Know Your Buck
Matching hunt tactics to the personality of the deer you're after will improve your odds.
Outdoor writers are always telling readers how old bucks do this and that, as if every deer acts the same way. But bucks are more individualistic than that, according to deer researcher Bryan Kinkel. “Some bucks are more active and less wary than others,” Kinkel says. “A few old bucks get photographed on trail cams over and over in broad daylight. Others get their picture taken only once or twice and always at night.” Kinkel says it is the photogenic beasts that are killed first each season.
Hunt Your Deer Type
Determine the personality of the buck you’re hunting and adjust your tactics accordingly.
Some whitetails are born aggressors and become increasingly brazen as they age. Aggressive bucks travel widely and make a lot of big rubs and scrapes. During the rut, they look for fights with other bucks. These are the bucks you see chasing hot does full bore across fields and down funnels in mid-November.
Any time you can hunt an aggressor, you’ve got a better chance to score. His plentiful sign will be easier to find. Since the deer is energetic and moves in wide circles, odds are good he’ll make a mistake in daylight hours. When he’s rutting, you’re apt to see him motoring around anywhere, anytime-even just after lunch.
Set your stands tight to where you’ve seen a bold buck feeding and bedding. Use the wind to your advantage on a cold, high-pressure day when he’s apt to keep on the move. Watch fields where does are feeding. Trigger your type-A buck’s challenging nature by grunting or rattling during the rut, when he’s stoked to respond.
As young deer, these bucks skulk around and avoid confrontations. Even as they mature, possibly to dominant status, they avoid confrontations. Instead, this mellow buck simply wanders off to another area to look for does there. He blazes fewer rubs and scrapes than his rowdy kin. He’ll keep hidden as he seeks out does.
A mild-mannered buck is a tough nut to crack. It’s nearly impossible to get a shot at him. He generally won’t approach a food source until dark, especially once he’s been hassled by hunters. He also won’t parade across an open pasture where he can be easily seen. The big boy will move, feed and breed at his own leisurely pace.
You’ve probably glimpsed this big guy only once, and there’s little sign of him in the area. But if pressure has been light, he’s probably still around. Check for tracks. He can’t help but leave wide, 4-inch footprints on field edges and in creek crossings. Hunt off that sign. Spend hours in your stands. And be ready-you’ll only get one chance.
Mike’s Quick Tips
Hit the Range
Start Early: Start going to the range now. Deer season won’t open for months, so the joint will probably be empty.
Your Goal: Test-fire several brands of ammo with varying bullet weights. Zero a load that delivers 1-inch groups at 100 yards. Then commit to twice-monthly range sessions throughout the summer.
_In Each Session: _Shoot a total of 10 bullets each time out. If your range has the facilities, extend your practice shots to 150, 200 and 250 yards. Imagine how much more confident you’ll be than the millions of hunters who rush out for one day in September and bang off a few shots to see if their .270 or .30/06 is still “on.”
**Prime Time for Sheds **
_When to Look: _Search for sheds before the spring green-up in your area.
Where to Look: Montana shed-hunting fanatic Lucas Strommen loves to work a woodlot that cattle have recently grazed. “As the cows eat the grass and pack down the weeds, they uncover new sheds,” he says.