This is 2018, and it’s an early season successful hunt by Josh Honeycutt, who is the realtree.com deer-hunting editor. Josh, welcome back to the show, and I’m excited to hear the story about this magnificent buck you took early season down there in Kentucky.
Thanks, man. Thanks for having me on.
Yeah, it’s exciting. And folks, we just did a Facebook Live so that’ll be here today, which is September 12. This show will be aired later in the year.
Josh, let’s go back. In the warm-up you said you started hunting this deer after you shot your deer in 2017, which is intriguing in itself. So let’s start there, and walk us through the hunt for this majestic velvet buck.
Early Season Special – Josh Honeycutt – Realtree – Huge velvet 8 pointer
Sure. The journey for this particular deer started last year because I killed my velvet deer and filled my Kentucky tag, my 2017 Kentucky tag, last September. And usually what I do, as soon as I fill my tag in a given season, I’ll start scouting for the following season. And this particular deer that I ended up hunting and harvesting this season showed up about 10 days after I killed my deer last year. So I immediately transitioned to scouting that deer, learning that deer, for this season, because I’ve learned that a lot of the times, as long as there’s no major food source or habitat changes, a lot of the times most deer will carry a similar pattern from year to year. It’s not always the case, but a lot of deer do. And if you put the effort in and learn that deer this year, there’s a good chance you can use the information that you gather on that deer for next year, as long as he’s still alive and doing the same thing, which I found, as I said, they oftentimes do that. Percentage-wise, I don’t know what the percentage is, but I’ve noticed from year to year, if you get a repeat buck on camera, or a return deer on camera, a lot of the times they will have similar patterns. But it started last year.
And so, I was blessed with a very good opportunity to shoot a velvet buck last September here in Kentucky. And so, I immediately started scouting this deer. What I did was I followed the deer via trail camera, I did a little bit of in-the-field scouting during the season but not much, a lot of post-season scouting after last season went out, so that would have been this past February-March, and just collect as much information on the deer as I could. And so, before I even started looking at trail camera images this summer, or scouting this summer, the first thing I did was look at the information I had from last season. And so, I looked at all the day-…especially the daylight. I looked at all the…both the nighttime and daytime trail camera images for information, but I especially paid attention to the daytime images because that was showing that deer, where he…showing me where this deer was using this property in daylight, which is extremely important.
And so, I looked at daytime trail camera images, and those that were right around dawn, dusk, maybe those that were just before or just after legal shooting light, because the deer were still in that general location close to daylight, obviously. And I took that information, and I plotted down the location on an aerial map. I plotted the location of that image, the time, the date, and the direction of travel. And as we talked about a little bit in the Facebook Live video, as you mentioned, something else I paid attention to was the wind direction on those particular days and times. And I looked at all of that, and I probably had about 15 or 20 total daylight pictures of this deer in this past season, from September to January, probably about 15 if I’m remembering correctly. Most of those were right on the edge of daylight and dark, but a few of those were good, solid daylight images. But it still gave me enough information to go on, and it really painted a picture of where this deer liked to bed and feed and water during the months of September, October, November, December, and January. So I kinda used that information to give me a start for my game plan of how I would hunt that deer this September and October and November and December and January. Luckily, I got him in September, didn’t have to worry about the rest of the season. But that’s what I looked at first.
once I had that information, I started looking at this year’s information
And then, once I had that information, I started looking at this year’s information, my pre-season scouting, the trail camera images that I had of the deer leading up to the season this year. And it was kinda interesting, because I did not have a summer…an afternoon pattern on this deer all summer long. I don’t think I had a single afternoon…maybe one afternoon daylight picture of this deer from June until the day…you know, until probably right at the season, whenever I ended up putting some more cameras out, which we’ll get to here in a little bit. But basically, from June until right after the beginning of the season, I only had probably one afternoon daylight picture of this deer, which is not enough for me personally to hunt him.
