Editor’s Note: Mike Monteleone lives in Westminster, Maryland, and has worn Mossy Oak camo since 1988 and hunted deer since he was 13-years old. He also is a member of PSE’s Pro Staff (www.pse-archery.com) and is the Mossy Oak area staff manager for Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and New Jersey.
During early bow season in September and October, bucks have the same problem hunters have: bugs. Bucks often will bed on the tops of hills or mountains for two reasons. Generally the air will be cooler the higher they move-up a mountain, plus there may be a slight breeze. Both of these conditions help to keep bugs off the deer. However, generally, does, for some reason, tend to bed in low areas where there are a lot of bugs.
The properties I hunt only are 8 to 400 acres. I primarily hunt in suburbia, and the private properties I hunt usually are no more than 8 to 20 acres. Farms I hunt generally are 60 to 400 acres. I also hunt two public lands that have deep draws and oak flats. One is 4,000 acres, and the other one is 8,000 acres. Some very-nice bucks live on these public lands. Landowners in these regions have learned if they let the little bucks walk, they’ll have more big bucks to hunt. I have seen the bucks really increase in antler size and body weight in and near these public-land areas.
When I hunt my 14-20 acres of private land, I often will be hunting between a horse pasture, a barn and a mansion or a house. In Maryland, we have many horse pastures on private property. The places I hunt are pinch points, funnels and bottlenecks where wood lots are pinched down between pastures, barns and houses. I go in and set-up my trail cameras first, to learn where the deer are bedding and eating. Then I set-up on a pinch point between the feeding and bedding places. Many of the small acreages I hunt are wood lots running between horse farms or pastures.
There may be a 20-acre wood lot that serves as boundary between three or four small horse farms. I may have permission to hunt those woods from one landowner, but not from the others. Ideally, I want the permission to hunt the middle section of that wood lot. Then I have a real honey hole, because deer often will travel and feed throughout that entire 20 acres. If there are two or three good acorn trees on the property where I have permission to hunt, the other properties I can’t hunt will serve as sanctuaries. All I have to do is find one spot in the wood lot where I can see a deer anywhere from 10- to 40-yards from my tree stand.
During the season, I probably will see all or most of the bucks and does living in the woods that connect all the farms. In gun season and the rut, I often spot more deer, since deer from surrounding properties will move into the wood lot to find sanctuary. Even if I don’t have permission to hunt the middle but can hunt on either end of the wood lots, I still drastically increase my odds for taking big bucks. To obtain heavy body weights and large antlers, older-age-class bucks need sanctuary where no other hunters hunt. Since I usually have exclusive rights to hunt six or eight small plots like this, I won’t be putting enough hunting pressure on the deer to make them leave these sanctuary areas.