Although 240 bowhunters took 82 deer at Willow Point last year, another 50 hunters shot and missed deer. We also try to take two does for every one buck harvested on our lands, but last year we didn't meet this goal. We harvested only 138 does.

I'm involved in bowhunting for deer 365 days a year because when we're not hunting, I'm scouting, planting or planning ways to take more and bigger bucks. I certainly don't know everything about bowhunting for deer, but here are 10 secrets I've learned.

1) Scout post-season.

The most-important factor to finding and helping our bowhunters take really big deer is scouting immediately after the season ends. Most bowhunters hang up their bows or start shooting 3-D archery after deer season ends.

However, I can locate more big bucks, learn more about where big bucks live and move and set up a game plan to take those big bucks by scouting right after deer season ends.

I scout regions we haven't hunted, searching for buck trails inside bedding areas, around feeding sites and along travel corridors where deer move. I use a map of the property, and place various designations on the map to help me better understand what the deer are doing on the property, and where the big bucks are located and traveling. The map is the most-critical key to our success each season at Willow Point.

The squares on the map represent the bedding areas deer use throughout the season, except during the rut when the bucks bed anywhere they can.

The round dots mark major trails with heavy tracks and big scrapes and rubs - usually extending from bedding regions to either food plots, pecan trees or other food sources - and show me in which direction the deer are traveling.

The stars are the most-important icons on my map because they indicate where I've visually located big bucks, and where they probably can be taken during the early season.

I'll plot out where the buck is going, the trails he's using and his bedding site. Also, during turkey season, I search for sheds to help determine the sizes of the bucks and their antlers. This map gives me a blueprint of where to set up stands and where hunters should be able to take big bucks during the early season.

2) Scout pre-season.

I search for tracks big bucks leave and browse lines where deer are feeding on bushes and shrubs fairly high off the ground. Also, I go to my summer food plots to look at the bucks coming out to feed when they're in velvet.

During pre-season scouting, I want to confirm everything I've learned from post-season scouting, and locate those starred bucks to learn where they're traveling, feeding and bedding and to see if they've changed their post-season routines.

In our section of the state, pre-season bucks only move late in the afternoon and at first light when the mosquitoes aren't bothersome.

3) Evaluate stand sites.

Once I've established the food source the bucks are feeding on, their bedding areas and the trails they're using, I search for stand sites where I can put my hunter as close to one of these three areas as he can get without spooking the buck he's trying to take.

When I evaluate a stand site, I'm not only trying to determine in what tree to set-up a stand, but I'm also observing the amount of cover around that possible stand site. If the area doesn't have much natural brush, I look for limbs I can hang brush on and better hide the hunter and the stand. I establish the best method of concealing the hunter in the stand, so the buck can't spot the hunter when he moves.

4) Hunt the wind.

I want to know from which direction the wind should be blowing to make the stand the most effective. You must hunt with a favorable wind. I believe in being scent-free, but as long as you're breathing, you're emitting odor. So, hunting into the wind is always better than hunting with the wind at your back, even if you use all the odor eliminators on the market.

In determining the wind direction I need to hunt from a particular stand, I also want to know what's downwind from each wind direction. If you see a thicket from where you think the buck will emerge, to hunt from that stand you'll need a north wind, so the buck won't smell you.

However, if you have a north wind and there's a bedding area south of your stand, then you may not spook the buck bedding in the thicket in front of you. But you may spook the bucks and the does in the bedding region downwind from you.

Therefore, I may choose to hunt that stand only with a west or an east wind to ensure I don't spook the bucks downwind as well as the buck I'm hunting in front of me.

5) Be silent.

Hang your tree stands as close as possible to the trail you expect the buck to take, the bedding area or the feeding site where you think the buck will show up. Once you've got your stand hung in that location, you must reach that stand and leave it as silently as possible.

Most hunters try to be quiet going to their stands; however, oftentimes after they finish their hunts, they'll leave their stands and sound like a parade. Noise as well as odor and seeing a hunter will spook deer. How quietly you go to and leave your stand will determine whether you see and/or shoot a trophy buck.

6) Hunt scent-free.

Earlier, I mentioned that we always try to hunt with a favorable wind, and when we go to our stands, we always walk into and hunt into the wind. But we realize that oftentimes the wind can change direction during the morning or the afternoon while we're hunting. Although we make every effort to hunt into the wind, if that wind changes, our hunters may be hunting with a bad wind. So we stress being scent-free.

