How John Scott Hunts Big Buck Deer on Small Properties
Day 1: Why John Scott Started Hunting Small Properties for Big Buck Deer
Editor’s Note: John Scott and his twin brother Jim, who both live near Birmingham, Alabama, have hunted deer with their bows for 20 years. As John says, “I’m not a very-good deer hunter in big woods. But in little woods, I feel at home and comfortable. I can find, pattern and harvest big bucks every season.”
I just had bought my first set of trail cameras and was telling a friend about buying the cameras. This friend was a great hunter who had taken a lot of big deer. My friend told me, “You can get a lot of pictures of deer, but you're never going to take a really big buck using those trail cameras. I’ve got plenty pictures of deer, but they’ve never helped me take a big deer.” I thought to myself, “I’ll show you. I’ll put these cameras out, I’ll learn everything I can about these deer, and I’ll take a big deer.”
There was a pine thicket on the land we were hunting that had small hardwood fingers on the edges of small creeks running through the pines. I felt certain there were big deer using those little creek edges. So, I put several cameras out in July on each of the fingers of hardwoods that ran through this big pine thicket. I started getting pictures soon after. I saw a bachelor group of eight bucks with two shooter bucks in the group - one an 11 point and the other a big 8 point. The 11-pointer was the one I really wanted, even though the 8-pointer was a fantastic deer.
When deer hunting season arrived on October 15, 2008, I knew to get into the hardwood finger I wanted to hunt without the deer being able to see, hear or smell me, I’d have to hike a mile just to get to my tree stand. On October 25 that year, I had a perfect wind to hunt the finger of woods that these bucks were using as a travel corridor to go through the pine thicket. The wind was so still that I could see my breath in front of my face. The wind didn’t rise or fall or move to the left or to the right. I climbed into my stand before daylight. About 100-yards from my stand, I could see deer legs. I took out my grunt call and grunted very softly. I saw a buck look in my direction and then spotted him walking toward me. I was hunting from a lock-on tree stand but only could get my stand up about 15 feet due to the many limbs. Although the trees almost blocked my view, I had good back cover. I didn’t think the deer would be able to see me.
As the first buck got closer, I recognized him from my trail-camera pictures as the big 8 point that was always with the 11 point. A second buck that followed the first buck was easy to identify. I had named him Uni, because he only had one really-tall antler and reminded me of a unicorn. I knew that this buck too stayed with Sticker - the name I’d given the 11-pointer that had one small point coming off one of his main beam antlers. The third buck in this parade was a smaller 8 point. I saw several other bucks and identified each one of them from the trail-camera pictures I had. In my mind, I was saying, “Please let Sticker be with those bucks.”
I was really getting nervous when all those bucks were under my tree stand - as close as 5 yards. Then I spotted Sticker 60-yards behind the last buck. While he was coming to me, I had a shot at the big 8 that only was 10-yards from the base of my tree and presenting a broadside shot. However, I didn’t even think about shooting him, although I was thinking, “I'll never get a shot at Sticker, because if the wind starts to blow from any direction, one of these bucks will smell me.” Sticker took 15 minutes to travel the 60 yards to get within my bow range. During those 15 minutes, I had all the other bucks around my stand, and I was extremely nervous. Once Sticker got within bow range, he bristled-up and laid his ears back. He was about to have a confrontation with the big 8. I drew my bow without any of the bucks seeing me and made a good shot on Sticker. When Sticker ran off, I was totally out of my mind excited. He was the biggest buck I ever had arrowed with my bow, and I hadn’t ever had that many bucks around my tree stand at one time in my entire hunting career. As soon as the woods had cleared of bucks, I called my brother, Jim, who was fishing that day. He told me, “Don’t trail that buck right now. Go back to camp, and wait a few hours. Then, come back and blood trail him.” Jim really helped calm me down.
Three hours later, I brought a friend back with me, and we found Sticker not 50-yards from where I had shot him. When I came in with Sticker, the friend who had told me that you couldn’t take big deer using trail cameras was in camp. I said, “Billy Bob, (fake name to protect the guilty) what is the one thing you told me that you never could do with a trail camera?” Instantly, Billy Bob said, “Take a big buck that you see on your trail cameras.” Then, I said, “Go look in the back of my pickup truck.” Billy Bob couldn’t believe how big Sticker was. When he came back in the camp house, Billy Bob said. “Well, you’ve done something I've never been able to do.” That year I took three really-nice mature bucks – all of which I had trail-camera pictures of starting back in July. Each time I took one of those three big trail-camera bucks, I made sure I showed Billy Bob the pictures and the buck in the back of the truck.
That year - 2008 - really set me on fire to hunting small woodlots that most hunters wouldn’t hunt. I began putting out trail cameras long before the season came in to inventory the deer herds in small locations, and I started studying the pictures to pick out the buck I wanted to take. From my experience of using trail cameras that first year and hunting in places where no one else would ever hunt, I built my strategy of how to find, hunt and harvest mature bucks. I also learned to hunt well away from other hunters. When I was in a hunting club, I allowed the other hunters to pick out the stands where they wanted to hunt. Then I would hunt in the patches of woods where no one else wanted to hunt. All of the men in my hunting club liked to hunt as far away from the camp house as they could. So, I started hunting right around the camp house, because this was the area no one else was hunting. I also learned never to tell anyone except my brother where or how I was hunting. I knew if I did that then more than likely, they’d try to hunt that same piece of property - often with a wrong wind and perhaps run all the deer out of that land.
To learn more about deer hunting, you can get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” (John’s latest book), “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” “How to Take Monster Bucks,” and “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” or to prepare venison, get “Deer & Fixings.” Click here on each, or go to www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.
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About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.