Tagging a mature buck is a year-long process that begins with a strong desire to succeed.
By Dale R. Larson
Desire is the first building block to arrowing a bruiser buck. You have to be able to keep the fire going all year. Scouting year-round creates opportunities to witness the magical growth of a buck’s antlers, and there’s nothing that lights the fire like watching a respectable set of whitetail antlers take shape.
Keep your body and your equipment honed in order to close the deal at the moment of truth. If need be, buy new equipment or clothing and prepare to use it during your hunt. Get comfortable with anything new by trying it out and using it at home.
Plot deer movement, deer sign, hunting strategies and stand locations on aerial photos to prepare for the perfect ambush. The planning and anticipation will keep your desire strong.
Having a good hunting buddy who shares the anticipation and planning, with maybe even a little competition, is a win-win situation.
If you have not actually seen the animal, caught him on film or found his sheds, your quest is harder but not impossible.
Judging buck sign is not a science, but large tracks that don’t overlap and monster rubs will put another log on the desire fire.
Other people can be your best source of information. Be aware that your definition of a bruiser buck will surely differ from someone else’s, especially a non-hunter’s. Often friends’ reports tell you exactly how many points the buck had, even if he ran across the road right in front of them.
If I had a dollar for every 12-point buck that was reported to me, I would be a millionaire. I am not suggesting you should discount these sightings, but learn to take them with a grain of salt. The more you know about your source’s hunting and deer knowledge, the better you’ll be able to gauge the accuracy of their reports.
Read big game record books, talk to local game biologists, check the local sporting goods store’s wall of fame and even visit big buck contests to collect information on areas that produce big deer. In many cases, when these areas become public knowledge, the goodie is already gone. The surrounding counties of these so-called hotspots usually harbor the same caliber of bucks with less hunting pressure.
By not arrowing a lesser buck, you’ve taken a major – and one of the hardest – steps toward taking a bruiser buck, even if it means eating tag soup. Hunt all day, but be willing to move to adapt to weather or wind. Plan other hunting strategies like stalking or calling to use all the available daylight hours. Be persistent, knowing that hunting smart and often will help you succeed.
After a couple of years of sporadic sightings of an irregularly-racked buck we called #29, I decided to dedicate my time to hunting him while he sported his best rack to date, which included double drop tines.
I hunted #29 exclusively the better part of 60 days and saw him 17 times, never taking a shot or even drawing my bow. On one encounter while still-hunting, I came across him with a doe. It was the perfect setup. Neither he nor the doe knew I was in their bedroom.
The doe was 20 yards directly in front of me, facing away. The buck was corralling her on the side hill 50 yards to my left. All I had to do was wait. Inevitably, #29 would come to the doe. But after several long minutes and plotting several shot angles, I got antsy. I thought that I should go ahead and make the shot. Well, ol’ #29 didn’t stand for me trying to draw and bolted out of the canyon.
Even with persistence, burning desire, and the right location, the buck still wins sometimes. But you haven’t really lost. You’ve had the opportunity to enjoy Mother Nature’s splendor, match wits with a mature whitetail and gain a wealth of knowledge that will help tip the scales in your favor for years to come.
This article was published in the September 2006 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.