As the last rays of sunlight were disappearing on the final day of last hunting season, Ron Jolly was about ready to call it a year when the action heated up.
“I looked across the green field and saw a doe running flat out across the field with a good buck running full out, chasing right behind her,” said Jolly, who was ready and reacted as only a veteran hunter could. “I got the crosshairs on him in a hurry and squeezed off a shot.
His Remington .270 rifle roared, and the buck crumpled.
Tenacity, every successful hunter has it, and it’s one of the things that separate die-hard hunters from the rest of the field. With everything that goes into finding and harvesting a trophy deer, tenacity is the final piece of the puzzle in determining whether a hunter gets his buck or goes home empty handed.
“I shot that deer in the last 15 minutes of the season,” Jolly said. “If he’d just lasted 15 more minutes he would have made it another year.”
The 185-pound deer was a trophy indeed, sporting 11 points, decent mass and a 17-inch inside spread. Nature’s call led to its demise and Jolly was there to complete the buck’s circle of life.
Jolly has spent a lifetime in the southern outdoors pursuing trophy bucks and battle worn gobblers and he knows a thing or two about finding and harvesting those trophies. When it comes to killing trophy bucks in late season, the former Primos Game Calls guide, videographer and hunter, knows the odds are stacked in the deer’s favor.
“Bottom line, by the time the end of the season comes around, those deer know more about us than we will ever know about them,” Jolly said. “They know when we come into the woods and everything we do. They’ve patterned us and know how to avoid detection.”
Breaking the pattern
Jolly’s land-day buck fell victim to the hunter’s willingness to change things. It ultimately determined the outcome of the hunt.
“Wind is everything when it comes to hunting deer,” Jolly said. “Although there are many scent removers, scent masks and attractants which may help cover the human scent some, nothing is fool proof. I’ve tried everything and the only thing that works all the time is hunting a stand when the wind is right.
“Where I hunt is determined by wind direction above almost everything else.”
In other words, if the wind is blowing across a stand site into the direction where the deer normally come from, Jolly will not hunt from that stand. That was the case last January.
“The wind was marginal for the stand I wanted to hunt, and I’d had rotator cuff surgery and was recovering from that and couldn’t hunt out of a climbing stand as I normally could,” Jolly said. “My options were limited. I knew the best chance at getting a shot at a decent buck was on the northwest corner of this farm but the wind was wrong for the stand.”
Under the circumstances Jolly was limited by what he could do, but he used his imagination and resources and took a chair blind and set it in a brush top about 100 yards away from the shooting house, giving him a clear view of an area not visible from the main stand. The wise old buck had determined where to go based upon his intimate knowledge of the land and experiences and by patterning the hunters. His problem was that Jolly had done something different. The buck was caught totally unaware.
“Don’t do the same stuff all the time, do something different,” Jolly said. “That’s what I did in this case, partly by necessity and because of the situation with the wind ,and I caught him with his guard down.”
Jolly recommends assessing the situation, including the hunting pressure and your hunting location, before making late season hunts.
“Look at all you’ve been doing and try to do something different,” said Jolly. “Just do something different. That may mean moving your stand, or hunting in different locations that have not been hunted, or been subject to any hunter pressure.”
And sometimes that move may mean hunting right in your own backyard, or maybe even near the front yard of your camp or home.
Sometimes hunters do things differently more out of necessity than they would normally. Such was the case on another good buck Jolly Killed on the Randle farm.
“I was still recovering from my shoulder surgery and really couldn’t climb up into a stand, but I wanted to go hunting pretty bad,” Jolly said. “I just walked across our pond dam and got into a shooting house that overlooked a green field and pine plantation. I wanted to get out of the house and have a chance.”
It was a move that paid off for the veteran hunter, though he did it because he couldn’t maneuver around very easily and it was close to the house more than anything. Jolly spotted a big buck cutting the edge of the green field around 4:40 p. m.
“He didn’t come into the field, he cut around the edge of it looking for that doe,” said Jolly. “We’d seen him for about three years on the game cams but never got a shot at him after he became a shooter.”
The buck sported an impressive 9-points rack with a 21.5- inch inside spread and weighed 235 pounds.
