Journal... Entry 17 - Day 1
EDITOR'S NOTE: This week George Mayfield, the owner of The Roost Lodge in Aliceville, Alabama, will share his expertise with you as he tells you about the biggest bucks he's ever bagged.
I'd been hunting a big deer for several weeks in 1995 on The Roost property in Aliceville, Alabama, on the Mississippi state line. Because this buck had rubbed trees about 8 to 10 inches in diameter and broken the top of a tree about 4 inches in diameter, I knew this was the biggest deer I'd ever hunted and probably the meanest one.
This buck had bedded in the grass on Conservation Reserve Program property and frequented the hardwoods area on The Roost property. Since he was coming through a 300- to 400-yard wide cane thicket, I had a hard time telling exactly where he was crossing the fence onto my property.
The day before I took this large buck, I walked the fence on the property line and made a trail. I got on the fence and saw a fresh rub on a cedar tree in a thicket parallel to the fence. I'd never seen it before because I'd been walking on the other side. I knew from experience that pinpointing the side of the tree the buck was rubbing would determine not only the direction a deer was traveling but also when I should hunt him. Had the deer been rubbing the north side of the tree, or the side facing the hardwoods, then I would know I should hunt him in the morning as he was going to the bedding area. But he had rubbed the south side of the tree facing the CRP property, which indicated he had come out of the grass in the afternoon. When I discovered the fresh rub on the tree, I marked the tree to age the rub.
Always after I scrape a tree without contaminating the rub, I'll go back in two or three days to see how the rub looks compared to when I've first found it. I'll check to see if the deer has rubbed off my mark and then compare the age of the rub to the age of my mark. Temperature and weather affect how quickly the rub ages. I can see how fast the tree is "bleeding" and how quickly mold has begun to appear to tell how old a rub is.
The wind was the key to where I set up my stand two days before I killed the big buck. The line I was hunting ran east to west; the prevailing winds were northwest; the creek the buck was following ran north and south; the wind was from the northwest-southeast direction; and the bedding area was to the south. I had to set up my stand away from the rub line to throw my scent at an angle above and beyond the deer's trail. Getting into position in the stand and being able to see because the woods were so thick was difficult as I looked through a narrow hole, about 3 feet wide.
On the day of the hunt, I climbed into my stand about 2:30 p.m. The day was wet, cloudy and blustery. When the wind stopped about 3:30 p.m. and the light intensity waned, I started grunting. I heard something in the puddles behind me and got ready to shoot. But the animal was a big cane cutter rabbit, not the buck I was hunting.
About 4:30 p.m., I heard something in the water again. I looked toward the fence, 40 or 50 feet away, and saw movement. I spotted the legs of a deer, and I raised my rifle. The deer stopped, and I couldn't tell if it was a buck. While looking through the vines, I saw something silver, then black. This animal took a few more steps, allowing me to clearly see black deer fur. The deer had responded to the grunt call and was mad. The animal's coat turned black as it bristled and then became more silver-colored when its fur lay down. At that point, I figured the deer was a buck, but I still hadn't seen antlers.
The Roost had a measuring program in place. I knew I was hunting for a big buck, and I only wanted to take "The Buck." Since I didn't even know what this deer looked like, I had to wait.
Soon the deer took a few more steps and hopped the fence. I could see a bunch of antlers way above his head, but I couldn't confirm the rack. He took a few more steps and stopped, but I didn't have a shoulder shot. The buck moved a few more steps, stopped and rolled his rack. I got nervous then because I could tell he was big. But I couldn't see details. As the buck began backing up, I saw his shoulder and took the shot. He sat down on his backside like a dog.
The key to my success in bagging this 181-class Boone & Crockett non-typical buck, which was a big deer for me, was my knowing how to read a rub. By accurately reading a rub, you too can tell where a buck is coming from and where he's going.
Call or write George Mayfield at The Roost, P.O. Box 509, Aliceville, AL 35442; PH: (205) 373-3147.
Check back each day this week for more from George Mayfield and The Roost...