Secrets to Hunting Feeder Bucks in States Where Feeders Are Allowed
Day 1: Why Feeders Produce Buck Deer
“There he is,” I whispered to my guide as I hurriedly picked-up my rifle and prepared to shoot. One of the biggest bucks I’d ever seen had moved cautiously to the feeder where four does already nibbled on the corn voraciously. “Wait a minute,” my guide said. “Let’s see what else comes to the feeder.” I couldn’t believe the guide wanted me to hesitate. The buck I’d spotted from less than 60-yards away looked like a monster with a wide rack and 10 points through my binoculars. But I followed my guide’s suggestion and held my shot. Ten minutes later another big deer with a very-high rack and long tines appeared. “Which one of the two is the best buck for me to shoot?” I asked. “Hold on, John,” the guide said. “Let me do some figuring.” Taking out a pen and paper, the guide jotted down numbers. “The first buck will score 132 points,” he said before announcing that “the second buck will score 134 points.”
Since both deer’s antlers looked bigger than the score the guide reported to me, I questioned, “Are you sure? Those bucks look a lot bigger than that.” My guide smiled and said, “These scores are rough field measurements, but they’re close to accurate. You have to remember you’re looking at big antlers on small deer. Texas deer bodies are usually smaller than the deer you see down South or up North. So, a 130-class buck may appear to be a 160-class buck.” I watched both bucks and peered more closely through my binoculars. As the sun came up, and the two bucks kept feeding, I asked again, “Which buck should I take?” “What type of rack do you like?” my guide asked, “a wide rack or a tall rack? Both bucks are nice bucks. However, you may get a chance to see a much-better buck while you’re here at the Ford Ranch. This morning is just your first day of hunting. You still have three more mornings and four more afternoons to hunt, and each one of our feeders is set up in areas where we’ve seen big bucks. You may want to wait and look at some more bucks before you decide to pull the trigger.” I agreed, and those two bucks survived for someone to hunt them another day.
At the Ford Ranch in Melvin, Texas, like many other ranches that I know of in Texas, outdoorsmen hunt deer around feeders. Many states permit hunters to use feeders to feed deer and to pull them out into the open. Although baiting has a bad connotation to many hunters, most hunters bag their bucks over some type of bait, whether they use a feeder, a green field, a mineral lick or a pile of sugar beets or C’Mere Deer products.
You may think you don’t need many hunting skills to bag a buck that’s coming to eat corn out of a feeder, because you’re just waiting for a target to show up at your shooting range. However, some tactics will ensure that you have more targets and bigger targets near your feeder. Forrest Armke, the manager of the Ford Ranch, explains how, where and when he sets up feeders for Texas bucks. “Each year before hunting season, we fly over our 30,000-acre ranch and search for bucks,” Armke reports. “Usually we photograph the bucks that we spot from our helicopter survey. When we see the bucks, we note the thick-cover areas where they’re holding and plan to put our feeders near those thickets to try and lure the bucks out into the open.” Feeders produce bucks for two reasons. Feeders provide reliable sources of preferred deer food. Also, bucks come to feeders during the rut since does concentrate around feeders. Even if something spooks bucks away from a feeder, they’ll usually return to it to meet does. Not all feeders will produce bucks during daylight hours. To take a buck coming to a feeder, place that feeder near thick cover. Then an older-age-class buck simply has to take two or three steps out of the cover to get the food.
For more information about C’Mere Deer Products, go to www.cmeredeer.com. To learn more about Ford Ranch Hunting, call 325-286-4572, visit www.fordranchhunting.net, or email Ford Ranch.
Tomorrow: Ways to Use Feeders with Deer Hunters Ronnie Groom and Dr. Grant Woods