Reading and researching strategies, especially those used by veteran hunters, is a great way to start improving your hunting skills and increasing your chances of killing more trophy bucks.
There will never be a substitute for learning what has consistently worked for other deer hunters over many seasons. That is why we share these stories here.
They might seem entirely too simple on the surface, but one cannot argue with success.
Take these examples and put them into practice yourself. In the final analysis, if you really want to learn about how to kill a big buck, then go to the woods armed with these ideas, suggestions and practices. You’ll be ahead of the curve.
Persistence pays off
Youngster Clayton Moore may still be learning to hunt big bucks, but he is making progress every season and has already taken to heart some of the most essential practices to being successful. Some of those basic elements are to hunt hard, hunt often, never give up, and be persistent all season long.
“Two seasons ago I was hunting in a ground blind with my granddad when a nice 8-point buck eased out into the food plot,” Moore said. “He looked old compared to other bucks we had been seeing all season. We guessed his age at at least 5 years and his antlers looked to score in the 125 class or so. Papaw asked if I wanted to take him, and I said ‘no, he might come back next year and be bigger.
“Sure enough this past fall that same buck came out into the food plot again. It took us a while to recognize him because he was bigger. He had 9 points now. We thought he had added about 2-3 inches in tine length. He just looked bigger. We passed again thinking something bigger might eventually come into the plot, and, after all, it was still early in the season.”
Then came a time of questioning for the young hunter.
“The next eight or nine times I went back to that stand, I never saw the buck again,” Moore said. “It made me think more about how I wished I had taken him earlier. We checked our trail camera every time we hunted that plot and we were always stunned to see that buck appear again and again, only one day before or one day after we were hunting the stand. We were just missing him over and over by one day.
“Toward the end of the season, I got back into that ground blind again only this time it started to rain cats and dogs. I mean it poured down and I was a bit mad because I did not think I would see a deer. Then, out of nowhere, appeared that mystery buck. I got my rifle up and took the shot in the rain. He ran off, but not far. Granddad’s ol’ .300 Weatherby did the job and I didn’t even notice the recoil.”
The youngster had to get his granddad to help him recover that buck in the pouring rain and messy conditions. The 9-point buck ended up scoring 137 and was aged at 6.5 years old. It was definitely a buck ready to be taken out. Of all the camera phone photos taken in that rain, none of them turned out.
Clayton’s success was in continuing to stay on task. Had he given up earlier on seeing the buck again, he really would have missed it.
Lesson learned here is to be persistent and stay after it, even if it rains hard.
Be the last to leave
Sometimes being the last one to come out of the woods from a morning hunt is the best thing to do. We know this is a strategy you have heard of many times, but do you actually do it?
It is good advice.
Take my camp for example. The guys are usually back from the stand by 10 a.m., waiting on me to cook sausage and eggs.
The point here is that the deer begin to pattern hunters, and know exactly when we vacate our hunting stands. Besides all the ATVs cranking up and motoring back to camp all over the property, the deer know immediately when the woods go quiet again.
That is the time to hunt, as John Pope of Madison discovered last season.
“I usually try to get into my deer hunting stand early, but one day this past season I got there really late,” Pope said. “It was a great morning to be in the woods, but I only saw a few deer moving and no bucks. Several times I thought about throwing in the towel, but it was only about another couple of hours until noon, so I decided to stick it out. I don’t usually hunt that late on my morning hunts.
“Then around 10:45, I heard my neighbor start up his overly noisy UTV. I can hear that thing running from a mile away it seems. He was out of his stand and heading back to his camp. I figured that blew away the rest of the morning hunt for me, but, boy, was I wrong.”
Deer noticed his neighbor’s departure, too.
“At 11 o’clock, I looked up and way down the trail from my neighbor’s property was coming the biggest buck I had seen all season. I put up my binoculars to study the buck and he definitely was a keeper. I judged him at 150 inches for sure, maybe bigger. I let him keep coming, but when it came time to shoot, I have to admit I missed the shot, and I have no clue why. It happens I guess.
“My thought was the typical hunter would never have been on a stand that late in the morning to see a deer like that. When my neighbor started his UTV, I am convinced that buck thought the coast was clear, so he got up to move. It was proof to me that deer do indeed pattern hunters. He probably heard that machine come into the woods so he waited him out. The lesson here I learned was to stay on my stand for a while until after everyone else leaves. Maybe next time I can shoot better, too.”
Identify productive stands
Aubrey Taylor may only be 12 years old, but he hunts like a hunter two or three times his age. He came by his skills honest, having spent years under the tutelage of his grandfather. He has killed numerous deer and a couple bucks while sitting next to his granddad, but he was only able to hunt in a separate stand on his own this past season.
Even then he was not far from his mentor just a couple hundred yards through the woods and only then with a radio so they could communicate.
“Before we went hunting on New Year’s Day, I wanted to go sit in the covered shooting house on the big food plot down from the house,” Taylor said. “It was cloudy, dark and looked like rain was coming. Granddad advised against it. He knows the place better than me, so I went where he said. He sent me to a new stand overlooking a creek and a well-used deer trail.”
If advice comes from somebody residing on the hunting property about the best stands to hunt, then always defer to that knowledge. Landowner/hunters almost always know the secret hidey-holes where bucks may be likely to come through. Hunters need to know this.
The best of all big-buck tactics is selecting the best stands with the most active deer sign, food availability or has a travel funnel or other feature that tends to attract big bucks. Some stands are just better than others, if the wind is right and the stand is not over hunted.
“I got into the stand just after daylight, and Granddad said it must have been around 8:30 when I shot,” Taylor said. “I saw a doe walking down beside the creek down in the bottom, and then came a buck trailing right behind the doe. I got my Browning BAR .270 up and looked at the buck in the scope. He was big. He came out from behind a tree at about 60 yards and made some kind of noise like a doe and I fired. He ran down the bank of the creek and out the other side and fell down. I was shaking when I radioed granddad to tell him.
“When I got to the buck, I was really shaking. I got back on the radio to tell Granddad, ‘It’s a 9-point and a stud’, and Granddad was laughing. It took him, my mom and her boyfriend, and me to recover the buck from the bottom of that creek. He scored 130. I am sure glad I went to that stand where Granddad told me to go.”
The big-buck hunting tactics illustrated here might seem too simple, but the truth is that the basics are what usually end up collecting the biggest bucks.
Those, and a big dose of Lady Luck.