I use the Hunter's Specialties scent-free system. I wash my clothes in Scent-A-Way detergent, bathe with Scent-A-Way body soap, dry my clothes with the Scent-A-Way clothes-drying sheets, place my clothes in the Scent Safe bag and spray down my boots, bow, treestand, backpack and everything I take into the woods with the Scent-A-Way spray. If you're as scent-free as possible, if and when the wind changes, your odds of spooking a deer are far less than if you're not scent-free.

7) Hunt by the moon.

During a new or full moon, the bucks move best in the middle of the day. When we have these moon conditions, we tell our hunters at Willow Point to pack their lunches and plan to stay all day.

On a new or full moon, we've noticed that the bucks are far more active in the middle of the day than early and late. I use the Knight & Hale moon chart to keep up with when the deer should be most active. Our chances for success always increase when we're conscious of the primary and the secondary feeding times. I've found the moon charts with the feeding times especially beneficial during the early season when the weather is warm and the bucks don't want to move.

8) Use deer calls.

If our hunters aren't seeing deer, I suggest they use rattling antlers, grunt calls and doe bleats. At the beginning of the season, I rattle very lightly to try to sound like two young bucks sparing. Also, I use the Primos Can call, an estrous bleat, usually from the middle of November to the middle of December and then around the beginning of January. I also use the Primos Fightin' Horns.

At the end of November, I change from rattling lightly to banging the Fightin' Horns together harder, because by then, the bucks are more aggressive, and you'll start seeing more-serious sparring.

In December, the rut's on, and those bucks will be trying to bust each other's skulls. So, then I start clashing the antlers together really hard and loud. I use a grunt call year-round.

9) Hunt the fronts.

Since I'm able to hunt all the time, I prefer to pick the weather I feel is most likely to cause the bucks to move, and hunt then. I like to be in the woods at least two hours before a front arrives. On the Weather Channel, you can watch the fronts and estimate when one will move into your area. Watch that front moving, and plan to reach your stand two hours before the front actually hits, which is magic time. You'll see a number of bucks moving during this time.

Regardless of whether the weather's warm, or a cold or rain front has moved in, changing weather will cause deer to move. By hunting ahead of those fronts, you drastically increase your odds for taking a buck with a bow.

10) Have good equipment.

Hunt with the best equipment you can afford, and know that equipment and use it as efficiently as possible. Everyone has his own unique preferences for bows, broadheads and shafts, but regardless of the equipment you use, make sure you're confident in that equipment. Then when a deer walks in, you're only concentrating on the shot.

I shoot a Mathews DXT, pull a 30-inch draw weight and pull 70 pounds. I shoot a Gold Tip 55x75 shaft, and use a reflective wrap on my arrow shaft. If you shoot a deer and you miss, or you get a pass-through and the deer runs off, most likely you'll be looking for your arrow shaft at night, if you've been hunting in the afternoon.

If you're using a flashlight to look for your arrow, that reflective wrap will help you locate your arrow quicker and learn whether you've got a hit, what kind of hit you've made, and what kind of blood you have to read. At Willow Point, we have a number of lost arrows because the hunters don't use reflective wraps on their arrow shafts.

On the tip of my shaft, I use 125-grain, fixed-blade Thunderhead broadhead. I don't like expandable broadheads. I keep a record of every deer shot at Willow Point, including where the deer's arrowed, how the shot has been made, the type of broadhead the hunter used and where the deer has been hit. An expandable broadhead makes learning this information more difficult.

We've just recently started allowing hunters to use expandable broadheads at Willow Point, but I really don't like them. Some of our bucks will weigh from 230 to 265 pounds. When a hunter shoots one of these big bucks with an expandable broadhead, many times, the arrow won't pass completely through the deer. If you don't get a pass-through, then you don't have an exit hole.

If you're shooting from an elevated stand, like our hunters do, and you get a complete pass-through with a broadhead and a shaft, then gravity helps put the blood on the ground to leave a good blood trail to the deer. If you don't get a complete pass-through, that blood has to be pumped-up, come out on the top of the deer, run down his side, and then come out on the ground, which makes blood trailing extremely difficult.

Out of the more than 100 deer shot this past season, 25 to 30 were shot with expandable broadheads, and hunters had complete pass-throughs on only four of those deer. Your job of blood-trailing a deer will be much-more difficult if you don't have an exit wound to help deliver that blood trail.

I know everyone has an opinion on the best way to take a trophy bow buck, but these are the tactics I use to find and take big bucks every season at Willow Point. I know they'll help you take your buck of a lifetime this season where you hunt.

Neal Hearn can be reached at (601) 279-4261 or