There’s one thing that ever whitetail deer hunter has in common – the dream of bagging a big record-setting buck. Unfortunately, such deer as usually as elusive as the “Turdy-Point Buck.”
With either a bow or a gun, there are certain small things that all hunters can do to increase their odds of getting a buck, the most effective of which are listed below.
Practice, Practice, Practice – It may seem rudimentary, but practicing shooting with your gun or bow will greatly increase your odds of landing yourself a buck should one cross your path. Bows are decidedly harder to shoot than a gun is, especially when nerves are involved. When practice shooting, be sure to shoot using your hunting broadheads as they will fly different than field points. Also, remember to have your bow set to a comfortable draw weight so you can easily and comfortably shoot your bow.
Go Scouting Early
Pre-season scouts are incredibly important to your hunting season and you should be doing it long before September. In fact, scouting your land in September may actually do more harm than good as you may alert any deer there to your presence and leave your scent behind, which may scare them off. For the best results, start scouting in spring and early summer before the rut begins. Related to this, you should have a game plan in mind and all of your tree stands hung by July. Deer are creatures of habit if you’d had good luck in a certain area in years past, chances are that area will be a hotspot again.
Watch Where you Stand
Related to point number two, tree stand placement is also an important factor to consider. Many hunters place their stands directly on trails or directly over scrapes which doesn’t always yield the best results. Bucks, on the other hand, tend to run parallel to such trails from several yards downwind. When placing a stand, look for such paralleling trails. Also, have different stands you can use depending on what the direction of the wind.
Make Some Noise
Grunting calls and antler rattling are two tried and true methods that work in attracting deer, but each is more effective at a different point in the season. Antler rattling has been proven to work best during the pre-rut when the order of dominance is still being established. Once the rut is on, rattling may get a doe or fawn but is highly unlikely to send any bucks running. Instead, use grunt calls during the rut.
Smell You Later
Deer, like many wild animals, have an excellent sense of smell. To keep them from finding you out, use things like scent blocking soaps and laundry detergent to hide your scent, or wear scent-blocking hunting gear (ideally, use both). On top of this, it can be beneficial to use scent attractors such as “Doe in Heat.” Such scents should always be used lightly, however, as an abnormal amount of a natural scent is just as damaging as an unnatural scent. Use only a few drops here and there as the deer will able to tell if you’re overdoing it!
The Wetter, the Better
Unbeknownst to many, wetlands can be a buck’s biggest hideout because of the heavy cover they are given in such areas. Deer are also excellent swimmers and can easily cross streams and rivers. When looking for new places to hunt, consider areas where there is a creek bottom or other low-land wet areas such as a swamp.
Possibly the biggest tip to help catch a big bucks is to hunt often and for long periods of time. Because of work and other commitments many hunters don’t find the time but it only makes sense that the longer you’re out there the better chance you’ll have of seeing a buck. Try hunting throughout the entire day. Many hunters go out before dawn, come in mid-morning, and then go back out in late afternoon and thus deer are forced to move around when the hunters come and go. It may be in your best interest to stick around during midday to watch for bucks that might come your way.