Don't Overlook The Obvious,Try Thinking Small

Written by TheDeerwhisperer on Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It’s that time of year again where the antler growth on our deer causes the excitement around deer hunting. We start to look back at target deer hoping they made it through the tough winter and crossing the crowded roads. We think back to where we saw them last and begin to strategize on how to approach them this year and how big they might be. Many are on google maps getting a bird’s eye view looking for those spots they may have missed that could be holding that buck of a lifetime, and others are already hanging cameras and starting up bait stations, so I felt it was about the right time to share a trend I have found when it comes to finding and killing big bucks over the years here in New Jersey.

While engaged in recent conversations with friends, it got me thinking back to all the nice bucks I have killed over the years, to where I have encountered some of the biggest deer I have ever seen hiding, and to where I know friends and other hunters have seen or killed big deer. The one common thread was most of the big deer were killed or seen in small areas/patches that I feel most hunters simply would overlook as they walk on by to head into the bigger thicker areas to where they are sure the big guy is hiding to avoid human interaction. IMO, it’s a common misconception among hunters that big bucks need big thick woods to hide in, or want to be completely away from people and human interaction, based on my experiences, it’s simply not true, at least here in NJ. In fact, it’s almost like some prefer to hide out in small patches close to human interaction like, behind a house, in between the on and off ramps of major highways, skinny hedgerows that split two farm fields, the small wood lots that separate the east/west and north/south side of the highways, golf courses where they are dealing with people all day long, corporate complexes, and of course developments to where the big boys can be seen just hanging out on a front lawns or bedded in backyards midday starring back at you like “yeah I am right here, what are going to do about it?” ...and so on, and I can tell you that these deer are not forced to be here, there are plenty of big woods for them to go get lost in if that was their preferred way of life. Bottom line is a lot of big bucks in NJ seem to have mastered the technique of surviving right under our noses, and in some cases, without us ever knowing it. My guess is they feel secure in these small patches to where they can monitor everything going on around them, where they can pattern our activities, and to whereas hunters/predators, it’s close to impossible to get to them without them seeing us first.

These types of spots we simply tend to ignore in a lot of cases as we tell ourselves there is no way a big boy can be hiding in there because it is too close to people and just too small, but as we sometimes often forget or begin to over think things, as long as that deer feels safe, has a good water source nearby, a variety of food choices, and does to breed in and around him…he doesn’t need a big room to bed in to feel secure.

The other small patch scenario is, you may have scouted the smaller areas early season and just didn’t see any great sign so wrote it off, not realizing that this becomes the home of that trophy after the season kicks off and the pressure comes into play. In this case you will want to stay out of that spot and hunt it in the later season only, but only when the conditions are just right (or hunting 40ft high ) as you will only have a few attempts at killing the buck before pushing him off to his next safety zone which may be where you can’t hunt him.

Some of these small patches could be in no hunting areas that need a one or two man bow/gun drive to get them on to your piece to get the job done…as I know how you guys love driving deer here, but in some cases it is the only chance you’ll have.

Last but not least, I would limit entering the area often, and if needed, go in only at night when it’s a safe bet he is out feeding somewhere, I would also limit baiting or don’t bait at all in these small patches, as odds are, the more you mess around in there you will end up bumping him out of the area or turn him nocturnal before the season ever starts. From my experience (and some of you may already have experienced this as well), it seems as if these small patch deer tend to become nocturnal pretty quickly making it harder to get on them as the season progresses on, some early season attempts may be your best/only chance, after that you could be hunting a ghost, and that can lead to a very frustrating season.

So as the scouting begins, start looking around to identify those little off the beaten path patches of woods/thickets/ditches that you thought could never hold a trophy and have ignored or gave up on too quickly, and as you start to investigate them, you might just find exactly what you are looking for and end up asking yourself the age old question “how did I miss this for all these years!”

Looking forward to another great whitetail season and keep the trail cam photos coming!

About The Author

A master of finding and harvesting big New Jersey whitetails with 5 NJ Pope & Youngs to...

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