Deep-woods bucks spend their entire lives far from civilization and the stifling hunting pressure that goes with it. Heavy snowfall is the animals’ greatest enemy, and winter yarding areas like cedar swamps, their greatest ally. If you’ve got the ambition, determination and patience to hunt a deep-woods buck, go armed with a reliable firearm, a good pair of walking boots, food and water. You’ll also need navigation gear, such as a compass, an aerial photo and a topographic map. Then venture far from established roads and trails, and carve your path into the wild unknown. Deer here are few and far between, but the bucks are wide-bodied and wide-racked.
Here are three proven strategies for a variety of backcountry terrain:
#1 – Search for Signposts
Follow a Stream to a large ridge and look for one or two saddles that deer would use to cross the hogback.
“Then look for a signpost rub marking a buck’s territory,” says expert tracker Hal Blood (bigwoodsbucks.com).
Blood then looks for another group of signpost rubs and still-hunts between them. Tracks that veer off-course tell you to walk slower, while those in a straight line mean the buck is on a mission, so you’d better get moving.
Blood has also found that bucks like to bite off a little browse right before they bed so they can chew their cud while resting. If you find fresh tracks next to freshly nipped foliage, the buck is nearby.
#2 – Use the Buddy System
Hunting deep-woods bucks doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavor. When you find a fresh set of tracks, have the gunner follow them, while the other hunter moves to the right or left of the tracks, making wide, quarter- to half-mile arcs and then working back to the gunner’s track.
“If the wind shifts or the buck thinks it’s being followed, it will make a big circle and come back on its own track,” says R. G. Bernier (bigwhitetail.com).
As the gunner follows the deer’s tracks, the other hunter will continue making wide arcs, making the buck think it has gotten behind the hunter. When it does, the gunner will be in a perfect position for an ambush.
#3 – The Swamp Funnel Sit
Use your topo map to locate two adjacent swamps, designated by blue wetland symbols. Deep-woods bucks like to bed in swamps and use narrow strips of elevated cover, or funnels, to travel between them. Set stands on either side of a funnel to prevent being winded and dig in for a long sit.
These bucks search for food and breeding partners in home ranges that stretch for miles, so it could be a spell before one comes by. If the funnel is in close proximity to a stand of oaks, chokecherries or crab apples growing on elevated ground, even better.