Editor’s Note: Pat Reeve lives in Plainview, Minnesota, and has been a member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff for 9 years. He and his wife Nicole produce “Driven with Pat and Nicole” (www.drivenhunter.com) on the Outdoor Channel.
I prefer to plant all my food plots in the center of my property. The outside edges of my land are where the deer bed. A ridge runs through my 400 acres. I plant all my food plots either on the ridge or on the sides of the ridge. I hunt the center of my property and never hunt the edges because I:
- know that’s where the deer are bedding;
- don’t want to bump those deer off my property onto the neighboring properties.
I want to draw all my deer to the center of the property with the food plots. This tactic has worked very well for me over the years.
I also keep a strict inventory of the number of bucks I have on my land. The bucks on our property usually will be Pope and Young or Boone and Crockett bucks at 3-years old. Although I prefer to hunt bucks that are 4-6 years old, I don’t hesitate to let my children take a nice 3-year-old buck. After we harvest from one to three bucks every year, I still run my trail cameras. I want to make sure I have 8 to 12 shooter bucks on my property after deer season ends.
You'll always have a few extra bucks each season that I classify as drifters that have been driven off neighboring properties because of hunting pressure, are expanding their home ranges during the rut or have found more feed available after the season on our land than on our neighbors’ properties. I call these deer bonus bucks - they're not resident bucks.
I always leave at least 50 percent of the shootable bucks I have on my property each season, not including the young bucks that may come into that shooter class the next year. I consider a mature buck that I want to take that will be in the trophy class a shooter buck. I also qualify an 8-pointer with small tines as a shooter buck. If he doesn’t have brow times, I don’t want to have those genetics in my herd. If I see a buck over 2 or 3 years old without brow tines, he’s definitely on my shooter list.
Another buck I always try and remove from the heard each year is the bully buck. When I identify a buck that’s running other bucks off the property, I classify him as a bully buck, and put him on the hit list. Generally you can identify a bully buck on your green fields. If he's out in the middle of the green field, any time a younger buck comes onto the green field, the bully buck will run him off. You also can identify a bully buck by his antlers. He’ll often have broken antlers. If you see a lot of broken antlers on your bucks, you can be fairly sure that you have one buck that’s bullying and fighting with the other bucks. If you don’t get those bully bucks out of your herd, they’ll take over your whole herd, because they’ll run every young buck that has the potential of being a trophy buck off your land.
Some young bucks aren’t confrontational, but they have the genetics to be potential trophy bucks. Many times if you're getting photos of some really-nice bucks from your trail cameras and suddenly the bucks you’ve been photographing are no longer on your land, then more than likely, you have a bully buck that’s keeping them run off. Another indication that you may have a bully buck in your herd is when you get a lot of photos on your trail cameras of that buck at different spots on the property. More than likely that buck will be aggressive. He’ll be controlling your hunting site and running the other bucks off your property. That buck absolutely has to be on your shooter list.
A bully buck is no different from a bully on the playground. The other kids don’t like to be around him. He can move them off anything he wants to play with, and the children on the playground learn to avoid the bully there. Well, the bucks in your deer herd will stay away from any place they know the bully’s going to show up. That bully buck probably has been pushing a lot of resident bucks off your property onto your neighbor’s property. You have to take him out of the herd. These bucks often will be genetically inferior with heavy beams but short tines. They’ll usually have big bodies and be very aggressive. You not only don’t want a bully buck running the resident bucks off your property, just as importantly, you don’t want that bully buck breeding your does. Your property will hold more bucks if you harvest the bully buck.