Home Bucks vs. Away Bucks

Home Bucks vs. Away Bucks

Kevin Mennett

September 16th, 2014


Jamie's buck

As you pull into your neighborhood after a long day at work, you notice that something is different. You look closely and realize that the power company has trimmed a few branches from trees that were close to the utility lines. Although the changes are not significant, you slow down to observe the extent of the cutting and panic when you realize that your favorite apple tree may have been trimmed. You are now uneasy.

Now consider the effect on a whitetail when we enter their neighborhood, hang our favorite tree stand, and trim some limbs to clear our shooting lanes. The deer that spend much of their time in this area surely notice the changes and may alter their travel routes to avoid our perfect spot. We would be naïve to think an animal that spends all of its time in the woods would not notice subtle changes. Worse yet, we pollute the area with our scent which is as obvious to a deer as skunk odor is to us. Even if this initial intrusion took place a month before the archery opener, mature deer will continue to be wary of your location when the season begins. Every subsequent trip to your stand educates the local deer which may already have experience from last season when they busted you or were spooked when you shot your trophy.

My brother Craig and I have had extensive conversations on the topic of educating deer and how it eventually affects our hunting success. A typical archery season in Ohio begins with Craig and his buddy Tony harvesting some does off our favorite property to fulfill our promise to the landowner. He is excited for us to come out and contribute but we often struggle to get a mature doe into shooting range. We have come to the conclusion that the “home” deer have started to avoid our favorite stands based on the scenarios mentioned above.

I spent 4 days in Ohio during the 2011 archery season and had numerous encounters with both young and mature bucks. The 1-1/2 year old bucks were familiar to Craig because he had seen them on his trail cameras or during earlier hunts but the older bucks were new to the area. What happened to the bruisers that he had on camera before the season? Our theory is that the home deer, specifically the mature does, know what we are up to and have altered their patterns to avoid us.

If this theory is true, how do we continue to have success on the property? Our best guess is that we are crossing paths with “roaming” bucks. These bucks spend most of the year in other areas but their mating urges cause them to roam around in search of hot does. For example, my 9 point from 2012 and Craig’s 10 point from this season were never seen on the property prior to our encounters. We just intercepted them as they passed through travels corridors. Because they had limited experience in our area, they didn’t notice the cut branches or have prior education on our locations.

So how should you use this information when hunting next season? My suggestions are to save some locations exclusively for the rut to reduce intrusion and to identify travel routes between properties. I hunt one property where I shoot a doe every year by hunting the fringes but I have had great encounters the past 2 seasons hunting in the core. My “rut” stand is located very close to the bedding areas but near a natural funnel that connects to a larger property. As with my Ohio hunts, the bucks that I see are new to the area and either chasing a doe or roaming around looking for love.

Keep these scenarios in mind if you are having limited success at spots that should have more activity. Try to limit your intrusion or change your stand location periodically to intercept deer that are avoiding your primary area. Also, don’t give up on a spot if you feel that bucks may cruise through during the rut. This past season, my wife became frustrated with her favorite blind on our property and decided not to hunt one evening. She called me in a panic when a big, roaming buck walked through our field directly in front of her blind. Hunting can often be frustrating but always learn from your experiences and you will eventually find success.

BY: James Hicks

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