It would be awfully tempting to read all of the deer-behavior and big-buck hunting articles in Deer & Deer Hunting and conclude that many record-class bucks are killed primarily by chance, good fortune or downright dumb luck. I’m not going to argue that point, because it’s not only true, it gives deer hunting that much more mystic and allure.
As I’ve stressed many times in the pages of Deer & Deer Hunting, I will never profess to be a know-it-all deer hunter. In fact, I’ve always been a firm believer in listening to my elders (not talking with or, worse, talking to them … just listening with a closed mouth!) when it comes to acquiring proven buck-hunting strategies. Over the years, such sage veterans have taught me, above everything else, that becoming a consistently successful buck hunter requires serious commitments of time and effort. Yes, there’s a little luck involved, but the overriding factor to taking that buck of your dreams involves making a pledge to study deer and deer behavior.
If you want to get on the fast track to buck hunting success, commit these five steps to memory:
1 . Keep an open mind. Stop believing all the old-time myths, and you’ll start tagging more bucks. The best time for killing a hog-bodied buck isn’t when the moon is full or waxing or waning. It isn’t during the first week of early archery seasons when bucks are still in bachelor groups, and it isn’t when when October gives way to November. The best time to kill a hog-bodied buck is after you’ve done enough scouting to learn where deer travel and when you’ve perched your scent-free body and gear in a tree that he decides to walk by on a given day.
2 . Shrug off bad advice. Leave words like never and always out of your deer hunting vocabulary. Above all, don’t be talked out of going to the woods.
Phrases like “October lull” and “nocturnal bucks” are excuses for guys who get their butts kicked and don’t want to admit it. The best old-timer absolute advice I’ve ever heard is, “You’ll never kill a deer if you stay in bed all morning.”
3 . Read and understand the signs. Buck make rubs and scrapes to provide visual and olfactory signposts for other deer, but deer hunters overrate rubs. Although it’s true that mature bucks living on low-density habitat can be outsmarted along well-defined rub lines, time-strapped hunters are best served by using rubs as starting points for scouting forays.
4 . Become a trail wizard. Realize that well-worn deer trails aren’t sure-fire tickets to success. Instead of hastily popping up a stand that overlooks a trail, dissect the area and learn how deer use the trail and where it leads in all directions.
5 . Set realistic goals. The guys on TV and in the magazines kill big bucks — oftentimes several in one season — for a good reason: They have great places to hunt. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming about wrapping your tag on a Booner, but don’t let such aspirations desensitize yourself to that buck that’s the king of your 40-acre woodlot.