Hunting Outside The Box

6 Jul

When it comes to locating and killing mature bucks most of the talk revolves around finding where they are bedding in the timber. As we all know, deer are not confined to the woods, especially during late summer and early fall when a majority of the crops are still standing. Many hunters, myself included, tend to focus a lot of their energy on sections of timber. Many think that if there are no trees there are no deer. That is not true. Every year throughout the Midwest millions of acres of crops are planted. This acts as both food and cover. The deer feel comfortable in these fields and are able to bed down in the fence rows, buffer strips, and crop transitions that surround them. If there is water near by the deer have everything they need to live. If you really think about it, how much pressure does a buffer strip in the middle of corn field get?

Today I am thinking outside the box about other locations where one could have an encounter with a mature deer. Right away two examples came to mind.

Like I mentioned earlier, a majority of my hunting property are larger blocks of timber. Although there are some crop fields that bump up against it, most of the row crops are across the road that runs the length of the property.  The first property I will discuss is a 80 acre crop field with an erosion buffer strip that runs half way through it. This strip has maybe 5 trees that might be big enough to hang a stand in. The field also has 4 random terraces that each have a couple small trees and tall grass one them. From the the road and even the aerial map below, this property doesn’t look like much. It wasn’t until I set a trail camera up near one of the terraces that I found several of my hit list bucks using this field not only as a food source, but a bedding area as well. It was almost like someone flipped a switch and all these deer started showing up.


As you can see by the video, this 5 year old felt very comfortable walking through the bean field. He was too far out to shoot, but I watched him drop down in to an erosion strip to bed down. 


This is one of 6 mature bucks that showed up on my trail camera in mid-July last year.

This is one of 6 mature bucks that showed up on my trail camera in mid-July of last year.


After paying attention to some details I noticed two things that really made this area special. First, the erosion strip in the center was the lowest part of the field. This meant that deer could move freely anytime of the day without being seen from the road. Not like that even mattered due to the fact that when the crops were in, you couldn’t see anything from the road anyway. Second, my trail cameras started heating up in this area when the bean pods became edible. Once the crops started producing food a couple of the bucks didn’t even head back to the timber. They bedded right in the field.


Notice the deer are using the terrain features and the crop transitions as their travel routes.

Notice the deer are using the terrain features and the crop transitions as their travel routes.


As soon as my cameras showed that there were shooters bucks in the area, I set up an observation stand at the west end of the erosion strip. There aren’t many trees in this field that can hold a stand so my options were limited and I wasn’t 100% sure on the exact routes the deer were taking so I stayed back. Because I didn’t have any stands pre-hung any move I made would require a run-n-gun setup. Not a bad thing. The video above shows the two days I focused on this area before having to go back to work.

The camera pictures I received were showing that the deer were moving through closer to sunrise then sunset. The plan was to setup and hunt an afternoon to mainly to observe, make sure everything was in order, then coming back the next morning to observe the morning movement. Again, check out the video. The area remained pretty hot until, and as usual, the crops were harvested.

The second example that comes to mind is a simple fence line that connects two areas timber. Like the first location, when the crops are in the fields several deer, including a couple mature bucks, have been using this fence line to travel between two different sections of timber. I originally set up this stand as an observation stand to see where the deer were entering and exiting the fields during the evening. The very first time I sat this stand I noticed that several deer were walking right by my stand and grazing along the field edges instead of coming out of the middle of the timber. There were plenty of places to jump the fence to go from one side to the other but, a majority of the movement would take place on the side of the fence with the beans. This changes every year due to crop rotation.


During the rut and while the crops are still in the fields, this spot is an awesome travel route.

During the rut and while the crops are still in the fields, this spot is an awesome travel route.


I hunted this stand about 5 different times, both morning and evening, during the early season before I realized this might be a good location to hunt during the rut even after the crops were pulled. Because of this I hung a trail camera near my stand location and left the area alone until the first week of November. The first time back in to this area after the crops were pulled the first week of the rut, my trail camera showed tons of movement with one mature buck consistently showing up. Although I never had an encounter with what I would call a shooter, but I did have lots of movement throughout the rut within 20 yards from my stand. This coming season I will more than likely spend a couple hunts in this stand to observe like I did last season, but, it won’t be until mid-October when I hunt it for the first time. The goal is to stay in contact with the farmer to figure out when he plans on harvesting the crops and then try to hunt this stand a couple days before and after they combine.

I guess what I am trying to say is that if you are having a hard time locating a mature buck, don’t be afraid to scout some areas that you haven’t scouted before or might not look like your typical deer habitat. You might be surprised on what you find.

Thanks again and sorry it’s been a while since my last blog,
Dan (DFW)

2 Responses to “Hunting Outside The Box”

  1. Kevin Merrow July 30, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    I recently purchased a property that is close to a well managed property. Btw my property and the well managed property is crop fields like you described. Thanks for thinking outside the box. I have look at the fields and thought about it but would probably have never went after it. Thanks for this blog post. I will be sure to investigate the potential..

    • Dan Johnson July 30, 2015 at 10:55 am #

      Thanks for reading, keep me posted on what you find out!

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