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How To/Pro-Tips

Protect Button Bucks

A "button" buck is a male fawn in his first year. His "antlers" are little fuzz-covered knobs. He is next year's antlered buck and maybe a future trophy. It's easy enough not to bag a button buck during regular "buck" season. Then, legal game has visible antlers. But on so-called "doe days," when antlerless deer are being harvested for population control, many button bucks bite the dust. Button bucks are particularly vulnerable during the rut. Adult bucks drive the young males away from breeding does. The button buck wandering around on his own for the first time is pretty dumb. When harvesting antlerless deer, don't shoot solitary animals. Wait for a group of antlerless deer and take out the biggest one; this will be a mature doe. Invest in good binoculars of 8X or higher magnification and carefully examine the head of any "antlerless" deer for the small knobs of developing antlers. Protecting the buck fawns is the best step to better buck hunting in the future.

Hunting Optics

Binoculars are great hunting tools. Basic binocular savvy means knowing what the numbers mean in terms of hunting performance. With binocular designations such as 7x35, 8x24, 10x42, etc., the first number is magnification power. A 7x glass magnifies a distant object seven times; a 10x, 10 times and so on. The second number is the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. Together with power, the objective diameter determines how the binoculars perform in low light. Dividing magnification power into the objective size gives the exit pupil diameter. This determines how much light gets to the eye, which has a maximum pupil diameter of 6mm. A 7x35 has an exit pupil of 5. An 8x24 has an exit pupil of 3. An 8x42 has an exit pupil of 6. High-power 10x binoculars give large images at some cost of low-light performance. Medium power ranges (7x35 or 8x42) provide the most light-transmitting efficiency. Compact binoculars, such as 8x24, offer easy carrying convenience but transmit less light.

Be Safe

The first step toward treestand safety is good tree selection. A safe tree is healthy and fully alive. Dead or partially dead trees are dangerous. Straight trees are safest. A bend in the trunk can throw the load bearing geometry of a treestand dangerously out of kilter. Completely understand your stand. Know how it should be assembled, attached to the tree and how it should work. Read the instructions carefully.

Keep your hands free and pay attention only to climbing. Wear a climbing belt and tie off immediately when you get to the stand. Haul your hunting equipment up on a pull rope. Wear the safety belt at all times. Climb only as high as you need to go and no higher. There are few hunting situations that require the hunter to be more than 25 feet off the ground. Remember, tree trunks taper. Do not climb past the point where the trunk diameter is too small for completely secure stand attachment.

Dull Dear Guns

Turkey hunters long ago figured out that shiny guns and sharp-eyed gobblers don't mix. Deer hunters have been slower to get that point. It doesn't matter how well you are camouflaged if you are waving around a bright, reflective rifle.

With the growing popularity of synthetic stocks, flat black and camouflage-painted finishes became popular. However, manufacturers have only recently begun offering matte-finished metal work on actions and barrels. Moving rapidly ahead of the pack, some firearms manufacturers are now offering an excellent baked-on camo finish on the whole gun. Not only do such finishes make the rifle less reflective, they also blend it into the surroundings. These finishes also offer excellent weatherproof protection to external surfaces.

With lock, stock and barrel well camouflaged, all that remains is the scope. Most optics manufacturers now offer flat matte finishes and some also offer baked-on camo finishes on their scopes.

All these things can boost deer-hunting success. Let the harvest moon shine on, not your deer rifle.

Video Strategies For Bucks

Deer-hunting videos are great sources of expert information on the "How-To" of successful buck hunting. However, some of the most important video information is conveyed by the deer themselves. Deer express themselves through the body language of posture and movement pattern. Ears up, flicking tail and a rigid, upright posture indicate suspicion. Snorting and foot-stamping by does indicates real alarm. Bucks are less demonstrative than does, but are much quicker to take decisive evasive action when disturbed. If a buck's subtle signs of alarm go unnoticed by the hunter waiting for a better shot, odds are good that the buck will sidle away, offering no shot at all. Watch the hunting videos critically. Note the bucks' postures and minute behaviors both when at ease and on alert. "Reading" buck body language tells you how much time you have to make the shot. For a "final exam," watch new videos for the first time with the audio "Off" and see if you can predict deer behavior.

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