So I did have the deer on a morning pattern though, and I don’t usually hunt in mornings during the early season. I traditionally don’t start hunting mornings… Well, I’ll take that back. I do hunt mornings but I don’t hunt in my good spots opening morning. Now, it’s a tradition for me and my family to always go out and hunt opening weekend regardless, and so we always hunt opening morning, but we always hunt, like, an observation stand, or we’ll go sit somewhere that’s not as high impact, or we’ll go to a spot where we might have a shot at a doe or whatever. But we won’t hunt any of our big bucks, usually, opening morning. That’s not always the case, but most times we don’t.
But this deer I had, leading up to the season, probably throughout the month of August, I had him on a morning pattern. And he was hitting one of my stand locations, a particular camera that I had put up. He was hitting that spot if not every day, about every other day, in the first 30 or 45 minutes of daylight. And so, I was really contemplating hunting him, and I was going to hunt that deer every morning during the first part of the season. But I checked my cameras probably three or four days, five days, before the season started, and he changed his pattern up right before the season, which is not unheard of, that’s pretty common. But it was a little earlier than I expected him to change his pattern, because typically, around here, the bucks are still in bachelor groups at that time, and they’ll generally carry their summer patterns in to at least the first week, maybe the first 10 or 12 days, of the season. So I was a little bit shocked…or, not necessarily shocked but surprised that he changed his pattern up then.
But something that’s interesting to note is our soybeans… And this is both ag and timber country, it’s a good healthy mix of habitat. The soybeans started turning just a little bit earlier this year. We’ve got a really, really heavy mass crop this year, and the acorns started falling earlier this year too. Acorns have been falling not heavy but they started falling before the season even started, which is really, really uncommon. It’s the earliest I’ve ever seen acorns start falling here in Kentucky. It’s been years. I don’t think they’ve fallen that early in my lifetime, to my knowledge, but they started falling really early this year, which has made it a lot tougher for deer hunters.
But getting back to the story, he changed his pattern up. So what I did is I ended up sprinkling out and using a tactic that I personally like to call a trail camera blitz. And basically, what that is is I just sprinkle out trail cameras around that deer’s general core area. I normally do this sooner, but I didn’t do it because…on this particular deer because I had him on that morning pattern, and he was pretty consistent, so I didn’t wanna go in there and put more cameras out and potentially spook the deer. But whenever I lost that pattern, I decided to do that even though it was last minute. And I sprinkled out trail cameras around the deer’s core area where I thought that deer might be spending most of its time, and then used that information once I got into the season.
I didn’t hunt the deer the first three days of the season because I still hadn’t picked the deer’s pattern back up. The first time I went in and hunted this deer was last Tuesday morning, I think it was. I ended up sitting in the spot where I’d been getting him on camera every morning, just kind of a blind hope, I guess you could say, hoping that he would come back through and do what he’d been doing. He didn’t. I saw a lot of does that morning. But I ended up coming back that afternoon, and sat in a little bit different spot. I don’t think I’d call it, necessarily, an observation stand. It was kind of an observation stand because I can see a lot of ground from that stand, and I was hoping to kind of pinpoint where that deer would come out that afternoon, and hopefully pick his pattern back up. Because in that particular location, it’s really hard for me to scout from afar. So I had not been scouting this deer from afar, because where it was at is kind of a tight… I mean, I could see a lot, but there was really no where that I could get and see these deer without spooking deer, so I never really did a lot of scouting from afar during the pre-season and had to solely rely on my trail cameras.
But that last Tuesday afternoon, I sat in a particular spot that I have killed deer out of in the past, but it was more so for me just an effort to get a bead on what this deer is doing rather than to kill him. But we had a storm roll through last Tuesday afternoon, and I probably shouldn’t have been in this tree stand because it was thundering and lightning. But I was being stubborn, young, and dumb, I guess, and I sat through it. There wasn’t any heavy lightning coming down or anything, it was just a little bit of thunder and rain. But I ended up seeing the deer, he come out right after that storm rolled through, and he come out about 200 yards from me.
