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Posted: Feb 27 2011, 10:30 PM
Great White Hunter!
Group: Super Top Users
Member No.: 1,400
Joined: 1-December 07
Heres a short article I wrote a few years ago that was published in a minnesota based magazine called "Hunting the North Country". it was titled "Hunting the Ghosts of the Wilderness".
One of the more unique things about Minnesota Is the amount of pristine wilderness found in the northern part of our state. Very few states can match Minnesota when it comes to untouched lands. There are virtually hundreds of thousands of acres in the North Country that go un-hunted each year. There are several reasons for this, some being, fear of the woods (no logging roads or clear-cuts means solid bush), ATV restrictions (people donít want to hunt if they cannot drive to their spot), but I believe the biggest reason is just pure laziness on the part of todayís hunters.
Ask any serious Bow-hunter what they want most and Iíll bet just about all will answer that they want to own some land and have a chance to bow-hunt animals, large bucks in particular, without the pressures of other hunters.
To me and many other North Country archers, the unbroken wilderness of northern Minnesota presents an unparalleled hunting opportunity. Itís the chance to hunt deer on their own turf, in an un-pressured hunting situation. If you are a trophy hunter, or just like to challenge yourself by hunting mature bucks, it just doesnít get any better then this. Itís almost as good as owning your own hunting paradise.
To the inexperienced, the big woods can be very intimidating. But fear not, for there are several tools at our disposal that can and will take away the fear of the back woods. Iím talking about topographical maps, aerial photos, and GPS navigation devices. For a very small investment these items can make the biggest woods seem as familiar to us as our own back yard.
The general region and specific area we ultimately choose to hunt will have everything to do with our success. To have the highest chances of success, we need to spend our time in the best place. This is the most important aspect to successfully hunt big woods bucks. Look for areas with the least amount of hunting pressure. The higher the hunting pressure, the lower the trophy potential and fewer bucks in general will be available for harvest. Low-pressure areaís will not only offer more bucks, but also more mature bucks. As an added bonus to low-pressure areas, you will also benefit by more daytime deer movement.
How do you find these low-pressure areas? By studying your maps and photoís. Almost all big woods hunting pressure will be within a half-mile of the nearest road, logging trail or clear-cut. Iíll promise you this, easy access means high pressure, simple as that. If you are a serious archer and want to target mature bucks, then you must avoid these areas all together.
To most hunters, figuring out big woods deer can be an undaunting task. Deer travel patterns seem vague and indistinct. Most will have a tough time identifying critical areas and destinations used by deer. All the woods are not the same to a deer. If we could have a map of a wilderness area that showed only those areas that deer actually use, the map would resemble a woodlot environment. Deer do not wonder aimlessly through the woods, rather, they have preferred bedding cover, preferred feeding areas, and most importantly, preferred breeding areas. These areas must be identified in order to pattern wilderness bucks. These bucks do move in predictable patterns, however, the continuous cover can make learning these patterns very difficult.
In wilderness habitats, water will play a major roll in the establishment of travel patterns. Most often, preferred bedding cover and primary food sources will be found alongside or very near some kind of water source, be it a ditch, river, creek, lake or a beaver pond. These areas are often surrounded by higher ground, which establishes a feed low/bed high pattern. Wherever elevation is present, deer will prefer to bed on the high ground. This is especially true with mature bucks.
Even wilderness habitats will have seasonal food pattern changes. Being able to identify primary fall food sources will be an integral part of your hunting success. Another important element about food sources is the location of doe groups. Find a primary fall food source and chances are a doe or family group is using it. One such place that I always seek out and investigate are the ďswamp-meadowísĒ, or ďpot-holeísĒ that are so common in our north woods. These are small wet sloughs that are open on the inside and surrounded by willow or shrub growth on the perimeter. These areas should be very important to any archer, as they will become centers of activity during the rut. You can often times find numerous scrapes and rubs along the edge of these meadows. Always mark these areas on your maps.
During the rut preparation period a bucks travel pattern will usually show him bedding high and feeding low. His established pattern will most likely be to drop down to browse along the edges of several slough meadows, then return to his bedding area by a route that may take him along a swamp edge where he can browse his way back to his bed. The bucks are not looking for does at this time so travel patterns will be predictable and remain short. Priority is placed on food sources.
