Nocturnal Bucks: a hunter’s greatest challenge

Hunting deer with a guide in large enclosures where the deer population is specifically managed to produce large herds and especially large bucks is becoming increasingly popular amongst hunters who have a very limited amount of time to hunt deer each year.

Consequently, because these hunters may have only a few days to a week to hunt out of the entire year, they simply do not have the time to scout public or private lands in order to locate bedding and feeding areas and/or rubs and scrapes.

However, because of the way these enclosed properties are managed, some of the largest deer on the property tend to become totally nocturnal. Thus, hunting them often requires hunters to adapt their hunting strategy accordingly.

The reason for deer on these enclosed properties developing this nocturnal behavior seems to be twofold.

First, like humans, as a deer experiences life and grows older, their occasional mishaps and encounters with predators (both four legged and two legged) teaches them that if they want to continue living, then they must become more cautious and more careful than the average deer.

The range in these enclosures is limited and the deer tend to become intimately familiar with not only the available habitat, but also with the habits of the hunters who frequent these enclosures. Therefore, because these hunters are taught either by their mentors or by the prevailing literature that deer tend to feed early in the morning and late in the evening and bed down in the middle of the day and after dark, these hunters tend to concentrate on hunting during those periods because that is what the “experts” say they should be doing.

However, observation has shown that while these hunters are “patterning” the deer they are hunting, the oldest and most experienced trophy bucks are also patterning the hunters and thus, the bucks have learned that the safest time for them to come out feed is well after sunset and sometimes in the middle of the day when hunters leave the woods and return to camp or the lodge for lunch.

Second, oftentimes on these enclosed properties, food is available to the deer in great abundance in either the form of deer food plots and/or deer feeders twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, all year long. Thus, due to the abundance of food, a mature buck can easily consume enough food to fill his rumen within a very short time. Plus, if these food sources are located near or adjacent to prime bedding areas, then a trophy buck does not have to travel far to feed. Due to the abundance of food and the close proximity of that food to prime bedding areas and thick cover, a trophy buck is only required to expose himself to hunters for a very short period before returning to the safety of his safe haven.

Observation has also shown that most of these true trophy bucks are at least four to five years old and that they very seldom can be induced to leave the thick cover where they feel safe in order to respond to the usual tactics of scent attractants, grunt calls, and rattling. Nor do they seem particularly interested in rutting with does if it means leaving their safe havens.

Therefore, I believe that the trick to bagging these huge, trophy, nocturnal bucks is to locate the trails into their safe havens and carefully invade the edges of them well before sunrise. Then, spend the entire day in your stand and only come out again (quietly) well after dark because observation has also shown that these trophy bucks, which are normally completely nocturnal, will occasionally come out to feed during the middle of the day and when they do decide to move, you must be in position and ready to make the shot because you will be likely to only get one chance to harvest them.

Written by guest blogger

Bill Bernhardt

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