In order to bag a big buck you have to know where to find him. The easiest way to know where to set up camp is by installing a trail camera in the preseason. The best trail cameras are those that capture the footage of the deer from a distance, have several time-lapse delays and widescreen video or images. One of the coolest trail cameras available is the Moultrie Game Spy D-444 8.OMP camera, available at Cabela's for $129.99. The Moultrie allows you to imprint each photo with the temperature, time, date, barometric pressure and the moon phase, so you will have the ability to narrow down the habits of the deer in the area.
The rub of a deer is one of the easiest ways to determine the size of the buck and which direction it is traveling. This is beneficial for two reasons: You will have a better clue about where to install the trail camera and the best area to put the deer stand. A rub is the markings whitetail bucks leave on trees when they rub their antlers against the trunk to remove the velvet from their antlers. Large trees with rubs, typically means larger antlers. Also look for broken or bent tree branches and trunks as well as gouges made by points, both of which signify a big buck.
Stand or Blind
Once you have determined where you will set up camp, you have a few options of where to wait for the buck: a tree stand, a blind or a tripod blind/stand. You'll find a wide range of styles for each of these, so the best one for you depends on the budget, location and your comfort.
- A ladder tree stand typically includes the ladder, a seat and the anchors. A comfortable and inexpensive option is the Field & Stream Outpost two-person elite ladder stand, which sells for $249.99 at Dicks Sporting Goods.
- A tripod is a stand that can be set up in an open field so you will have a wider view of the surrounding area.
- A blind is typically placed on the ground. Blinds are available in styles ranging from the basic, stripped-down housing to elite, carpeted and sound-proof housings. A new, cool product for concealing a blind is the Blind Webb from Covercraft Industries, which sells for $59. It can be added to the foliage, to completely conceal the blind.
Installing the tree stand
Clear hazards from the tree base, such as rocks and fallen branches. Do not climb the tree until you have put on a harness and attached it to the tree. Keep the steps about a foot apart for the full height, which is about 15 feet. Trim the branches where you are going to put the stand, then go back down to get the stand. Never carry the stand with you while you are climbing; use a heavy rope to pull it up. Follow the manufacturers' instructions to attach the stand, and keep the safety belt on, until you sure the stand is secure.
Crossbow and Accessories
There are hundreds of options to choose from, so take your time and choose a bow that is comfortable, lightweight and easy to fire. The Barnett Jackal Crossbow package from Bass Pro Shop is an excellent crossbow for beginners. It sells for $349.99, is lightweight, comes with a red-dot sight, three 20-inch arrows, quiver and field points. The arrows and points are typically sold separately and some are made to fit only a specific bow, so read the manufactures' suggestions for the best arrow for your specific bow.
Illinois has both a bow season and a muzzle season as well as combination seasons, so check the dates to make sure you are hunting in the correct season. You will need to have an archery deer permit, and there are different restrictions for eligible hunters, so make sure you have the correct license or permit.
Al Perkins hunts and hikes when he is not writing about eco-friendly tips.