Whitetail Plan of Attack

Learning how to successfully harvest mature bucks is an endless process. This is no secret and even the best hunters will tell you the same. I think every hunter should formulate some sort of plan of attack prior to the start of hunting season. Observe the land you’re going to hunt, where you’ll be sitting, what your deer herd looks like, etc. During the season, apply your plan of attack, and stick to it. Learn from your mistakes. Correct your errors throughout the season. After whitetail season is over, the other eight or nine months of the year provide plenty of time to continue learning, both from your own hunting property and from other more successful hunters. You’ll find some of the best strategies and methods through articles, books, and videos. There are so many resources out there to learn from, and it can be overwhelming to even know where to begin.

I figured the best knowledge I could gather during the off season and apply during the season would come from guys who hunt the same areas as I do. For me, those areas are Central New York and Northern Michigan. My sources? Neil and Craig Dougherty and Jeff Sturgis. Neil and Craig put out a couple books that I picked up last year called Grow ‘Em Right and From Ground To Gun. Jeff also had two books out that I picked up this year, Whitetail Success By Design and Food Plot Success By Design. If you hunt the Great Lakes area, I highly recommend picking up a copy of one or all of these books, and settle in for a good read that makes you look at everything you’re doing on your property through a fresh pair of eyes. Even if you don’t hunt the Great Lakes region, you’ll be able to find loads of information, stories of success, and examples of what not to do. As much as I like to learn better ways to hunt, I find it incredibly helpful to hear about what was tried and how it went wrong. I’d rather learn what not to do from reading a book than from blowing a chance at a mature buck in a real life situation!

sturgis book G2G

 The biggest takeaways from everything I have read in the past few years really boil down to a few simple concepts. Keep the pressure off of the deer herd, hunt the wind, and mainly hunt cold fronts. For some it may be easier to only hunt cold fronts or when the timing is perfect. If you’re like me, this is pretty unrealistic. I work 80+ hours a week and have other life responsibilities, so while I do my best to hunt during those perfect conditions, sometimes I can’t and I have to make the best out of what mother nature gives me.

Last year I did pretty well with keeping hunting pressure low on my hunting grounds and hunting the wind in my favor. I even got out of my stand early one night when the wind shifted on me and was blowing my scent all across my property during a November rut hunt. Three years ago that would have been the last thing I was worried about. I guess with age comes (small amounts of) wisdom!

This year, after reading a lot of “what not to do” articles, I have decided to create a stricter strategy with some simple guidelines that I will follow no matter what. From what I have read, observed, and learned in my relatively short bow hunting career, these are six simple ways to ensure low pressure while creating a higher sense of security and safety for your local deer herd.

Cicero Map POA

My 6 Personal Guidelines for Seeing Mature Bucks:

1. Do not hunt in the morning until October 20th, give or take a few days depending on weather. The only exception I have to this is if there is a significant cold front during the first 3 weeks of October, then go ahead and do a morning hunt.

Reason: Great hunters have continued to pound it into their teachings that mature bucks are on their feet during those low light morning hours, either feeding or on their way to bedding. The chances of bumping a mature buck are much higher in the early fall while these deer are still in their feeding patterns. Why October 20th? There will be no moon on October 24th this year, so I figure a few days before then it will be very dark in the morning and bucks should stay bedded later. Also, bucks will be getting into their pre-rut patterns and the shift away from food will have begun.

2. Do not hunt over food plots in the morning.

Reason: It is clearly documented and reiterated by just about every book on whitetails out there that if you hunt food sources in the morning, you are more than likely going to spook deer before it is light out while getting into your stand.

3. Do everything in your power to hunt the morning after a cold front once late October gets here. Use that sick day you have been saving! Just don’t go posting on social media if you do end up connecting with a giant that morning. Your boss might not look kindly on your case of Buck Fever.

Reason: This is probably more common sense than anything. Mature bucks are much more likely to be up and moving during daylight hours after a cold front has come through.

4. Keep the pressure off the deer herd to create a sense of safety and security before the rut. Only hunt 2 or 3 times on one piece of property before late October in order to achieve this.

Reason: Common sense again… The less pressure on the herd the higher percentage of deer being on their feet during daylight hours. The less you hunt, the less deer can pattern you. The element of surprise is what we’re looking for here.

5. Shoot does either during the first few days of the season or wait for late season.

Reason: It is still risky to do at the beginning of the season, but I like to get some meat in the freezer as soon as possible. Wisconsin used to have the “earn a buck” system, which made you shoot a doe to get a buck tag, and they didn’t seem to have a problem putting giants on the ground every year. Also, after launching an arrow or two at does, I stay a little calmer when that big boy finally steps into range.

6. Stop being such a pansy and do a full day sit already.

Reason: Every year I tell myself I will sit all day for a few hunts during the rut and I just haven’t done it yet. The amount of success stories I have heard that center around those midday hours when the rut is on is just too much for me to keep ignoring. Last year this really hit home for me when I checked a camera to find a video of a shooter buck walking across a food plot at 1 p.m. on November 10th.

These are the main strategies for my plan of attack. There is so much more that will be taken into consideration when hunting, such as what stand to use for what wind direction, but these are general guidelines to follow that can be applied to every hunter’s plan of attack.

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