And basically, what it was was an old alfalfa field that hadn’t been replanted in quite a few years, probably four or five years, so it was right on the tail end of its lifespan there. So there wasn’t a lot of alfalfa left, but there was a lot of clover, and I think they were coming into that field to hit that clover and hit that alfalfa. And then on to the south, beyond, on a different property which is a good ways away but to the south of me on a different property, there was a lot of beans. And so, I think they were kinda coming through, they were bedding on the property that I was hunting, which isn’t a big property, it’s only about a 50-acre property. And they were bedding on the property that I was hunting, they were coming through that clover, kinda staging up even though it’s not a classic, traditional staging area. They were kinda coming out of that bedding area that they were bedding in, feeding in that small, little alfalfa-clover plot which is probably about two acres in size, so it’s not real small. But they were feeding in that before they fed off on down to the south, on to the neighboring properties that had soybeans.
But he come out last Tuesday afternoon, early, he come all the way in to 70 yards.
But he come out last Tuesday afternoon, early, he come all the way in to 70 yards. Obviously I wasn’t gonna take that shot with a bow. But he ended up skirting me, got around behind a lot of brush and ended up coming in all the way to 25 yards. I didn’t get a shot at him because he was behind brush, and so I ended having… Something interesting, though, he ended up hanging right around me until well after dark, well after shooting light ended, and actually got back out into the open. And so, what I had to do is I just had to sit there, I had to sit there and wait for that deer and all the other deer to clear the area and leave before I could even get out of my stand. So I had to sit in my stand last Tuesday afternoon probably 45 minutes longer than I typically would, because I didn’t wanna bump that deer and bump all the deer that were around it, knew that might have a potential effect on what that deer would do. It might mess his pattern up. So I ended up sitting in my tree stand well after dark, that way I didn’t bump those deer and blow those deer out. Well, they finally cleared and I was able to get out.
So I come back the next day, so that would have been last Wednesday which was the day I ended up getting it. I was blessed with an opportunity to kill him. And so, I knew I had to do something different because the deer, the pattern that the deer…when they come out in that field that I had been watching, that little clover plot and alfalfa plot, they’d kinda come halfway across it and then kinda skirt it. And I’d seen deer do that in the past, and I knew that was what deer like to do, and kinda how they use that, I mean, I don’t know why, there’s no rhyme or reason but that’s just what they do. It’s almost like a dog-leg, they come out halfway into that field and then they kinda dog-leg off to the left, and then sometimes they’d circle back around. But that’s just what the deer do in that area, so I was like, well, I’m gonna have to cut the distance. And I’ve never hung a stand where I hung a stand at, simply because it kinda puts you right in the middle of the deer, because the deer can kinda come out anywhere around you by getting that far, but I knew I had to do it if I was gonna have a shot at getting this deer.
So what I did was, last Wednesday afternoon I cut the distance in half from where I had sat last Tuesday, and where the deer first entered the open. And I basically moved forward for about 100 yards, and the new stand location was about 100 yards from where the deer entered the open, which is… Where the deer were bedding at was a little cedar thicket. It wasn’t a thick, dense cedar thicket, it was really open, really mature cedars, so wind could get through there, and there was a little pond down in there, so I think they were bedding down in there pretty close to the edge. I think those deer were probably bedding within probably 50 or 60 yards of that edge.
So I did a hanging hunt last Wednesday afternoon
So I did a hanging hunt last Wednesday afternoon, got in there pretty early. Took about an hour and a half to hang that stand because I didn’t wanna clank any metal on metal, didn’t wanna make any noise. And just hung it real slow, took my time. And I think, honestly, I think that deer was inside of 150 yards probably of where I was hanging that stand last Wednesday afternoon. Got everything set up, we had another little rain shower that moved through Wednesday afternoon and, just, deer were everywhere. I ended up seeing a ton of deer. But he ended coming back out again, not quite as early as he did. He probably come out about 10 minutes later than he did the previous afternoon, but he showed himself, and he moved on through.
