"My guide spotted a world-class buck in this clear-cut the day before," explains Cavaleri, "so we decided to set up a tree stand along a line of trees in the middle of the opening in hopes the buck would return. The next morning dawned cold, but I stayed aloft until around ten o'clock. I decided to walk the periphery of the clear-cut for a look-see and to warm up.
"I hadn't gone too far when I heard what sounded like a deer stomping its foot. I looked in the clear-cut and saw a doe staring right at me. She immediately high-tailed it into the brush, taking a huge buck in hot pursuit with her. A smaller buck, however, was left standing in the open; he apparently had no idea what was going on. I quickly found him in my scoped .270 and with little hesitation touched off a 150-grain Nosler Partition. The buck bolted for fifty yards, but another Federal Premium found its mark, dropping the 7x6 at 125 yards.
"I couldn't believe how heavy he was! My guide and I both estimated his live weight to be about 305 pounds--a big buck in any part of the continent. Later, after the mandatory sixty-day drying period, his massive rack taped out at 1645⁄8, making it my best buck to date."
Bucks like Cavaleri's are not all that uncommon. In fact, my best five rifle kills were the result of careful still-hunting in and around clear-cuts. The trick to still-hunting wilderness clear-cuts is to focus on adjacent terrain features that attract mature bucks to the cut. Natural waterways such as beaver dams, lake and pond shorelines, and riverbeds are a good start. Next, look for gentle slopes leading in and out of walled canyons, nearby brushy draws and of course steep ravines, especially if they connect one clear-cut with another. Then look for plateaus, high peaks and saddles between peaks that are within walking distance of the clear-cut and, finally, any nearby man-made openings such as power lines, logging-truck staging areas and abandoned cart roads. All these features are magnets for rutting bucks.
Next, you need to scuff up some shoe leather and inspect these features for hot "buck works," including ravaged rubs, large scrapes and, my favorite, smoking-hot scrape lines. Indeed, over the years I have had more close encounters with mature big woods bucks by pussy-footing along the downwind edge of a fresh scrape line than any other deer hunting strategy. Every one of these scrape lines was in or near a clear-cut.
"Bucks works" can be difficult to find in any big woods setting. However, I have discovered that if I superimpose aerial photography with topographical maps, my chances of finding scrapes and scrape lines increase ten-fold. Any opening in the forest canopy will attract rutting bucks, but long-grown-over clear-cuts and the logging roads that served them have proven to be the most productive.
One year after studying a block of topo maps and black-and-white aerial photographs, I located a "funny" white line on one of the photographs that didn't match up with any structure on the map. I suspected the white line, which denoted an absence of tall forest, was in fact an old logging road.
I investigated and found a crisscross network of abandoned logging roads that apparently serviced an age-old clear-cut. Best of all, several of the logging roads were littered with scrapes and scrape lines. It was as if I had stumbled upon the mother lode of all wilderness deer. I had to leave the next day, but a friend of mine hunted the old roads and nailed a majestic 150-class 10-point, the smaller of the two deer he caught freshening the "buck works," before ten o'clock the next morning.
As you see, clear-cuts are to wilderness deer what alfalfa lots and cornfields are to farmland deer, and you can hunt them just like you would hunt a farmer's crop field back home. It's that simple.