Hunters today are much more educated in their sport than at any time in the previous 150 years, and so is the technology that most embrace. They also are
educated in deer behavior, so does that put deer
at a total disadvantage? By Fred Abbas
No, not at all, simply because despite our knowledge and desire to be successful a certain sequence must fall into place. For example, a hunter has watched a big buck all summer long entering and leaving a food plot and knows exactly which trail the buck has been using. Finally the season arrives and the hunter is waiting in ambush, but the buck never shows up because he had changed his travel pattern. The hunter’s mistake?
He allowed the buck to control the situation. The simple solution was to mow a trail starting in late summer that the hunter wanted the deer to follow. Deer are creatures of habit and that habit could have been instilled in the summer, plus deer are lazy and will always take the path of least resistance. While there are no guarantees that live animals will follow the script, you do put the odds in your favor.
As many readers are aware, my son Greg and I are inventors and we own A-Way Hunting Products and A-Way Outdoors Invention Consulting. We invent hunting products and we invent hunting tactics. Ironically, all of the products that we have invented and now sell in our business were never initially meant for the consumer, they were for the most part solely to give us an advantage over the big Michigan bucks that we love to hunt.
As our knowledge and experience in the field grew we realized we needed to invent different hunting aids for the many different situations that have created a problem for all hunters, especially since these hunting aids did not exist on the shelves of your local sporting goods stores. Once invented it didn’t take long to notice that what worked on mature bucks easily worked on all other bucks. Some of these products have become extremely deadly on big bucks, and that’s exactly what we were hoping to accomplish.
All of our tactics begin and revolve around deer/hunter communication in one fashion or another. We needed to first open a dialogue with bucks before we could ask them questions. The best starting point is in the late summer time frame near or over food plots, or some other favored food source where deer are most apt to congregate. Every one of our 24 food plots are planted exclusively with a variety of forage products offered by the Whitetail Institute.
Starting in mid-August we create several small mock scrapes, along with using any existing scrapes on each farm that we hunt. The scrapes are scattered near the trails that the deer use to get to, or return from these food sources. This is the first phase, now we could ask questions through our actions.
In about a week’s time we should receive partial answers through a buck’s physical reaction. For instance, our actions come in the form of using what are probably the world’s most powerful deer attractant scents, they are designed to work for up to five days or longer, through rain or shine in the scrapes and on the licking branches. We constantly change up by using different scents on each visit to keep the bucks interested and curious. The expected buck’s counter-actions will come in the form of expanding the scrape. In time each deer run will become so well defined that they will tell us exactly which trails the bigger bucks use, where his bedding area is (by back tracking), he will also tell us how big he is by the size of his tracks and how heavy he is by how deep his hooves sink in the dirt. This is what I mean by opening a dialogue.
Mock scrapes and scrapes in general are not as seasonal as the vast majority of old school hunters believe. These scrapes are the equivalent of our internet to deer, and bucks are capable of scraping all year long, it’s simply a form of communication to them. If I had to choose one tactic over the rest it would be mock scrapes, we utilize them all season long.
Like most hunters our favorite time for scent use is the all-important pre-rut/rut time frame when the thoughts of every buck (of age) turns to reproduction, and of course like every hunter out there, we also use doe in estrus type attractant scents. But unfortunately there are highly ineffective times for scent use. The first (and worst) happens to fall during the early part of bow season where we have very few tactics to rely on, and the second falls after the rut. If you were to add both time frames together you will discover it covers a significant portion of our total deer season. If ever there was a problem that needed a solution, it was this one.
After much trial and error we discovered certain patentable characteristics in proprietary synthetic scents which led to the inventing of “She-Duction.” It’s role is to specifically cover these two dead periods with its ability to heighten a buck’s sense of curiosity much beyond normal, (the stronger the smell of the scent, the stronger the attraction to a buck), and it all came about because we focused on a deer’s strong sense of curiosity tinged with a dominant buck’s territorial instincts. Nobody has ever merged these two known buck behavior patterns together, until now.
We have always considered curiosity as a weakness that any hunter could exploit. Consider this, 75 percent of deer attractant scent use is geared strictly toward a buck’s sense of curiosity, and the other 25 percent is pre-rut/rut related doe in estrus type scents. Each has their time and place.
