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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Join Your Local Buck Bachelor Group

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, June 18, 2011.)

Ever wonder what's going on
in buck bachelor groups?
Spring gobbler season has been over for only a few weeks, and it's already time to begin thinking about the fast approaching fall seasons. Licenses for 2011-2012 are available now, but buying your license is only a small step in preparation.

If you want an opportunity at a mature buck this year, the big step toward that goal is to begin scouting how.

Yes, the heat of the summer is an unpleasant time to be in the woods. Yes, bugs are abundant and ready to eat you alive. Yes, dense foliage makes visibility impossible. And yes, it's hard to evaluate bucks that don't have fully developed headgear. So why bother?

Here's why. Bucks in bachelor groups are now offering you a great opportunity to get to know them. Every wonder what's going on in those bachelor groups?

Bucks are different from does. Does travel in family groups -- mother and her fawns, maybe a sister and her young, perhaps even a grandmother is still included. These females invest their energy into nourishing, teaching, and protecting the young.

Whitetail bucks invest their energy in macho stuff. They hang out with the guys. They do some sparring. They establish a pecking order. And the mature bucks, the ones that know the rut is coming, are sizing up their competition. They have a unique way of doing that. They spread their scent around.

The problem is that until rutting activity becomes more intense, you won't find the traditional evidence of spreading their scent -- you don't find many scrapes. But you can make a bachelor's club bulletin board that bucks will check out -- it's called a licking branch, and it might be the key to your next mature whitetail.

Contrary to what many hunters think, the key to scent communication isn't in the urine that's deposited in scrapes. Urine dissipates quickly. They key is in what's on the licking branch above the scrape.

An article in the August 2011 issue of Deer and Deer Hunting magazine (written by yours truly) cites a Missouri State University study showing that the majority of the buck activity at the scrape involves applying pre-orbital scent to the licking branch. When a buck applies this scent from the scent gland in front of his eyes, he's sending the message, "I'm in the game!"

Even young bucks who aren't yet sure what the game is are instinctively driven to apply their pre-orbital scent to the licking branch.

When other bucks show up at the licking branch, they'll put their noses on the branch and catch a whiff of the other bucks that have been there. Then they'll apply their own scent to that bachelor's club bulletin board, each one leaving his calling card -- his unique identifying scent.

They do this year-round. You can do it too, and join that bachelor group of bucks. The time to begin is now.

Find a licking branch. Deposit a tiny amount of pre-orbital gland lure on it. Set up a trail camera, and watch the bucks get interested. They're asking, "Who's the new guy?"

You don't need to find an established licking branch. You can make your own. Just select a flexible branch no thicker than a pencil about 5 feet off the ground near a deer trail. Soon, bucks will discover it and even though they'll never see you, you'll be a member of the group. You'll get acquainted with them in your trail camera photos.

And, the more mature the buck, the more likely he is to take an interest in the scent you place, because he wants to know who he'll be competing with for breeding rights.

The heat of the summer brings a low-impact scouting opportunity with pre-orbital gland lure. (I get mine from a West Virginia lure maker named Smokey McNicholas.) Because it's not a water-based scent, it has staying power so you don't have to visit the site more often than once every week to 10 days.

If you want to take an inventory of the bucks in your area, join a bachelor group by using pre-orbital gland lure in front of your trail cameras. You might be surprised at the bucks you see.


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