In last month’s installment of Happy Trails, we began focusing on buck indicators as they would relate to positioning a web of trail cameras to most effectively identify and monitor bucks on a given hunting property.
The initial early season indicator would be rubs and rub lines.
Picking up where we left off on that topic, let’s go ahead and make the statement that when it comes to white-tailed deer habitat, a high degree of habitat diversity usually translates into high rates of deer sightings.
And guess what goes hand-in-hand with high localized habitat diversity?
A byproduct of habitat diversity is lots of linear feet of habitat edge, and since deer are to a great degree edge dwellers and edge users, the benefits of “edge” to hunters and trail camera users can be very good.
Therefore, find the edge habitat and you will find the rubs and rub lines indicative of buck usage.
An assessment of recently published deer science also brings the factor of topography and terrain type into play, regarding buck use and preference.
Some of us hunt billiard table-flat terrain, and maybe this won’t be so helpful, but for the others of us who hunt more-rugged terrain containing lots of hills and hollows, let’s delve into the subject a little deeper.
The question is whether specific terrain features, where they coincide with edge habitat, are demonstrably favored by bucks for movement and rubbing activity.
The terrain features that were investigated by deer scientists were classified into one of five categories: hillsides, ridges, valleys (included level bottomland), primary points and secondary points.
A primary point was defined, for the purpose of the study, as the terminal end of a ridge-line.
An analysis of the data collected during the study indicated that rub densities were significantly higher (two to threefold higher) for two of the five specific types of topographical features used in the study. The two most-favorable features for buck rub activity turned out to be valley topography and secondary points off of ridges.
Open, mature hardwood valleys displayed very low buck rub activity, while very high rub densities were present in valley terrain containing thick cover habitat.
But why were secondary points and not primary points — both associated with ridges — preferred for use by bucks? The answer could be very simple.
Bucks might tend to preferentially use the short secondary points that descend off the sides of ridges as ramps to more easily traverse back and forth from valleys to uplands, and vice versa.
The study found buck rubbing activity associated with both types of preferred topographical feature was dramatically amplified when habitat edge happened to coincide with the given feature.
In summation, bucks have a preference for rubbing more frequently along habitat edges, especially where the edge is in conjunction with certain linear features and specific types of topographical terrain.
With this knowledge, a piece of deer property can be totally transformed or just tweaked, if necessary, to take best advantage of buck habits.
On a related note, one very frustrating thing this time of year, for bowhunters in particular, regards setting up near or along the edges of large food plots or agricultural fields, as deer can literally enter and exit fields from any number of spots, most of which would be out of bow range.
As far as predicting, odds wise, where bucks might most likely enter or leave a field, examine the field’s perimeter to see if a habitat edge and/or preferred topographical feature intersects the field boundary. If you find one or more features, as earlier described, you might have found yourself a hotspot.
If, on the other hand, you are developing a habitat plan for your piece of deer heaven, and are designing and creating food plot locations, burn some boot leather and put some serious thought into the process.
Maximize and diversify your cover habitat in conjunction with food sources, edge and favorable terrain features, with your goal being to produce more-predictable travel ways for deer, in general, and bucks, in particular.
When initially designing or rehabbing habitat on a given piece of property, a primary goal should be to produce and maximize the total number of hunting hotspots. This concept sounds almost too simple for me to even mention it, but one of the most-common problems on most properties is when hunters tend to over-hunt a few choice locations.
We have all seen this happen — and a concentration of heavy hunting pressure at just a few locations, over time, greatly reduces your chances of seeing deer at those locations, especially older mature bucks.