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The dreaded white flag. When you’re hiking into a stand, there are few sights more disappointing than a white tail, bouncing away, and a big rack just above it. Most hunters assume that a bumped buck spells imminent defeat and a failed hunt. But does that have to be the case? Not always.

Dan Infalt, a well-known DIY big-buck hunter from Wisconsin, says it depends on the encounter.

“If I bump into a buck and my wind is blowing right to him, and he jumps up out of his bed and barrels out of there—it’s over. I’m packing up and moving to another spot,” Infalt says. “But in many cases, if they get up from their beds—and they don’t know what I am—and trot off, I’ll go in there and set-up anyway. And I’ve had them come back a half hour or hour later, sneaking back to their beds, thinking that whatever it was moved past. If they get your scent, I think you’re done. But a visual or just sound—I don’t think they know what you are. They don’t always come back, but I think it’s worth a shot.”

So if this is the case, and you bump a buck from his bed, the next question to answer is how should you set up, and when.

Typically, climbing a tree right there and then is the best bet. As Infalt points out, many times those deer will circle back in to check out the spot. If that evening doesn’t work, the following morning could be your next best chance.

Either way, hang your stand as close as possible to where you saw that buck bedded, and then try to position yourself downwind of where the buck will likely return. It’s important to note that bucks will often circle downwind of their beds before coming in to lay down, so keep that in mind while setting up.

Next time you see that heart-sinking white flag, don’t lose all hope. Reach for your stand, get it hung, and try to capitalize on your new intel.

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