointer checked this scrape shortly after making the rub. I never saw the buck again which enforces the old adage that the first hunt from a new stand site is the best. Photo by Ken McBroom
Early Scrapes: Early season scrapes are also a sign that a mature buck is around. Oftentimes scrapes made by these mature bucks are just territorial sign post much like the rubs were but if a scrape shows up early, where you found the rubs, and it has been aggressively worked then more than likely you have an early season rendezvous between two mature animals in your area. If this scrape has a licking branch above it then hang a stand and hunt. Be aware that you might have only a couple deer in the area to bust you but they didn't make it to old age by being stupid so be careful getting in and out and be absolutely sure the wind is right or the deer could shift just a couple hundred yards in any direction and avoid your stand location like the plague.
It's that time of year so get out there and do some early season scouting. Look for early rubs and scrapes in the thickest part of your hunting ground where the big bucks spend most of their daylight hours. Practice strict scent control procedures. When hunting these bucks in their living room silence becomes as important as scent control. Oftentimes you might only be less than 100 yards from the buck you are hunting. Super thick areas do help deaden sounds and allows for little mistakes but you have to be aware of the sounds that could spook the deer. I think it is a good idea to hand a stand, before going to you hunting area, just to see how noisy your stand can be. I always pay close attention to what causes the noise and wrap that part or area with tape to eliminate that harsh metal to metal clank that will alert a wary old buck.