By Mark Kenyon

If you’re looking to ramp up your deer hunting game just in time for the fast approaching 2016 season, I’ve got just the way to do it. Steve Bartylla’s second most recent book, Big Buck Secrets. Having now read through the e-book version of this title, I can confidently say that this is one of my favorite strategy focused books that I’ve read in quite awhile.

If you’re not familiar, Steve Bartylla is a long-time outdoor writer frequently published in Deer & Deer Hunting, North American Whitetail, and elsewhere – as well as the author of several other books, Advanced Stand Strategies, Bowhunting Tactics That Deliver Trophies, and White-tailed Deer Management and Habitat Improvement. He was also the guest on one of my favorite episodes of our podcast, in which we discussed the art of patterning bucks.

That said, in Big Buck Secrets, Steve outlines many of his most important tactics for scouting and hunting mature bucks. But what made this book particularly enjoyable was his use of very specific examples. Every chapter, and almost every specific tactic, used a different story and/or deer to illustrate the scenario and exactly how Steve was able to use whatever tactic was being discussed to have success. With this real-life story structure used throughout, the book was easy and actually exciting to read – while also eye-opening from a strategy standpoint. Nothing can bring a concept to life better than a real-life example and Steve did this remarkably well.

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On top of that, Steve’s use of detailed maps to illustrate each of his hunts and successful stand set-ups was incredibly helpful. Words can only describe a hunting scenario so much. On these topo/aerial maps, Steve would mark up exactly where his stand sites were, his access trails, the wind directions he could safely hunt, the wind on the specific day of the kill, deer bedding areas and trails, and finally the path of the deer that he eventually killed. Just by studying these images carefully, I was able to learn a lot. It’s always interesting to see how others set-up in certain situations/terrain/cover and these maps made that possible.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, Steve’s advice in this book was just very, very solid. Steve doesn’t pitch any crazy gimmicks, he doesn’t try to sell you on some whiz-bang product, and he doesn’t recommend ideas that would only work on highly managed large, pressure-free properties. His tactics are smart and are discussed in all sorts of contexts – public land to private – and I think any one of us could apply them to our own hunting situations.

So, if you’re looking for an enjoyable whitetail read and one that will definitely help you this fall, I’d recommend Big Buck Secrets.