By Mark Kenyon
Hoping to kill a mature buck this year? Here’s a simple way to improve your chances of making that happen and it’s as easy as answering just three quick questions.
But don’t get it twisted, even though these questions are quick and easy to ask, they’re certainly not to be taken lightly. These questions and their corresponding answers (assuming you answer correctly) are the key to making sure you embark on quality hunts – and quality hunts, not quantity of hunts, are what result in dead mature bucks.
This is a concept we discuss frequently on this blog and on the Wired To Hunt Podcast, but it’s one worth examining repeatedly. And if you’re new to these ideas, even better.
1. What’s the risk?
Every time you head out to hunt you’re taking a risk. The risk is that you’ll educate the local deer of the fact that you’re hunting them, resulting in those deer changing their future behavior and your likeliness of future success decreasing. This risk is exponentially higher when you’re trying to kill a mature buck – as mature bucks do not tolerate many mistakes, especially in areas of high hunting pressure.
So with this being the case, before your next hunt, consider the degree of risk that this hunt will entail. Are you going into a high impact area where you’ll likely have to pass deer on your way in? Can you get out of the stand after your hunt without spooking deer? Will the wind direction from your stand location result in your likely getting winded? Is it a quiet crunchy-leaf day? Will you need to walk a long distance and leave hundreds of stinky foot prints throughout your property? Consider the conditions that day, the stand you want to hunt, the time of year and likely deer behavior – all with the goal of understanding that potential risk of educating deer. Once you’ve got a good idea of the risk, move on to the next question.
2. What’s the likelihood of reward?
So if you know you’re going to have some kind of risk when heading out on this hunt, the important next question to answer is “how likely is the potential of reward on this hunt?” In other words, what factors are present, or to what degree are factors present, that would lead me to think success is imminent on this hunt. When answering this question I’m going to think about all the reasons why I think I could/should kill a mature buck on this outing. Is the time of year particularly good? Do I have scouting or observation or trailcam intel that would lead me to believe today is the day? Are there weather conditions that should make it a high quality hunt? Do I have bomb-proof access/exit that make this a super stealthy hunt to complete?
When I consider all of these factors, I can come up with a decent ranking of how high a potential reward I can expect on this hunt. And then it’s time to compare.
Look at the potential reward, look at the potential risk and weigh those two against eachother. If the reward factors far out-rank the risk-factors – it’s probably a good time to go for in for the kill, hunt my best farm or best stand, etc, etc. If, on the other hand, the reward-factors are pretty slim and the risk-factors are many, I’m going to pull back, play it safe and avoid hunting those best areas or best properties.
3. Why here?
Now finally, once I’ve made the decision of risk versus reward, I’m going to ask one final question before heading in for a hunt and that’s “Why here?” And when I say “here”, I mean whereever it is that you’re wanting to hunt that morning/day/night. Far too often hunters head out to a treestand “just because,” or because it’s convenient, or because it’s their favorite. This just isn’t going to cut it when you’re trying to kill a mature buck. That said, every time I make a decision of where to hunt, or where to hang a new treestand, I like to make sure I have at least three good reasons for choosing that given spot. If you can’t determine three good reasons, its probably not a good enough spot to sit.
So, for example, let’s assume my reward factors outweigh my risk factors on a given night and I’m considering hunting Treestand A. Here are 3 hypothetical reasons for hunting Treestand A during the rut.
- It offers perfect stealth access into a major bedding area during the rut
- This stand site covers the major trail running downwind of the best doe bedding on the property
- This stand overlooks two big scrapes
Or, lets look at an imaginary early season situation with Treestand B. Here are 3 hypothetical reasons that might lead me to consider this as a quality location.
- It overlooks a secluded food plot planted in oats that deer are actively feeding in at this time of year
- This small plot location is in between a major bedding area and the larger food source to the West that deer will be heading towards
- In addition to the food plot attraction, this stand is also positioned within shooting range of a creek crossing to the North and another trail entering the plot to the East.
Come up with three reasons like these, or many others, and you’ve got a recipe for a pretty good hunt. If on the other hand, you’ve got high reward conditions for a hunt, but can’t name off at least three really good reasons for hunting a given stand – well, you’re probably going to be wasting a great day of hunting in a not-so-great stand.
So there you go. Three simple questions that can have major implications on your future hunts.
Luck always plays a role when hunting, but I’m a firm believer that it’s better to prepare ways to create your own luck than to wait for it to blindly drop into your lap. If you begin to seriously ask and answer the aforementioned three questions before each of your hunts, you will experience higher quality sits, less-educated deer and better shot opportunities. And when those three things happen, it’s amazing how much more often luck comes your way.