6 tips for finding big deer
A hunter's guide to tagging the largest bucks
How many times has a buck snuck by you while you were hunting? Or how many times have you walked right past one that’s hiding? You’ll never know for certain, but rest assured it happens to all of us who hunt white-tailed deer. Few game animals have such superior senses and agility, or can vanish so quickly into dense cover, as white-tailed bucks. But by understanding some of their most cagey behaviours, you can definitely increase your opportunities for success.
Is there such a thing as an unhuntable buck? Are there bucks that go completely nocturnal when under hunting pressure? Yes—to a degree. These hunter-wise bucks certainly limit their movements during daylight hours, but we all know they can’t totally vanish. They have to be hiding somewhere, so the trick here is to find out where.
Many whitetail experts will concur that there are bucks that are largely nocturnal, rarely glimpsed in the daytime. These bucks most often live in areas where there’s ample forage, so there’s no mad dash for the buffet every morning and evening. Whenever they arrive at their feeding areas, there’s always enough to be had.
Some experts go so far as to suggest that these rarely seen bucks are too smart to even let their reproductive urges get the better of them during mating season. If one is tending a doe in estrus and she leaves the protection of the forest, for example, he will refuse to follow.
- If you find sign of a big buck (huge tracks, or fresh rubs or scrapes) but you’re not seeing the animal after many days of hard hunting, he may have felt the pressure from you or other hunters in the area and cut back dramatically on his movement. This is especially likely to happen during the pre- or post-rut period.
- Mature nocturnal bucks are often credited with the ability to pattern hunter movement and activity as well as, or often better than, we can pattern them. And since most deer hunters confine their time afield to the early morning and evening hours, it doesn’t take long for a cagey buck to clue into this routine.
- With that in mind, shake up your routine from time to time. Change stands and hunt different parts of the property, for example. And when possible, hunt all day or at different times of the day, not just during the early mornings and evenings. Many incredible bucks have been harvested at high noon.
- Also focus on where you think a big buck would go to hide. Think of hard-to-get-to, wet or dense areas of cover. Sometimes these monster bucks hide out in places that seem so small or exposed that no one ever bothers to check them out-places such as a slough in the middle of a big field or a narrow strip of bush along a road.
- Once you’ve learned where your ghost buck is taking sanctuary during the day, you’ve found where you should set up a stand and hunt. Keep in mind that the buck will have to get up to eat and drink at some point, and will probably be forced to leave his secluded area to do so. By hunting on the periphery over a deer trail, you’ll be ready.
- Also, if you know that the buck lives in the area where you’re hunting and you haven’t seen him during the pre-rut, remember that once the aroma of the first doe in heat becomes airborne, the buck should soon become a changed animal. When it comes to breeding, even the biggest, shyest bucks typically lose their fear and recklessly seek out does in heat. By hunting during the peak of the rut (usually the second week of November), you’ll have the best chance at taking home one of these otherwise invisible bucks.
This article was originally published on September 5, 2006