When there were fewer hunters in our Oregon woods, my family used to gather on opening day and beat the brush for reclusive Columbia blacktail bucks.

Then came decreased logging, less access, and more hunters squeezed into fewer areas. Nothing forces a blacktail into seclusion faster than opening-day pressure. Hunters slamming doors, making party drives, and spreading scent puts bucks in lockdown mode. I’ve adjusted to the changing dynamic by going solo. One hunter makes half the noise of two and can adjust to changing conditions.

In my monastic pursuit of big bucks, I listen and smell as much as I look. If the wind is wrong, I back out and return another day. It’s hard, lonely work. Sure, I love the memories of our big, raucous family deer camps. But I love ambushing a big trophy blacktail in the very sanctuary where he feels most secure even more.

For more opening day tactics, click here.