By Noel Gandy
Every October and November I scroll through Social Media and think the same thing: “Man, this guy kills a monster every year. He must have it figured out.” My mind may also tend to wander toward the “L” word as well: Luck.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity.” The Roman philosopher Seneca reminds us that we make our own luck. However, the difference between lucky and unlucky people, we’ve seen before, is all in our perspective.
For some guys, there is no such thing as an unkillable buck. For others, “swamp ghosts” or whatever other nickname you have given your nemesis seem to be something you can only dream about. The following, luckily for you, will give you three foolproof measures to have that opportunity at the buck of a lifetime that always seems to elude you.
Step 1: Own all the Land
You read that correctly: own ALL of the land. The only way to guarantee that you can get the inside track on the deer of your dreams, the one you’ve been salivating over since he left that single trail camera picture on your memory card in September of last year, is to have access to the countless acres which he roams.
Since this is highly unlikely to ever happen we must resort to different measures. Access to good hunting ground is an absolute key to harvesting a trophy. If you’ve developed a relationship with a specific buck, it’s even more crucial to be able to locate some key areas to focus in on in order to capitalize on his roaming.
Bedding areas and feeding grounds are a great start. Where do you think your target buck spends most of his time? I’ve even caught myself asking, “where does he live?”
The answer to that question has upset me more times than not because I’ve often realized that a target buck is likely living off of the property where I have permission to be. The way I can best guess is by trail camera activity and physical daylight sightings. Then, I can zone in more by seeking permission to go to him if need be instead of just “waiting him out” where I have permission to be.
If a buck is frequenting a trail camera in daylight, especially during the first hour or last hour of the day, then there is a good chance that he is bedding nearby. However, if your photos are all at midnight then you can probably guess he’s having to travel at least some distance to step in front for the photo op. Since we can only hunt during the daytime then it is highly advantageous to set-up nearer to where he plans to be during the daylight. Moving cameras and other scouting efforts little by little can help narrow down the preferred direction of travel of a target animal and therefore get you a little closer to his daylight path.
Dan Infalt from the Hunting Beast has this to say on this particular topic:
“There is no such thing as an unkillable buck. Much like the totally nocturnal buck, he doesn’t exist. Find his beds and he is killable. I have hunted many tough bucks. They all get up and move during daylight. Some of them make it difficult to approach or hunt beds but an open mind and willingness to push the envelope has resulted in success on such bucks for me.
Sure, you might have low odds, but low odds are better than no odds. I think the reason some people call such bucks unkillable is because their style of hunting actually does make them unkillable. Some would believe we would need to sit back over food plots and in funnels never hunting anywhere close to the buck and where he moves in daylight. The real key to success for me has been to make my own rules and decisions. Sure I will listen to other’s advice, but you should not think that their way is the only way.”
So, if I cannot own all of the land where I think “my” buck is living then I need to take the means necessary to put myself in an advantageous position to intercept him in daylight hours. This might look like seeking permission from a neighbor. If I am lucky enough to have permission where I think this buck calls home, then I am pushing the envelope just a bit to get a little closer to where I believe he is hanging out during daylight.
Bonus: if you have a known doe bedding area then the downwind side of that area during the last week of October through the second week of November can certainly increase your odds of harvesting a mature buck. Bucks will cruise doe hotspots looking for their next girlfriend. The temptation often comes to shooting a buck that might not have been your “target.” Then the question becomes: just how badly do I want to kill a specific buck?
Step 2: Control the Weather
The second slam dunk step to taking the buck of your dreams is to dictate what the weather does on your piece of paradise. Everyone knows that weather plays a major factor in deer movement. Rising pressure, low temperature, and key wind direction are all players in getting Mr. Big on his feet and in front of your set-up.
If you fail to own the superpower of harnessing mother nature and having her behave to your pleasure then you are better off playing the weather that she deals naturally. What does this look like?
Tyler Ridenour from www.bowhunting360.com worded it well when he said, “I’ve tracked data on barometric pressure for years to see how it affects whitetail movements. My findings support studies I’ve read that show higher deer activity during high pressure, and even more so when the barometer is rising and passing 30. By monitoring forecasts and pressure readings, you’ll better predict when whitetails are most active. You’ll likely document that high-pressure systems spur deer activity after storms and as cold fronts move in.”
