Which comes first, herd or hunting success? The answer is a pretty easy one; you can't find one without the other. The quality and success of your hunt will be directly proportionate to the quality of the herd that you are hunting. That may seem obvious, however, if your ultimate goal is one, make sure not to neglect the other.
How To Find Herd AND Hunting Success
Mature bucks are a product of a quality herd. Your ability to successfully hunt the oldest bucks that your land can produce, ultimately has a lot to do with the quality of the herd that you can hope to create. There are 3 signs that your land is reaching it's herd-building potential, and they directly relate to your ability to find hunting success:
1. Nocturnal Trail Cam Ratio
Believe it or not, it is possible to carry a darkness to daylight mature buck trail cam ratio of nearly 1 to 1. Unfortunately, far too many hunters discover ratios that feature several times more pictures of mature bucks during the middle of the night, than close to or during, daylight. Of course, you can't see what you can't shoot! However, there is hope. By reducing hunting pressure levels on the land that you hunt, and offering both adeqaute amounts of unpressured Fall food and cover, you can find both herd and hunting success. Afterall, not only can you not shoot what you can't see, but you can't manage what isn't there to manage during the daylight either. A herd can not become a great herd, if it only shows up under the cover of darkness. If you find that your nocturnal trail cam ratio is close to 1:1, than you are well on your way to experiencing not only herd success, but hunting success as well!
2. Highly Defined Doe Harvest Opportunities
For me personally, I hunt bucks and I harvest does. What is the difference? If you are on top of your hunting game, you should find it extremely easy to harvest does just about any time of the season. Does are herd creatures. Does think and act often as a group. Doe family groups should do the same thing, every day, all season long, while focusing the entire hunting season almost purely on highly defined bedding area-to-food source movements. As long as you have adequate bedding areas and food sources (on your land) that remain unpressured the entire season, you should already be experiencing quality harvest opportunities for does.
Difficult doe harvest opportunities are a reflection of random movements that are most likely caused by poor hunting practices, low quality food or cover options, or even all three combined. Without defined daily movements by the local herd, it is nearly impossible to actually manage or influence a herd. What about hunting bucks? If your doe family groups are fairly easy to target, than you should have no problem at least closing the distance while hunting mature bucks.
3. Above Average Fall Buck Herd
Who gets to hunt the oldest bucks in the neighborhood? The ones who create the best herds in the neighborhoods - during the Fall! Your ability to create a herd takes place in the Fall. Large numbers of Summer bucks on your land, most often reveal that your land does not have what it takes to attract, hold, protect and offer buck hunting opportunities during the hunting season. Why? Because bucks need completely different habitat types as the months progress from Summer to Fall. Contrary to the cool shade, open woodlots and high quality Summer forages bucks crave prior to Fall, bucks need high stem count heavy cover and cool season forages when the leaves begin to change.
Herd And Hunting Success Begins Now
No matter what time of the year it currently is, the time to improve both your herd and hunt begins now. Does your land carry the signs of herd and hunting success? Building the best herd in the neighborhood starts with a high quality hunting strategy. Creating the best hunt in the neighborhood begins with quality herd building strategies. Can you see a theme? It truly is possible to find the best of both worlds when it comes to a high level of whitetail success, but keep in mind, you can't have one without the other.