And some other deer had to clear me, it was kinda stressful because I was hunting it just off-wind, and I think we’ve talked about just off-winds in some past podcast episodes. But it was kinda funny, the deer was bedding just to the north, maybe the north-northwest of me, and I had an east wind which was blowing out into the field that was to my left. You know, I was kinda looking toward where the deer was bedding at, and I had timber to my right, that big clover and alfalfa field to my left, and another big timber block in front of me, to my north, and they were bedding just off down in that. And I think, you know, I think that’s where they were…I know that’s where they were bedding at. But I knew it was gonna be risky because I had a wind blowing from right to left, which was a just off-wind, but I noticed that the deer really hit this open field like that on east winds because they can use that wind to their advantage. When they come up out of that bedding area, they immediately have a wind blowing from that other timber block, so they can smell anything that’s on this other timber block perpendicular to the one that they use to bed in a lot of the times.
So he come out, and the wind was blowing basically straight out into the field, and I knew I could get a shot at the deer before he caught my wind, my scent cone, because it was blowing to me. I would have a slightly quartered shot but I knew if I could get him stopped I could get a shot at him before he caught my scent. But the worry was all the deer, the waves of deer that would come through before he did. Luckily, I only had one deer that actually hit my scent cone before he did, and the deer stopped and stood there for about 10 minutes. Luckily, it was a year-and-a-half-old buck that wasn’t very smart, and he just stood there. And I got lucky, I really did, I got lucky. But he ended up moving on through, and he didn’t blow or didn’t spook or anything. But I don’t think he got my full wind, I think he got just enough of it that it made him nervous.
But after that deer cleared, I knew I was pretty much in the clear as long as the deer came on into range. I knew I was probably in the clear as far as getting a shot off, and I did. He came on in. And it’s interesting, though, to note, hunting these just off-winds, these deer will move, are more apt to move in daylight, I believe, if they have the wind in their favor. So if you give these deer just enough wind to think they have the wind advantage, I think they’re more likely to move in daylight and that’s why he moved the two afternoons that I saw him, last Tuesday and last Wednesday Because it was interesting, the deer, whenever I actually shot the deer, he was only about 5 to 10 yards from catching my scent cone, or entering my scent cone, whenever I ended up shooting. So the deer had the wind in its advantage, but I had to keep constant tabs on where that wind was hitting. That way I knew exactly where I had to shoot that deer and not let him get past that point, or the hunt would have been over.
Wow. So how close did he come to you before you shot?
It was a 25-yard shot.
So he came down… So he got out of his bed, he got into the field, and he’s about 100 yards from you to the north. Now he’s meandering down. Is he coming on a line, or what did he do when he hit the field?
When he hit the field he stayed about the same distance the whole time from the treeline
When he hit the field he stayed about the same distance the whole time from the treeline that I was set up in, the treeline that I was looking down. He pretty much stayed the same distance, about 20 to 30 yards, away from that treeline as he tracked to the south, as he got closer to me. But what he was doing, I think they were coming out of that bedding area that was to the north, and I’ve actually… I’ll hunt that bedding area that they come out of. I’ll hunt that during the rut because a lot of does will bed in there, but I don’t like to go in there this time of year because I know they like to bed right on that edge. So I don’t invade in that area during the early season, or even really the pre-rut. But he just come up out of there, and I think they were coming into that clover field and alfalfa field and they were just feeding there, basically, until dark, and then moving off onto the neighbor’s bean fields that were well to the south of me. I think that’s the pattern that they were on.
Something that’s interesting, and this is really…this is the biggest lesson I probably took away personally from this particular deer, was the camera location that I had had this deer on a morning pattern all summer long, and basically with that camera, the distance from that camera to where I ended up shooting this deer, where he was standing at in the afternoon, I think this deer had been using the same afternoon pattern all summer long but I didn’t have…until I sprinkled those cameras out, I didn’t know he was doing that. But it’s interesting, because from where that morning pattern trail camera that I had him on during the summer to where I actually shot him at was only about probably 90 yards difference away.