Jolly killed the buck in a spot that hadn’t received a lot of hunting pressure. A spur of the moment decision spelled doom for the buck, and it made Jolly’s day for sure. Jolly chose a stand that wasn’t being frequented by hunters, which the hunter figured the buck surely knew, and it paid off.
“During the final weeks of the season it would always be a good idea to do something different and that might be to hunt an area that’s received little or no hunting pressure, or it might mean hunting a different stand, or maybe even a different time of day,” Jolly said. “The deer instinctively know where you’ve been hunting and keep track of your habits every day.”
Find does to find bucks
“A big thing late in the season is to figure out where the does are and that’s where the bucks are also going to be,” Jolly said. That means finding food, and typically by late season natural sources have dwindled to near non-existent levels. Food plots and green fields are key areas where deer feed heavily, depending upon hunting pressure and time of day.
Jolly recommends that hunters find the most abundant food sources remaining in their hunting areas and concentrate on hunting around those hot spots. It’s pretty simple, find the food and you’ll find the does.
“Typically our deer target white oaks, swamp chestnuts and sometimes water oaks and red oaks,” said Jolly. “They prefer the light skin acorns, but they will utilize any available food source late in the season for survival.”
In addition to following does to food sources, bucks will be looking for a doe to breed. Even after most does have been bred, there’s likely to be a few that didn’t conceive the first round and are coming into their secondary estrus. In that situation, wary old bucks will throw caution to the wind.
Tes Randle Jolly, Ron’s wife, is an accomplished hunter in her own right and shares that key trait, tenacity. It has worked for her in the waning days of the season.
“Sometimes you have to work together and we sometimes tag-team them,” said Ron Jolly. “We don’t rattle a whole lot in our area, but we’ll use that tactic sometimes during the late season when a few bucks are still looking for a doe.”
And that’s just what the hunting couple did on one late season hunt. Tes took position in an early season bow stand hoping to catch a glimpse of a shooter buck.
“I set up about 80 yards behind Tes and rattled awhile,” said Ron Jolly. “I clashed those antlers together pretty aggressively for a little while and it drew a hot buck out pretty quick.
“It was a buck we had been watching on game cameras and knew he was about 5 or 6 years old. We’d named him Gimpy because he limped a little when he walked.”
Gimpy came within range but never offered a clear shot, and like the true sportsman, Tes Jolly let him pass rather than risk wounding a deer. She would be rewarded, her husband said.
“The last couple days of the season, Tes killed an old buck we named Hoss,” Jolly said. “He was a 235-pound, 9-point with a 21½-inch spread.”
Grunt ‘em up
Another tactic used by Jolly is using a grunt call.
“You’ve got to get close to deer this time of year and a grunt call can be a good thing to use,” Ron Jolly said. “I don’t think a lot of people understand about using grunt calls, but they can be a game-changer when you have bucks nearby.”
A well-timed grunt can often bring a rutting buck into view or shooting range, allowing for a shot when none would have been presented otherwise.
“I think you’ve got to have deer pretty close within hearing range for a grunt call to work, but if they can hear it that could really change things,” Jolly said. “When I’m bowhunting and a deer is out of range I’ll grunt at him and that might steer him my way, but you better be ready.
“If he bites on it so be it, if not, then at least you gave him something to think about,” added Jolly, who said it may not always work but is often worth a try.
His thinking: What have you got to lose? If they weren’t headed your direction any way, then you’ve lost nothing by trying.
“I like to use one of the Primos calls that has the snort/wheeze on top,” Jolly said. “Sometimes a deer may be out there 70 yards and he can’t hear you while he’s walking in the woods, so you have to get loud enough to get his attention.”
Always be ready
Sometimes it just helps to be in the right place at the right time and Tes Randle Jolly is usually right on time.
She remembers another late-season hunt when she was watching a green field hoping to get one more shot at a buck.
“I looked up and a nice buck came into the green field with some does,” she said. “I’d never seen that buck on game cameras on our property but he was too good to pass up.”
Jolly squeezed the trigger of her muzzleloader until it bellowed and belched smoke, and another trophy had fallen to her tenacity. The 10-point buck weighed 220 pounds and was a trophy anywhere in the country.