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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Mapping Trophy Bucks by Brad Herndon

Reviewed by Steve Sorensen
Published by Krause Publications, Iola, WI, 2003; 191 pages, 14 chapters; indexed.
Since a master's degree in hunting mature whitetails isn't available, you can do no better than immerse yourself in this book.
Most Pennsylvania hunters don't consider themselves trophy hunters. But as long as the current antler restriction policy protects spikes, four-points, and six-points in many areas, we might as well hunt as though deer are older and smarter, because they are. And Brad Herndon's Mapping Trophy Bucks promises to help us hunt more intelligently and increase our odds of getting a shot at a 2½, 3½ or 4½ year old buck, a few more of which are roaming our woodlands.

His book could be a textbook for a master's degree in whitetail hunting. If it were, its course description would read something like this: "How to use topographic maps, aerial photos and plat books to develop a terrain strategy, giving consideration to wind and approach avenues, to find and predict when to use high-percentage stands for harvesting mature whitetail deer in forest and farmland." Since a master's degree in hunting mature whitetails isn't available, you can do no better than immerse yourself in this book.

According to Herndon, hunting mature bucks is all about terrain strategy. He ignores the products that promise to make us better hunters -- scents, calls, camouflage, cartridges, tree stands -- because these things are far less important than terrain and wind. If you don't handle terrain and wind correctly, your success may be dependent on nothing more reliable than luck.

The average hunter knows that certain things can't be changed. These factors include hills, streams, croplands and access to land. Topographical features — saddles, points, edges and benches — are givens. But wind is a variable, and the greatest unseen factor on the hunt.

The wind that snakes through our valleys and washes up and down our hillsides is a great betrayer. We have a very difficult time dealing with it, we are often tempted to ignore it, and it costs us more shots at bucks than we know. Wind is fickle, and it's easy to see why the hilly country that is home to our whitetails is such difficult terrain to hunt. We can be thankful that Herndon doesn't oversimplify the wind nor mention it as though all we needed was a reminder to hunt into it.

He says, "You can't change the wind, but you can understand how the wind changes." He explains how the unpredictable nature of the thermals and vacuums that drift around our hunting grounds interact with terrain features and how we can learn to use them to neutralize the whitetail's greatest defense — his nose.

With chapters detailing the many terrain features deer use, Herndon explains how to identify hubs, funnels, and other places where deer are concentrated. He explains why a stand at a double inside corner of a pasture or crop field is only half as effective as a single inside corner. He advises that your approach to a stand site is as important as identifying the site. He even covers how to make a trail that deer will adopt. The variety of terrain features and land uses make it critical that we understand how they relate to deer behavior and air currents. The more thought we put into our strategy, the more successful we will be because "Good thinking pays off," he says.

The book includes a chapter with a national perspective covering record book trophies — how to zero in on where they come from, how to judge them, and several stories about some of the biggest. This will not likely offer Pennsylvania hunters any advantage in hunting home stomping grounds, but it is interesting and it rounds out the emphasis on trophy whitetails.

The final chapter called "Dot-Com Deer Hunting" includes helpful information on how the hunter can access topographic maps and aerial photos online.

This 191-page, 8" x 11" book is well illustrated, includes numerous maps and drawings used as case-studies for the lessons Herndon teaches, and it even has an index, which always makes a good book better.

It's already time to begin planning your next whitetail season, and for about the price of a box of shells, Mapping Trophy Bucks is available at, and might be your best resource for positioning yourself within bow or gun range of a mature buck. Whether you're a trophy hunter or not, deer hunting is more challenging than ever and the lessons here will aid your success.