So the important thing that I took away from this particular deer is that if anybody out there ever has a deer on camera, and maybe they’re just getting pictures of the deer at night, or they had the deer on camera in the daytime and they suddenly stopped getting pictures of the deer at all, or at least stopped getting pictures in the daytime, don’t automatically think that, A, that deer is gone, or B, that deer is purely nocturnal, because that’s probably not the case. What’s most likely happened is that deer has just changed his pattern enough. He may be using the exact same area, and he may just be using a trail that’s a few yards away and he’s not hitting your camera, or he might be…and that’s exactly what was happening with this deer.
I had stopped getting daylight pictures where I originally was getting daylight pictures of this deer before the season, and started getting pictures of this deer, or on the new cameras that I put up… But the fact remains, basically, that this deer was still moving a lot in daylight. I just had to figure out where that was at. But it was still really, really close to where I had originally been getting daylight pictures. So don’t automatically think that just because you start getting nighttime pictures of a deer, or pictures of a deer, that the deer has either, A, left, or B, is nocturnal, because more times than not, I don’t believe that that’s the case. You just gotta relearn the deer and figure out where their preferred travel routes are.
That’s really interesting. And one thing I like to do for all my guests is just to ask them, okay, given everything you’ve learned, you know, and know today, what do you wish you knew 5 years ago, 10 years ago, that would’ve put you further ahead of the game today?
And a lot of times, while that might be true, I think a lot of the times I don’t think it is
I think that lesson that I just mentioned, I think that’s the biggest lesson that I’ve learned because, you know, a lot of people out there…and I’ve been that person too. There’s no shame or anything, because just here in the last few years did I really drive this lesson home for myself and start believing it, I guess you could say. But in years past, because I’ve been running cameras for a long time, and if I was just getting nighttime pictures of a deer I would think, oh, well, that deer’s nocturnal, or, oh, well, that deer must be living way over on some other property. And a lot of times, while that might be true, I think a lot of the times I don’t think it is. I think more times than not I think that’s not true.
And I shouldn’t say that the nocturnal buck is a myth, because there are certainly bucks that are less apt to move in daylight than others, but it kinda is. The concept of a nocturnal buck is kind of a myth. And let me qualify that, or explain that. Every deer moves in daylight. Some deer move less in daylight than others, but all deer will move at least some in daylight. And the reason I say that is, the studies have shown that every whitetail feeds at least once or twice during the day. Now, generally that feeding takes place within their bedding area, but still, deer are up and moving during the daytime. So some bucks, sure, you might have to get really, really close to their bedding area in order to catch that deer moving in daylight, but not every deer is like that. This deer was moving probably 150 to 200…well, he was moving 150 to 200 yards in daylight, is what this particular deer I was killing…that I killed, that’s how much he moved. He moved about 150 to 200 yards in the afternoon, I think, unless he was bedding further away than I thought, which I don’t think he was. I think he was just on the interior of that cedar thicket. But that particular deer moved about 150 to 200 yards in the daylight. Other deer may only move 70 or 80 yards in daylight. Some may only move 50 or 60 in daylight.
But if you are stealthy enough, and you are quiet enough, and you have a good enough plan that you can get close enough to that deer’s bed, you can pretty much catch any deer moving in daylight. So it’s important to note that just because you get nighttime pictures of a deer, don’t automatically think you can’t kill that deer because, as long as you learn that deer’s pattern, you learn where that deer’s bedding, learn where he’s feeding, and you connect the dots and figure out where you gotta get in order to have a shot at killing that deer, I think you can kill any deer in the woods. You just have to be able to really, really put in a lot of effort and time to scout these deer.
