When it comes to hunting deer in America, there is not a more formidable adversary than the blacktail buck. It is a little-known fact that most hunters in the US hunt whitetails in the southern and eastern portions of the country. Even those hunters who live in the West will opt to go after Mule deer, that dwell in a more navigable environment. This is because hunting blacktail is rugged.
Blacktail deer live in soggy moss-covered forests, thick with thorns and dense underbrush. To hunt a blacktail buck on his own turf is to challenge one of nature’s shrewdest creatures in a habitat that is completely unforgiving. Those who dare to do so are seeking a hunt that will truly test their skills. If you’re thinking about heading into the blacktail woods, in search of its ultimate quarry, here are a few things you need to keep in mind.
Finding out where your blacktail buck is bedded down will be absolutely key in terms of harvesting him. To locate the beds, first scout an area that has sufficient feed. Blacktails will never bed far from their food source of choice, most beds will be a few hundred yards away from the first food source they choose to graze on. Keep in mind that blacktail will commonly visit more than one food source upon waking, as their preferred food sources are numerous.
A blacktail buck’s most powerful sense is his sense of smell. Bucks know this, and they also know that their most vulnerable area is the immediate vicinity behind them. This is why wily blacktail bucks will bed so that they are able to watch their back trail and they will always keep the prevailing wind behind them. Blacktail bucks will also look to bed just below the top of ridge lines, so that their scent is covered by the prevailing wind from behind, as well as the rising thermal wind from below.
During hunting season (October, for most rifle hunters), look for beds to be on the north, northeast or northwest ends of the unit you are hunting. Blacktail never bed along creeks or in the bottom of ravines, so don’t waste your energy looking there.
Hot Spots and Home Ranges
Fish and Game studies have proven time and time again that blacktail stay in their home range, yet spend a lop-sided amount of time in particular areas of their home range. These areas are called “hot spots.” It is genuinely accepted among biologists who study blacktail behavior, that a blacktail buck will spend approximately 90% of his time on 10% of his home range. Your job is to pinpoint where that hot spot is.
You are looking for heavy, seemingly inaccessible areas with multiple escape routes. The bigger and wiser the buck, the more inactive he will be once the hunting season is on. Smart old bucks react to hunting pressure by shrinking their core area and staying there. They become frustratingly nocturnal and move as little as possible during daylight hours. But they are there and they do move. When you locate an area that you think a big buck is hiding in, slow down, keep the wind in your face, and still hunt your way through his territory. Remember, blacktail bucks that have lived long enough to be old and big have gotten that way by outsmarting hundreds of hunters. If the buck sees you before you see him, he may likely try to wait until you pass, then sneak away quietly. Younger bucks may burst out of their hiding spots at high speeds, but a trophy-sized blacktail will look to slip away once you have passed. All the more reason, go slow.