Some deer hunters are frankly just better than others.
Some deer hunters have a better relationship with Lady Luck than do others.
And, some deer hunters have both in their corner, meaning they combine the advantage of talent with good fortune and, as a result, continually produce trophy bucks, if not month after month then certainly year after year.
After 42 years of deer hunting I am finally accepting that I am apparently not very good at deer hunting, and I am certain that luck is a phenomenon that manages to elude me altogether.
I can name a dozen hunters I have known quite well for a number of years that are indeed truly accomplished trophy deer hunters. If they call or e-mail me with a picture of a trophy buck, then I know that everything about that hunt was kosher. I don’t doubt it for a minute.
I’m just jealous.
Once in a while I can get one of these hunters to open up about their deer hunting style and techniques, down to the littlest things they do in their hunting routines that work for them time and time again. This does not mean that these hunters never fail at a deer hunt or even an entire season, but all else being equal they succeed at trophy buck hunting at a higher frequency than most other deer hunters. One thing for certain, they are highly dedicated, motivated hunters, plus they spend a lot of time in the woods. Time on task really does matter, if for no other reason that it allows luck to come into play.
Presented here are comments by two such accomplished hunters willing to divulge some of their tactics. Take heed to their advice and try to apply this information to your own deer hunting pursuits. Some of these ideas just might produce a trophy for you this coming season.
He’s got ‘Antler Insanity’
I met Kenneth Lancaster many years ago when he was the archery pro at Van’s Hunting and Fishing Supplies in Brandon. Later he got involved in the hunting video industry via Primos Hunting out of Flora.
Lancaster is well-grounded as a white-tailed deer hunter and pursuer of big game across America especially using archery equipment. He has taken numerous trophy class whitetail bucks that had little to do with luck.
Within the past couple of years Lancaster has launched his own hunting television show called Antler Insanity. The hunting episodes of Lancaster and his partners can be seen on the Sportsman Channel.
“One of my favorite times of the year to kill a big deer in Mississippi is early season,” Lancaster said. “I love scouting acorn trees, but I don’t hunt just any acorn trees. I tend to walk past the trees that are in open woods and have a lot of deer sign under them. I think big deer visit those trees at night.
“I look for the trees closer to thickets and bedding areas that may not have the amount of sign as the others do, but it’s easier for a big deer to get to without being seen. A lot of times you find a single set of big tracks under these trees and large clumps of deer droppings. I love to get the wind in my face and slip in to hunt around these more hidden trees from a climbing stand.”
Lancaster loves holiday hunting, too.
“Another time of year that I love to hunt, and probably most hunters in Mississippi would agree, are the three days before Christmas and the three days afterwards,” he said. “This is usually our rut. This is when I like to pull out the rattling horns and grunt call to make some noise.
“I love to creep in at midday with the wind in my face to get as close to a buck-hiding thicket or again a bedding area. Then I can grunt and rattle. This hunting tactic can be tough with a bow from the ground, but it can be done. A hands-free grunt call is perfect for this scenario.”
Photos from Lancaster’s scrap book proof his methods work.
The hunting biologist
As a professional, Rick Dillard is the Fish & Wildlife Program Manager for the U.S. Forest Service. The biologist works on wildlife and fisheries management on the national forests in Mississippi, concentrating a lot of his efforts on the enhancement of the white-tailed deer on those public lands. Hence, one would assume Rick knows a bit about deer in Mississippi and that assumption would be right on target.
Also, if you keep up at all about what is happening in the state in terms of trophy deer harvests you are already familiar with the Mississippi’s Magnolia Records Program, a statewide registration of white-tailed bucks scoring 125 or above. You can find the listings by hunter name or county on the state wildlife agency web site at www.mdwfp.com.
Dillard was instrumental in originating that program and is still very involved with its operation and administration. He is also an official scorer for the Boone and Crocket Record Book of North Amercian Big Game.
So naturally in between his duties of working on management plans on the six national forests in the state, Dillard likes to deer hunt, especially when his two sons can join him. He has taken a number of good bucks, two of which are registered in Magnolia Records with gross scores of 146 1/8 on a 10-point and 130 6/8 on an 8-point. He took another nice buck in the 2012-13 season.
Dillard generally hunts with traditional firearms or a muzzleloader, so in that respect he claims that he is a common man’s deer hunter.
“My favorite deer rifles are a Remington 700 Mountain Rifle in 30-06 with a Nikon scope,” he said. “I hand load using a Barnes TTSX 130 grain bullet. In my Winchester 70 Featherweight .280 I use a Remington load with a 140 grain PSP Core-Lokt bullet with a Redfield scope. My muzzleloader is a CVA Firebolt, 45 caliber, with a 223 grain Powerbelt bullet over Hodgdon Triple 7 powder.”
Dillard’s trophy hunting tactics are amazingly simple, too, but sometimes working the basics is what often pays off in the final analysis.
“Although both of the tactics I use regularly may sound way too simplistic, it is what it is,” Dillard said. “These don’t work all the time, but they do with enough frequency that I deer hunt in this manner every season.
“I hunt mature bucks when they are on their feet moving from area to area during daylight hours. Sounds simple enough? The puzzle is to figure out exactly when this occurs. Some folks are diehard daybreak hunters. Others sleep in and hunt only the last hour or two at the end of the day. As the season progresses and deer move for different reasons, the trick is to determine the best times to be hunting. During most of the season after I have conducted numerous observations morning and evenings I hunt well into the late morning often lingering on through lunch into early afternoon. A lot of deer move during the midday hours.”
Food is always a key to Dillard’s plan, because it’s the one thing deer do all phase of the season, even during the rut.
“Regardless of whatever else deer do, they eat,” he said. “Does often eat in groups. When they do, bucks will find them. It is especially useful to know where good food sources are during the rut. Bet on this same strategy as the barometric pressure changes before and after a storm front. Does may hold tight during a downpour, lightning, or high winds, but as soon as things settle down, they will be out feeding. That’s one of the times when I hunt.”
Getting it right in terms of deer hunting takes a lot of different skills capitalizing on previous experiences. Pick the ones that work, but sometimes borrow what works for others.