Today is Thursday, March 23, 2017

Time for the front-stuffers

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A prime, mature Alabama buck

Get the out your orange vests and hats, boys and girls, the best deer hunting of the year is about to open.

Our muzzleloading season opens this Saturday, Nov. 5 and runs through Friday, Nov. 18. This is the prime time to kill a mature buck. And by the way, this fall fishing is good now, too.

If the weather will cooperate, the bucks should be out during daylight hours, searching for that "special" doe.

Now is the time, providing, you know what you are doing, to rattle more aggressively and use a good grunt call.

We are approaching the "chase phase" of the rut. This is the time the bucks are aggressively pursuing does, constantly on the move, looking and trailing.

Here are some tips that have helped me kill bucks in the past.

First of all, now is when you may catch a mature buck out in the open. They will "work" field edges, scent and sight checking for estrous does.

Midday and early afternoon are prime times to hunt stands that let you see field and food plot edges and muzzleloaders let you reach out beyond bow and arrow range.

In fact, with most of the modern, in-line, muzzleloading rifles, 150-200 yards is doable. I have a great bow season-five does-but now, I am going buck hunting.

This is also the prime time for me to get deep into a thicket and hunt specific stands, hung just for this time of year. Mature bucks travel in thick cover. They have specific places they stop to scent check other areas. These places are usually marked by signpost rubs-the big ones you can plainly see. There may not be a trail because usually, only one or two bucks are traveling that area. Seldom is there a lot of easily visible deer sign. You have to know what to look and then, how to hunt it.

In many cases, a buck may be in territory with which he is not familiar. You may see bucks you have never seen before. In this area, three-quarters of a mile is nothing for a buck to travel overnight and it doesn't take big woods to hold one. How does he find his way? By looking for signpost rubs left by other bucks. Sometimes, he come into a dense thicket to bed for an hour or so just at daylight. Keep that in mind.

This is the prime time to rattle but only if you know how to set up. The setup is 95% of rattling success. I like to setup in really thick cover-an area where a buck has to come in to see the fight-and often my shots are less than 50-yards. If a buck can clearly see, like rattling near an open field, he has no reason to come any closer. I want it realistic.

Usually, I will rattle in sequences of three. Each sequences will last from one to two minutes. Then I will grunt once or twice and just sit still, watching. Often, just a glimpse is all the warning you will get. Now and then, a buck will rush in, especially a younger buck. Remember, in most cases, the mature buck is the last to show himself. And keep this in mind. For every buck you see, there were probably three to five, you didn't see. Mature bucks scent check from quite a ways, down wind.

I don't use them, but now is when a decoy can be dynamite. The decoy, and if I used one, it would be a small buck or doe, should be placed where it can easily be seen. Most important is tail movement. If you decoy did not come with a tail that will move in the wind, use a piece of paper towel and make one.

The only scent I use is my own urine but it helps to place scent on the decoy.

If the weather cooperates, hunting during this season can be fantastic. I want cold, clear, frosty mornings with a slight, west wind. But I'll take whatever I can get. Warm or rainy days are usually a bust...but not always. Deer still move, just more at night. So, early mornings and late afternoons are prime if it is warm or raining. This year, for the first time, I bought a ground blind for use just during this season. I have a super, new thicket where I think it will work well on rainy days.

Remember, the buck limit is two for the entire year and even button bucks, if the antlers protrude above the hairline, must be checked in as bucks. As always, you can kill up to three does per day.

Wear your orange vest and hat and if you are off the ground, please wear a fall restraint.

If you kill that big one . . . or any deer, send me a picture at jsloan1944@gmail.com.

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