Hunting One Specific Buck

As we mature as deer hunters we all go through various stages, each of us starting as a green beginner. Then with success comes the desire to shoot bigger bucks so we raise the bar and start seeking something more.

For me personally, I remember those first seasons when any deer would do, even a doe. Somehow I managed to kill a nice 9-point buck on opening morning of my third hunting season. That was back in 1979 and the buck I shot was only the second deer I had ever had within range of my stands. (I missed another buck the season before.)

While I was on top of the world for a long time after shooting that buck it wasn’t long before I was setting loftier goals due to my desire to shoot more and bigger bucks in the future. I was clearly destined to be a trophy whitetail hunter from the start.

After a couple of yearling 6-pointers wore my tags the bar was raised to only bucks with 8 points or more. This process continued with me raising my goals every few years or so. At one point I was targeting bucks scoring at least 125”, the Pope & Young minimum. Then it was 140” and later 150”, etc.

Keep in mind that each time I raised the bar it became harder to achieve consistent success and I would need to stay at that level longer than I had the previous level. I would only raise the bar once I could consistently achieve my goal year after year.

At some point I started adding the age factor into my goals. I started by targeting bucks at least 4 years old and scoring at least 150” but over time and with experience I felt something was missing. What if I knew of a 6 year old buck that only scored 140”? It got to the point where it was tough to put definitive numbers on the bucks I sought to harvest. Eventually I started targeting specific bucks using a variety of factors to determine the bucks I would go after.

At first it might seem that targeting only one animal is a tough proposition and would probably lead to as many failures as success. That can be an accurate assessment, depending on the buck. I have targeted individual mature bucks that were easy to kill and others that were next to impossible. To be honest, a lot depends on where the buck lives. Obviously if I have access to a bucks core area and have it all to myself, things are a whole lot easier.

Another factor that weighs heavily into the ease or difficulty of killing a buck is his personality. Some bucks are just a whole lot more reclusive than others. A buck that won’t move in daylight is going to be one tough customer no matter where he lives.

So what is more important when chasing an individual buck, having one that moves in daylight or having sole access to his core area? Think about that question for a moment; would you rather be hunting a buck that moves in daylight but are limited on where you can hunt him or would you prefer to hunt a buck that is very nocturnal but you have sole access to his core area?

After having hunted many individual bucks for the last several years, I can give my answer to the question without hesitation. I would MUCH rather have exclusive access to a buck’s core area no matter how tough or nocturnal the buck is. This situation buys me the time I need for the buck to mess up and walk past one of my stands while I am in it. I might have to bide my time and wait for the perfect situation but if I spend my time learning about the buck I am pursuing and then use what I know to make calculated moves, I have a good chance to kill him.

So why didn’t I choose the other option of hunting a buck that moves freely in daylight but I have limited access to his core area or share it with other hunters? To be brutally honest, those other hunters are going to screw up the situation for everyone almost 100% of the time. You can do everything right and have your stands set in the “right” spots but if someone else is stomping around scouting and hunting, you are doomed to failure. That “easy to kill” buck that moves in daylight is still a survivor. He didn’t get mature by making mistakes but instead has avoided hunters for several seasons. He still knows the game better than we do.

This leads us to the ultimate conclusion that if one has sole access to a bucks core area, killing that specific buck is very possible. If he moves freely in daylight it can become almost easy. In fact you can even get away with making a few mistakes as long as you also do some things right.

Note – I will be speaking at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Expo in late July on the topic of targeting one specific buck. This is a brand new seminar topic for me and will include new photos, video and material. Hope to see you there!

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