Tips & Tactics

Great Expectations

Great Expectations

By Ken Piper

Don't hold out for a buck that isn't there.

I once saw a cartoon that showed a dress-wearing skeleton sitting at a park bench with a caption that read, "Waiting for the perfect man."

If you base your deer hunting expectations on Buckmasters covers or Twitter posts from Illinois, Kansas and Iowa, you could turn into a skeleton waiting for such a deer.

As someone who has had the rare privilege of hunting in multiple locations in the Midwest, I've heard the following phrase several times: "I'm not shooting anything under 160 inches."

If your goal is a trophy buck, that's a completely personal and admirable goal. But if you're holding out for a 160-inch deer, there'd better be several 160s in the area - or at the least one that is showing up regularly on a trail camera.

If I had held out for only a 160-inch buck on all of the properties I've hunted over the past 20 years - and there have been some good ones - I'd have taken three shots. If I were speaking strictly of the leases I've hunted in Alabama, I never would have pulled a trigger. For most of our readers, that deer doesn't exist where they hunt.

Trail cameras are great for determining what constitutes a trophy where you live. The more years you run cameras on a property, the better you'll be able to tell when a buck is exceptional. If you see such a deer and want to hold out for it, that's great.

Alternatively, if you're looking for a challenge or want to take your hunting game up a level, instead of focusing on antlers, target mature bucks. Regardless of antler size, it takes skill and luck for a buck to survive past its fourth birthday, just as it takes skill and luck to harvest such an animal.

Of course, that means you'll have to learn to distinguish older bucks from younger ones, but that's just part of the fun.

Finally, it's perfectly okay to shoot any legal deer that makes you happy. A trophy, after all, is in the eye of the deer holder.

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Copyright 2021 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd