by Bill Vaznis
Simply scratching your nose can send a buck packing.
When it comes to hunting whitetails, sooner or later we all try a short cut. And when we do, we know we’re taking a chance. We break a rule or do something we know we shouldn’t, but we do it anyway….and often suffer the consequences. Take these five mistakes for example. I think you will see what I mean.
#1 – They’ll Smell You
A buck’s sniffer is legendary, and indeed most long-time deer hunters have a story or two about the trophy buck that escaped unscathed because the buck caught wind of the hunter. With experience we learn to practice scent control, but somewhere along the line we throw caution to the wind….and let our human stench permeate the landscape.
When do we most often commit this cardinal sin? When we are walking back to camp after the hunt. We know that air born odors dissipate quickly, but we forget the scent we leave on the ground can spook a buck hours after we have gone home.
The solution is simple. Re-spray your boots with a quality scent elimination product or the urine from a fox, coyote or coon before you begin the trek back to camp. It will help keep your presence in the deer woods a long-held secret.
#2 – They’ll Hear You, But They Might Not Know What You Are
A buck’s hearing is also high caliber. More than one buck has high-tailed it to safety after hearing an approaching hunter snapping a twig as he shuffles through dead leaves. But did you know that you can lure a rutting buck into easy shooting range the same way – by simply snapping a twig?
That’s right! A doe near estrous often attracts several bucks as suitors, but she will do everything possible to evade their advances if she is not yet ready to breed. If a buck loses her, a simple snap of a dry twig can lead him to believe he has relocated the hot doe… and to come running right at you. We forget the urge to breed can overcome a buck’s survival instincts.
#3 – They Won’t Be As Big As You Think
When you are straining your eyeballs for a glimpse of that buck, don’t expect it to be as big as an elephant. Years ago I shot a big woods buck that dressed out at 200 pounds on the camp scales. I had a taxidermist complete a life size mount of the buck, and when hunters see the stuffed animal they invariably comment on its diminutive size. I am five foot ten inches tall, and that buck’s back barely reaches my waist line.
The lesson here is timeless. Even a big-bodied buck is not a big animal. A northern big woods specimen stands about 40 inches tall along the top of his back. We expect to see a large critter, but when you are scanning the woods for a glint of antler or his black-tipped nose, think something closer to rabbit than rhino.
#4 – Their Eyes Pick Up The Little Things
We all know that a whitetail’s eyes are geared towards motion, and with their 330-degree arc of vision it is almost as if they have eyes in the back of their head. They can pick up the slightest movement and vamoose before you have time to raise your weapon. What many hunters seem to forget is that a buck can also pick out your stationery silhouette.
You can put your back up against the trunk of a large tree to break up your outline, but simply scratching your nose can send a buck packing… an act we know we should not do. Instead, crawl inside a blow down or a small copse of trees where there are branches in front of and behind you. These will help conceal those involuntary movements we all seem to make. You will be surprised how close a buck will pass without having the slightest hint you are hiding inside the branches. When you must move an arm, keep all movements very slow and vertical.
#5 – Often, They Don’t Run Far
When we jump a buck, we generally believe all is lost and we don’t bother going after him. We forget how smart a trophy buck can be. Bucks that run pell-mell through the forest tend to be quickly culled, but those bucks that bolt away for 100 yards or so and then stop to survey their surroundings more often than not survive to trophy status.
What can you do? Don’t give up the chase! Wait 20 minutes or so, even if the woods are filled with hunters, and then circle around down wind. You might just catch that buck flatfooted looking for you by checking his back trail. Heck, you might even catch
him in his bed!
About Bill Vaznis
A lifetime of hunting and outdoor writing has put Bill’s byline in every major outdoor magazine in North America. He is an archery columnist for Bowhunting World, the former editor of Bear Hunting Magazine, and has published over 1,000 articles and columns plus thousands of photographs on bowhunting, big-game hunting and freshwater fishing. He has also published three how-to hunting books: Successful Black Bear Hunting, 500 Deer Hunting Tips and Still-Hunting Trophy Whitetails. He lives on a farm in upstate New York with Grizz, a 30-pound woodchuck with a voracious appetite for the neighbors’ gardens.
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