Roll the Dice or Sit and Watch

Have you ever sat in a treestand or peered from a ground blind and spotted a buck chasing a doe just out of range? It's a tempting situation as the action takes place practically in your face leaving you with a major dilemma. Do you wait it out hoping the buck will eventually saunter over? Or do you jump ship in a bold attempt to bag the buck?

If you're a member of a hunting club or contracted with the services of an outfitter there may be rules in place that prevent you from loosening your seat belt and moving about the cabin. Hunter etiquette is important and needs to be considered. If an outfitter tells you to stay put, then stay put. If you're buddies are in their stands, don't wander over the ridge traipsing into their zone. Disobeying orders or being impolite could lead to a recall in friendship or a missing invite to return as an outfitter client.

But, you can challenge tradition if you're not breaking club or outfitter rules. Who's to say the big buck you're eyeing will ever be seen again? Mature bucks rarely make mistake after mistake. Generally, you only get once chance at a true veteran. I know the biggest bucks I have on my wall were one-time shooting encounters. I can't tell you how many times my friends have commented on seeing monster bucks that were never seen again.

What if that buck runs the other way, crosses the neighbor's fence and is shot? Your opportunity might drive away in the back of an old Dodge truck. Patience is a virtue with the speculative gamble you're going to have a later encounter, possibly that day or next week or never.

Here's another saying to consider. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Swap bird for buck and I think you know what I mean. If the stars and planets align you might get the chance of a lifetime. After a buck confirms a doe is coming into estrus or starts the breeding cycle, they hunker down. A bedded buck with a hot doe is a cemented, stationary target. If this happens within sight of your stand you have a hard decision to make.

Here's how I look at it whether it's wrong or right. First, consider if your advance will actually lead to spooking the buck forever if you blunder? Remember, bucks get spooked all the time. Few live a life of luxury in refuge settings and the occasional meeting by farmers, rural linesmen, mushroom hunters and even illegal pot farmers occurs more than you might imagine (maybe not the pot farmers).

I believe that if a buck happens to be wrapped in the madness of the rut a chance encounter is even less likely to stick. More than once I've bumped a buck while sneaking into a stand position only to have it come rutting by an hour or so later. As long as they don't smell you or feel the sting of a bullet on their hide, the hint of danger may only be temporary if you botch the stalk.

I'll be honest. If I'm not bound by friendship or outfitter constraints, the seat belt is coming off. I don't gamble while in Vegas, but gambling with whitetails by using aggressive moves feeds my gaming hunger in the field. It's something to consider as we wait for the starting gun to fire.