September 23, 2022
Have you ever been scrolling through Facebook and come across someone posting about a giant buck that you realize must be in your local area? You may stop the scrolling and click on the post to try and glean a little more information. You quite possibly may notice the person who posted it hunts the same general area as you. It piques your interest. You ask a few friends if they’ve ever heard about that buck, and before you know it, you realize the buck is somewhat of a celebrity.
Seemingly everyone knows about him, and you’ve set your sights on putting an arrow through him. Situations like this pop up more than you may think. Heck, if you’re reading this, you may know someone who has been in this situation, or maybe it’s even you right now.
Someone who has experienced this exact scenario is a friend of mine named Seth Hartman. For anyone that knows Seth, he’s as consistent of a big buck killer as there is. From my perspective, Seth puts his sights on a buck, and in more years than not, that buck doesn’t make it to the end of the season. Going into the 2021 deer season, Seth set his sights on a buck that was no doubt going to be a challenge to kill. He was planning on hunting arguably the most “popular” buck in our neck of the woods.
I first learned of this deer in 2020. He was an extremely unique buck Seth ended up calling “Curly.” With a giant left side and a funky right side that was just a big and curvy downward beam, he was as identifiable as any buck out there. I would get texts and calls from friends randomly asking me if I was hunting this buck. Personally, I never went after him as I had different bucks to hunt. But that was not the case for Seth.
Seth first learned of Curly in 2019 via a Facebook post. He had heard of the buck before but had never seen photos. He was pretty blown away by the photos he saw, but Seth didn’t do anything to locate the deer as he was hunting other bucks. In 2020, he saw another Facebook post about the buck, but again had other targets. Not too long after seeing the Facebook post in 2020, Seth filled his tag. The day after he filled his 2020 buck tag, Seth decided he was going to go all-in on Curly in 2021.
When going after a buck that everyone knows about, you need to be strategic. It’s risky, because if you’re hunting a buck everyone else is hunting too, you’ll have to make every move correctly just to get a chance. The question you may have is: How do you go from seeing a social media post to actually getting a shot at that buck? Well, Seth’s story is the perfect example of how to kill the popular buck.
Going into the 2021 deer season, Seth knew that to have any chance at Curly, he had to confirm the information he had extracted from the grapevine on the buck’s location. He was able to get permission on a few properties (more to come on these) and therefore was able to get some trail cameras up in late May. Seth immediately got trail camera photos of a buck that he thought was Curly. Given the time of year and antler growth stage, he wasn’t 100 percent sure, however. As summer continued and antlers developed, he knew it was indeed Curly, and his gut feeling on the location of the buck was correct.
When it comes to killing a buck everyone knows about, you have to do some form of investigating first. Rumors fl y around, and people might be purposely giving out false information; so, you need to first confirm this certain buck’s location. In Seth’s case, he found the buck. The next step was to figure out how to kill him.
THE "RIGHT" PROPERTY
Getting on the right property when hunting a buck like this can be the most difficult part of the whole situation. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the biggest property, but more importantly, the best property. As summer continued, Seth knew he needed to find the right property in order to have a chance at Curly. Like I mentioned before, he had permission on a few properties in the general area, but he needed to figure out if any of them would give him a better chance than the others. To do so, he shifted cameras in late July, hoping to figure out Curly’s travel pattern a little better, or even his core area. Luckily, that’s just what happened.
Seth started getting photos of him almost daily, with two of the properties (that bordered each other) being where he clearly was spending most of his time. Out of all the properties Seth had permission on, the biggest one was two acres. As you search for the right property to hunt the buck everyone knows about, don’t ever let the size of it deter you. This is often what keeps these bucks alive. In many cases, there are big chunks of land people can hunt, and the buck will spend more time where he’s not pressured. And it’s common for those properties to be small.
Seth’s hunt for the buck he was after illustrates this case perfectly. Not far from where he was hunting was a bunch of property where other hunters could chase Curly. What was overlooked, however, were the small pieces that Seth was focusing on. And it was about to pay huge dividends.
THE RUMOR MILL
When you’re hunting a giant buck that everyone knows about, you’re going to have to deal with the rumor mill. And if you want to increase your chances of tagging the buck, you’ll want to keep your mouth shut as well. Once again, Seth had to deal with this while hunting Curly. We’ll start with keeping your mouth shut. If you’re going to spout off to others how you think you’ve got a chance at this certain buck, trust me when I say others are listening and won’t hesitate to use your information to their advantage. In a sense, it’s how Seth even started hunting Curly. Once he knew he was closing in on the deer, information that he may have normally shared with friends he had to keep to himself.
Another thing to keep in mind is where you park to hunt. Seth was lucky enough to be able to pull into someone’s driveway while hunting, so his truck wouldn’t be parked along a main road. This is definitely something worth thinking about, too. Another reality of the rumor mill is you have to dissect the information that you hear. In Seth’s case, there is a pretty good example that almost derailed his hunt for Curly.
On opening day of the 2021 Minnesota archery season, Seth was told that the buck he was after had been struck by a car and killed. Coincidentally, Seth hadn’t had a trail camera photo of Curly in 12 days after he was a regular during late summer. Given that information, Seth believed it to be true and started pulling down stands and changing his gameplan. However, he left a few trail cameras up just in case. The next evening, while Seth sat at home contemplating his next moves for the deer season, he noticed a cell cam notification on his phone. Shocked, he stared at the photo almost in disbelief. It was Curly right in front of where he pulled his stand. Seth couldn’t believe it. Clearly the information he had been given about the buck being killed by a car was false. Seth would’ve been in that stand that night had the information not been passed on to him.
The rumor mill may have won that battle, but now Seth could keep that information to himself, hope that others still believed it, and make his move on Curly.
On the third day of archery season, Seth went in and hung a stand in the tree he believed would be best for hunting Curly. It was pouring rain, so his scent would be completely washed out. He got the stand up, and now it was time to wait. Seth knew if he had any time to hunt in the upcoming week, he had to get in the stand. Curly was by no means regular each night anymore, but he knew that it was a matter of time until the buck showed up again. And Seth knew he had to be there when it happened.
Three days after hanging the stand, Seth was able to slip into the stand after work, keeping him from setting up until 5:00 p.m. It was a slow sit with no deer movement, but just after sunset Seth caught some movement. He looked through his binoculars and immediately knew which buck it was. Moments later, the buck stood at 32 yards broadside. Seth had to stop him in a three-foot window, buried the pin and let the arrow fly. It flew true and Seth knew he had just killed a legend of a buck.
Killing a buck that everybody knows and talks about is hard. In fact, it’s really hard. When I asked Seth to tell me what he thought he did well that led to him arrowing one of the most popular bucks in our neck of the woods, he said: “Getting the right property was 90 percent of it.” Other than that, he kept his mouth shut, listened and watched what others said from afar. “I literally only knew of that buck because of Facebook,” Seth says. The next time you learn of a big buck in your neck of the woods and don’t think it’s worth trying to figure out how to hunt him, think back to this story and think of Seth. What seemed improbable turned into one amazing success story!