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We have just what you described on our land. We clearcut it back in 2014 and replanted with pines. Unfortunately, it was sprayed to kill all non-pine the first year and there was very little browse for any deer to eat and not enough cover for even a rabbit. That first year was like hunting over a parking lot at the mall.

The 2nd and 3rd years were great as we would sit back an use binos to find deer. During this time, there was not enough cover to hide a deer walking through, but if they bedded down you simply could not see them .. and then BAM they suddenly appear. That was some good hunting and the deer hammered our food plots planted along the thickets.

The 4th year and beyond, the pine thickets provided excellent cover but it was too thick to hunt and we simply had to wait for them to enter the food plots.

The NO BUCKS phenomena is real. I'm by no means an expert, but we have stands in which we see a few bucks and others that we only see does (an maybe some young bucks). The problem is that you stand out like a sore thumb in a tripod stand, there are not trees large enough for a climber and if you have a shooting house - the bucks just learn to avoid them. We have some feeders set up in a few of our food plots next to these pine thickets and it is not uncommon to see 4 to 10 does at every sit - but no legal bucks! This really bugged me because I though it would change once the rut kicked in and fully expected to see some mature bucks out in the food plot chasing a hot doe - WRONG!!! I moved some trail cameras back into the woods about 30 to 40 yards and BAM, there were the bucks. After the season, we went in to pull the cameras and there were scrapes all around. Bottom line here is that the mature bucks (I'm talking mature bucks) learn about shooting houses and they will not enter the food plot in the daylight. They will skirt the food plots under plenty of cover in the daylight and watch from safety. They will put down scrapes about 10-20 yards inside the wood line around the food plots and never enter the food plot. They will check the scrapes at any time, and simply do not enter the food plot unless under the cover of darkness. You can increase your odds if you make the effort to establish some soft edges around the food plots so that you may get lucky and catch a buck in the soft edge watching a doe in moderate cover.

We also have some feeders set up in the mature woods (no cut over or pine thickets) and we see the same thing. Even though we have solar powered cellular cameras and only tend to the feeders once every 3 weeks or so, the bucks avoid these feeders as they are within sight of a shooting house. Mature bucks are super smart and they have a lasting memory of human presence. We moved trail cameras back from the feeders say 40 to 50 yards into the mature woods and there were the bucks.

Also, you will have resident bucks (those that live on your property year round) and transient bucks (that only show near the rut). If you run cameras year round, you will learn and identify resident bucks and transient bucks. The transient bucks have less memory and will sometimes be seen in a food plot or near a feeder. When they do this, they have zero interest in food and are only showing themselves in pursuit of a hot doe.
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