Adam Hays: How To Kill A 200-Inch Deer
Ohio bowhunter Adam Hays III has three 200-inch whitetails to his credit. And he has some lessons to share.
For Adam Hays, it's go big or go home.
Hays is focused only on shooting the biggest bucks he can find -- even if that means going home empty-handed. It's the type of dedication that's landed him three bucks scoring over 200 inches, six that top 170 and 30 bucks that would qualify for Pope & Young.
His prowess has landed him on many hunting television shows and videos, including Realtree's Whitetail Country. He's also worked as a videographer for legendary bowhunter Tom Miranda.
Hays lives in central Ohio, near Columbus, and readily admits the area is home to some jaw-dropping bucks. I've been fortunate to hunt all over the country, he says, but I believe the bucks in Ohio are the biggest in the country.
Each fall Adam embarks on a new quest of killing a mature buck, and he has formulated some pretty specific tactics for doing so. Here's a glimpse at his system.
Though a bow was placed in his hands when he was 5 years old, Hays learned about bowhunting under his father's tutelage when he was 14. He took his first bow buck when he was in his early twenties.
Hays became consumed with deer hunting, reading every hunting magazine he could get his hands on. After deciding he would never shoot another buck under 140 inches, Hays met a hunter who introduced him to a method of hunting for a specific buck. Employing this new method, Hays began finding and shooting some newsworthy animals.
THE HAYS SYSTEM
Since most of Hays' hunting spots are on the outskirts of cities that are close to home, his system hinges on finding a specific buck and then scouting that buck from summer until fall. During his first summer of using this system, Hays found a large bachelor group of bucks feeding in a soybean field near his house. One of the bucks stood out above the rest; his velvet-clad antlers were wide and heavy, and his body was bulky and bore the signs of an older deer.
After patterning the buck, Adam hung a treestand in a travel corridor between the buck's feeding and bedding areas. My goal is always to get as close as I can to a buck without disturbing him, so when I go in to hunt him he never knows I'm there, he says. Big bucks like sanctuaries where they can escape gun hunters and feel safe. Old, mature whitetails are a completely different species. They don't like to be seen by anyone. They actually move less than other deer, and prefer a smaller core area.
Eighteen years ago, Adam bought a copy of Jeff Murray's Moon Chart and book, and it changed the way he hunts. Relying on solunar tables, Hays hunts the red nights on the chart. The chart is pretty accurate, he said. The only changes occur during the rut, when whitetails are totally unpredictable.
Hays takes most of his big bucks before November 1. The whitetail pro says that bucks change their routines just before the rut, and are hard to pattern. But from mid-October until the end of the month, they're on a strict feeding pattern and usually stick to a daily routine.
Hays shot his first 200-inch buck in 1999 after watching the bruiser in a feed field all summer. The buck was hanging out in a small woodlot near a large city. Knowing the buck was an absolute giant, Adam waited until the odds were in his favor to hunt the brute.
With the right wind, Hays headed out in the afternoon of Oct.19. His stand was hung near a scrape line, within 100 yards of where the buck bedded. His plan was to begin rattling antlers when the sun set, hoping to get the buck up from his bed a little earlier than normal.
Late that afternoon, Adam began a rattling sequence, and a small buck charged in to investigate. Thirty seconds later, the giant Hays was after appeared a short distance away. The top-heavy buck walked within 10 yards of Adam's stand before a well-placed arrow took out his vitals. The 201-inch giant, carrying a typical 10-point frame with six sticker points, tipped over just 50 yards away.
I can't even put into words the feelings I felt, Hays said. It was like catching a winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.
In 2001, Hays watched a buck he estimated to score in the 180s in a bean field in August. Hays' dog had previously found a shed in the area that scored 83 inches, and Adam believed this was the same buck. After getting permission to hunt the area, Hays never laid eyes on the brute again until after the season in January of 2002.
That next fall, Hays hunted the elusive buck again, but never got a glimpse of him. Though he was disappointed by the lack of sightings, Hays refused to give up on the big whitetail.
During the summer of 2003, Hays spotted the buck in a nearby soybean field. The buck had enormous antlers, and Hays was confident that he was potentially looking at his second 200-inch whitetail.
The buck was extremely cautious, so Hays set up eight stand locations. On Oct. 26, Hays climbed into one of those stands for an evening hunt and began making soft grunts on his deer call at last light approached. Like a vapor, the giant buck appeared 20 yards away. Coming to full draw, Hays placed a razor-sharp broadhead in the huge deer's boiler room.
A short tracking job led to the 202 2/8-inch giant. The buck carried a typical 10-point frame with five sticker points. With two monsters to his credit, Hays hatched plans for number three.
In 2006, Hays learned about another great buck in his area, when he hosted a friend to hunt on one of his properties. Hays had already filled his tag, so he took his friend to a farm that he had hunted since high school. With Hays running a camera, he filmed as a giant buck strolled in, and his buddy missed it at 15 yards. A shame for the buddy, but now, the hunt for Hays' third 200-incher was on.
Hays watched for the buck all the following summer, but never saw him. On Oct. 13, he climbed into an observation stand to see if the big buck was still in the area, and was elated when he spotted the big buck feeding in the distance. On Oct. 22, Hays saw the buck again in a cornfield. He began formulating his plan.
On Oct. 24, Hays carried a treestand on his back and carefully entered a thick woodlot. His plan was to hang the stand in a strip of trees between a cornfield and a CRP field. Satisfied that his stand was in a good location, Hays climbed into the elevated perch and began his vigil.
Two hours later, the huge buck got up from his bedding area 80 yards away and slowly headed toward Hays' stand. When the buck stopped 10 yards away, Hays made a perfect shot. The 208-incher crashed a short distance away.
Adam is on a quest to shoot his fourth 200-inch buck, but the Ohio pro knows that giant whitetails are tough to find. Experience has taught him that big bucks usually don't make their appearances until after dark. The trick is to set up between a buck's bedding area and where he will go feed at dark, Hays said. Once in a while big bucks will get up and move a little bit early en route to the field. If your stand is set up in the right location, you may get a shot.
If you want to shoot a 200-inch buck, then you definitely have to hunt an area where a 200-inch buck lives, Hays said. They aren't standing behind every tree. Some states are better than others for producing big bucks. I believe that Ohio is the top state for really big bucks.