And it really goes back, like I said, back to the pre-season, because whenever it comes to these deer I generally know, when they’re in a bedding area, where they actually are bedding at, the specific beds where they lay down. Don’t always know, obviously, but I go in and mark those buck beds when I find them and remember those. So if I think a deer’s bedding in a particular bedding area, I pretty well know where he’s at within that bedding area more times than not because I’ve scouted the property during the post-season, the previous post-season, and kinda have a good idea. So I know about how close I can get to that without the deer either, A, hearing me or seeing me. Obviously he won’t smell me because I’m not gonna go in there with the wind blowing straight to his bed. Hunt just off-winds, like we were talking about a minute ago, where it’s just skirting by the deer, but that’s another big discussion. I think we’ve covered that, talked about that in the past.
But that’s really the lesson that I learned from this deer, was to don’t automatically think that a deer is nocturnal or living completely on another property just because you get nighttime pictures or no pictures at all of a deer that you’ve been seeing, because it could be the deer could’ve just changed. He could be using the exact same pattern and just not walking by that trail camera anymore. He could be walking 10 yards to the right of that camera every afternoon and you wouldn’t know he don’t walk in front of us. So that’s the biggest lesson that I took away from this particular deer.
One thing when you mentioned the trail cameras, a lot of people use minerals where it’s legal. They can put down corn or bait. And so, they’re drawing deer into there, and so the deer are showing up at night. They’re not considering at all the daytime, that’s my takeaway from what you just said. They’re not considering, okay, where is this deer in the daytime. So he’s not coming in the mineral during the daylight, they’re coming at nighttime, but from what I just heard you say, you really don’t know that unless you spend some time, one, in observation stands, and really get a sense of what they’re doing. Is that a correct statement, or…?
Yeah, that’s what I took away from this particular deer. And there’s been other deer that I’ve hunted that have kinda supported that, but this deer really, really reemphasized that concept for me for sure.
Let’s take a break, and let’s take a look at the buck when he was alive with a buddy. Let’s talk about Mr. Wonderful, who’s on the left, and that little young, looks like an eight-pointer beside him. Is that in that overgrown alfalfa-clover field?
Yeah, that’s… And there’s a lot of grass out in that field too. But yes, that’s the field, but there are some remnants of alfalfa. There’s a lot of clover in that field, you just can’t see it in that photo. But that’s the actual field that I hunted this deer in and saw the deer in. Now that particular image was taken the afternoon before I shot him, that would have been last Tuesday afternoon whenever he came in to 70 yards. That’s where that deer was standing whenever he came in to 70 yards and then he skirted me. So basically, where that deer is standing right there, just to the right of that on the edge of the treeline is where I ended up doing the hanging hunt last Wednesday, and that’s just about where I shot him last Wednesday afternoon.
And then his little buddy, looks like his offspring, you know, is hanging right with him.
So is that deer a two-and-a-half, three-and-a-half-year-old buck?
I think the deer that’s to the right of him there, I think he’s a three-and-a-half-year-old deer. I’ve had him on camera. And these two bucks, they’ve been running together most of the summer, ran together most of the summer. And the deer that’s to the right of him there, that’s about 120-inch eight, so that kinda puts in perspective how big a deer this buck truly was. And, you know, I’ve got a rough score on the deer. I did a rough gross green velvet score of this buck that I killed, I did that last week, and measured him multiple times. Multiple people measured him too. And the lowest score we got on this deer was 170 even, and that’s… You know, some people, by looking at the pictures, you won’t be able to tell. You know, some people have already called me a liar and said he wasn’t 170, but his rough gross green velvet score was 170.
