I went down in September to scout, hang a few cameras and chat up some farmers looking to get permission. I hung cameras in a river bottom bedding area and one on the first bench down from an oak ridge that runs off to the south and into the river bottom again. My river bottom camera had great action all through Sept/Oct with 2 large 8's, a decent 10 and a beautiful 10 visiting my mock scrape multiple times. The big 8 was on my camera at 9 am the day before we got there. The bench camera only had one of them on it (cameras 200 yards apart) and he was a night visitor on the bottom camera and bench camera. The oak ridge had plenty of acorns and does were using it daily. My bottom camera had the same big 8 and the decent 10 on it every single night for the week were down there. Times were from 10 am to 4 am, both checking the bedding area back and forth from the bottom and then up on the bench cruising or vice versa. I had stands located in the bottom, on the first bench up along the river, the first bench down from the ridge top and one on the very top due to multiple scrapes along the ridge top within 20 yards of each other.
My issue is trying to figure out where they are during daylight hours in such big woods. I'm not going to sit and just hope one comes by. They have to be somewhere- and I need some advice on where I should be looking for them. This particular ridge is connected to another but is cut by a paved road and then heads west out into the river bottom which is private on that side. the ridge runs E/W and my benches are on north side- which worked well for all the south winds that week. The ridge is long and relatively steep- with 4 main draws- none cut too deep to have issues crossing if they really wanted to. Of course all 4 have pockets of picker patches and slashings that serve as bedding.
So- my main questions for you experienced guys in this country- are these bucks running a "circuit" on a nightly basis as they check for the first estrous does? If so- any idea how big this circuit could be in this type of terrain? Or could they be running the same route back and forth- which my cameras lead me to believe a bit- have pics of both bucks coming and going from the same scrape line. Do I expand my search area for them along the upper areas of the ridge, or check the opposite side a few hundred yards over the top? I'm not certain if they are travelling around it or over it (my camera on the top ridge scrapes did not produce any pics in 2 days other than little bucks). I bounced around from stand to stand based on wind, temp (for thermals) etc. I saw 12 bucks during the week- the best was a 100+ 8 point from the bottom stand the first night I hunted when we got there. The others were smaller and sightings occurred on the bench stand sits, and ridge top sits. Now that the trip is over its time to rehash my notes, research my topo and google earth AND ask you guys to help point me in the right direction based on your experience. Thanks for reading my "short" novel...
Sit all day and it will pay off. Most do not have the character for this type of hunting. Some days I see three or four and some days none but I have seen four dandies in nineteen days!
For years I was hunting bottoms like you. I had some success but always had to just wait for one to come my way. I always saw the most deer in that spot because you can see multiple ridges but had few deer in bow range. I would recommend scouting the tops of gutters for heavy trails and set up on them.
One other thing i have learned is that I dont hunt the does as many say. I hunt travel corridors that allow bucks to scent check doe bedding areas. I hope this helps.
Now I primarily hunt public land so in most cases I have to open up new terrain with my legs and intestinal fortitude. If you look at my day 19 thread you will see what my typical morning walk looks like. I actually use it as a workout on my Garmin watch so that it doesn’t look like I had a three week hiatus.
Lastly, your main question do the bucks run circuits? Yes, They do but they can and do come twelve different ways and lots time they don’t start off of those points until last light. I saw one yesterday go out a point and waited all day for him to come back. He did not! In 2012 I was in the same location and situation when he strolled out at 1:48 pm! The main thing was the stage of the rut because he was on the prod and his belly was empty. He scored just a little over 180. I had killed him on day thirteen.
In this country it is very challenging to be successful on a short hunt and the hills will kick your butt. You have to learn to pace yourself to make sure that you are out there on those magical days when the conditions are right. I typically do not kill anything under 150 but I have killed a couple under that because I found pattern-able bucks and they were just good hints. I normally know when I come that it is tag soup but I know what the buckeye state holds and it’s worth the wait!
The terrain here is so varied that each (hunting) area must be considered unique. Bucks don't do the same things from property to property. They adapt to topography, cover, food sources, and doe movements. Of these things, topography changes the least. You can try to apply logic, science.....whatever....and you'll only ever be partially right. I've seen bucks (and doe families for that matter) get on specific movement patterns that hold for weeks and then change. Mature bucks are individuals and their movements often are unique to the specific animal. Still...there are approaches to encountering them. I think the best strategies center around cover and topography.
Big bucks are secretive. I often see them using swales and low ground when in the open...traveling. They have a general knack for bedding in thick cover with a wind advantage. I have never seen a mature buck routinely walk an open or exposed ridge top in daylight. Most of what I see is 'up and over' movement. Bucks here typically defy the stereotypical ideas of walking benches, ridges and cover edges. They do have a tendency to favor small finger ridges or humps leading to and from main ridges and hollows.
Maybe the biggest thing to keep in mind here is this: When you combine all the variables of the irregular terrain here AND the pattern-breakdown which occurs during the rut....the chances of killing a brute are best when he's moving the most. That's no secret at all. The key I think is having a thorough understanding of your terrain, cover and CURRENT deer sign which equates to movement. We've all set up on areas that were blistering hot with sign on Halloween, only be deader than a graveyard on November 15. In the absence of prior experience on a given property, it's extremely tough to kill a big deer using only your reasoned logic. Current sign is proof of current use.
Cameras can be very misleading. They can encourage you to not hunt productive spots and encourage you to hunt places where deer were yesterday.
I am from the land of few deer (MA). I kill most of my deer first time in a spot, and often after observing and making a move.
Where I live deer bed wherever they want, there is no specific bedding area. The best advice I have received and given over the last 10 years is to stay mobile. I hunt several states and love hunting a new place after cyber scouting.
Best of luck.