Whitetails should moonlight as psychics. That's my take on the Iowa buck I was targeting with my slug gun. The night before season the cornfield-raiding bruiser was still parading around with plenty of shooting light as it strolled from picked corn to food plots. It was now day three of hunting season and the person-about-the-town attitude was gone like the buck itself. I was hoping someone would help me with some psychic advice on what was in my deer hunting future.
Whitetails have a sixth sense when it comes to hunting season. When you're armed with a shotgun it makes the hunt that much more challenging. You can reach out and touch a buck, but not at the same distance as you would with a rifle in hand. To ensure you are in shotgun range at all times when the moment finally arrives, inventory your whitetail property and determine the best locations for a slug-walloping ending to your shotgun season.
HUNTING FOOD PLOTS WITH SLUG GUNS
Even though most mature bucks are wary of food plots, these oasis gems still attract the ladies. Depending on the stage of the rut, bucks will still be in close proximity to food plots. Even after the rut bucks will still visit the nutrition checkerboards to sniff out one last estrus doe, but even more importantly to begin beefing back up after the rut marathon.
Food plots offer ideal ambush locations because you can plant them where you want them, unlike giant agricultural fields that are difficult to cover with a shotgun. You can also plant them to a size where you can shoot across them and even create entrance avenues by clearing paths along edges where scouting reveals popular travel routes.
Be sure to get treestands, ground blinds or permanent shooting houses in place well before the season so deer grow accustomed to their presence. Lastly, monitor your trail cameras with diligence. This will reveal the time period deer are using the plots the most and show you if a new buck appears unexpectedly.
A great matchup for close to moderate shots like you'd encounter in a food-plot environment includes ammunition such as Hornady's American Whitetail 12-ga. series for both rifled barrels and smoothbore shotguns. Smoothbore options include a 1-oz. lead-alloy slug that speeds along at 1,600 ft. per second. For even more tack-driving accuracy, look closely at the 325-gr. Interlock slug for fully rifled barrels. Its hollow-point, serrated design sparks immediate expansion with a pounding lead-alloy core, and the polycarbonate driver guarantees accuracy for a hard-hitting punch to 200 yds. and beyond.
Be ready for the long shot. Modern, scoped shotguns, when combined with ammunition options like Hornady's SST Shotgun Slugs, give you slamming energy and reach to 200 plus yds., especially when teamed with a trusty 12 ga. Using patented Flex Tip® technology, the SST Shotgun Slug, in both 12 and 20 ga., are capable of groups inside of 2" at 100 yds. Equally important, at 200 yds. the accurate 12-ga. slug sill delivers 1,199 ft.-lbs. of energy and only drops 6.5". It's ideal for that whitetail buck that loves to parade around in picked corn.
HUNTING LOCAL AGRICULTURE
In rich agriculture zones like Ohio where shotgun hunting is a tradition, small food plots are often overlooked due to the miles of endless crops. Keep an eye on these fields. Corn, soybeans, winter wheat and freshly cut alfalfa attract whitetails in often greater numbers than a manicured food plot, pre- and post-harvest. This is particularly true of corn where whitetails have the ability to feed and bed in the security of a field larger than most area wood lots. Your only hope for success when hunting these large fields is to ambush bucks using the edges or leaving the field for other browsing opportunities. Don't fret. By putting some time behind your Nikons you can determine preferred travel routes and then plan an ambush.
Look for any low areas in the field, interior wetlands and wooded draws leading to the fields. All of these are used by whitetails to move from nearby timber to the croplands. Getting into position can be tricky, especially in the morning when deer may still be on the fields. You'll also have to use terrain to cloak your advance. After determining the prevailing winds, scout the edges for any habitat or structure that may hide you. Since you could be hunting on the fly, look for weedy fence lines, stacked hay, old barns and even junked machinery to hunker in for cover.
Let's face it. Some bucks just won't visit a food plot or walk across a soybean field once the shooting starts. Then it's time to put your jungle game face on and dive into cover. Mature bucks often don’t engage in daylight feeding or breeding in the wide open. That doesn’t mean they aren't moving. Oftentimes they are just doing it in thick cover. If you only have limited time to hunt you'll need to go inside the cover and meet them face to face.
Take precautions not to put too much pressure on the area and hunt it only when conditions are perfect to avoid bumping a buck. Watch the forecast for breezy conditions mixed with light drizzle for a quiet insertion. Instead of barging right into a bedroom, stay on the downwind edge. That's where bucks often skirt to scent check wide swaths of timber without actually having to roam each quadrant.
Another option is to scout for mast crops like acorns. Mast crops provide nominal protein, but high-fat nutrition for whitetails looking for winter insulation. Besides nutritional benefits, areas rich in mast crops are generally in secluded timber. This means bucks don’t have to forsake their security to feed and you could catch one below an oak tree at any hour of the day.
If you have the option, set your stand weeks in advance and try to intercept the buck. You may want to stay on stand all day. Sure, dawn and dusk showcase a spike in deer activity, but you are just as likely to see a big buck roaming in thick cover over the noon hour, particularly during the rut. You can also still-hunt the interior edges, but move slow and scan often to pick up buck movement before they see you.
FOSTER STYLE LEAD ALLOY
Rifled Slug Upon impact, the 73-cal. projectile deforms to rapidly transfer energy for devastating terminal results. The compression style wad protects the slug at ignition and helps to seal the bore for maximum velocity. Optimized for reliable performance in smoothbore shotguns, the American Whitetail Rifled Slug works with a variety of choke tubes, from cylinder to full choke and rifled chokes.
Some interior alleyways could offer shots beyond 100 yds. and some cover could limit shots to less than 20 yds. Team up with a slug that does it all like those in the Hornady Superformance lineup. Available in both 12- and 20-ga. offerings, the Superformance fame rides on the MonoFlex projectile topped with the exclusive Flex Tip design. This technology guarantees expansion, even at low velocities, and the slug will retain 95 percent of its original weight. For shots with some reach or no-brainers, the Superformance Slug shoots flat, expands broad and delivers hard-hitting energy for quick results.
Back in Iowa I was beginning to feel sorry for myself when I heard the crack of a shotgun down the draw from me. It was my partner. I waited for a follow-up to reveal more of the story, but none trailed. A few seconds later the crackle of the radio revealed the shotgun blast story. My partner had tipped over a dandy buck as it slipped past his stand in a briar funnel at the bottom of the hill. His description of the buck made me smile. It was likely the buck that was giving me fits with its psychic abilities. Unfortunately the fortune telling stopped abruptly with a Hornady happy ending.
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