Three years old is usually when I can first identify a buck with superior genetics. This was the case with Triplebrow, my latest obsession. When he was three, he was a mainframe 5×5 with three browtines, and an extra main beam with a hook off the end. He has thankfully made it through five hunting seasons and grew into a mainframe 6×6. Getting a buck to 6 or 7 years old is challenging, and Triplebrow should grow into a mega giant this year. There isn’t a day that has gone by since the close of archery season in January, that I haven’t thought about, talked about or theorized how I would put him within archery range this season.
Countless hours have been and will be spent looking over maps, old trailcamera photos and on the tractor shaping our destinies. Here are the six key points of my strategy:
1. Knowledge is power.
Use historical trail camera pictures and observation data to determine where the core range of your mature buck lives.
Triplebrow is 6 ½ years old this year. I have 1,988 trail camera pictures and videos starting as far back as when he was two years old. I have documented for four years where he has summered, rutted and his preferred food source. Surprisingly, he prefers a small timbered finger less than 100 acres. The question this fall is not where he will be but when he will pass by my stand.
2. Set your kill-zone.
Hang your stand or place your blind well in advance of the season in a well concealed location paying attention to access both in and out.
Know your wind directions, thermals and terrain features that shape your scent cone. When creating a new food plot, you should first consider your stand or blind locations and build around these set-ups. Cedar trees are one of my preferred stand trees for cover. We shaped this food plot in a way to provide a maximum shot distance of 40 yards. The stand is located higher up on a knoll to keep my wind from swirling in the draw with south winds being the preferred direction. Hunting this location in the morning will keep my thermals moving up into the tilled ag field. Access is excellent without having to expose myself to any deer getting into or out of the stand set.
3. Focus on food – cover – water.
Enhance what is missing or underdeveloped to create a focal point during the period of hunting season you feel is optimal to kill your buck.
Thick cedars and a brushy draw provide the perfect sanctuary for Triplebrow and several other mature bucks to reside the majority of the year. With a creek running through the center of the draw and agricultural fields surrounding the cover, these bucks have the perfect oasis. However, when the agricultural crops are harvested, and the fields tilled, food becomes a missing component and variable that could take Triplebrow away from his core area. Creating an interior food plot adjacent to the sanctuary and leaving some standing corn will be critical in keeping Triplebrow in his core area and draw him out of his hide during daylight hours.
4. Tighten the noose.
Push brush into piles, drop trees or open travel corridors to guide the buck past your stand location.
Mature bucks rarely take the well beaten trails the does and younger deer travel. They often travel parallel to these well-worn trails or take a shortcut during the rut to check on doe groups. Using a combination of terrain features, and placing obstacles, can help to direct a mature buck’s movements past your stand location. History has shown Triplebrow sticks to the bottom of the creek bed where the brush is the thickest. Forcing him to cross at a specific location by using brush blockades will direct him past my stand in the rut.
5. Function follows form.
Relentlessly practice the exact shot angle and distance you’ll need to make when your buck steps out.
Muscle memory is key to executing the shot under pressure. This is a no-brainer, but deserves repeating. Anything you can do to maintain clarity and composure in the moment he appears within range is worth the extra effort.
6. Spring the trap.
Hunt sparingly until your trail cameras tell you your target buck is a day-walker and then put your plan in motion.
Compare trail camera pictures to historical data to accurately predict when and where your buck will show up. Deer are creatures of habit and with four years of trail camera history on Triplebrow I can map out his daily patterns from previous years.
This historical information will allow me to predict his patterns during the changes of the season. I know his preferred licking branches and travel corridors when the switch gets turned on for the rut. Once I see Triplebrow marking his territory then history has told me where he is going to look for the first does in estrus. I’ll stay out of his bedroom until I confirm he is on the prowl. Then with a south wind, rising moon and rising barometric pressure I will make my move.