Therefore, if you can get a bead on the elements that mother nature is throwing your way then you at least have a higher percentage chance of catching your target buck on his feet. It is at this point when you make your game plan to be in a tree or blind in order to capitalize on his natural tendencies.
From personal experience, I’ve noticed that deer will move best during daylight after significant wind days. The best explanation I can give is by example: the first day with a north wind after several consecutive days of south OR the first south wind after several consecutive days of a north. While these may seem like small things, unscientific research has proven that they are often very fruitful. The natural tendencies of deer are where we need to hone in.
These natural tendencies lead to step 3.
Step 3: Hunt Every single Moment of Season
Who needs the burden of a job while it’s deer season? Family, what family? It’s deer season!
If the satire in these “foolproof” steps has not been recognized then allow me to clarify: these are not legitimate steps to killing a big buck! Unless deer hunting is your profession then it is nearly impossible to lend the kind of time that has been described above.
I know plenty of folks who will take a two-week vacation at the beginning of November. Still, I know even more who come down with mysterious illnesses that won’t allow them to be in the office. The only cure: time in the field. However, it’s not even conceivable then to be in the woods every single moment of legal shooting light.
My recommendation: pick and choose your time wisely based off of the above mentioned weather patterns and natural deer tendencies. If at all possible, be flexible when you hit the woods. I know we can’t all wait for the proverbial perfect day in order to deer hunt. I understand that our time off is our time off and we have to make the best out of the situation. I’m a pastor and I’ve told my wife countless times that the deer move best on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings while we’re in services.
I never will understand, however, why someone would ruin a spot by not playing the correct wind. If you have the option to get off today or tomorrow and the wind is looking better for your target buck tomorrow then take off tomorrow. Sometimes, our lack of patience and our desire to chase the dream gets in our way of sound reason. Earlier, we mentioned the luck is where preparation and opportunity meet. For so many, we make tons of preparation only to squander away our opportunity due to lack of execution of a plan. Make a plan and stick to the plan.
My good friend Daniel McVay of Buckventures explained to me recently, “There is no such thing as an unkillable buck. First off, you have to have the deer. That’s a given. Then you have to hunt him like you’re putting together a puzzle. Even if the puzzle is all one color and seems impossible, it’s still possible. The main way to hunt a mature buck is to never let him know you’re hunting him. You might spook a big deer once but you just about will never be able to spook him more than that. That means you’re hunting good weather and not marginal weather.”
He also stated, “Don’t run in there on a marginal day just for the sake of getting to hunt. Take your time and be patient and you’ll up your odds. This is where being flexible comes into play. If I want to hunt a giant then I’m only hunting him on ideal conditions and am making calculated moves. That might mean taking off a day of work in the middle of the week because the barometer is rising.”
Finally, he reminded me to, “Check your access. Never walk past the deer you’re trying to kill. Be sure that your wind is just as good for your access as it is for your hunt. If you have the main things that a buck is looking for (does, food, water, bedding) then there is not a reason that you won’t be able to eventually have a shot at him if you’re doing things the right way. All deer get up at some point, they just do.”
So, while I definitely am an advocate of the old saying “you can’t kill them on the couch” I’m also an advocate of the idea that you can absolutely make them go underground by being a sloppy hunter. Sure, you can kill a deer but if you’re trying to kill a target buck then take every advantage and do the right things.
So, is there such thing as an unkillable buck? In short, no. However, mature deer don’t get mature on accident and can be extremely difficult to gather into bow and gun range. So, whether you’re pushing the limits by closing in on bedding or practicing patience and waiting for the ideal conditions, you can be in the game.
The last piece of advice comes from the heart: don’t take yourself so serious that you miss the joy of hunting. I have literally obsessed over certain bucks and have allowed the thoughts of harvesting them consume me to a fault. If hunting becomes a burden then maybe it’s time that we step back, reflect, and ask ourselves why we are doing some of the things that we are doing?
Hunt what makes you happy. If you’re happy passing good deer to shoot huge deer, and are content potentially not coming home with a harvest, good for you. If you are focused on putting food on the table: godspeed. Ultimately, the trophy is in the eye of the beholder and no critic deserves to be able to discredit you for that! Happy Hunting, Friends!