Hang 'em High
Diehard buck hunter Terry "Junior" Witkop advises, " ...[It] is imperative you first have exclusive access to your hunting property. Nothing can inhibit your success faster than to have someone else patrolling the property spreading their scent and spooking bucks off their normal routines.
"Secondly, you must learn the topography so well that you know where a buck is holed up during daylight hours, where he is likely feeding, and the routes he takes to and from those feeding areas. ...I start by scouting year round, often glassing from a distance as the season nears. I try not to bump bucks from their normal routines...
"I also shed hunt in the spring to learn which bucks may have survived the gun season, then in early summer I set up trail cameras overlooking likely buck security routes...
"I erect my treestands well before opening day, and hang them up to 30 feet off the ground. This keeps me out of a buck's line of vision and helps keep swirling winds from distributing my scent into my bow zones.
"As the season nears I avoid my hotspots and do not climb on board unless all conditions are in my favor."
Chris Hamm, national sales manager for HHA Sports, believes tagging a buck in the early season requires year-round preparation.
"On the 80 acres of land I manage myself, I plant food plots that consist of a healthy mixture of grasses, turnips, and various clovers that appeal to bucks all during the year. I also set up five or six trail cameras to help me keep tabs on deer travel patterns. I then stay out of the area as much as possible so that I do not educate the deer...
"I get my stands set up early in the spring so that the bucks get used to the stands, preferring 16- to 20-foot ladder stands...
"My neighbors and I practice Quality Deer Management and regularly exchange information on buck sightings and buck travel routes. This type of cooperation helps me keep track of racked bucks in the area... I pass up 1.5- and 2.5-year-old bucks, holding out for at least a 125 P&Y or better. Passing up smaller deer helps insure a good crop of mature bucks season after season."
Lay Off The Estrous Doe Lures
David Milazzo, president of Tree Stand Buddy, starts scouting in the spring. "As the season approaches I glass open areas from a distance looking for entrance and exit trails to preferred feeding areas to help me choose an ambush site. This also helps me keep track of harvest schedules which can dramatically alter deer feeding and bedding routines as the season unfolds.
"I shoot a couple of summer leagues," adds Milazzo, "but in August I switch to practice broadheads and begin practicing in full bowhunting attire from a treestand at a full-size deer target. This keeps my eye sharp. When a buck walks past me, I know I can make the shot!
"...I avoid using estrous deer lures in the early season. We have many deer in my area, and any strange estrous orders, especially when does are not yet coming into heat, tells them something is wrong."