Who out there has an eyeball on a big buck already? Trail cam pics? Video? Or have you burned a hole through him with your spotting scope? Is he predictable, doing the same thing every night? Have you had your eye on him all summer, watching him waltz into the local soybean field like he owned it, with such regularity that you could set your watch by his movements? What’s going to happen when he sheds his velvet? The time is drawing near, and there’s a change about to take place. A change that will happen and you better be prepared for it! I see it happen every year and hear the horror stories from guys like you and me that can’t wait for opening day to get here because it’s going to be a slam dunk, then as quick as it gets here, he’s gone! What happened and where did he go?
The short of it, a change takes place, one that’s visible and one that isn’t! The obvious is the shedding of velvet. The other, a mental and chemical change inside a buck, one that after a few seasons of dodging hunters, tells him it’s time to get reclusive, or die! Mature bucks are survival experts, they know what’s coming, and whether its memory or just an instinct they know once that velvet is stripped they better change their ways in a hurry. Lucky for us we did our late season homework ( right?) and know where that little patch of thick cover is that he loves to hide in during our favorite time of the year, the October lull! Yes, most big bucks are going to relocate back to their core areas in early September, but not all of them. There’s another change that’s taking place too, and we need to be well aware of both if we want to connect on an early season giant!
Food! Other than surviving, this is all a big buck is concerned about at this stage in the game. He’s been living on those green soybean leaves all summer and if you are lucky, they were planted late, like alot of soybeans were this year, and will still be green when season opens. There should be more green fields around for the opener this year more than ever, and thats your best bet for your buck not relocating. I’ve noticed over the years that mature bucks will even relocate to a soybean field thats still green, if the one they’ve been feeding in all summer has turned brown. The last green bean field in an area is almost always an early hotspot! A bucks preferred food source is usually beginning to change this time of the year though, to corn and acorns, and these are great places to look if he pulls a vanishing act on you.
A great example is the buck I hunted last season that I nicknamed the Dark Horse, because he has no white hair anywhere on his body other than his belly and tail. I watched this buck feed in a bean field all summer, and once he shed his velvet, he was gone! I started getting some pictures of him in the middle of the night under a row of white oaks that were literally covering the ground with nuts. The oaks were close to a half mile from where he’d been all summer, not a far walk for a deer right? So I set up there, thinking maybe he was using a small corn field that bordered the oaks. After two weeks, I was still getting pics of him, but in the middle of the night? I began expanding my search, and ended up setting next to another corn field that was close to a mile away from his summer haunt. The day the farmer came in to pick the corn he nearly finished the field, but at dark he shut down the combine with 20 rows left, which happened to be right in front of one of my treestands. I sat there all night, watching deer after deer enter the picked field from every direction. As soon as I lost camera light on my videocamera, I shut it down and started packing up, even though I had a good 20 minutes of legal time left. As I began tearing down my equipment I heard something to my left and turned to see the Dark Horse buck emerging from the corn. He stood at the edge of the stalks left standing, then worked on a falling ear of corn for a few minutes, at less than 20 yards! When he finished, he passed by my tree at 10 yards, as if he knew he was safe with no available camera light left! I let him walk. Crazy, yeh maybe, but he looks a little bigger this year! It never ceases to amaze me how much this big mature bucks can travel at certain times, then hole up in a spot for days on end! Just remember that this season, and don’t give up when he disappears on you!