If there's a sure fire way to bag a nice buck, it's to look for does, because that's what the old mosshorns are doing. The bucks want to breed, but the girls want to eat, and they're seeking out the best places to do it. They love field corn, a highly nutritious grain, and any field that still has standing corn is likely to have a trail or two leading into it, with does coming every morning and evening. They favor acorns too, especially if no corn is available, and a grove of white oak acorns that are dropping their nuts will draw deer like flies.
Any greenery that still exists can be productive too, especially food plots planted to winter wheat, clover, rye, or mixtures of special deer seeds. There may be several trails leading into such places and they're easy to find. Set up against the corn or green growths if you don't mind bagging a little forky or a female, but if you want something with major antlers, make your stand 50 yards or more along a trail back in the thick stuff. The bucks probably won't come out into the open field, but they'll wait close by to ambush possibly receptive does coming back or going into the feeding area.
There are other things to keep in mind, and one is water. All deer need it, but would-be suitors especially, since they're always hurrying around looking for romance. A woodland pond can produce multiple bucks who come for a drink and leave tracks and trails perfect for tree or ground stands. A well timbered creek bottom is always worth a check, too. I've rarely seen a creek well back in farm land that didn't have a trail along one side or another, and taken nice deer along them more than once.
Finally, be ready to use calls as well as rattling antlers, especially later in the rut when receptive does have become scarce. A grunt call can work, but a snort-wheeze will produce even better, and when combined with a doe bleat better yet. Add a doe decoy and some doe-in-heat scent, and the combination can be magic. Old mosshorns are still amorous then and even more ready to fight or mate with any does available. Use the calls and they may come at a run.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.