Big buck in bean field

How to Shoot a Big Buck this Fall

April 11, 2024 by Tyler Berthelsen

Shooting a big buck is every hunter’s dream, but how to shoot a big buck can evade many hunters.  Why are those big bucks always taken by a neighbor? Why do the bucks disappear from trail cameras when the season opens? The truth is they probably aren’t far away, but you might not be maximizing your chances. Change that now. 

Understanding The Deer

Deer gravitate to certain areas for specific reasons. That said, your neighbors probably offer more elements that attract deer than you do right now. But, this is a problem that can be fixed. Deer are pretty simple creatures when it comes to their needs. Deer seek food sources that are reliable along with a good habitat. After implementing a plan to provide this you can count on seeing your deer numbers rise. 

Strategic Property Management

If you want to understand how to shoot a big buck, you first have to understand how to manage your property. Effective property management revolves around two key aspects: food sources and land management. It’s crucial to plan and implement it well before the hunting season kicks off so you won’t disturb the deer just before the season starts.

Food is essential for attracting them to your land. When planning for your deer, consider all types of food sources. Food plots get a lot of attention, and for good reason. Crops like corn, soybeans, clover, peas and even radishes and pumpkins can help bring deer to your property. But don’t overlook native browse or mast crops as well. A balanced approach to providing forage will not only provide varying types of nutrition and food for the deer, it is also likely to make your property more appealing at different types of the year, reducing the likelihood that the deer need to travel as far to get what they want.

Location is key when establishing any food source. Consider factors such as proximity to existing deer trails and bedding areas, as well as placement near cover like brush piles or thickets to provide deer with a sense of security while feeding. For plots, size matters too. Aim for plots ranging from 1 to 5 acres. Plots smaller than an acre can work too but larger plots will offer more food and have a better chance of increasing the amount of deer activity on your property, improving your chances of a successful hunt this fall. 

Land management is equally important for creating the ideal deer habitat. Doing this in the spring gives you the opportunity to assess and improve your property easily considering there’s not much vegetation growth yet. Clearing and maintaining trails is essential for creating deer highways that go by your stands. You should start by identifying existing deer trails and clearing them of hanging branches and consider creating new trails to connect your new food plots. After clearing brush, consider leaving the piles to provide additional cover for the deer. 

Cover doesn’t get talked about enough when it comes to providing habitat for deer. Food is important, but bedding and transitional cover is a critical aspect of making deer comfortable on your property. While controversial, hinge cutting can provide some quick cover for deer. So can planting switchgrass to provide thermal protection to the elements. If getting from one location to another exposes the deer, planting a screen-type grass to give them an edge to work getting from one place to the other, and to keep spying eyes from seeing them do so can be of tremendous value.

timber management can be the how you shoot a big buck this fall

Preparation for the Season Ahead

Spring serves as more than just a season for property management but it is also the perfect time to prepare your gear for the coming hunting season. During this time you’ll want to be setting up deer stands and trail cameras. By doing this early, this allows the deer to become comfortable to a new stand by the time season starts. Also updating maps like onX Hunt will help you navigate your property later on by having waypoints on equipment locations. Taking these steps now sets the stage for a great hunting season this fall.

Trail Camera on Tree
How can you shoot a big buck if you don’t know if any are even around? Trail cams are great for this.

The Season Never Ends

There’s no one answer for how to shoot a big buck. While deer season may have a start and an end date, managing your land for deer is a year-round project. If you start this spring, you’ll be thankful for years to come because the deer will be on your property and in your freezer instead of your next door.