We all have that one friend or know of a guy who consistently lays down big bucks every year. He’ll send you a text or you will see a picture on Facebook in July or August of a giant buck in velvet he captured on one of his trail cameras. Then another picture in late October or early November of the same buck, but this time in a trophy picture. You ask yourself, “How the hell does this guy do it?” I’m not talking about the “hunting personalities” who travel from one outfitter to the next waiting for the next “booner” to walk by their stand or in some high-fence operation. I’m talking about regular guys like me and you. Property, time, and character traits are just a couple factors that allow these guys to kill big deer every year. The rest of this article will be a breakdown of what I feel are those key factors.
What makes these individuals successful is that they are able to locate, pattern, and put together a plan of attack. Big buck killers don’t “go hunting”. Every move they make is well thought out and like a computer every scenario is processed for the best possible outcome. Before the season even starts they have a hit-list of bucks that they will be chasing throughout the season and 100% focused on accomplishing that goal. These guys are always planning and always preparing, there is no off season. They gather information through scouting, trail camera pictures, and knowledge from previous hunting seasons. They know where the bedding areas are in relationship to the food sources and what travel routes the deer take based on wind direction. Tree stands have been hung before the season has even started and they have studied maps to the highest detail to find the best access routes to those stands. With that said, they are also mobile. They are willing to move their tree stands as many times as possible in order to be in the perfect place at the perfect time.
They know when to be aggressive and when to avoid particular areas. They know every pinch point and every ridge on the properties they hunt and how the terrain affects the wind and thermals. They know all these things because they have failed in the past, and being able to learn from failure is one of the most important factors when it comes to chasing mature whitetails. You never want to make the same mistake twice.
There are a handful of factors that can make a property good. Food, thick bedding, water, and low pressure, just to name a few. If you want to kill a giant buck, first and foremost, there needs to be a giant buck in the area you hunt. This is something that most people just don’t get. From a numbers standpoint, the more property one has available to hunt, means the more property one has available to scout, and find a big buck that meets their criteria. The guys who seem to kill the big boys every year may not necessarily have huge sections of property to hunt but they are hunting farms that hold the right deer.
I have two friends that both kill mature deer every single year, but are on different sides of the fence when it comes to where they hunt and the way they hunt. Friend #1 hunts on a private 700+ acre farm that has been managed for several years to grow and hold mature deer. He probably has the QDMA handbook on him at all times. He plants several acres of food plots, implemented timber stand improvements, hinge cuts acres upon acres to improve bedding, even built a couple ponds to prevent deer from having to go to the neighboring farm for water, and all this in the name of whitetails. Did I mention this guy is rich?
Friend #1 also runs about 30 trail cameras and knows the characteristics of every deer on his property. Like many of us he has a “shoot / don’t shoot” list before the season even starts. He passes ridiculous deer that most hunters would only dream of killing to allow for the bucks true genetics to shine.
His hunting strategy is nothing special. He spends a majority of his time in an elevated box blind, over food plots and just waits. It’s only a matter of time until one of his “hit-list” bucks decides to make an appearance. The past two years he has tagged out within the first two weeks of the season. Because of his trail cameras he was able to pattern the deer coming in to one of his food plots. It’s not necessarily outstanding hunting skills that are helping him kill these deer. It’s hard work in the preseason planting, cutting, and mowing that are allowing him to create these opportunities come fall. That and really deep pockets.
Friend #2 is a special individual. He’s killed over 500” of antler over the past three years from the same tree stand. Just like Friend #1 he kills huge deer every year, but does it a completely different way. He puts around 60 plus hours a week in the local factory and the remainder of his time stalking whitetails. He lives in a trailer in the middle of nowhere with only electricity and running water. Satellite television “uses money I could spend on deer”. When I asked him what he does when he’s home, his response was “Look at my mounts.” Hopefully this gives you an idea of what we’re dealing with here.
His two most expensive possessions are his Lone Wolf portable tree stand and Elite bow. He doesn’t believe in fancy camo, scent elimination products, or calling. He owns one trail camera that he puts out at the beginning of the last week of November and will check it two times a week during the rut. When he gets the information he needs from it he makes his move. Although he is pretty secretive about the property he hunts, he mentioned that it is a working cattle farm on about 75 acres. The pressure is consistent throughout the year and the deer are used to noise and a bit of commotion. This is not the only farm he has permission to hunt, but it is the farm where he spends a majority of his time and kills a majority of his bucks. What makes this particular property so special is that one of the boarders is a good sized river with a large draw running the entire length of the property. The part of the property that boarders the river has some of the best bedding I have ever seen. He believes that being in the right tree, with the right wind, at the right time trumps all other things.
My two friends hunt two completely different pieces of property and each have their own strategy on how they approach each season. But when it comes to their mindset they are more alike than you can imagine. They both obsess and think about deer 365 days a year. They both bust their butts in the preseason scouting and preparing the property in their own way to increase their chances of encountering a big buck. They both pass up a lot of immature deer in hopes that by doing so they will establish a higher age structure and allow the bucks to reach their full antler potential. They don’t take short cuts or allow themselves to get lazy when moving a blind or tree stand that means having a better shot opportunity. They do what needs to be done in order to get their target buck within shooting range.
On the other hand, there are times when they put hunting before other priorities in their life. Work, children, wives, and girlfriends all take a backseat when October 1st rolls around. They don’t go to weddings, family events, or dinner parties in October or November. If it’s hunting season, they will be hunting. Their families understand that this is their passion and they are OK with their absenteeism as “there are worse things they could be addicted to”.
One thing I really hate about writing this article is the fact that every individual has a different set of obstacles in front of them and your definition of a “big buck” is more than likely different from your neighbors. Some of you may have access to hundreds of acres of private low pressure ground while others are stuck with hunting high pressure public lands. When it comes to hunting, especially deer hunting, we find ourselves wanting to compare our situation with the situation of someone else who doesn’t hunt the same property as you, have the same amount of time as you, or even the same expectations. The secret to killing a big buck is that there is no secret. There’s no magazine article, magic bean, or super scent that will allow you to pull a 200” buck in from 1000 yards away. In my opinion, hunting is not about the size of the rack or the age of the deer. It’s about the chase, spending time in nature and working your butt off for that one moment when a shooter does walk by your stand you will be ready.