How to ... start scouting for fall bucks

  • Updated: August 7, 2014 - 11:20 AM

This impressive group of August whitetail bucks were attracted to an irrigated soybean field during a late summer drought.

Photo: Photo by Bill Marchel • Special to the Star Tribune,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Whitetail bucks’ antlers are at least three-fourths grown by now. The antlers will continue to mature for the next few weeks. The soft velvet of the antlers will begin to peel around the first of September, revealing the hard bone beneath.

What does this mean for the average deer hunter?

Bucks glimpsed now during scouting efforts carry enough antler that a hunter can accurately predict the final growth. Any odd antler characteristics you see now (including drop tines) will be noticeable and easily recognized during the fall hunting season. Now, perhaps more so than any other time of the year, whitetail bucks can be found feeding during daylight hours, often in open farm fields. That includes big bucks.

Whitetail bucks often gather in groups during the summer. Some hunters call these bands of velvet-clad males “the boys of summer.” Spying from afar on these groups can provide a lesson in deer biology. During the fall rut bucks express dominance by clashing their antlers during sparring or, at times, all out battles. Their aggression is more subtle in the summer. Sometimes a dominant buck will approach his comrade with a sidling walk, a signal in the world of the whitetail to step aside. Other times a buck will display his superiority by laying back his ears and cocking his head, similar to a belligerent dog.

Whitetails feed on a variety of native foods during late summer, but it seems they can’t resist an agricultural field of alfalfa or soybeans. Sometimes finding a group of feeding whitetails is as easy as cruising the back roads during the last hour or two before sunset, with binoculars ready. The best fields are remote — or at least over a hill and out of sight of any roadways.

The opposite can also be true. Occasionally whitetails will feed unbothered along a busy highway or freeway. These deer have probably become accustomed to heavy traffic. They are seldom spooked since few commuters ever notice them and fewer still pull over to spy on them.

A few summers ago, during what meteorologists described as a severe summer drought, I found an irrigated soybean field that had attracted an impressive group of bucks. Each evening a dozen or so bucks — including a few dandies — fed on the soybeans. It was the biggest summer gathering of whitetail bucks I’ve ever seen, owing mostly to the drought.

Late-summer whitetails are most active the day after a storm front has passed. When an August cold front whisks away the sticky, humid air, giving way to a cool, dry breeze from the northwest, deer will appear energized and on their feet — just like humans.

It’s great fun to spot a buck with enormous antlers during these August scouting trips. You might even follow him throughout the intriguing velvet-shedding process, or watch him walk into your bow or gun sights come fall.

Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


Philadelphia - WP: A. Harang 5 FINAL
Washington - LP: J. Zimmermann 3
Atlanta - LP: S. Marimon 5 FINAL
Toronto - WP: B. Cecil 6
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 12 FINAL
Detroit - LP: A. Sanchez 3
Cleveland - WP: D. Salazar 4 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: P. Hughes 2
Cincinnati - LP: H. Bailey 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: C. Martinez 5
San Diego - LP: C. Kimbrel 6 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: Z. Rosscup 7
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 4 FINAL
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 1
Milwaukee - LP: K. Lohse 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 6
Miami - LP: M. Latos 4 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 5
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 4
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Odorizzi 0
Oakland - WP: J. Hahn 5 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: Y. Ventura 0
Arizona - LP: R. De La Rosa 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: C. Heston 4
Colorado - LP: J. Lyles 3 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: Z. Greinke 6
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 1 FINAL
Seattle - WP: F. Hernandez 3
Washington 93 FINAL
Toronto 86
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Golden State 106
Milwaukee 91 FINAL
Chicago 103
Dallas 108 FINAL
Houston 118
Minnesota 1 FINAL
St. Louis 4
Detroit 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 5
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
NY Rangers 3
Winnipeg 1 FINAL
Anaheim 2
Houston 1 FINAL
D.C. 1
Orlando City 0 FINAL
Columbus 3
Toronto FC 2 FINAL
FC Dallas 3
Seattle 3 FINAL
Colorado 1
Vancouver FC 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 0
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question