The Challenges of Hunting End-of-the-Season Big Bucks
Searching for Those End-of-the-Season Big Bucks and Using Code Blue
Editor’s Note: Hunters already have harvested many of the young bucks before January arrives. But the older, trophy-sized bucks have holed-up and moved only after dark to dodge hunting pressure. However, with the onset of the rut, which takes place at various times from October – February across the United States, even the dominant bucks will move during daylight hours at this time and become vulnerable to hunters.
Only the occasional barking of a squirrel and a rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker broke the silence of the still woods under the canopy of darkness. Off in the distance I heard a loud noise in the leaves. The sound drew nearer. I searched down the hardwood draw and spotted three does running toward me. Then halfway to me, they stopped and looked back, turned again and trotted down the trail 50 yards from where I'd put up my tree stand. Suddenly, I heard the sound I'd prayed for - a low, guttural grunt much like a hawk would make. I saw ivory tips and watched as a big buck with a swollen neck lumbered in pursuit of the does. The hair on the buck's neck bristled as he came closer to the does, so intent on mating that he never hesitated when he walked across the clearing in the white oak bottom. Rifle to my shoulder and stock to my cheek, the crosshairs found their target. With the gentle pull of my trigger, the woods erupted with the report of my .243. The big buck dropped on the spot.
Several southern states have seasons that extend into January each year. In many places, hunting pressure decreases during January, which makes it the best month to hunt for a trophy buck. Many hunters already have bagged all the bucks they want to take for the season. January – even in the Deep South – usually has wet, cold and miserable weather. Generally only the hardiest trophy-buck hunters will enter the woods during the later part of deer-hunting season, although they'll have the most opportunities to hunt trophy bucks then and take more bucks during the end of the season. You may have the woods to yourself.
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Tomorrow: Hunt the Does