What’s the key to deer hunting success? The answer is two-fold: Knowledge makes you powerful, but wisdom provides for consistent success. Highly populated whitetail herds certainly provide opportunities for some hunters to blunder into success here and there, but true whitetail wisdom is what will separate you from the guy who fills his buck tag every few years.
The knowledge end of things involves deer behavior and proven hunting tactics. You’ll outsmart more deer, and bigger bucks, when you make the plunge and absorb every written word you can find on those topics. However, you’ll enjoy even more deer hunting success when you become wise to what really makes deer tick and begin to understand how environmental factors affect everything from habitat quality to population dynamics.
For example, I’ve long struggled to explain why I’ll buy an article to print in Deer & Deer Hunting on something as obscure as the reasons why some buck fawns are physically capable of siring offspring. I’ll even get occasional calls on such things. “How does that information help me become a better deer hunter?” someone might ask.
I’ve yet to find the perfect response to that question, and that bothers me a little bit. I guess I can liken the situation to the high-schooler who complains to an algebra teacher, “When are we ever going to use this in the real word?” when they’re struggling with an equation. The answer, of course, is “probably never,” but the underlying point is, “The more you know, the more you grow.”
Therein lies the key to becoming a consistently successful, and more appreciative, deer hunter. The more you know about the floral and fauna, the more likely you are to enjoy the experience and reap the rewards. The best way to start is to learn and understand the important five-point pyramid containing knowledge of weather, food sources, habitat quality, human pressure and deer biology.
Thankfully, us modern hunters have a treasure trove of information at our fingertips for learning more about those five main points for deer hunting success. I consider myself blessed to have a job that allows me to routinely tap the minds of North America’s top deer hunters. Every one of them is an expert hunter in his own right, but some stand out above the crowd because of their common-man upbringings and subsequent successes while hunting public land.
At the risk of making a good friend feel old, I will note that Michigan’s Richard Smith was killing big whitetails on public land before I was even born. He has hunted whitetails in nearly every state and province and says, despite increased hunting pressure, hunters can routinely succeed if they put their minds to it. “I’ve killed six deer on public land in Michigan over the past 10 years,” Smith said. “So, it can still be done.” His best public-land buck ever came from land owned by the U.S. Forest Service. It was a 5½-year-old 10-pointer that grossed in the mid-150s.
Other familiar names include Wisconsin’s Steve Bartylla, Michigan’s John Eberhart, New York’s Bill Vaznis and Virginia’s Walt Hampton. My dear, late, friend John Trout Jr. of Indiana is another name to keep top of mind. Titles to look for include: Big Buck Secrets Bowhunting Pressured Whitetails and Ambushing Trophy Whitetails.
You will shorten your learning curve. I guarantee it.