Every deer hunter can agree that mature bucks are just... different.
Every year deer hunters take to the woods attempting to harvest their buck of a lifetime. Fairly quickly, plan B usually takes hold and filling their tags becomes the primary goal by the end of the season.
Most hunters might get just one chance at seeing a mature buck as they are out hunting, but getting that buck within range of a firearm or bow is a different matter of chance altogether.
Here are 5 things you should know about mature bucks that might help swing the odds more in your favor this season.
Related: Deer Scents Unmasked
#1. Mature bucks are complete individuals
No two mature bucks are the same. Every buck that lives past age three has found a way, unique to their situation, that has allowed them to live as long as they have.
What seems to make them such individuals is that they have adjusted to their home range differently than other bucks in other areas that have adjusted to their specific home range in their own unique ways as well. In other words, they made it to an older age for a reason - they adapted.
Older bucks have smaller home ranges than younger deer. As a buck ages, their home range continues to decrease. The reason their home ranges continues to decrease as they age is due to several factors but the biggest factor is that they are still alive.
What they are doing is working for them and in order to keep breathing air and munching on corn, staying in the same place makes sense. The home range of most mature bucks is typically less than 100 acres and their core area is even smaller than that.
"...site-fidelity is so strong that in one case a research project lost nearly 30 percent of their collared bucks to flooding because those deer refused to leave and simply ran out of food or drowned; the others returned to the study site immediately after the water receded."
These mature bucks are different largely in part because of survival. They figured out a smaller home range, different paths of travel, and different places to eat and sleep will all allow them to see another day.
#2. Mature bucks adjust very quickly to hunting pressure
So we know that mature bucks are very adaptable and experts on survival in their own home range. So if a hunter just sets up in a mature bucks core area, they should take him pretty quickly, right?
Well, again according to Ross from that same article, it only takes three days or less for mature bucks to change their behavior to avoid an area completely or become nocturnal. That's pretty wonderful to read isn't it?
On average, after a hunter has been inside a large buck's living room, it will take three days to a week before that mature buck returns back to the same area during the day after there has been no hunter in the area.
If that same hunter continues to stay in that same stand, the buck will learn to eventually avoid that area forever as it adapts to hunting pressure and moves it's core area to a safer location.
#3. Mature bucks move like a cat in the fog
To put it another way, they are silent and most likely you won't see or hear them until they are right on top of you, and at that point, it's already too late.
Big bucks typically don't crash, stomp, shake, jump, break sticks, or just generally make noise as they move in their home range.
They know every inch of ground around where they live. They have learned to stand like a statue and wait for the danger in the area to make the first move before they reveal themselves.
#4. Mature bucks are much less active than younger bucks
Big bucks will hang back from entering a field, opting to smell the area first. They won't chase every doe checking for a doe in heat; instead they tend to recognize the signs of other bucks, when they find a doe in heat, and steal that doe away.
If that isn't their game, they hang in areas where does go and wait on them, instead of chasing like younger bucks.
Mature bucks watch other deer enter a field or an opening in the woods long before they ever decide to enter that clearing themselves leaving the safety of their hidey hole.
When they are in a clearing, they typically don't chase does around either. They will stand in one spot and scan the area for danger while the other deer mill around. They are just older and lazier.
During the season, when deer enter a clearing and nice buck is in the herd, wait a little bit before pulling the trigger because a better buck might be ten minutes behind.
Related: How To Really Follow a Blood Trail
#5. Mature bucks move best at morning and evening regardless of weather
"...numerous studies from Texas to Maryland suggest that weather has little or no influence on mature buck movements. I know, hard to believe, right? But, at least to-date, researchers have thrown everything at this concept and collected a lot of data, and still nothing. As I said before, bucks move the most at dawn and dusk, period."
So what does all this mean? Big mature bucks are taken every year by thousands of hunters all over the country.
Luck is a factor of being in the right place at the right time, but understanding that big mature bucks are just different and attempting to uncover that mature buck's characteristics on an individual property will give the hunter a big advantage.
Setting up on the same old fence lines and deer trails will only be effective for a big buck if a big buck is already there. If not, then chances are they won't be because they already figured out its a danger zone. It's a game of chess against one of the smartest animals in the woods.
Good luck out there. Unfortunately, we all will probably need it.
What else should we know about mature bucks?