Secrets on How to Get Mature Bucks Moving During Daylight Hours: Native Plants vs. Non-Native

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This fall, like every fall, as the leaves turn orange, it's time for deer hunters to start thinking about their hunting plans for this season. If you are looking for mature bucks during daylight hours, then there are a few things you should know before heading out into your woods or fields. One of the most essential aspects is native browse. But before we explore these options in more detail, below, let's put to bed the myth that mature bucks only move at night.

In St Louis County, Missouri, lays a 331-acre military gravesite, Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. It consists of nearly 200,000 headstones and was established after the Civil War. It is a beautiful and thoughtful tribute to those brave soldiers who died for our country. However, another impressive thing about this area is its wildlife. Whitetail deer often wander through, and observers report that they're grazing contentedly, unaware that humans exist at all!

Mature bucks are often seen casually feeding throughout the cemetery as cars drive by and folks pay their respects to our country's fallen heroes. This seems to go against what we've all come to know about mature bucks and daylight movement, yet here they stand, defying the odds. The cemetery is a great place to spot bucks and does during any day of the week. But of course, there are no hunting opportunities in this sacred ground.

I imagine everyone reading this can think of places where deer and humans regularly coexist without the pressure of hunting. The big bucks are often seen during daylight hours, as you would expect in such an environment. Lee Lakosky notes in his book, "Hunting Mature Whitetails: The Lakovsky Way," a time when he would regularly see monster bucks inside a 20-acre, fenced, water-treatment facility, which was another no-hunting area. Lee said he realized these mature bucks were not fearful of daylight activity because they were not pressured. They were not hunted and therefore had no reason to fear moving during daylight.

This deer activity is not only on water-treatment facilities or at Jefferson Barracks Cemetery. I've seen bucks walk across front yards in urban no-hunting zones. Simply stated, deer are not scared of humans so long as humans are not chasing those deer. So how do you take advantage of this on our hunting properties?

There are two main approaches deer hunters can take. The first is to plant native plants that deer like to browse on, which will attract deer. Deer think with their stomachs nearly all year, but it's misleading to think deer are grazers in the way cattle graze in a field. Deer rarely spend hours in the same area grazing as cows do. Especially mature bucks. Even in the best food plots, deer tend to move through those plots rather than staying in a single spot eating. Because of this, deer browse more than graze. In fact, studies show up to 80% of a deer's diet can be woody browse. Of course, this varies by location and time of year, but it suggests that deer don't stay in one place long when on their feet. The more native browse you have available, the more deer will be on their feet moving around your property.

Next, and the most critical, is providing deer with security. The number one way to make mature bucks more active during the day is to give them security. Pressure, hunting, or other things will influence where and when they move around. The deer in no-hunting zones have security. They know they are not being hunted, so their natural instincts take over and dictate where, when, how long to stay there, etc.

So, where do you start? The first step is changing how deer browse on your property by promoting native plants that deer like to eat. This can be done through habitat improvements or planting native species. Habitat improvements like growing season burns, timber stand improvements (TSI), strip-disking, letting fields go fallow, invasive species removal, selective herbicide treatments, and more. There are several best management practices (BMPs) for generating growth of native woody, and herbaceous vegetation deer will utilize for food and security.

To maximize your efforts, consider planting native browse too. Native plants are easy to establish, perennial, require almost no maintenance, and benefit your entire ecosystem. Do you upland bird hunt, turkey hunt, small game hunt, or just generally like to save money on fuel and save time in maintenance? All those things are improved when planting native species.

Native plants are deer's most preferred food source, and they provide the highest quality of nutrition for deer. Promoting native browse is a win/win situation – you get better deer hunting AND help improve your entire ecosystem. If you want mature bucks to show themselves during daylight hours through deer movement, promoting native plants should be a priority on your hunting grounds.

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