Now don't get me wrong; I love experiencing the random buck travel routes of an unpredictable old wanderer! However, what I am most passionate about while pursuing mature bucks is using precision hunting tactics on specific buck travel routes that have been revealed and predicted through careful observation and study.
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A buck will always tell you where he will be traveling, and typically on which corridor he will be using, to cruise through the habitat. Of course there are the obvious clues, including: Trail cam pics, rubs and scrapes. But if you came for the obvious, you came to the wrong place!
Here are 5 ways that a mature buck will predict his favored travel routes.
1. Historical Sign
There are some bucks that are extremely tough to figure out; even after years of careful study! However the great thing about mature bucks in general is that although no two are alike, most of them do follow the same travel routes. Do you have an old monarch that leaves very little sign, even though you know he is around? Follow the buck travel routes of monsters in the past.
Current rubs and scrapes are great, but when you can find the historical evidence of bucks that have used specific travel routes from 5-10 years past or more, take note! That same pattern will be repeated again, and many great bucks have fallen to hunters watching corridors established for decades, even though they lacked any current sign.
2. Old Trail Cam Pics
Although every hunter scours over their annual trail cam pics, do you scour with a purpose? The time, date and weather that a mature buck gets his mugshot taken, will often repeat itself. For example two bucks on my recent hunting properties each follow a different, predictable pattern. One frequents the land right after the weekend, presumably after the neighbors have been hunting and displaced him from his core Fall range. The other buck visits when the winds are high, and is most likely pushed off of his preferred range of higher elevation. But you can take it a few steps further than those surface observations.
*For more tactics to employ during your next target buck encounter, check outthese 5 tips!
For an even greater depth, it is important to take note the time, date and weather the moment that you can recognize a buck. Although the current crop of bucks I am after are relatively new to me, it is amazing how many young bucks that eventually reach maturity, followed the same travel patterns for years. Often a buck that popped up only during the Pre Rut, will do the same the following year. And the same goes for the early season, Peak Rut, Late season and any other definable point in the year.
3. Specific Species of Rubbing Trees
I have a beautiful 4 year old 10 point that I have been hunting recently, and virtually every spruce tree in the woods under 8" in diameter is rubbed. When he was 3 years old the same pattern followed but there weren't as many rubs. However now, his travel corridors can be seen like reading a Rand McNally map! So much so that when an out-of-the-way 6" spruce was rubbed, it was no surprise that an adjacent trail cam picked up his movement at the same exact time the rub was made, to the day. If that buck disappears for a year and his same spruce tree route opens up again, he will be my #1 suspect.
I had another great buck in the UP of MI wilderness area during 2011, that seemed to have a fetish for Jack Pines. Although his rub line was over a mile long, it include less than a dozen rubs; all on Jack Pines. He passed tamaracks, beech and tag alder in favor of Jack Pines, and was killed within 20 yards of one of his biggest rubs.
4. Neighborly Induced
Whether on public land or private, most of us have neighboring hunters in the woods. It is absolutely amazing the number of scrapes, rubs and deer activity that can show up when your neighbors are in the woods. I had a great spot in the UP of MI I began only hunting on Sundays and Mondays because after the weekenders hit their cabins in the area, the ridges and swamps a mile across the marshes, would really heat up!
Trail cam pics, tracks and bucks sign can all let you know that hunting pressure can be very positive when it comes to discovering the buck travel routes of neighboring giants. Those movements also reveal a strong story of the effects of hunting pressure not only on your neighbors land, but potentially on your own as well.
5. Dead Bucks Don't Lie
In hindsight many mature buck travel routes are easily deciphered. Although a buck may not take over a similar route for 1-2 years, you can count on another buck to pick up the same travel pattern typically within 2-3 years.
Most often by paying attention to the signs of the past, the future can be predicted. But to dive into mature buck travel routes a little deeper, I encourage you to let the weather, your neighbors and your past harvests reveal when, where and why a buck will travel next as well.