You Can Find Deer but They Can Find You Too

Editor’s Note: Dr. Grant Woods of Reeds Spring, Missouri, a leading white-tailed deer researcher, uses the latest scientific technology to track deer movements and learn why deer do what they do. You can use Dr. Wood’s tactics to see and take deer this season.

by Dr. Grant Woods with John E. Phillips

Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big Bucks
Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big Bucks
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

USA -( Scout from the Skinning Shed to Identify Food Sources

To locate deer, I’ll study the movement patterns of deer during the early bowhunting season. Often then the bucks will be moving as though they’re not disturbed. The three areas to concentrate on when you’re looking for deer in November are places where deer eat, drink and bed before the rut.

A mature buck in November will be in what I call a secure area where he doesn’t believe he’ll see a hunter or thinks he can escape before the hunter sees or takes him. A secure area may be only a small trash pile out in the middle of a 40-acre field where the buck can smell and see in all directions.

Finding a big buck is only half the battle. You must make sure he doesn’t find you before you locate him.
Finding a big buck is only half the battle. You must make sure he doesn’t find you before you locate him.

From the studies I’ve done, the most-effective way to discover a nice November buck is to scout from the skinning shed, a technique I’ve learned when my company, Woods and Associates, removes nuisance deer from golf courses, airports and other places. We take the maximum number of deer possible in the shortest time.

As a member of a hunting lease, or when hunting on public lands where deer are checked in and sometimes field dressed, you quickly and easily can learn where and how to see the most deer by being at the skinning shed. Carefully looking at the deer’s stomach contents, can tell you exactly what that deer’s been eating. Remember, deer are unequivocally slaves to their guts.

Whitetail Deer
Each week you hunt, your hunt needs to start in the skinning shed, because the information you gather there will tell you what deer are feeding on right now and at what time.

Next you need to determine when deer are eating. I’ll usually split the deer’s esophagus to learn what he’s eaten just before being harvested. Further back in the stomach is where we’ll find other food content. If the deer has grass in his mouth or in his esophagus, he’s been feeding at the closest time to his harvest on a grass or an alfalfa field. If we discover honeysuckle lower in the stomach and then see acorns further back in the stomach, the deer’s eaten that before he’s reached the fields. This knowledge enables the hunter to arrange his morning and afternoon stands in the areas providing these foods.

Something we’ve learned by scouting from the skinning shed is that one of the deer’s preferred foods is mushrooms. I believe and so does retired deer researcher Dr. Larry Marchinton from the University of Georgia, that deer become addicted to hallucinogenic mushrooms. Marchinton and I have found that deer will disregard danger to reach those mushrooms when they come up after a rain.

The more diverse the habitat you’re hunting, the more critical having different stands for mornings and evenings becomes. Rarely will you find a deer eating in the same places in the mornings that he eats at in the evenings. But if you pinpoint a two-way bottleneck with tracks going in both directions, definitely hang a stand, and hunt there all day.

Whitetail Deer
You may not be able to take a buck on opening weekend, but you should be able to take a doe on the first morning on any hunt and learn from that doe’s stomach what deer are eating.

Remember Food Plots Are Buck Magnets

Because my company has been able to put GPS collars on some deer, we’ve learned where deer stay during daylight hours. In one of my company’s research projects, there were several large food plots on the study site. We drew concentric circles, radiating 10 yards out from those food plots. We studied the deer’s movements for 24 hours, 7 days a week, and learned that most of the deer stayed within 150-200 yards of the food plot the majority of the day, during hunting hours – bedding down, milling around and playing. At night, the deer spent most of their time in the food plots and even would lay down in them. From this study, I learned that land with a productive, large food-plot program would keep deer close.

To learn more about hunting deer, see John E. Phillips’ eBooks and print books at and

John’s newest deer-hunting book, “Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big Bucks” is available at

About the Author:

For the past 40+ years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a fulltime outdoor writer, traveling the world interviewing hunters, guides, outfitters and other outdoorsmen about how they hunt and fish. An award-winning author, John has been hunting and fishing since his kindergarten days.