Cold and snowy weather finally made an appearance on the fourth day of my recent whitetail hunt in Canada and with it, success. I found a good track and began my pursuit but this year, and this time, was to be different than in the past. Rather than going full bore, I needed to be smart because I was (and am) still recovering from a broken back injury as a result of being bucked off of a horse in August. My wife tired to tell me that I was too old to play cowboy, and she was right! As I began following the track I came across a well used trail and rub line and the buck I was after took to that trail as though he knew it well. This old broken back of mine was beginning to take on a toll me so as much as I hated to give up on the track, it was the prudent thing to do. The following morning I decided to return to the area where I had left the track and try a tactic that is far from my favorite; that is, sitting on watch at the trail and rub line where I had stopped the day before. After two hours or so I was about to move on but then  a flicker of movement to my right caught my attention; it was a buck, a good one! A shot through the shoulder dropped him in his tracks. As an aside, I highly recommend the high shoulder shot, if you get the opportunity to take it, and have the right caliber and bullet. My personal preference is the 300 Win Mag but the 30-06, 308 and the like are fine. When shot through the shoulders, a deer will drop on the spot, I guarantee;however, bear in mind that the opportunity for a shoulder shot when tracking may not be an option. I walked up on the old boy and he was a beauty, 19" wide spread, 8 points and later he tipped the scales at 235 dressed. I field dressed him and since he was way too big and too far from any road for me to drag myself, I sent a text to my buddies and gave them my GPS location. I flagged the spot where the buck lay and decided to backtrack him to see where he had come from. I took a pretty good jaunt and began to realize that the deer had made a big circle. After 40 plus years of hunting and observing whitetails in the North Woods, mostly in Northern Maine, I am convinced that bucks, especially the big boys, travel a circuitous route. Not a perfect circle, of course, bit a circular travel pattern that may cover several thousand acres. This can change somewhat during the rut, but he will return to a core area where he feels secure. And he most likely will spend 90% or more of his time, in less than 10% of his total range. Again, my observations have convinced me that big bucks in big woods have a home range of several thousand acres, so the old adage about a square mile of territory does not apply in big woods country. Another tip to consider: rub lines and signpost rubs are likely to be more productive than watching scrapes. Yes, scrapes get me excited, but all they indicate is that a buck, or bucks, were there. I have lost count of how many times I have found scrapes that are never touched again! Many times I have been on a track and come across a fresh scrape that was made right in front of me while on the trail and I believe that it was done just as a matter of course while the buck was traveling through an area. And during the rut, he very well may have made his scrapes well outside of his regular home range.

I call this hunt my Canadian Combination Hunt because a combination of tracking and sitting were used as tactics and this time, it worked. I wish all readers to bear in mind that I base my comments on many years observations and do not profess them to be cold hard facts; just what I have observed.Most importantly, remember that just when you think that you know everything there is to know about whitetails, they will exhibit a behavior that defies all conventional wisdom!

Merry Christmas to all! Be close to your family, Take a child hunting, and be well. Hope to see you at one of the winter shows.

Jim Bernardin
BWB Team Member
Registered Maine Guide
Licensed Wyoming Guide