What is the key to harvesting mature bucks consistently? How do some hunters manage to put giant bone on the ground each season while others struggle to catch a glimpse of these elusive creatures?
Deer hunters ask themselves these questions every season. And if you ask a handful of serious hunters their opinions, you will likely get as many answers. The mature whitetail is indeed an amazing creature that demands respect from hunters no matter the experience level.
Competing in this so-called game of chess with a mature whitetail's senses that have been honed into intricate weapons of defense over numerous hunting seasons may well be one of hunting's greatest challenges. Yet, some guys are able to get it done year in and year out.
Here's how you can too.
When Not to Hunt
Of course practice, patience, persistence and scouting are common factors for success. But the most important tip may be to not hunt an area until a very specific set of factors are in your favor. Although opportunities at the buck of a lifetime are few and far between, if ever, those that get it done each season tend to stress the importance of not over-hunting their areas or the giant bucks they pursue.
Waiting for these factors might just be the biggest part of solving the big buck puzzle.
Giant bucks don't grow old with enormous headgear by making mistakes. The quickest way not to kill him is by tipping him off that he is being hunted. Let a mature whitetail get a nose full of your scent and the game just became a whole lot tougher.
Because sight isn't a whitetail's most keen sense, they learn from an early age to rely on the wind to keep them out of harm's way. Over the years, a big buck will learn not only how to play the wind to keep himself safe, but it must be to his advantage or he will not move at all. Period!
It makes sense that if you want to catch a big buck on his feet during the daylight you have to give him the wind so he feels safe enough to rise from his bed and travel.
If you have done your homework, including plenty of scouting, you will know what wind you need — the same wind your quarry needs to move safely from A to B. There's simply no reason to chance going into a buck's territory until you have the perfect wind. Don't make that mistake.
Being consistently successful on bragging sized bucks takes a skill set that is learned through hours and hours of experience in the woods. A common cliché amongst realtors applies here: It's about location, location, location.
Experience teaches a hunter the ability to pick the best location for tagging a true giant. Whitetails are creatures of habit, and a buck that has managed to survive four or five seasons has done so because he found a location and travel pattern that offers him the protection he needs.
The elusive mature buck has a weakness, though; it lies somewhere within this location and travel pattern. It is when a buck moves that he is the most predictable and the most vulnerable. Along a buck's travel pattern there will be a weak spot, a chink in the armor that savvy hunters will need to determine.
These prime ambush locations are deciphered through a mixture of scouting, beginning in the post-season and continuing into the summer and even throughout the season. The most proficient hunters never stop scouting — some even admit to scouting more than they actually hunt!
All this work is done with one goal in mind: To find the best location to kill a specific buck. Sometimes that means scouting from a distance during the season until witnessing a giant make a mistake that tips off the resourceful hunter, showing you the exact location or tree you'll need to be in to get the job done.
But the perfect location is only beneficial if you know when to take advantage of it.
Obviously, you don't want to go through all of the effort of figuring out wind directions and locations, putting in countless hours of scouting and preparation only to dive into your "A" spot before you should.
The more you penetrate a buck's lair, the more chance there is of him picking up on your presence. Repeated trips in and out of a buck's core area is a recipe for disaster.
Patience is a virtue for any accomplished big buck hunter, and for good reason. It is possible that the hunter's deadliest tool is the mind and its ability to outwit an opponent. It's a game in which a hunter's biggest hurdle can be trying to predict what an animal is going to do and when he is going to do it before he ever does.
Many elements effect deer movement, but none may be as constant or as significant as that of the moon. Scientific studies have proven that the moon directly influences deer breeding. Some of the most successful whitetail hunters also swear by the moon and its effects on a deer's daily movements, especially when it comes to triggering mature bucks to rise from their bed to feed.
Years of experience have taught us that diligent scouting, knowledge of your quarry's environment and subtle lunar influences will tell you when to be in the field and more importantly when not to be, may very well be the key to putting giant bucks on the ground. And if you do your part, you'll be much better prepared if you have the opportunity to take down a giant.