Monster Buck Tactics that Work
How he got encounters with a 187 inch giant.
The story of Manuel Ferraiuolo’s world-class duel with a world-class buck
named Frazier is nothing short of epic. Even more impressive is that this was a public land buck (in the high-pressure state of Michigan no less) that anyone could have hunted. If you haven’t read about this amazing, 5 year duel you really need to HERE before you go any further. Being aware of, and having encounters where you can kill a buck of this caliber are very different things though, and what we’re going to break down in part 2 of this series as we look at how to get encounters with 187 inch giants.
Tactic #1: BE WHERE THEY ARE. If you look at guys that have encounters with huge bucks, and ones that get them consistently, one huge fact pops out that many overlook. You have to be where they are. 187 inch giants aren’t behind every tree, even in big buck states like Iowa, and to get chances at them you have to actually find them. Just sitting in the woodlot you have access to hunt will probably not get you opportunities unless you’re extremely lucky, and you shouldn’t count on that. Manuel was a bit lucky in the fact that he started hunting locally and found a good 9 point buck. 99% of the time, however, you have to scout, gather intel, and have many locations to find the small percentage of bucks that fall into the “giant” category. When Manuel first spotted this 3 year old nine point he recognized his potential, and began relentlessly gathering invaluable information every year he hunted him. Information necessary to have killable encounters.
Tactic #2: FIND THE PATTERN. Over 5 years Manuel ran many trail cameras and set mineral licks (when legal) to find the buck’s core areas at different times of year. According to him, trail cameras became essential to see “what direction he was coming from, what direction he left in, and when I would get him on each lick. I would then try and get an idea of his travel patterns through the property and time frames in certain areas of the property.” This intel was, and is essential to piece together to make informed decisions on when and where to hunt. This raw intel leads to clues, pieces of a puzzle, and the more clues you have, the better you can put it all together to see the big picture. Manuel focused on looking for weaknesses, patterns over time, recurring dates, conditions, and when Frazier would show in daylight, which was key to having a chance at him. Remember, monster bucks don’t get that way by making mistakes over and over. A hunter is lucky to get one opportunity and has to make the most of it. If a buck displays a trait more than once, you’ve found the key you need to get a killable encounter, so leave no stone unturned, no bit of intel unscrutinized to find it.
Tactic #3: PATTERN HIM. A key distinction to make between #2 and #3 is that #2 involves finding out what he likes to do “find the pattern,” which is different than making him start to change his pattern to benefit you, or “patterning him.” Manuels best tactic centered around licking branches. “I would establish these very early in the year and I would place them along places that he seemed to naturally frequent, that also intersected with higher deer traffic. By establishing these early it would get the deer herd to use them all year long and really ramp up in the pre rut and rut. He would start using these licking branches frequently when we would get close and into the rut.” Monitoring these with trail cameras then added even more to his intel, and gave him more pieces of the puzzle. It also allowed him to consistently see if and when the buck was ramping up to daylight rut activity, and when he should pick his chances to hunt him strategically. Setting these licking branches were key because they helped steer the buck to using areas Manuel could better hunt, and got Frazier to use them more often. This increased his odds of a chance at the buck and decreased the chances of blowing a hunt due to pushing too much into unhuntable areas Frazier frequented.
Tactic #4: STRATEGIC HUNTING. Using the gathered intel on this buck over several years, and formulating a strategic hunting plan with this information was essential to get chances at the 187 inch giant (and he had several. Read about them HERE). Manuel printed a large map and placed colored pins where he got consistent photos, and marked times and locations to start showing the big picture of this bucks movements, tendencies, and weaknesses. By doing this over years, he began to see areas he would show at certain times of year, and when he would show in daylight. This is the only way he was able to target the exact day, time, conditions, and place to make an educated and strategic hunt on Frazier. He would not go after him unless all the pieces lined up, as mature bucks don’t tolerate mistakes and give second chances. You have to make your hunts count to launch arrows at bucks of this caliber.
Manuel also learned some valuable lessons from this once in a lifetime experience. He saw firsthand how very important tactic #4 was. “He definitely taught me to scout way more than I hunt, and if the time isn’t right you are just ruining the spots by hunting them,” said Manuel. He also saw that deeper isn’t
necessarily where the big ones hang, as this buck had one favorite area just 50-60 yds from a parking lot (it was effectively unhuntable though and had numerous escapes). “He pushed me to be a way more patient and strategic hunter in multiple areas, and he pushed me to extend my effective range and fine tune my gear. I knew that 20 and 30 yards wasn’t enough of a maximum range even though it was what I strived for. If he was at 50, or even 60 yards in the right scenario I wanted to be confident in my ability to make a clean shot though.” The biggest thing chasing a 187 inch buck taught him though was just enjoying the pursuit. According to him, “I think we are so focused on the goal that we forget the joy, memories, growth (physical, mental, and spiritual) that we find in the pursuit. There is something almost magical about the thought of what could be and the anticipation of what might be. That is what gets our blood pumping and gets us up at 4 am with a smile on our face and an excited anticipation. The pursuit was definitely the treasure with this monster (who was found dead by other hunters after the 2019 season) and that is something I will enjoy and cherish more now as a hunter than I have in years past.”
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