I Can’t Bait, But if I Could, Here’s How I Would Do It
I live in Minnesota where we are not allowed to feed deer in areas we are actively hunting. I am a law-abiding citizen and bending the rules to bag a buck is not something I would ever consider. This year I am hunting in North Dakota where baiting is legal, so now I have the opportunity for the first time to use feed to my advantage. Here’s the strategy I will use to try and get a shooter buck within bow range the first week of the season. This will be during a time when bucks are still in their bachelor groups, and are on a consistent bed-to-feed pattern.
First off, I will be hunting with SG Outfitters out of Sticklestad Lodge in Fort Ransom, ND. Their properties offer a unique mixture of very hilly river bottom ground that is mostly wooded as well as open flat agriculture/slough ground outside of the river. There are many different properties that I will be hunting, so I’m going to be using Braggin Rights for my attractant. It comes in a small 6lb. bag, so I can have the Outfitter begin the attraction by spreading a bag out at several stand sites. I’m not able to make it up there for several weeks before the season, so having someone available to visit each site a couple weeks before the season begins is crucial to getting deer patterned to the attractant site. The smaller bag size of the Braggin Rights is designed to be consumed by deer in a short time period. This means that if bucks want to get a bite, they best come to the pile before it gets dark. Having large feeders filled all the time can certainly work in some cases, but I find the smaller piles do a better job of bringing out the older bucks that might have feeder fright.
I will instruct the outfitter to put out two piles at each stand site and each at forty-five degree angles from the front of the stand. The piles will be 25 yards from the tree stand. When the season arrives, we will only bait one of the sites, depending on the direction of the wind to minimize our chance of being winded. Mature bucks will seldom walk straight toward a feed site. They usually approach from a crosswind or from the downwind side and will often sit at the edge of cover scent checking the area and looking for any signs of danger before exposing themselves. The key to this early season attractant setup is being religious with scent control. Chances are high that the target buck will not be the first deer at the site, so keeping other non-target deer from blowing my cover will be crucial.
Many people falsely have the assumption that you can’t shoot mature bucks over bait, but the real truth is that you can’t be stupid about how you hunt using bait and you can absolutely kill the biggest buck in an area using bait. Cory Arnold, one of Ani-Logics Ohio pro-staffers, used this strategy to arrow one of his biggest bucks to date. Here is a link to the video. He knew this buck was living in the area and he used Apple Braggin Rights to close the distance. The buck was extremely wary, yet still came into the bait site with plenty of daylight. Cory estimates that buck was 6.5 years old. As always, check your local laws and regulations on whether or not you can bait on your hunting area.
– Tim Neuman, Wildlife Biologist