He just kept showing up on the game camera. Not every time mind you, but just often enough to where I had to keep hunting this honey hole. The mature 10-pointer was starting to play head games with me. The rut had ended and It seemed that the buck had established somewhat of a late-season feeding pattern and bedding area. I knew I was running out of time to get him into bow range - or at least have an actual live encounter. The afternoon had gotten away from me and I was getting a late start. Plus, the wind wasn't particularly right. Nonetheless, I was going in.
Pushing Too Hard
Like the previous week, the wind wouldn’t horribly wrong, but certainly wasn't ideal for this stand. Further, I had already estimated the buck’s bedding area to be nearby - as little as 100 yards. My tripod stand, tucked within a group of live oaks and underbrush was located between the feeding and bedding area. Time was not on my side. Once again, I went in, hoping for the best.
Deer Encounters and False Validation
Except for pressuring the bedding area and ignoring the wind, I had done everything else right. I entered the blind from the best direction possible, thoroughly sprayed down with my favorite scent eliminator, and kept my movement to a minimum. Within the first thirty minutes, I had 6 deer come in and two of them were nice younger bucks. I had pulled it off, or at least I thought. Like the previous hunt, the outing ended with no sight of the target list buck. This happened yet again a few days later.
The Camera Doesn’t Lie
Two weeks later, I carefully entered the area and pulled the camera card. As I reviewed the footage, I noticed that starting three days after my last hunt, the old buck was again appearing regularly; during prime hunting times too. I subsequently continued to hunt the stand. Nada.
A Realization of the Obvious
Subsequent camera images eventually yielded no visits from the buck. As a seasoned (albeit stubborn) hunter, I knew the answer to my problem. In my haste, I had pressured the old guy. Continually. With a bedding area that close and not perfectly adhering to wind conditions, I was at a minimum spooking him. In fact, I ultimately probably busted him out of his happy place. His bedroom. Though I had known better, excitement and hunter’s greed had won me over.
Getting quality chances at older deer often requires doing ALL the little things. Can we get away without doing this? Maybe occasionally. However, to optimize success, deer hunters need to stack all the odds in their favor. After all, whitetails are wily creatures with keen senses. Will it guarantee a chance at a trophy whitetail? Certainly not. Most hunters have “done everything right” with no big buck results - and even sometimes no deer action of any kind. But if we are consistent about checking all the boxes, success will come (assuming we seal the deal and make the shot). In fact, most successful mature whitetail hunters will attest that behind each harvest of a mature whitetail was a litany of little things done that made it happen. No corners cut. No compromises.
That buck was killed the following season in a completely different location - by another hunter. Lessons learned.
Based in Texas, Jerald Kopp is President of 1st Light Hunting Journal. His content is largely about hunting strategies and the outdoor lifestyle – often from a Christian perspective. Jerald is an avid outdoorsman with deer hunting and whitetails being by far his greatest passion. In 2005, he established the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) – a faith-based non-profit organization that provides hunting opportunities for disabled and terminally-ill children and youth. When not hunting, he spends his time traveling and enjoying life with Amy, his wife of 30 years. Jerald and Amy have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.