Give that buck another reason to make a mistake; this is the time to take advantage of him letting down his guard.
Brent Allen of Brandon scanned the woods around his stand and kept an eye open for the flick of a tail or the glint of an antler. Suddenly, his peripheral vision caught movement, and he quickly made out the form of a buck. Allen knew what to do; he quickly picked an open spot and touched the trigger just as the buck turned and looked away.
The rifle roared, and the buck collapsed in a heap, never aware of what had happened. The 190-pound trophy was worn down from the rigors of the rut, but he sported a tall, 14-point rack with double brow tines that scored 160 after drying in the Magnolia Records scoring session.
The exciting hunt occurred during last season’s rut in central Mississippi.
Paul Meek’s doe-n-heat
“I like to use Paul Meek’s doe-n-heat scent while I’m walking to the stand and while I’m on the stand,” Allen said. “I’ll apply some to my boots and leave a scent trail walking in to the stand and then apply some around my stand location when I get there, too.”
Allen is a firm believer in using Meek’s scents for one reason: they work. He likes to spray some fresh scent during the hunt to keep it wafting in the air to entice any bucks to come take a peek at that hot doe, and many bucks do answer the call of the Meek scent.
“I’ll spray some of Meek’s Super Heat or Super Blend every so often just to get their attention,” Allen said, “and it’s hard to argue with the success I’ve had. I usually take off a week during the peak of the rut, and we see a lot of activity.”
Last year, Allen stayed in the woods during the rut and harvested two great central Mississippi bucks that came to him like they were on an invisible string.
They were being pulled by an invisible deer attractant, a scintillating aroma.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that those bucks came to me because of (the scent),” Allen said. “The last few years, it has worked to bring in big bucks for me.”
Secrets to scent success
“Over the years, the peak of the rut has moved back, but our seasons haven’t changed to adept to the new normal,” Paul Meek said. “When it’s 97 to 100 degrees in October, most folks just lose bow season, because (neither) the deer nor hunters like to move much in that weather. So it seems to me that the whole process gets moved back as the does come into heat later, which brings the bucks out of hiding much later, also.”
However, whenever the does start coming into estrous, the bucks will be ready and start running wild. Therein lies their weakness, according to Meek.
“People think that all the bucks just start rutting during a certain time,” Meek said. “It’s a big misconception, though, because those bucks are ready to rut when those horns come up on their head. When the does come into heat, the bucks start chasing them, and you see rutting activity. In my way of thinking, if you are the only doe in heat in the woods, then all of the bucks in the area will start chasing you;, that’s just common sense.
“My favorite scent is the Super Blend,” Meek said. “It’s one-half doe-n-heat, one-quarter buck-n-rut and one-quarter tarsal scent for good measure. That mixture is a good pre-rut, rut and post-rut concoction that will work at any time because it excites that old buck’s breeding instinct.”
While bucks may be attracted by a whiff of the doe in heat scent, they’ll be challenged when they smell some of the rutting buck scent and the tarsal scent, which makes them think another buck is already on the scene and courting the female.
And you know what happens when guys start chasing the same female. Everybody vies for her attention, and it’s the same with bucks. One whiff, and they’re hot on the trail, and they don’t want to share the romance. The ensuing battles will be hard for all concerned, as big bucks will almost fight to the death trying to be her No. 1 guy.
Allen actually killed another 8-point buck that weighed about 195 and scored in the mid-140s. On Christmas day, he rattled and grunted up yet another nice 7-point and harvested him as well.
Find ‘em, set up, bring ‘em in
While deer scents no doubt play a big part of Allen’s success, his hunting acumen is surely a big part of locating those buck, too. Allen has found bucks by using all the skills at his disposal, and a large part is using his experience and knowledge to find big bucks, knowing how to get in an area to hunt them and knowing what to do after he finds them.
“After I find a hot area where the bucks are leaving scrapes and lots of fresh sign, I’ll pick out a couple of stand sites that I can use depending upon the wind direction,” Allen said. “While I apply Meek’s attractant liberally around my stand site, I like to give them a little added enticement, too.”
That added enticement is actually a grunt call that he uses in conjunction with the scents. Allen likes to use the grunt tube and grunt every so often to attract the buck’s curiosity. While they can smell the scent from quite a ways, bucks that don’t run into the scents may respond to grunts. It’s been a winning combination for him.
Allen is a believer in hunting during the rut, as bucks will appear from their nocturnal world of thickets and hideouts for a brief period of time as their mating urge becomes too strong and overrides their survival instincts.
Allen is aware that his best chance of success at harvesting trophy bucks comes around the rut, and he’s taken quite a few. Knowing where to hunt and locating big bucks is a critical component of harvesting one, but you must know what to do in order to outwit the wise old warriors.
Thickets, SMZs, powerlines, cutovers
Being in the right place at the right time is the key to locating bucks and harvesting the big boy. As my grandfather, J. P. Nolen, often said, “You’ve got to go regularly and be in the right place at the right time.”
The way to be in the right place at the right time is to go often, and sooner or later, you’ll find yourself in the right place at just the right time.
As an avid deer hunter with more than 40 years of experience, I’ve found several key locations that allow me to spot bucks chasing does during the rut. While hunters will occasionally catch a buck following a doe into a green field, most of the time you won’t be so lucky.
In highly pressured hunting areas, most bucks are nocturnal and will spend their days in seclusion and time their arrivals to the green fields just after dark. Intercepting them on the way is a tried-and-true technique of many successful hunters.
By hunting power lines and cutovers, I’ve been successful at catching bucks trailing does through and across them. Many times, these areas will offer a little cover, and they can only be hunted from an elevated stand. Get up high and spend time in the stand when the rut is on, and you’ll probably see a lot of activity during the day.
Thickets & SMZs
Two other areas are favorites of mine: thickets and streamside management zones (SMZs). Bucks will travel in the middle of the thickets and secluded SMZs where there is not a lot of activity. Place your stands in these areas in the summer or early fall and stay out until the rut kicks in and the time is right. When you get a favorable wind, slip in and spend some time in the stand, but take every precaution to go in undetected — without leaving your scent. Many times, a trophy buck will be killed on the first time a hunter hunts the stand. They don’t get old and big by making mistakes.