Where do bucks take does?

Where do bucks take does?

Steve Bartylla

Each day is getting busier for me and I wanted to add something to the forum, as a thank you of sorts, for the ideas I’ve already gotten here. Also, though hinging of most non-oak species (oaks are best hinged during winter to avoid oak wilt) can occur any time during the year, I’ve found survival rates best when done before leaf out. Since I’ve heard that spring may arrive some day, I figured this was timely.

First, a couple disclaimers. This is not for everyone. For example, if you have larger SG type plantings or numerous, larger thickets on a property already, you won’t realize nearly as much chasing activity in the targeted area than if it’s a more mature setting.

Also, I’m well aware of the fact that some aren’t fans of hinge cutting and why. If you feel that way, my advice is not to do this. Personally, I do try to balance ideal placement for hunting and deer movement, with areas containing less desirable trees, both in timber and wildlife value. That said, you’re likely to leave money on the ground doing this.

Next, this is a lot of work for one or two sits. When I first started consulting, outfitters made up over half my clients. Those experiences were invaluable to me on many levels. One was forcing me to develop hunting strategies for the entire season. After all, the outfitter’s client just dumped between 2-4K on what’s often a once in a lifetime hunt and they didn’t care that it was a bad phase of season. They wanted and deserved a quality hunt. As you know, rarely is a stand good from opening to closing day of season. So, I got very used to hanging stands for no more than 1 or 2 sits.

At the same time, I suspect that I’m much more focused on trying to dictate deer movements than a lot of you, which is neither right or wrong. Yes, I want to help deer, but nearly every improvement I make is geared as much towards trying to get deer to perform specific activities in specific areas that lend themselves best to hunting. No, I don’t pretend to be 100% successful at that and realize you can’t “dictate” deer behavior and travels, but that’s still my goal and I feel I come close enough to make it worthwhile.

With all that in mind, the chase phase of season can be a lot of fun, particularly in WI, MN & MI, where the rut is more condensed than even in states like OH, IL, IN, IA, KS & MO. During this almost magical 5-7 day window before the majority of does hit estrus, even Mr. Big can forget his training and chase does not ready yet in circles. He’s often already bred a doe or two and desperately wants more.

Where do bucks take does?

Where do bucks take does?
Where do bucks take does?

So, where do the not ready yet does go to shake their pursuers? Often, it’s to the thickest, nastiest large chunk of cover they can find. If that’s not on your property, that can really stink. If it is, that location is often tough to hunt, for a plethora of reasons.

It’s often possible to make this area. Since you are making it, may as well make it in a way that creates slam dunk stand sites. I can’t think of how to illustrate this with pictures, so I made a childish drawing. Obviously, this drawing is NOT to scale, just somewhat close. My doe bedding areas are too big, buck bedding areas too long and so on.

Tan = field
Blue = creek used for access and pond in food plot (I almost always put ponds in FPs in WI, MN & MI, but not in states further south)
Light green = .5-1 acre food plot
Black lines = dozer created blockades, both for positioning deer for shot at pond and to discourage them from getting downwind of stand
Red dots = stands
White lines = 32” wide trails through chase area
Largest dark green = chase area, also used for browse and family group bedding, around 5 acres
Medium dark green = family group bedding, typically .25-.5 of an acre
Small dark green = buck bedding (will only work if in locations bucks naturally want to bed), typically around 5×10 yards

In this fictitious drawing, everything deeper into the woods than the food plot (stand 4 setup for any north wind) would likely be considered a sanctuary. Unlike the purests, I’ll hunt sanctuaries 1-2 times a season, if I have to and everything is perfect.

Where do bucks take does?

The stands around the “chase area” would be 20-30 yards off the edge, covering the trail that almost always skirts these thickets (and intercepting bucks scent checking the chase area for does), as well as the man made chase area trail system. Assuming the natural deer trail entering the chase area splits stand 1 & 2, stand 1 is for a NW wind, 2 for N & NE and 3 for SE, S & even SW, if not too SW, winds (I purposefully taper that corner for better wind coverage).

At most any combo of these stands would be hunted twice. In WI, MN or MI, between Nov 1-7. Further south, same number of sits, just stretched out over all of Nov and can even work in early Dec. You don’t have a well-defined chase phase. It’s more luck of the draw. So, it’s more of a general rut type stand. Don’t get me wrong, this would be good over most

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of Nov in WI, MN & MI, but best when hitting the chase phase.

The north side would work for stands, too, I just didn’t put stands there to minimize impact by not going in as deep. Also, within the chase area, I may leave a few trees standing, such as oaks or other “food” trees, but I’ll take the rest down, regardless if they hinge well or snap. My goal is to create a nasty mess and open the canopy. Because of that, one most often has to invest a day a year into trail maintenance to keep them open. Late summer is a good time, as most growth is starting to slow.

As a side note, I’d do everything reasonable in my power to blockade the creek crossing south of the food plot and make an easy crossing about even with the food plot. I’d put stands there, as well. It creates a nice, low impact funnel and discourages deer from traveling behind the stand on the food plot.

Tony LaPratt deserves the credit for being the first to show me how to hinge cut many years ago at a deer show we were both speaking at (never went to his boot camps or anything, just casual friends), but these are not his “sneak trails,” and I have no clue how he creates them. I learned about creating trails from Barry Wensel way back when I was in my early 20s. Frankly, he had more of an impact in my hunting style and my using creativity than he’ll ever know, despite me telling him several times. Please don’t turn this into a TL bashing thread. I just wanted to give credit where credit was due. I may have come up with the idea of creating chase areas on my own, but it was from putting pieces that they both gave me together.