Skip to main content

When Bucks Slip Up, Are You Ready?


We all dream about that moment when our “dream buck” makes the fatal mistake and shows up during daylight hours. Will we be in the right place when the time comes?

We have scouted, we planned, we prayed, and hunting season is upon us. We have hunted the area a few times and have not seen him yet. The rut is coming; we now begin to hang our hopes on the “foolish behavior” that all bucks succumb to during the mating season.

As bad as we hate to admit it, rarely do mature bucks slip up. We see younger bucks that are “not ready for prime time” ambling around with nose to the ground during the rut. They seem oblivious to everything except the scent of does ready for breeding.


Natural instinct

A deer is well adapted to the environment where it resides, and even when we do everything right, we as hunters often come up short.

More from Wide Open Spaces

5 Deer Signs That Lead to a Successful Hunt

8 Bug Out Bag Items for Deer Hunters… and Zombie Killers

10 Hunting Accessories That Make You a Better Hunter

10 Football Strategies for Better Hunting

A mature buck is experienced; if it has lived three or four years on public land is not only experienced, but has probably earned nicknames like “Houdini” and “Ghostly.”

I have hunted public land for a long time in Mississippi, and big bucks are killed every year. If you were to poll those hunters who bagged these bucks, most would attribute their success with luck… the kind of luck I never experience.

What usually happens is that a mature buck is following instincts and learned behavior. Nowhere in the world is there a better classroom for a buck than on public hunting lands. A buck watching, listening and smelling our mistakes on public land is similar to us watching America’s Funniest Videos.


Deer react to changes within their habitat. Why else would deer be more cautious a few days after gun season opens?

The acorns are falling, so deer concentrate on that staple of their food source. Once the acorns are scarce, they move to browse, food plots and remaining agricultural fields for grub. If hunting pressure increases, deer relocate and change daily routines to combat this intrusion.

What weighs in

An old buck is hard to figure out; hunters are usually easy to pattern.

Consider the factors we try to control as hunters. We look for good sign, a favorable ambush point, and areas that aren’t hunted heavily. We pay attention to wind direction, limit our scent, our approach into the area must not spook deer and on and on. We know what we as hunters try or try not to do in the forests while hunting.

Think now about what we cannot control. On public land, I’ve never been able to discourage hunters from frequenting an area I like to hunt. There are usually a few roads that hunters use to access areas, this is the path of least resistance, and we all like that. If there are large creeks, the persistent hunters find a way across or around, the majority is limited to one side or another.

We must use non-hunter tactics to take advantage of normal deer behavior. The deer simply move at different times, choose different routes, and most importantly, they respond to hunter habits. We as hunters need to reexamine our ordinary hunting habits to capitalize on those “extraordinary bucks.” It’s so simple, it’s stupid. I can do stupid, my wife reminds me often.

A more simple approach to hunting strategy is the way to see deer we wouldn’t normally get a look at. Hunt slower, hunt further, look harder, and choose the path with more resistance.

I know, it sounds like an Under Armour commercial, but it’s simple and just might work for you.

you might also like

When Bucks Slip Up, Are You Ready?