Hunting Plot-Checking Bucks

Hunting Plot

Given the choice of any two days, and two days only, on which to hunt whitetails, neither of my selections would be in November. At one time I would have scoffed at the notion of the best days not falling within the eleventh month. But we have tweaked our hunting style a bit in recent years and now kill a majority of our best bucks before and after the traditional rut hunting days.

What brought about this change is our experiences with the small hunting plot. We plant a number of small plots around the farm, a bit off the primary food source and set up with a solid wind advantage, along with good access. We often supplement the plot with a spin feeder to feed a little corn. But the goal is not to attract the bucks to food. It is to attract the bucks to the does who have been attracted to the food. Most of the bucks we kill in these small plots show little or no interest in feeding. They are checking out the does.

The prime days to catch them doing this is Halloween, and then again the thirteenth of December, give or take a day in either direction. We will get very few pictures of big bucks in our plots after the first few days of the season. They go completely underground for about three weeks. Then, on the thirtieth or thirty first of October it is as if someone flips a switch, and there they are.

After the first of November, daytime big buck sightings in the plots fall off as abruptly as they began due to the does avoiding them because of constant harassment by the bucks. Also, by this time there are probably some does ready to breed, and the bucks will be concentrated around them. When that happens it is time to quit hunting the plots and switch to the more traditional method of hunting funnels along travel routes and doe bedding areas.

We have observed the same behavior on or about the thirteenth of December. This would be about the right time for the does that did not get bred on the first go-around to be cycling again, and the bucks are once more patrolling the food sources to seek them out.

What always amazes me about these days is the precise timing. We have never noticed a variation of more than a single day in either October or December. The activity during these two short periods of time are the closest thing to predictable we have found in hunting mature bucks. We have taken advantage of this predictability over the years. We have been successful on a number of good bucks on these days, beginning with a 165 inch 9 point I killed on December 13, 2006 and including, among others, the 180 inch 11 point I shot in 2013 and a 160 inch 10 point my brother killed in 2008.

My 2013 buck was killed on November 1, David’s on Halloween, with  both bucks displaying classic plot-checking behavior. Neither showed the least interest in feeding and kept close to the edge of the plot. At the time of the shot, both showed every indication of being about to leave.

The plots certainly have some value as a spot to waylay a buck during the month of January, as the bucks get hungry and have to eat. But, as is often necessary to kill a feeding buck, it is hard to keep hunting a spot again and again in the hopes of catching one out early and not have him become wise to what you are doing. If he is feeding in the plot every night the odds are good that sooner or later he will catch on.

Small hunting plots have become our most effective tool for hunting mature bucks, and late October and mid-December are by far the best times to utilize them.

Henry Hershberger
Hillcrest Lumber

Are We Doing More Harm Than Good?

Quality Deer Management

Isn’t it intriguing how a philosophy like QDM can change an entire hunting culture?  Now, the practice of QDM is far from a majority way of hunting, but I believe no one can argue that this idea of healthier, bigger deer is quickly becoming the future of deer hunting.

With this growing trend, some of those who practice QDM may want to tread lightly in one aspect. If you practice QDM, you may take it upon yourself to spread the gospel, and with good intentions.  In order for anything you feel passionate about to grow, you must promote it so others may feel the same experience as you.  Sometimes, this is where good intensions may go awry!

The best part of my profession is helping people achieve their goals, but the most interesting and fun part is observing people’s behavior.  This story I’m about to tell you has stuck with me regarding this very topic.  Several years ago, I pulled up to a meat processor to see what was being brought in to get a feel for what people were harvesting.  When I pulled in, I saw that some had the same philosophy as me.  I couldn’t help but to notice that a good majority of the vehicles there had some old QDMA logo stickers on them and it was going to be nice visiting with like minded deer hunters.  As we admired some great deer that were coming into the processor, some fellow QDM’ers introduced others to QDM and the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), while some even had pamphlets to hand out.  Fast forward a little later that afternoon.  A gentleman came in that had shot a yearling buck.  Everyone there just eyeballed the guy as he walked into the business to drop off his deer to be processed.  When he walked back outside with his trophy, he stuck the rack into a plastic bag and then put his head down with embarrassment making sure not to make eye contact with the crowd and drove off.  The crowd quickly started making comments about what was wrong with the deer that was just dropped off.  Let me tell you that what was coming out of their mouths wasn’t too pleasant to say the least.  I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself any longer and proceeded to tell them what they just did to that gentleman was wrong.  I told them we didn’t walk in his shoes so we don’t know the whole story.  What they did to that gentleman was demeaning.  They made him feel like he did something wrong.