The prebreeding period will bring a change to the bucks and to their patterns. Primary interest has now shifted from food to doe groups. Primary bedding areas have now moved to areas closer to doe groups. A buck will spend the majority of his time near the area of the most popular doe group. A buck will check his nearby scrapes before heading to other distant scrapes and doe groups.
During the breeding period a mature buck will be spending most of his time with receptive does. These does are selected from the doe groups the buck has been monitoring the last few weeks. His travel pattern will be short and will be the same as the doe he is with. When he leaves her, he will travel only as far as the next receptive doe and once again his travel pattern will be dictated by the doe he is with.
Knowing where each individual doe group is located is of the utmost importance to the archer. Hereís why. A mature buck will be with a mature doe 90% of his time. For the most part, we have a relatively predictable travel pattern as long as he is with a doe. When the doe is no longer receptive, all bets are off. The time period a buck spends between does is one of the most difficult times to pinpoint his location. He could literally be anywhere at any given time. The only knowledgeable prediction we can make is that he will be checking for another receptive doe from the various doe groups within his territory. Knowing where the doe groups are located can help us narrow down the time it takes to relocate a specific buck, or for that matter any buck.
I have read several times in various outdoor publications that a wilderness buck can be hunted and pressured more so then bucks in other habitat types. The thinking is that bucks donít come into contact with hunters often enough to recognize us as a threat. If you believe this you are setting yourself up for nothing more then frustration and disappointment. A mature whitetail is a mature whitetail no matter what habitat they live in. They simply do not get old by being dumb. It may be true that wilderness deer move more in the daylight, but that fact certainly doesnít make them a push over. Iíve hunted every habitat type this state has to offer and itís been my experience that mature wilderness bucks are the most sensitive, nervous and alert whitetails found anywhere. Once you are identified by either a visual sighting or by scent, you can expect a buck to go completely underground. Couple this scenario with added hunting pressure and all bucks will head for the thickest security cover available. Sanctuaries exist even in wilderness areas and will be well known by all bucks. Any disturbance could easily send the bucks elsewhere, so be very careful. Once a buck is displaced to a new location, you are now looking at a really big, difficult and confusing place in which to find him again.
When it comes to big bucks, right now southeast Minnesota is getting all the limelight. Simply looking at our state record book will show this region being tops for record book bucks. These numbers can be very deceiving. In my opinion this is only showing the results of a couple aggressive measurers. Because of a couple dedicated individuals most of the trophies from SE Minnesota get scored and entered. The north woods donít have this opportunity, being for no other reason then for a lack of measurers. Iíve been a measurer for over 20 years and I do know this, northern Minnesota produces just as many trophy whitetails as anywhere! Traditionally, the north woods have produced our largest whitetails year after year. You can expect this trend to continue well into the future.
Our skill level will most often determine our success in locating and hunting wilderness bucks. We can talk all we want to about having the newest equipment, being the best shot, or about our woodsmanship skills. But consistent success on these bucks will come down to knowledge and attitude. More importantly, being willing to put forth the effort and go the extra miles that hunting a wilderness setting demands.
Hunting the wilderness can be a very challenging task. It can also give you one of the most rewarding hunting experiences of your lifetime. The habitat, terrain features, and the swamps will ensure that many thousands of acres remain unhunted. This also means that many bucks will not only reach maturity, but each year many will die of old age as well.
Hunting this environment takes a lot of hard work, especially for the archer. This is exactly what keeps most hunters away, and personally Iím glad of it. I hope you get a chance to drag out one of the 300 lb ďMossbacksĒ this region is notorious for. To me itís a thrill that is unmatched in big game hunting. These bucks are as wild as they get. The kind of bucks that legends are made of.
Posted: Feb 27 2011, 10:39 PM
Member No.: 3
Joined: 10-June 06
That is a great article on wilderness hunting and applies perfectly to NW Ontario deer habitat as well. That was an awesome read and thanks for posting that. That will help a lot of hunters who take the time to read and understand your words. Your discussion on the importance of water, and ponds and the fact that bucks usually bed high and fee low is bang on. I scouted a wilderness area last fall I am really excited about. It has all the "right" features, essentially dried up old beaver ponds with great feed along the banks. It is in wickedly rugged terrain.
Posted: Feb 27 2011, 11:59 PM
Member No.: 3,002
Joined: 23-February 11
Great read. Thanks.
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