Gregg has taken some incredible bucks so far this season. Heading first to Iowa, he talks about a buck dubbed, "The MAGA Buck". Whitetail hunters know that Iowa is one of the premiere big buck states to hunt, however it's tough to lock down a tag. Although he is an Iowa land owner, Gregg says the draw system doesn't make it any easier for him to draw tags as all non-residents, land owner or not, all have to go through the same draw system. It generally takes four years of applying to draw a tag in the particular unit where his property is, Gregg says. Although he is only able to hunt every four years or so, the regular work that goes into that particular farm doesn't ever stop. You have to put in the food plots, get the infrastructure in and manage the land every year, Gregg says, so that when you do draw a tag you can capitalize on the opportunities that those management efforts create. This year, Gregg says he was able to hit the rut surprisingly well, even through an unusual warm spell that would generally shut activity down. Thanks to a few cold mornings, the conditions were right and he was able to knock down the giant 6 ½ year old buck cruising through the timber. Gregg says it was ultimately rattling some antlers together that got the attention of the buck and caused it to come running in to 30 yards. The buck made him work for the shot, forcing him to hold his bow at full draw for more than 3 minutes before finally coming out from behind a tree for the shot opportunity.
Hunting another big buck mecca, Gregg took an old warrior during the Missouri rifle season. Unlike other bucks that he has a long history with and years of trail camera photos, Gregg says this buck surprised him and just showed up during the rut. He notes that this is a great example of why maintaining and managing your land with consistency year after year is important. This buck was able to take advantage of the food plots that had been planted earlier in the year and Gregg was able to take advantage of those food plots, the blinds and treestands he placed earlier in the year that made the hunt possible.
With the rut winding down, the focus for bucks is no longer entirely on breeding, instead, they are redirecting their attention to groceries. After a long rut, extensive weight loss and fatigue, now is the time bucks need to refuel to make it through the winter. For hunters with a tag still in their pocket, it's time to focus on the food during this post-rut/late season period, Gregg says. If you have seasonal food plots designed for quality late season forage, now is the time to double down your efforts there. However, efforts to tag a big buck over food will be more successful if they are pinpointed during big weather fronts, he notes. If you have pressure on the rise it will force the deer to come out of the timber during daylight and feed on these plots, he says. Many hunters miss the opportunity that morning hunts in the timber offer during the late season. It's not something people talk about a lot, hunting in the morning, because if you do it wrong there is the potential to blow everything up, including your chances at filling your tag. However, there is a way to do it right, he says, and if you slip in you'll often find deer all congregated together. It's not unheard of to find 20 to 30 deer all bedded in one area on a ridge top or something, he says. So don't overlook that late season morning hunt. When it comes to bedding and sanctuary areas, Gregg says weather is going to drive activity daily and compel deer to hit different bedding areas accordingly. If the pressure is high, the sun is out and the temperatures are above freezing, the deer will want to be on south facing hillsides where they are exposed to the sun and able to warm up. If there is any snow, this is typically where it melts off first and that's where the deer will be feeding. If it's cold, windy, and nasty, Gregg says the bottoms are where the deer will be. If you did any timber stand improvement this year, if you did any hinge cutting or planting of warm season grasses, it's in these areas that the deer will relocate to. Watching the weather will tell a hunter what kind of cover to focus their attention on.
Finally, with the holidays quickly approaching and the increased opportunity to spend time with family, Gregg says it's a great time to get kids outdoors and shooting. Anytime you can get kids shooting it's a good thing, whether it's with a crossbow, vertical bow, or taking them to the range and plinking with firearms. Gregg says adults need to keep things interactive for kids in order to hold their attention. He suggests putting clay targets on the backstop at the range and having them shoot from hunting positions - shooting sticks, kneeling, off hand, etc. After breaking the clay initially, you can then go back and pick up the pieces and shoot at them for more precision shot placement work.