It’s no secret that your best chance to kill a mature buck is your first time hunting him. Mature bucks are masters of detecting and patterning human presence, so keeping the element of surprise in my favor has been one of the most important things I’ve learned when targeting older age-class deer. But is there ever a time where “volume hunting” a particular spot—hunting one stand repeatedly—is the right tactic? I think so.
One of the most difficult times to arrow a specific buck is during the rut. I’m often chasing my tail when going after a certain deer once the seeking and chasing phase begins.
In fact, I found myself in this familiar situation once again last season in Ohio. The buck I was after all season had been eluding me and I headed into November with only a couple of sightings. What I did have was information from years past, as well as the current year. I had trail camera pictures in a few locations over a roughly 3-square-mile area this buck had been frequenting. On top of that, he was leaving very noticeable sign in the form of a large deformed track and rubs that were easily identifiable from damage and height.
All season I took the approach of bouncing around to his different areas, trying to keep the element of surprise in my favor, but I was always a day late and a dollar short. The buck was quite nomadic and covered a big range in October, and the movements got even more unpredictable as the rut approached. I’d be in Location A and he’d show up in Location C, miles away. Then I’d hunt Location C and he’d show up on camera in Location A. I was committed to this buck, but my strategy was not working. On top of that, I had an Iowa deer tag that I really wanted to put some effort into, so my time was running thin.
I took a day off of hunting to reevaluate the whole situation. Then I remembered the favorite tactic of a DIY bowhunting legend, Bobby Worthington. Bobby’s rut strategy is simple. Hunt the tree that the particular buck you’re after walks by the most during the rut and simply put in your time. Essentially it’s volume hunting a particular spot. That’s what I decided to do.
I chose a thick wetland that consisted of a few small ponds surrounded by marsh grass and pine thickets. This small area was home to a couple of small family groups of does, and to sweeten the pot even more, there was a primary scrape under a pod of locust trees where I had several pictures of the buck. In my opinion, this was the spot the buck passed by the most, even though his visits were still quite infrequent. What the spot did have was decent access where I wouldn’t disrupt bedded deer and could most likely get in and out undetected. I chose to sit that area as frequently as possible, even if it was just a few hours here and there. To my relief, it worked out as the huge 6-pointer I was after came through the area trailing a doe on the evening of November 4.
“The virgin sit,” or your very first time in a spot, is always your best chance at a particular buck. The exception to that statement just might be during the rut. The urge to breed causes bucks to move much more sporadicly and unpredictably. While knowing where a particular buck prefers to bed during the early season is a huge advantage, that often goes out the window during the rut. A buck is typically on the move during the seeking and chasing phase and can be tough to track down. But there should be some key spots within that range to volume hunt. A good example is a bedding area that holds does, then finding a funnel downwind of the bedding that forces a cruising buck past a particular tree. Another might be a leeward-side bench in hill country that connects two or three various ridge systems that offer multiple bedding points for the predominant winds. My favorite is when a thermal or travel hub aligns with the downwind side of bedding—essentially you have multiple things that a buck looks for all in one spot.
The volume-hunt strategy is sound, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It takes unmatched patience and long hours in the stand. Most hunters aren’t mentally capable of pulling that off, but the motivation of a giant buck should be enough to get you in the stand for all-day sits.
Is the strategy right for you? I think that depends on a lot of factors. Whether you have access to where a buck spends most of his time breeding is probably the biggest factor. Usually, it takes me a couple of years chasing a specific buck before I can key in on this. Some bucks completely relocate for the rut, only to return “home” when the breeding is done. That’s why knowing a buck’s home range and rutting range is crucial.
This strategy can be implemented whether you’re chasing a specific buck or would be happy with any good buck. However, if you’re after an individual buck, I think your setup needs to be a little more dialed. You should know the food, preferred travel routes, staging areas, and best doe bedding.
Either way, successful volume hunting all comes down to a good entrance and exit, loosely learning a buck’s pattern, and putting in the long hours on stand. Like my Ohio hunt a few years ago, it might be what saves your season this fall.
Feature image via Captured Creative