Year after year, I’ve sat in my deer stand for hours on end, inevitably wondering what draws me to the woods each fall. The answer’s always the same: Something in nature happens that only a hunter could understand.
I cope with the long, cold days by watching young bucks and realize that, if allowed to age, they will turn into something every hunter would love to face each fall. I believe that hunters today are so pressured to shoot a buck that they don’t realize the opportunities they can create by passing on immature animals. Discipline plays a major role in the difference between just harvesting a buck or harvesting an animal to envy.
Hunting a mature whitetail is a lot like trying to crawl your way through their twisted and tangled habitat. It seems there’s another obstacle every time you turn around. It’s been proven that whitetails are a product of their own environment. Hunters need to realize that. But each animal is different depending on where they call home. Whitetails have their own personalities, their own inherited traits and their own favorite grazing areas and haunts. The thrill is trying to decode each one separately and to piece it all together. Sometimes this task takes several seasons.
Going one on one with a big buck is the challenge. Each animal seemingly has a different set of rules to follow, and circumstances differ between each animal and each property. In order to be consistent, you need to dissect all the information gathered and use it to your advantage.
Years of failure and glory have helped me to fill in a few of the blanks. To a certain extent, all bucks are born to the same gene pool, although age is the defining attribute that allows bucks to become masters of their environment. You need to become one with their world with patience and understanding.
I rely on trail cameras, as well as the correct scent for the time of year placed in front of the cameras, to show me what travels through my properties and when. The scents draw the animals from downwind -- animals that would not have otherwise passed my cameras. Even a mature whitetail cannot refuse what nature provides. What most hunters don’t understand is that every property holds bucks larger than expected. Trail cameras and scents have proved this to me time and time again.
Raking the trails to my stands throughout the season allows me to sneak in unheard. This step serves a dual purpose in that it also allows me to monitor animal traffic through the different tracks left in the freshly raked earth. Playing the wind while staying elusive can and will make the difference in harvesting the animal you want. Hunting a stand with the wrong wind direction could cost you the one opportunity for your buck. This can’t be stressed enough!
As hunters, we are just pawns in a game of chess that whitetails play every day. Opportunities are too precious to squander with mixed emotions and delayed reactions. We need to hone our skills for that single moment. Hundreds of hours of preparation and time in the stand need to be spent in order to get that single sighting of a mature buck. A little luck doesn’t hurt, but it’s the preparation that will produce results.
by Dave Lee