Question: “I’ve been whitetail deer hunting for many years and in many different states. Hunting mature whitetail bucks is never “easy” but it seems to me that each year more bucks become nocturnal. The guys that hunt on my deer lease with me agree. We see some younger bucks, but seeing a mature buck during shooting hours has become a rarer and rarer occurrence. What gives? Any ideas on hunting the old boys?”
Deer Hunting Pros: The attraction of deer hunting really is the challenge of hunting big, mature whitetail bucks. Hunters put antlerless deer in the freezer for meat, but the real draw of hunters is the quest of the big boys. They are a very different animal in their behavior than the usual young and middle-aged bucks that come regularly to feeders. Hunting mature whitetail bucks means bringing your A-game and the willingness to wait them out.
Hunting mature bucks means hunting the rut. Simply said, you have to hunt the rut, the pre-rut and the post-rut, especially in areas that have high deer hunting pressure. In addition, you also have to be willing to pass on a lot of other nice, but easier and younger bucks. Many hunters just do not have the self control to wait on a big buck that very well may never even appear.
The older bucks that live most of their life in the shadow of darkness have the hunters patterned much better than hunters can pattern them. From my experiences, I have seen most of the mature bucks during hunting season during the middle of the day when most hunters are not in the field. Mature bucks are smart bucks. They may not have always been that way, but a little luck—as in seeing some of their buddies get picked off over the season—has taught them a lot. Where to be and where not to be. Mature bucks will definitely stay nocturnal when the pressure heats up. Notice that I used the word “stay.”
Most hunters believe there are mature bucks that they never see. These hunters are both right and wrong. The truth is that some areas lack real mature bucks. These are areas where deer hunting pressure is extreme. The buck age structure is horrible because of the over-harvest of bucks. There probably are some mature bucks, but if you never even see mature bucks using game cameras then that is a sign that they very well may not exist in your area.
The good news is that mature bucks can be produced with habitat manipulation and deer herd management. Harvest management is the key to producing mature bucks. Never shoot more than 20 percent of the bucks in an area in any given year. Hunting them is another story.
There is only one sure-fire tactic when hunting mature whitetail bucks. When the rut is on the old bucks will throw caution to the wind to pursue the ladies. Important Tip: This is the one time when mature bucks make themselves vulnerable. They go were the does go are and move at any time of the day for that short period. This is when you want to be deer hunting. Hunting the rut gets a lot of ink from hunting magazines, and for good reason.
It’s always a good idea to hunt small, as in being as stealthy as possible, when chasing mature bucks. Use every precaution that you can. That will not always ensure a successful hunt, but that’s why it’s called deer hunting and not deer killing. Hunting mature whitetail bucks is not easy, especially when there are none, but where they exist make sure you hunt the rut. It’s your best shot at success.
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