With back to back success in Illinois, Stan recently tagged a giant 7 ½ year old buck with a crossbow. The following day he headed to a different stand and took a fantastic 8-point with his compound bow. The history with his first buck dates back 4 years. Stan says he passed on the buck when it was 4 ½ and again at 5 ½ years old. Finally, this season during the rut he was able to close the book on this highly sought after, 180 class, 12-point bruiser. Bucks of this caliber rarely make it to see 7 ½ years old, and if they do they are smart. Setting himself up in a place he believed the buck lived, Stan says he hung 4 tree stands in this buck's home core area that he identified using trail camera activity. It's all about the preparation you put into the hunt that is what ultimately makes you successful, he notes. If you prepare and work at it, you'll get out of it what you put in. While there is a certain amount of luck that happens each season with hunters just stumbling onto monster whitetails, the truth is that kind of luck doesn't happen every year. If you want to consistently kill big mature deer, you have to put in the work like Stan did with both of his bucks.
Stan says he learned many years ago how important it is to be prepared for the hunting season and a lot of that is the ability to play the wind. There are a lot of different wind directions, he notes, and savvy hunters will have different stand or blind locations that are suited for different wind situations. It's also important to understand mature buck behavior as it relates to the wind and Stan says big mature bucks tend to quarter into the wind. If they are on the move, cruising and looking for does, or on their feet for any other reason, they will likely be quartering into the wind. Although many believe bucks will walk directly into the wind, Stan says more times than not they will quarter into the wind so they can wind check more area around them.
The week of Thanksgiving provides some of the best hunting for big bucks, Stan says. The rut action is in full swing, although it's beginning to wind down. Big mature bucks are beginning to have some trouble finding the last does in estrus and that means they are on their feet in the daylight more now than they were earlier in November. The peak of the rut creates unpredictable situations and bucks will betray their regular patterns during this time of chasing and tending does. Some hunters opt for a very aggressive approach to hunting during this time, seeking the deer out instead of sitting in their blinds and/or stands. However, Stan says he thinks hunters should stick to their stands. If they are well placed and you have the right wind, you'll have good chances of catching bucks on their feet cruising between bedding areas and food sources as they look for does. Bucks are very vulnerable right now, the most vulnerable they have been as we reach the tail end of the rut, Stan says. A large portion of the does have already been bred and now bucks are having to work harder to find does that are still in estrus. Hunters need to get in their blinds and stands and hunt productive areas like pinch points, funnels and other well traveled areas between food sources and bedding.
Hunters often try to identify escape cover that deer will slip into to hide. They like the security of dense, nasty cover they can retreat to when they are feeling pressured. It's not just hunting pressure though that can send does into escape cover. Bucks can also cause does to seek it out as well. During the height of the rut when bucks are chasing non-stop and harassing does, some of them will seek out this cover to avoid bucks. If you pay attention, Stan says, you likely won't see the numbers of does during the rut that you were seeing in October, and that's because they are tired of the bucks.
Are does selective about what bucks they will allow to breed them? Stan says, yes, to a point. Bigger, more mature does are going to be the first to come into estrus and early in the season, in most cases, they will want to stand for more dominant bucks. However, as the rut progresses, he notes that those mature does will stand for younger bucks, as well. This is especially true if you have too many does, Stan says. If you aren't managing your property and killing enough does it can create breeding issues. In some cases, in areas heavily populated with does, there can be some that get all the way through their first cycle without being bred. Of course, these does will come back in 28 days later and they'll keep coming in until they do get bred. If you start to see a lot of little bucks, little spikes, that doesn't mean those bucks are inferior, he says. Instead it could be a sign that a number of does were bred late in the season and those young bucks are behind the growing curve their first year as a result. These young bucks won't be developed like that of a buck that was born to a doe that was bred in October or November, he says. Having a bunch of little spikes running around can be a sign that there are too many does on your property and that some of those does are getting through their first cycle without being bred.
Be sure to catch Stan Potts on 'North American Whitetail", Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Sportsman Channel. Plus, catch more exciting whitetail action with Stan Potts as he hosts 'Whitetail Explorer", every Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET on Sportsman Channel.