By Alex Comstock
When I started deer hunting at the age of 15 the goal was simple, find deer and shoot deer. It didn’t matter whether it was a doe or a buck, a small buck, or a big buck. I just wanted to see deer, and hopefully shoot one. As time went on, and I evolved as a deer hunter, I became intrigued with hunting mature bucks. Everyone has different motivations when it comes to deer hunting, but hunting mature bucks presented a unique challenge, and was something I set my sights on around the age of 18, and have never looked back. If you want to hunt truly mature bucks, you’ll find that it is much different than hunting any deer, and there are a lot of things you’ll need to do differently.
The first thing that comes to mind when hunting mature bucks is the sheer amount of detail you must do everything with. This includes every facet of deer hunting such as scouting, playing the wind, how and when you check trail cameras, what days you hunt, etc. Think about it in this simple way, a mature buck is mature for a reason. He wasn’t magically born as a four-year-old buck, and smarter than everything else in the woods. He has learned over time, and through positive and negative experiences how to escape death, and survive. Ultimately, a mature buck is a pro at survival, and that’s what makes him so much tougher to kill. Everything you do must be detail oriented, or you will find that your success rate won’t be very high.
Mature Bucks Don’t Act Like Other Deer
Something I have come to learn is that mature bucks don’t act like the rest of the deer herd. General deer ideas, such as hunting field edges, and scouting for the biggest deer trails in the timber is great – if you are just trying to kill any deer. If you want to harvest a mature buck, you’ll need to understand that they aren’t acting like every other deer. A mature buck might not enter a field to feed in the evening until after dark, requiring you to hunt a staging area maybe only fifty yards in the timber. You’ll find that mature bucks don’t necessarily travel on the major highways, but instead on that less beaten down trail that parallels it. These may seem minuscule, but it’s the little things that could be the difference in shooting a mature buck or watching it walk by you just out of range.
Overall, deer don’t respond to hunting pressure in a positive way. But with that said, you can get away with a lot more if you don’t care about shooting a two-year-old buck opposed to a four-year-old buck. You may be able to spook that young deer multiple times before he catches on to the fact that he’s being hunted. When it comes to mature bucks, one screw up and you might miss your chance. If you want to be successful hunting mature bucks, pressure has a lot to do with it. You need to be extra careful not only on when you hunt, but how you access your stand, how you exit your stand after a hunt, how/when you check your trail cameras and anything else that might put unwanted pressure on a mature buck.
What I’ve found is that overall, the more OCD you get about pressure, the better. I now tend to be too careful. What do I mean by this? I check trail cameras as if I was hunting. That means the wind has to be right, and I try to be as stealthy as possible. This year, I’m even going to start wearing hip waders during the summer when I check trail cameras to help reduce the scent I leave behind. During the season, I only hunt stands when the wind is right. There is no point (in my opinion) to hunting a marginal wind because the stand is in the right spot, only to get busted. If you can keep the pressure to an absolute minimum, your odds of success will be higher.
Have you ever heard that to have anything good, it’s worth waiting for? The same goes for hunting mature whitetail bucks. If you truly want to harvest a mature buck, patience will be key. You’ll have to be patient in a number of ways. That could mean you’ll have to wait for the right weather conditions to hunt a certain stand, or you’ll simply need to be patient, and pass younger bucks. When it comes down to it, there’s nothing wrong with shooting the first two-year-old that walks by you, but you ultimately can’t kill a mature buck if you shoot a younger buck. Be patient, because it will be worth it in the end.
There Is a Higher Chance of Failure
If you like to deer hunt and don’t care what you shoot, your odds of success are exponentially higher than if you want to harvest strictly mature bucks. Once you transition into a mature buck hunter, you can’t be afraid to fail. It is imperative that you realize that failure is inevitable, but it is also equally as important to learn from those failures. Failing can be the greatest teacher of all, and if you can learn from the lessons you’re taught from mature bucks when you make a mistake, you’ll become a better deer hunter in the process.
There is no right and wrong when it comes to what makes you happy in the world of deer hunting. Everyone has their own choice of what they want to hunt, and somebody who hunts mature bucks isn’t any better than someone who hunts for meat. But if you want to hunt mature bucks, understand that you’ll have to hunt differently, smarter, more patiently, and you’ll fail far more often. But it’s all a part of the challenge, and the feeling of success is one of a kind.