It’s situations like this we will come across while practicing Quality Deer Management.  The difference between us QDM’ers and others, in my opinion, is that we are held at a higher standard.  We should be professional and educated while handling such situations.  Everyone you meet that is not a part of the QDM philosophy should walk away at least thinking that we are professional and educated on the subject.  QDM’ers aren’t supposed to make people feel threatened or annoyed by their passion.  We must be able to feel the situation out and then educate from there, but in no means should we be overly aggressive. Know when to say when and, frankly, just to shut up and move on.

For this great philosophy to grow like we all want it to, we must understand and come to grips that some people just can’t be reach for whatever reason.  Remember, our comments or physical actions are representing QDM and at times, the Quality Deer Management Assocaition.  We don’t know why he or she killed a lesser quality buck than what we would harvest. We don’t know their story.  It might be he or she’s first buck, or they might get only a few days a year off to go out hunting and that yearling buck just might be good enough for them.  No matter what the reason, we must handle ourselves with class.  How I look at it is as long as they are out hunting instead of golfing, there will come a day when you and I will reach them.

The QDM cause needs all of us for this to continue to grow so we need not to be afraid to confront people and educate, but not at the expense of turning people away because of what we think of their harvest or mind set.  My grandfather would always tell me when I was having problems with people or just life in general; “No Hurry, No Worry, Keep Moving”.  Well, everybody, all of us being at a different place in their own hunting philosophy is what makes the world go around wouldn’t you say!


Thanks for caring about this great resource!


What Do You Do?

Drumming Log WIldlife Management

It’s, let’s say, mid – November.  You have been in the stand since noon and the sun is quickly setting.  Your phone vibrates and you check it.  It’s another picture text of a shooter down with your buddy holding it.  It’s the 5th one this month from someone you know that has connected.  The frustration level is taking ahold of you and it’s only November.  As you’re texting him back to congratulate him, you hear footsteps. You quickly shove your phone in your pocket and grab your bow.  It’s a buck!  He steps into the food plot and starts to feed calmly.  Now its decision time, what do you do?

The question of how old is he starts to rush through your mind.  You have only a few minutes to decide if he is a shooter, so you start to panic. You know for sure that it’s not a yearling so it’s either a two year old or a three year old.  You convince yourself that he is a three year old and he’s a shooter, but the thought of what if he isn’t, goes through mind.  You can’t help think about all your friends’ success, so you start to question your judgment because this deer isn’t as big as theirs. So you decide to pass on what was a three year old 140 class whitetail.

It’s human nature to want more and more usually means bigger in the whitetail world.  One thing is for sure, you cannot let peer pressure dictate what you’re going to harvest.  This road only leads to resentment and never being pleased with whatever you harvest in the future.

You have to find that place mentally in whatever decision you make before you pull the trigger or release the bow string. It boils down to what YOU are looking for and no one else. Doing your homework will help you.  What I mean by this, is to get an inventory of what is out there.  By conducting a soft camera survey you can get an estimate of what deer are visiting the property and learn their age classes.  This way, there will be some, but not really any surprises on what deer may be in front of you.

This, along with other small things like this, will solve many issues that expectations lead to.  Have fun this coming year and don’t let outside influences dictate your enjoyment out there.  Remember, “He’s going to be as old as he’s ever going to be when you shoot”, “dead deer don’t grow”, “ask yourself, would you mount him”, and etc. are slogans to remember when you’re at full draw trying to decide what to do!

Good luck – Have fun – No Hurry, No Worry, Keep Moving
Drumming Log Wildlife Management

Uh, Where’s All The Deer?

Drumming Log Wildlife Management

Whether it was taught at an early age on the playground at school or it’s just human nature in general, we are sure to pass blame when things don’t go our way.  One would think since we are adults, this behavior would stop and we would be mature enough to realize that sometimes the mistakes we make in life are caused by us, but that isn’t always the case.