Now obviously, if you take away the velvet and you let the deer dry for about 60 days, you know, the 60-day drying period, he’s probably only gonna score about 160 gross, low-160s gross, probably around 162, 163. And obviously, he’s got that weak side G2 which, that weak side G2, this also puts it in perspective. That weak side G2 on his right side, that was still over eight inches long, so that kinda shows you just how big of a deer that was. But I’d say the deer probably nets in the high 50s, if you take away velvet and you let the deer have the 60-day drying period. But, yeah, he was definitely the biggest eight-pointer I will probably ever kill. He’s the biggest buck of my life, he’s the biggest buck I’ve ever been blessed to harvest, and…
But, yeah, that image right there, that really shows just how big he is. His frame was really what did it. He had both of his main beams were just shy of 30 inches, which is…those who know whitetails, 30-inch beams are as rare as it gets. There are very few deer who have ever grown 30-inch beams, especially eight-pointers, very few eight-pointers that’s grown 30-inch beams. And I think one was, like, I think one side was an eighth-inch shy of hitting 30, and the other one was, like, a sixteenth of an inch shy of hitting 30. But, yeah, yeah, he was truly a deer of a lifetime, at least for me anyway.
Well, thanks for that, and Josh has given us a lot of think factors, not talking points but think factors. And talk to me about 50 acres, because that’s one thing that intrigues me, because everybody thinks, you know, I need hundreds of acres, I need this and I need that to have a successful thing. One, you need habitat. Two, you need a good game management plan where the deer are growing. And the deer have to want to stay on your property. Obviously this deer was living on your property and going to visit the neighbors or something, but his, as you said a couple of times, core area, which is 20 acres, 30 acres, 40 acres, could be down to 10 acres depending on the area.
I know some suburban bucks, you know, it’s a matter of, you know, less than an acre is their core living area, and then they go munch on people’s flowers from there, but they always return to that core area. So when you talk about core areas, 50 acres, how much is that deer actually using of that? And since you’ve been over it quite a bit in post-season hunts, I think you could nail that pretty close.
like you said, a lot of people think that you need a ton of ground and you’ve got to pay a lot of money to kill big deer, and that’s not true. Like we were talking about, this particular property is only 50 acres, about 50 acres, in size, that particular tract of land. And it’s somewhere that I hunt by permission, I don’t own it, I don’t lease it. I just hunt it by permission. Very, very fortunate that I’ve had it to hunt by permission, but that’s what it is. And, you know, I’ve been pretty blessed because I’ve been able to take a good number of deer off that property in past years and past seasons. So, you know, you don’t have to have a lot of land.
And that particular deer, you know, it can be a little harder to hunt small properties. You gotta hunt a lot smarter when it comes to small properties because if you bump that deer bad enough, and a lot of studies show that a deer is pretty loyal to its core area, it’s pretty loyal to its bedding area, but if you bump that deer bad enough and do so repetitively, you can push that deer and alter that deer’s patterns and where he spends most of his time. So you do have to hunt smaller properties a little more intelligently, a little smarter, which is why I didn’t hunt the deer for the first three days of the season because I didn’t feel like I had a good enough bead on that deer’s behavior and patterns for me to go in there and have a good shot at getting a deer. So I didn’t hunt him for the first three days of the season, but once I gathered enough information and had enough information and thought I had a legitimate shot at tagging him, I moved on in there.
But you really have to be careful hunting those smaller properties, and I would say a small property is anything less than 75 to 80 acres, maybe less than 100 acres. But especially when you get down to those 40, 50, 60-acre or less properties, you really have to be careful because you can’t risk bumping deer, because I’ve done it, I’ve done it plenty. And once you start pressuring deer, and once you start getting on deer’s radars, they completely change… No, I shouldn’t say completely change, but it does affect them, and it makes it more difficult moving forward.
So on that land, how much of the acreage, the 50 acres, do the whitetails use basically year-round?
Sure. As far as that property goes, of that 50 acres, the part that is what I would call huntable, at least huntable for a bow hunter, you could cover more of it because there is a big part of that 50 acres that’s wide open that deer will travel through. It’s not real consistent activity, but you can and I have killed deer on the more open side with a rifle in past seasons. But I would say, as far as of that 50 acres what’s huntable as a bow hunter and for bow hunters, I would say probably half of it, so probably 25 acres, probably, is a good number, 25 acres of that is probably truly huntable as far as bow-hunting goes.
