Steve Bartylla on Patterning a Deer

Steve Bartylla on Patterning a Deer

Steve Bartylla on Patterning a Deer

Steve Bartylla added 9 new photos.

What is patterning a deer? In my mind, few if anything in the hunting world is twisted, exaggerated or just plain made up to the extent that “patterning” bucks is. The answer to why in my mind is simple. If I or anyone else that’s a self proclaimed “expert” or hunting celeb is able to convince you that we knew where the buck was bedding, all his various destinations, why he was going to each, when he was doing so and how he got between those locations, well, we look a LOT smarter than you. Unless you’re REALLY good looking, convincing others you know more than they do is the quickest way to establishing yourself in this industry and getting you to give us your money, both directly or indirectly.

Steve Bartylla on Patterning a Deer

Steve Bartylla on Patterning a Deer

As those that have followed my work closely over all these years (thank you, thank you & THANK YOU!) already realize, I started the consulting end of things working for outfitters that would sit in on seminars I did in the early days and ask me afterwards to help setup their properties. Somewhere around 8 of the first 10 clients I had were all outfitters. When TV crews would show up, head to stands they’d never seen before, on ground they’d never stepped foot on, only to kill the buck the outfitter had showed them pics of the night before and go on and on about how long they’d been after this buck (hours), and how they’d invested so much time (the 2 minutes it took for the outfitter to show them pics) and effort (as much as it took to stand over the outfitter’s shoulder while showing them pics) into patterning him, well, it was a valuable and eye opening lesson on the definition many, many in the industry use for “patterning” bucks (there are exceptions that are straight shooters, too).

Not to be an arrogant jerk, but I’ve been lucky/blessed to tag an awful lot of mature bucks over the years. On every single one, I did the scouting and was at least involved with hanging the stand/setting the blind (I’ve had some help me with stand hanging…I set the stand while they trim and so on). For what it’s worth, there was only 1 of them that I felt I knew the 2 spots he bedded most and how/when he’d go to the 2 primary food sources he used. He bedded on a ridge, flanked by identical crop fields on both sides. He’d bed on the downwind side of the ridge, in locations he could see the ridge side from, while the wind covered his backside. In the early evening, he’d get up, put the wind in his face and work his way to the opposite valley to feed, keeping the wind in his face as he did it. The wind determined which side of the ridge he bedded and which valley he’d hit first. After that, I had no clue what he’d be doing the rest of the night. I killed him the first time I hunted him, just by using the wind to determine which side of the ridge I should slip into on that day.

Steve Bartylla on Patterning a Deer

Steve Bartylla on Patterning a Deer

That was a freak case (and also why I made myself look like an arrogant jerk by bragging about how many I’ve tagged…He was the only one, out of the entire mess of bucks…ONE). Somewhere around half the bucks I’ve killed I’ve known about before I shot them. A good number of them I knew where they fed occasionally. On a decent % of those bucks, I had a pretty good educated guess where one of their bedding areas were and a decent idea of how they got from that bed to the food source I knew they were using (typically from cam pics). That’s about as good as it gets, and also means that there have been a bunch more bucks that I either had never seen before shooting or had no clue where they did anything but feed occasionally.

It’s taken me way too long to get to my first point, which is the idea that all these hunters have deer “patterned” to the point they pretend is far more fallacy than fact.

Many bucks bed in many different places. For the average hunter, odds are a good number of those places won’t be on your ground. Habitat improvements can help in that regard a ton, getting them to bed more on you than they otherwise would have, but chances are for most managers that he is still bedding some on the neighbors.

One of the primary reasons for this is because what Mr Big wants changes over deer season. At the same time, food sources are changing dramatically, with new ones emerging and old ones running dry or losing their appeal. Toss the rut cycle in to all of this and the changes in patterns are even more dynamic over season.

Which leads us to the next point. Most bucks’ patterns change many times over season. To me, “patterning” is nothing more than knowing one or more tendency the buck follows at times. When knowing this tendency makes him vulnerable to our hunting efforts, jump on them hard and smart, as those patterns are likely to change.

The buck in the pics below is a primary example. I had a really good idea that he mostly bedded on the neighbors. They had a prime bedding ridge that was extremely difficult for them to get to. I’m pretty sure he bedded some on me, but I believe he bedded mostly on them (just a feel for where bucks like to bed by inspecting so many beds over the years and the cam pics showing him entering the closest food source with the ridge behind him in the PMs, leaving towards the ridge in the AMs). Seeing that in his pics for 3 years in a row was a pretty good clue.

Steve Bartylla on Patterning a Deer

So, when I got a bunch of pics of him on that Antler King Honey Hole plot, I went in after him. The first sit, I did everything I could to blow the deal, but he wouldn’t let me. Apparently, he’d decided that was my day and he refused to let me mess it up, no matter how hard I tried.

Add that all together and I had a very good idea that he mostly bedded on the neighbors, believed he did some on me, too, but I could never figure out where. I knew he used several of my food sources. To me, that’s a very typical example of the reality of “patterning” a buck. I’m betting most all of you have that level of knowledge on more than a few of the bucks you’ve shot. Grats! You have patterned deer as much or better than most you hear or see talking about how they invested sooooooooooooo much time, skills and efforts into unwrapping the mysteries of “patterning” the buck they’re pictured or videoed with. When you find those kinks in Mr. Big’s armor, jump on it!…And Don’t let us “experts” and celbs make you feel inferior. As I’ve said many times, the best hunters I know aren’t in the industry….they’re you all!


Dec 30, 2016 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments: none

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