As we near the end of September it’s time to put together one of my favorite articles of the year. We’ve been running trail cameras for 5 full months now and are starting to get a pretty good feel for the bucks that we have in the area. It’s time to start focusing on what bucks we will be hunting and start putting our game plan together to try and get them within bow range. The last few years I’ve put together a list of the bucks that we’ll be chasing during the upcoming season. I’ve called it a “Hit List” in past years but with the success rate that we’ve had in actually putting these deer down I should probably call it a “wish list” or a “wouldn’t it be nice if…” list. While those names may be more traditionally accurate I’m going to try to stay positive and go with the more optimistic view instead, one of these years we have to connect with one of these bucks...right? This year’s list will be slightly different than past years lists as I’ll also include a little bit about how we plan to hunt each of the bucks, hopefully this year one of the plans actually comes together for us! The list will also include a bit of background on the bucks along with some pictures. In years past we’ve had more bucks on our hit list heading into the season but this year all three of the bucks on the list are at least 3.5yrs old. We are in an area of pretty good hunting pressure but along with a few of our neighbors we’ve been able to put together an area that not only allows bucks to get to 3.5 yrs of age or older but also provides the favorable types of habitat that those older bucks look for and call home. While we may be down a bit in numbers compared to years past I am really proud of, and excited about, the deer we have on the list this year and background stories that go with them. It is with great excitement that I present to you the 2013 Whitetail Weekly Hit List!! Shadow: This is a buck that we watched grow last summer and were really excited to chase last fall. We had several pictures of him heading into the season last year and he was on the top of our list. Despite our best efforts, other than one quick spotting on opening day of firearms season Shadow was able to elude us all season. As the season ended we were fairly certain he had made it through and a sighting by a neighbor in January confirmed our thoughts. Heading into this summer we were really hoping to get the cameras back on him early but we've had no luck tracking him down. It wasn’t until September 1st that we got confirmation he was still in the area. A neighbor of ours spotted him a little over a quarter mile away from our property and said he is an awesome 8pt this year. Hopefully our fall food source will be a draw for him this year as it was last year and we can get him back on our place before too long. Even without any trail cam pictures, just knowing he’s in the area is enough to get him back on this year’s list. That fact that he is likely 4.5yrs old and is reportedly sporting an 8pt rack that’s pushing 140 inches doesn’t hurt either. -- Strategy: It’s hard to throw a plan together on a buck that you have no current year trail cam information on, or sightings of, but thankfully we have some information from last year to work with. We had several pictures of him last year within bow range of one of our stands as he entered our food plot so I would say that would be our top spot for him. When he was spotted during season he was working a doe through a finger of thick cover and while he was out of bow range he would have been well within calling range so come rut time that stand could also be key. With the right wind, that stand has a history of being really effective so hopefully it will work for us on this great buck. Bob Marley: This is a buck that we’ve really become familiar with over the last three years. He’s been a regular on our cameras since back in the early summer of 2011. In 2011 he had a pretty nicely formed frame but his short busted tines and single brow tine earned him the name Whacky Rack and he was known as Whacky for short. He was spotted a few times over the course of the year and was definitely a homebody buck that stayed close to our property most of the year. In 2012 it took us a little while to realize that the buck we had nicknamed Bob Marley was actually Whacky from the year before. Once we realized who he was we decided to just stick with Bob Marley, or Bob for short. Similar to 2011 the 2012 rack sported an impressive frame but the short tines and single brow kept him as a “maybe/maybe not” type of buck. Our neighbor passed on this buck Nov 14th and we were fairly confident he had made it through the firearms season as well. A shed found on a different neighbor’s property confirmed our thoughts and we were hoping to find him again this spring on the cameras. It took a little while but on July 23rd Bob showed back up on our camera. He had definitely maintained the same good frame but had finally grown a second brow tine along with some junk making him a mainframe 9pt with a few additional kickers. While he hasn’t blown into the beast I was hoping for he is a great buck and at either 3.5 or 4.5 years old this fall he will be a no doubt shooter for us. -- Strategy: The majority of the pictures we got of Bob last year were either in our Plateau Plot or as he worked to and from the plot along the gas line trail. Back in 2011 I spotted him on that same plot and also at the far opposite end of the property traveling along the river within a few yards of where we got the initial pictures of him this year. With that in mind the River Stand will be a key component in getting close to him this year. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he was bedding in along the river and that stand is in a great funnel that will put him within range pretty much any time he moves through the area. Also, now that the plot is planted, if we start to get pictures of him moving along the gas line trail like he did last year we can use the stand along that lane as another ambush point for him. Puppa: While the other two bucks on this list have some nice history to go along with their nice racks, the Puppa Buck appears to be a new member of the farm. It’s entirely possible that he was around last year but we haven’t been able to trace him back to any of the bucks we saw last year. Judging by his body size I would have to guess that he is a 3.5yr old this year which means he would have at least been a decent buck last year but looking back through last year’s pictures there doesn’t seem to be any matches. Regardless of where he may have been last year, we were happy to find him hanging around this year. He has been a regular in our small Southline Plot and since mid July he’s really surprised us with his growth. He is a great looking 9pt right now and is a buck that we are definitely going to go after this fall. This is the classic buck that is a win/win situation for us. If we manage to kill this deer we will be beyond happy but if this buck manages to slip through until next year he will likely blow into an amazing buck. He certainly won’t get a free pass this year though. -- Strategy: We have gotten several pictures of Puppa in our small Southline Plot but we don’t have a stand setup over that plot. We have several pictures of him in our Plateau Plot as well but many of those pictures are nighttime shots. The one place where we have been able to get multiple “legal shooting light” pictures is at fence jump located between those two plots. Not only are the pictures during daylight hours, they are concentrated in the morning and most are within the first hour or so of daylight. Luckily for us this just so happens to be about 15yds from one of our stands and with the right wind that stand will be a great ambush spot for this buck. This year’s hit list is really a great sign of the progress that we’ve been able to make on our property in a relatively short amount of time. We are by no means experts on any of this stuff (nor do we claim to be) but hopefully this is a sign of things to come for us as we continue down this road. It’s been a fun journey so far and I’m pretty certain we’re only just beginning! We’ll take a look back at this list as we approach the firearms season and see where we are in our chase. Hopefully by then we’ll know the fate of at least one of those bucks and will have a hero shot or two to add to the write up. Take care, and thanks for reading!!