And how many stands do you have up on that 50 acres?
Just three, just three. And that counts the one that I ended up doing the hanging hunt on last Wednesday Now, the reason that I… And I’m a very big proponent of hanging a lot of stands. Now, you may not hunt those stands, but the reason I like hanging a lot of stands, which I hadn’t done on this property because I’ve hunted this property so long… Even though I ended up doing something different this year as far as where I ended up hunting at and where I ended up killing this particular deer was a little bit different, from a little bit different stand location, I had a pretty good idea of how the deer used that property. This deer was just a little bit different in the way he used it this season versus other deer in past seasons. But I really do like hanging a lot of stands, and the reason is because, like we said, that deer was only 70-80 yards off of the pattern that he had been on all summer long, and I didn’t have a stand location to take advantage of where he was spending his time at after he changed that pattern. And so, I had to do the hanging hunt, which you can do that. You can do a hanging hunt.
But I would much rather already have a stand location already set, which is where hanging a lot of stands comes into play and becomes a factor, because if you already have that stand location in there you can just go in and hunt it. But if you have to do that hanging hunt, even though the hanging hunt is very, very effective, there is a little bit of risk involved, especially if you accidentally clink a climbing stick on another climbing stick, or if you accidentally clink a stand on a climbing stick, or make any kind of noise… There is a little risk involved when you do hanging hunts because if you make the wrong move, you’re gonna alert that deer, especially if you’re trying to get close to that deer, you know, say, inside of 100 yards.
If you’re trying to hang a stand inside of 100 yards of that deer’s bedding area or its bed, there is a lot of risk involved You’ve gotta be very, very quiet. So it does pay to already have those stands in place, and have a lot of stands in place. That way, when you do your scouting and you do those scouting from afar missions, or hunt from an observation stand, and you see where a deer is at and see what pattern it’s on, we’ll say, oh, he’s coming 30 yards past that stand right over there, that’s where I’m gonna hunt him. If you already have those stands in place, it’s much more advantageous because you don’t have to worry about bumping that deer when you hang that stand.
But, like I said, the hanging hunt is certainly a good option, and that’s what I used to get this deer this past week.
Congratulations again on that and, just, we’ll close with this. Have you started hunting for 2019 yet?
I tell you, I have not…not yet, I have not started scouting yet but here soon. Of course, my cameras are still up and running, so I guess you could say that I’m still scouting. I’ve got all my cameras still going. But as far as trying to find a particular deer that I’ll try to make a game plan for, or a list of deer I’ll try to make game plans for for next year, that’ll start pretty soon.
If somebody wants to get a hold of you, how would they do that, sir?
Well, Josh, as always, it’s really a pleasure, and you’re doing a great job over there at realtree.com. If somebody wants to get a hold of you, how would they do that, sir?
Yeah. You can reach out to me however. You know, you can reach out to me on Facebook, you can look me up on Facebook, you know, I’m pretty active on there, or you can look me up on Instagram, either one. Of course, Instagram is @josh__honeycutt https://www.instagram.com/josh__honeycutt/?hl=en, and then just Josh Honeycutt for Facebook https://www.facebook.com/josh.honeycutt.5?ref=br_rs .
And then the Realtree site?
Yep, you can go straight to realtree.com https://www.realtree.com/ and you can see all the work that we’re doing there, and you can actually contact us directly. Every article has a email tab where, you know, any article that you read, if you have a question about that article, any kinda comment or whatever, you can either comment in the comment section, we’re pretty good about getting back to those comments, or you can email, use the email address that’s listed in those articles which is, I think, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. You can email that, and we’ll respond to that as well.
So again, Josh Honeycutt is the realtree.com deer-hunting editor. It’s been a pleasure, sir.
Thank you. Thanks for having me on.
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