That leads us to our article.  I just so happened to be at a local hunting goods store not too long ago, when I couldn’t help but to overhear several gentlemen talking about how their deer hunting was going.  It was very interesting to say the least because they weren’t seeing very much.  One gentleman, who seemed to be the most outspoken of the bunch, was commenting how he just purchased a scent free suit to hunt in and he just hunts whenever no matter what the wind direction.  He also stated he has been putting a lot of time in his hunting area trying to get that big buck on film with his deer camera.  Others listening didn’t bat an eye at any of this and were even saying the same comments.  Then, what I heard next caused me to cringe, “Yeah, since the state started releasing those dang coyotes to control the deer population things went to heck”.  Heads from the audience he had gathered up were bobbing up and down with agreement and he went on to say, “Then you throw all those dang youth deer hunts the state has on top of all that, it’s no wonder any of us aren’t seeing anything like we use to”.  Of course, that’s when I laughed out loud, which drew the attention of everyone. I went and paid for my goods so I could leave in one piece.  As I was paying, the out spoken gentleman said, “Hey funny man, why do you think there aren’t as many deer out there?”  I looked around at all the eyes staring at me and said, “Maybe sometimes all we need to do is look in the mirror”.  Total silence doesn’t explain the lack of talking in that store as I quickly walked out.

They say, all you have to do is put your time in and it will happen sooner or later.  I beg to differ.  I believe pressure dictates if we’re successful or not.  I believe the biggest mistake we make is going into our hunting area just to go in. For example, hanging a deer camera hurts us more than it helps.  Hunting when the wind is wrong is an obvious mistake, but so many hunters make the mistake going to their hot spot when it’s wrong.  The list goes on and on but research has shown time and time again that the older class whitetails that we all seek respond to such pressure and will leave for cover and go nocturnal which leads hunter to think there isn’t any deer around.

All this isn’t as simple as I make it out to be, but hunting smart is the first step in success.  Don’t get wrapped up in what others are doing and use your head.  So, before we place blame on ridiculous things and reasons, start with yourself and the way you hunt.  Pressure dictates everything in the whitetail world and the more you’re in their home at the wrong time, well, you’ll be the one going, “Uh, where’s all the deer?”.


Erich D. Long
Drumming Log Wildlife Management

Habitat And Timber Management

Timber Management

Q:   Should I manage my woodlot for the benefit of the deer, or should I try to do what is best from a timber standpoint?

A:   Yes.


Q:   Huh?

A:   There is no need to sacrifice one for the other. There are management techniques that benefit both. In fact, in a hardwood forest, most times what is good for one is good for the other. Wildlife benefits from a healthy timber stand, one with trees of varying ages enjoying rapid growth. A stand with a lot of young growth has much more to offer in the form of browse and cover than one with only mature trees, and will therefore support many more deer.


Q:   Isn’t the healthiest timber stand the one that holds the maximum number of large trees?

A:   Absolutely not! If the stand is overcrowded with mature trees, the growth of the next generation is inhibited, or they may not even reseed at all. Maximum production in a stand is acheived through the judicious removal of some trees to the benefit of others.


Q:   How do I know which trees should be cut?

A:   Although the specifics are too extensive to cover here, the overall goal is to remove the trees that are hindering more growth by other trees than they are producing themselves. While it is possible for any landowner to educate himself and do this on his or her own, most times it is beneficial to have professional guidance on which trees to cut.


Q:   But the idea of turning a logger loose in my woods scares me. Won’t they tear it up and leave it a mess?

A:   There is no denying that some loggers do a lot of damage. But there are also loggers out there who take pride in their work and go out of their way to minimize the impact of a harvesting operation. You need to do your homework. Ask loggers for references. If they do good work, they will have satisfied landowners like yourself willing to tell you about it.


Q:   How do deer benefit from a timber harvest?

A:   As mature trees are removed, the canopy is opened to allow more sunlight to reach the forest floor. The additional sunlight allows the understory, the young trees and other plants, to flourish, turning the woods into deer heaven. Deer need the browse and cover that the understory provides.


Q:   Is clear-cutting ever a good forestry practice?

A:   Clear cutting makes sense in an area containing only low-value trees, and to encourage oak trees to reseed. Oaks are not shade tolerant, and as a result of the focus on selective harvesting over the years many woodlots have a higher percentage of the more shade tolerant species, such as maple. Clear-cutting small areas, say half an acre, allows sufficient sunlight to reach the ground to allow the oaks to reseed and the result is more diversity in the stand. Clear-cutting or hinge-cutting also provides an instant bedding area and abundant browse for the deer. A chain saw can be a deer’s-and your timber stand’s-best friend.