By Don Higgins:

I recently had an opportunity to work with and get to know a dozen highly successful whitetail trophy hunters on an up-close-and-personal level. You see my latest book, Real World Whitetail Icons, is a compilation of material from some of the most successful whitetail hunters I have ever met (Read the Wired To Hunt review of Real World Whitetail Icons). Not only was I privy to the raw material supplied to me by each of these authors but over the course of the project I also had a number of conversations with each of them. Although I have actually known several of the authors for decades, I still got to know each of them a bit better than I had before.

While working on the project I started wondering to myself just why this group of hunters were so successful when other hunters, even with decades of hunting experience, will never have reached this level of success. I started looking for common denominators in an attempt to build a profile of those rare hunters who seem to tag big buck after big buck after big buck in areas where others are usually left scratching their heads.

What follows is my list of those traits that I see time after time in legitimate big buck killers. Every big buck killer might not fit every one of these traits but I bet they fit most of them. Now just for the record here, I am not talking about the hunters you see on TV or read about in magazines that go on one guided hunt after another or hunt behind high fences. The hunters I am talking about here are the real deal; they hunt in the real world where every big buck killed is earned and paid for through skill, knowledge and effort, not dollars. So here is my profile of a typical big buck killer …

He (or she) is a loner: Show me a guy that takes a buddy with him every time he goes to the woods and I will show you a guy that will never kill big bucks consistently in the real world. These serial killers are loners by nature and don’t need someone to accompany them to the woods. In fact, they would have a tough time finding someone willing to spend the amount of time in the woods that they do. Deer hunting to them is not a party or a social gathering; instead it is a time to be alone with nature.

He is successful at other things: Killing big bucks consistently takes a different mindset than that possessed by the typical hunter. I believe a person is either born with it or they aren’t. One cannot just turn it on when they go to the woods and then turn it off when they leave. This same mindset helps them succeed in other areas of their life as well. Show me a hunter whose life is a disorganized mess and I will show you a guy that won’t tag very many big bucks. On the other hand the hunter that drops big buck with regularity is likely very successful in business or other things in life.

He has limited hobbies: When it comes to the best of the best in regards to big buck killers, they have few other hobbies. Hunting mature bucks is their life’s calling and time spent doing other things is considered time wasted in their minds. They may occasionally hunt for other species and pursue other interests on a limited basis but don’t expect them to own a fancy fishing boat or a membership at the local golf course. Don’t confuse a big buck serial killer with other good all-around outdoorsmen. To reach the degree of success that these guys have doesn’t allow time to master other sports. There may be very good outdoorsmen that take some really nice bucks but they won’t ever reach the level of success of these serial killers as long as other interests consume their time.

He thinks “deer season” never ends: To these guys deer season is year round. They simply shift gears when others switch sports. At the end of hunting season, other deer hunters go ice-fishing or sit around watching TV; the serial killer starts his post season scouting and spends every free moment doing it. When spring rolls around and others start thinking about fishing, the serial killer is putting on dozens of miles looking for shed antlers. In the summer when others are boating, motorcycling and barbecuing, the serial killer is setting trail cameras and swatting mosquitos as he spends evenings glassing farm fields for velvet bucks.

He is humble and modest: Most of these serial killers are not hunters that you have ever heard of. To them killing big bucks is not a way to fame. Many even shy away from attention. Their egos are in check and they insist on doing things the right way. You won’t hear these guys bragging about their accomplishments and in fact it is very likely that you could meet one of them and never realize it. When I run across a deer hunter that flashes photos of his kills and never stops sharing his “wealth of knowledge”, I know I am looking at an imposter. The real deal is almost always quiet and unassuming.

He ranks deer hunting as one of his top three priorities: The big buck serial killer may put God and family above his deer hunting but that’s about it. The more interests a person has, the less time, effort and energy they can devote to any one of them. Everyone prioritizes their life’s passions whether they realize it or not. If deer hunting isn’t in a person’s top three interests they probably won’t reach serial killer status. This can’t be forced, the interest is either there and genuine or it isn’t. There’s no faking it.

He is particular about “how” he kills his bucks: The hunters that reach serial killer status are not part of the “if-it’s-brown-it’s-down” anything-goes crowd. Most are bowhunters and in fact exclusively bowhunters. Many even take it a step further and hunt with traditional archery tackle. These guys accept the challenge for what it is and don’t look to cheapen the experience by looking for shortcuts. For example, I don’t know a single big buck serial killer that uses a crossbow during archery season. This group also routinely shuns gadgets and other gimmickry. They have the hunting skills to get the job done and don’t need to use advanced weapons or tools to make up for shortcomings. When they walk up to a fallen buck, they know in their heart that they did it right.

He understands the wind: A mature whitetail bucks lives and dies by the wind. His nose leads him to food, safety and sex to the same degree that a human uses his eyes for the same. A serial killer has mastered the use of wind and not only knows how he can use it to keep his scent from the nose of the buck he is after, but he also knows how that buck will use it to stay alive. The wind dictates every move he makes and ultimately leads him to success where others only find frustration. Most hunters probably pay little attention to the wind, some probably think they are “hunting the wind” but the serial killer has mastered the art of using the wind to his advantage. What’s more, most serial killers don’t rely on scent elimination clothing or other similar products. Being scent free is worthless if one doesn’t understand how a buck will move under specific wind conditions.

His passion is off the charts: I have met a lot of passionate deer hunters. They all think about deer hunting 365 days a year and many of them meet some of the profile traits that I have outlined here. They cannot fathom that anyone could be more interested or wrapped up in deer hunting than they are. On the other hand, the serial killer takes this passion to levels that even the most serious of other deer hunters cannot comprehend. They have whitetails on the mind almost every minute of every day. Everything they do is somehow geared around deer hunting and leading them to their next big buck. It is in their DNA, and again, you either have it or you don’t.

Well there you have a brief list of some of the traits that I expect to find when I meet a hunter who consistently tags mature whitetail bucks in the real world. There is probably a pretty good chance that you meet some of these criteria. You might even happen to be one of those rarest of rare hunters that meets them all. If so, I would like to see a photo of your trophy room!

Don Higgins is a freelance outdoor writer, book author and whitetail consultant from Illinois. He can be reached through his website –

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in learning more about “big buck serial killers”, check out our review of Don’s book “Real World Whitetail Icons”.