Tagging a Trophy Buck on a Budget

Whitetail hunting season is upon us once again, and hunters everywhere are suffering from “Buck Fever”. With the economy in the doldrums and household budgets stretched to the limits, many hunters find themselves forced to forego their annual passion. By re-evaluating conventional wisdom and embracing age old tactics, this whitetail season can still be a success, and without breaking the bank.

That Hunting Lease Cost How Much?

Over the last few decades, land owners of large fertile tracts have realized the value of their holdings, thus putting pressure on the price of whitetail hunting leases. With most productive properties tied up in long term agreements, asking prices are sky high on the few available. Certainly, if money were no issue, controlling the entire home range of a whitetail population is preferable by leasing hundreds or thousands of acres. Hunters on a budget just don’t have that luxury.

You are Hunting Bucks, Not Does

When controlling whitetail territory through large land leases, hunters most often concentrate on food sources to attract deer. While offering consistent and plentiful food has the ability to build and maintain a larger population of does in a defined habitat, when rut comes around each year, those trophy bucks are simply going to roam. No matter the amount of money or effort spent in providing food sources and hospitable habitat, the primal urge to reproduce will expand a dominant buck’s home range to many miles during the peak of the cycle.

Locating Bottlenecks

As trophy bucks turn their attention to mating each year, they search far and wide for all habitats in which potential partners can be found. Over the years, human encroachment has often separated these ranges, in many cases, leaving only small corridors of cover in which deer can safely travel without exposure. These bottlenecks, once identified, offer the dedicated hunter an opportunity to catch their target in transit. While hunters have always used natural bottlenecks such as diverging streams and river crossings to set up ambush, scouting for manmade funnels is a worthwhile endeavor.

For a Smile and a Handshake

Once a hunter has identified a bottleneck likely to be used by their targeted bucks, the task then becomes finding the landowner of the property. A quick search of records at the local tax assessor’s office will usually provide the contact information needed. Make sure when calling on the owner to put your best foot forward and leave the best impression possible. As these landowners are rarely approached for hunting rights, they represent great opportunities. Generally their holdings are considered to be too small, too open, or insignificant as hunting land. With a smile, firm handshake, and a promise to share any bounty, many will grant permission for use of climbing stand, game cameras, and even a little clearing of shooting lanes if needed.

Don’t Bite the Hand

If a landowner does grant you access to their property, remember to tread lightly. Leaving as little trace of your hunting activity as possible will keep you in good graces. Whether your personal hunt ends in success or not, be sure to thank the owner at the end of the season for providing you the opportunity. In the case of a harvest, don’t be stingy with the backstrap.

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