Ben asked, “Mitch, I was looking at your pictures of some of you bucks over the past 10-12 years. Many of them appear to have a similar look, with that wide spread. Is this genetics of a certain area that you hunt? Do you believe that genetics have a bearing on antler size/spread, etc. I know nutrition and age have a great effect, but how much do genetics have on this?”
Genetics probably have the biggest impact on antler size, spread, etc. The problem is, though, most bucks never reach the age when you can really see the genetic similarities from generation to generation. A buck must get to 3-4 years old to hit maturity to show this. As I stated in a previous question, most bucks get taken at 1-2 years old.
Matt Haven asked, “What’s most important when bow hunting? Do you get dressed in the woods? Thanks”
No, I don’t generally get dressed in the woods. But there are occasions when I might. For example, on warm days if I may work up a sweat walking to my stand or if I will be making any stops between home and my hunting area. Gas station, store, etc. For me, the most important thing I do is make sure my stands are set up properly for the wind directions. Having only one stand really isn’t enough. You need to have multiple stands for any given area. If having only one stand is your only option, make sure you only hunt it when the wind is correct.
Something else that is important to remember is not totally relying on scent eliminators/clothing/soaps, etc. Although I do think they help, relying on them to mask your scent when the wind direction is wrong for your setup is a mistake. I have experimented with these things and found that deer can still smell me, but they thought I was farther away than I actually was.
Thanks for your question.
James Howell asked, “I was just wondering what your top 5 things you look for when scouting an area. Also what time of year do you scout? I think I could really learn from someone like you. Many years ago I sat with Jack Eddy and he said you were one of the best hunters he knew.”
Thanks for the question. Although it is basically impossible to write down everything I do when scouting an area I will try and answer as best I can.
The main thing I start with is looking for an area that can actually support mature bucks. What I’m looking for is a protection zone where these animals can actually get old enough to get big. They need an area where they can get away from the hunting pressure. On public land, approximately 70% of the bucks taken are 1.5 years old. So out of 10 bucks, that will only leave 3 that will make it to 2.5 years old. The next year 2 of those 3 will probably be harvested. So that only leaves 1 buck that will make it to the 3.5 year old mark. That is generally the age when a buck will start to reach their size potential.
Now that I’ve found that, I start looking for set ups. I will go in and look for available food sources and bedding areas. Their main travel route will be between those two areas. Vegetation, mass crops, fruit trees, etc. If there is deer in the area, there is a food supply of some sort. Everything a deer does revolves around available food sources. Something to remember is deer will move with food sources. The deer herd may wipe out one food source and then will move to another food source. They can travel miles to find other available food. The hunter needs to learn to move with the available food sources as well. Keep in mind that while doing all of this, I’m also looking for buck signs as well. Last years rubs, fresh rubs, scrapes. As far as the time of year to scout, I scout during the hunting season for the most part. Sometimes you have to sacrifice hunting time to learn how to set it up. Other times of the year, the deer may not even be in the area that you want to hunt. When finding buck sign, if it’s around a food supply, then that is usually an evening set up because the buck is making that sign when heading to the food supply. If there is buck sign around a bedding area, then that is usually a morning setup. The buck is making that sign when heading to his bedding area in the morning.
For me, one of the best times for scouting is right now. The end of the hunting season. Right now in Michigan we have snow on the ground and that allows me to really learn an area and see where the deer are traveling. Another good time is late summer although any patterns you find in late summer are going to be temporary. Once pre-rut starts those patterns will change. The transition from late summer to pre-rut is a good time to find a set up because the bucks are still somewhat predictable. All they care about is eating and sleeping and they tend to stay in a smaller range.
I hope that helps. Jack Eddy was very knowledgeable and shot some very nice bucks. I always cherished the conversations we had together.