What’s the key to harvesting the biggest buck of your life? My success has come from paying strict attention to detail and not taking any shortcuts when it comes to being prepared for opening day. I’ve always believed the more I do to “stack the deck” in my favor, the better my chances are for harvesting a giant buck and the following is my whitetail regimen.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice.The old saying, “Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong” couldn’t be more true when it comes to bowhunting. Your bow needs to become anextension of your body and shooting a second nature. I shoot a couple dozen arrows 3-5 times per week year round and by June all I shoot are broadheads. Practicing from further distances than what you’re used to will help you increase your effective kill range and make those close shots more instinctive.
2. Methodical Scent ControlIf you’re not religious about scent control you should be! I do everything to eliminate scent, unscented soap, shampoo, deodorant and even toothpaste. Clothes go straight from the dryer to a scent free container and nothing goes on,including my boots, until I am in the field. Once I’m there I spray down with a good scent eliminator like “Slay” and use a scent free mouth spray, then use the spray to saturatemy hat and neck gaiter, always keeping my mouth covered. For added protection, I use an Ozonics mounted above me in the tree to kill any odor I have missed and I use Evercalm in the stick formula around my tree to create a pocket of deer smells around my stand – this is a deadly combination!
3. Find Him FirstYou can’t kill him if he’s not there, period!Your best bet for finding a giant are near sanctuaries where there is no or very limited hunting.These areas will be close to city limits, parks, industrial zones, wildlife refugesand even large tracts of land that allow no hunting. I like to shed hunt (with permission) and glass the soybeans in the summer, especially evenings after a light rain to locatereally big deer. Hunting a specific animal will make you hunt harder and smarter also, just knowing he’s there!
4. Scout more than you huntKilling mature deer is all about predicting what he will do before he ever does it again and the only way to do this is through scouting. I want to know where he eats, drinks,sleeps, breeds and how he gets back and forth from all the above. The world of the whitetail is changing constantly during season, so my scouting doesn’t stop here either,I’m always looking for the freshest sign. The last thing I want to do is waste valuable time during season hunting the wrong area. Scouting/hunting from observation standsplaced 1-200 yards from the action is a great tactic too, until you witness a big buck make a mistake during daylight.
5. The Weak SpotFor me, the “Holy Grail” of whitetail hunting is finding a big bucks weak spot, somewhere along his travel pattern where you can get within bow range of him while he’s using the wind to his advantage! He’s got to move during daylight for you to kill him, and he needs the wind in his favor to move before dark. So give it to him and scout until you find the weak link in his pattern, usually at a turn, crossing or funnel scenario there will be an ambush spot that will give you the upper hand, even when he has the wind in his face!
6. Location, Location Location.Be more concerned about the right location than finding the perfect tree. There’s never a perfect tree in the perfect spot, get over it and hang your stand where you know youneed to be. Don’t get caught up in worrying about height either, I’ve killed some of my biggest bucks 10-15 feet off the ground. The important thing is to not silhouette yourself,and if you have to hunt low try hanging your stand on the backside of the tree to help hide yourself. Don’t forget about entry and exit also, a stand is only as good as your ability to access it without spooking the deer your after!
7. Kill Him EarlyYour best chance to kill a specific animal is when he is the most predictable and there’s no better time than early season when he’s as patternable as he will be all year. Most ofmy biggest bow kills have come before November 1st. Be cautious though, big deer are basically doing the same thing everyday, but in a very small area and you will have tobe right on top of him to kill him. This makes it tough to invade the area without tipping him off and you might only get one crack at him before this happens.
8. Real Time InfoDuring the summer, I keep track of the bucks I’m chasing by monitoring my 30-06 mineral sites with trail cameras. A monthly visit to these sites to check pictures, batteriesand to replenish the site is fine at this time of the year. During season though, I want real time information and nothing is as valuable to me at this time as my wireless trail cameras that text me vital information as it happens!
9. Make Patience your #1 VirtueSometimes the most difficult part of hunting a big buck is actually not hunting him at all, and having the patience and the discipline to wait until everything is perfect beforediving in for the kill. The best time to hunt a stand is the first time in and if you don’t get it done here, the game just got tougher. Most of my biggest bucks were killed the first time I sat that specific stand.
10. The Red MoonIf I have one secret to my success it’s the Moon. I’m not sure why so many hunters ignore the moon’s influence on deer movement when everybody knows the moon is what triggers the rut. I have killed all 9 of my B&C bucks during a very specific time I refer to as the “Red Moon”. There are only a handful of days each month when the Red Moon coincides with primetime (when deer naturally want to move anyway) and these are the best days and times to catch a big buck moving during daylight. Check out moonguide.com for more on the Red Moon.
I’ve been there more than once, heart pounding, out of breath and knees shaking – staring down my arrow at a giant whitetail buck! There’s nothing like it and very few things can prepare you for it. This is when your instincts have to kick in, your actions need to be second nature and all of your preparation will be put to the test ten fold! He’s a “Master at the Game of Survival”, and the only way to compete with him -hunt like you mean it!