Want to get the drop on that dandy buck you captured on your trail camera? When hunting mature bucks, try to pinpoint, then hunt, one of their staging areas. A staging area is merely a safety zone. Bucks use these areas to pretty much just hang out until darkness settles on the landscape. The best areas are often often near the preferred feeding areas of antlerless deer groups.
The size of a white-tailed buck’s staging area mostly depends on location, cover quality, food availability and the area’s deer density. They can be as small as a brushy, 12-foot-wide fencerow, or as large as a 20-acre cedar swamp. Successful hunters typically discover that bucks loiter or “stage up,” 30 to 100 yards into the woods, away from the food source. Then, as nighttime approaches, something flips their internal switch, and they head straight to the feeding area. This behavior can certainly be linked to the whitetail’s elusive nature.
As we’ve mentioned many times over the years in Deer & Deer Hunting, deer live to maturity because they learn how to avoid predators, and older bucks seemingly know they’re safer when they hang back in thick cover until those last moments of daylight before proceeding toward a food source. The same can be said of crafty, old does. That’s why I place my early season doe-hunting stands 50 yards or so back into the woods. It’s relatively easy to kill yearling does at field edges; it’s a bit more difficult to ambush those matriarchs — even the unpressured ones — with the same setups. They can pick you off in a hurry if you’re not careful. Unless heavily pressured, young deer seldom exhibit such behavior. To them, a staging area is often just a quick transition zone from their bedding area to the food source.