Two years ago I was able to take a huge, gorgeous 11 point buck that had been nocturnal. I had spent considerable time bow hunting him when he finally made a critical first mistake by responding to a mock scrape with much too much aggression. Overkill, was my first impression when I discovered what he had done. This buck had just given up more information than he probably intended, and it would ultimately get him killed the very next morning. He spent considerable energy destroying big branches off of the same tree that held the licking branch above our mock scrape. He continued by kicking dirt 20 feet away and finished his tirade by making his own scrape near my scrape. His message was clear, actually it was more than a message, it was a strong statement. He was telling the world and any local or neighboring contenders that this was his territory and his intentions were to stick around and answer to all challengers.
I knew timing was critical being so close to the rut. So I created another scrape near his scrape, informing the aggressive buck that his challenge has been accepted. My hope was to force him into another mistake that hopefully would stall him long enough until shooting light. You will never shoot a mature buck unless he himself makes a mistake. I sprayed three different powerful scents in the scrapes knowing that the buck could not possibly decipher their message. This is the incident where the inventing of a new tactic called “Cluster Scrapes” was born. Even before daylight I could hear a buck grunting, then as more daylight filtered in I could see the shape of a big body, he was going from one scrape to another sniffing so loud that I could hear him from 75 yards away. Legal shooting light had finally arrived and the buck not realizing that he had just made the worst mistake of his life was slowly ambling toward his bedding area, down the same trail where I was on stand waiting for him.
Fast forward to last year’s muzzle loading season. We hunt in several different Southern Michigan counties and on eight different farms, by the time we rotated back to the same farm where I took the big buck, the second rut in December was about to kick in. Earlier in the season we scouted this farm and found some mild scrape activity on the same scrape where I took that big buck the year before. Nothing to write home about though, which led us to believe that no new dominant buck took over the territory which is what usually happens in farm country.
What we found this time on that same scrape absolutely shocked us. Broken branches, dirt spayed all over and this new buck even opened his own scrape near our scrape, an exact duplication of what we had found the year before. We normally pull our trail cameras early to avoid the temptation of checking them and to avoid disturbing the area. On this hunt we would depend on the sign left by the buck. We found plenty of tracks that indicated the culprit was a good size buck and based on the large tracks Greg choose to hunt this area. I was working a buck on a different farm.
Since we didn’t know if this new buck was nocturnal or not Greg decided not to take any chances and would use the “cluster scrape” tactic again. He then refreshed each scrape with a different scent. The next morning Greg positioned himself on a high vantage point about 125 yards away from the scrape site. Greg’s muzzleloader is a custom (made in Michigan) Ultimate Firearms in 50 cal. with 180 grains of magnum Triple 7 pellets and a 300 grain Hornady SST bullet, topped with a 3×10 power Swarovski scope. We not only use these guns exclusively during our regular rifle season here, we have taken these super accurate and powerful guns to Africa where we used 200 grains of triple 7 pellets and astounded the PH (guide) by dropping several big game animals at 275 yards on average.
After the hunt Greg related the story to me how he had witnessed an exact replay of what had happened to me the year before. The buck came in grunting, taking his time to loudly sniff each scrape, and repeating the process over and over again until Greg could plainly see through the gathering light that the buck was a definite shooter. Here is where the story goes off script and takes on an odd bizarre twist that you only hear, or read about. As Greg was lining up his cross hairs behind the big buck’s shoulder a movement caught his eye, suddenly another, even bigger buck entered the picture from behind the first one and shockingly charged and gored the other buck with his antlers and chased him off, thus inadvertently saving the first buck’s life.
The bigger buck began to do exactly what the other buck was doing, he went from scrape to scrape sniffing loudly then amazingly he ended up broadside over the same scrape where the other buck was standing. Once Greg got over the shock of what had just transpired his hunting instincts took over and he lined up his cross hairs on the new buck. The big buck fell a short distance later, but he would leave us with some lingering thoughts. Was he the buck who aggressively left his calling card, or was it the smaller buck that left the sign? Only time will tell, but what we do know is that there is another possible future contender in the neighborhood.
For more information: A-Way Hunting Products, A-Way Outdoors Invention Consulting
www.awayhunting.com or (989) 435-3879; Whitetail Institute Of North America, www.whitetailinstitute.com or (800) 688-3030.
Fred once again is sharing his vast knowledge of Michigan big buck hunting at this year’s Woods-N-Water News Outdoor Weekend, Sept. 11-13 at the fairgrounds in Imlay City. If you love deer hunting, you don’t want to miss this highly informative seminar. Fred speaks from unparalleled experience and has the proof to back it up, he is Michigan’s number one ranking trophy hunter with 56 bucks in the record books of Commemorative Bucks Of Michigan, with the majority taken with a bow, and is the only hunter in Michigan’s history to tag four trophy book bucks in one season, 1990, the last year Michigan had a four buck limit.