There’s nothing like staring down your arrow at a giant whitetail buck, and very few things can adequately prepare you for it. This is when your instincts must kick in, and your actions need to be second nature when all of your preparation will be put to the test ten fold.
My consistent success has come from paying strict attention to detail and not taking any shortcuts when it comes opening day preparation. I’ve always believed the more I do to stack the deck in my favor, the better my chances are for harvesting a giant buck.
Following are the 10 steps I make sure to take in my whitetail regimen.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The old saying, “Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong” couldn’t be more true when it comes to bowhunting. Your bow needs to become an extension of your body and shooting a second nature.
I shoot a couple dozen arrows three to five times per week year round and by June all I shoot are broadheads. Practicing from further distances than what you’re used to will help you increase your effective kill range and make those close shots more instinctive.
Methodical Scent Control
If you’re not obsessed about scent control, you should be! I do everything I can to eliminate my scent: unscented soap, shampoo, deodorant and even toothpaste.
Clothes go straight from the dryer to a scent free container and nothing goes on, including my boots, until I am in the field. Once I’m there, I spray down with a good scent eliminator like Slay and use a scent free mouth spray, then use the spray to saturate my hat and neck gaiter, keeping my mouth covered at all times.
For added protection, I use an Ozonics mounted above me in the tree to kill any odor I have missed and I use Evercalm in the stick formula around my tree to create a pocket of deer smells around my stand — this is a deadly combination!
Find Him First
You can’t kill him if he’s not there, period!
Your best bet for finding a giant are near sanctuaries where there is no or very limited hunting. These areas will be close to city limits, parks, industrial zones, wildlife refuges and even large tracts of land that allow no hunting.
I like to shed hunt (with permission) and glass the soybeans in the summer, especially evenings after a light rain to locate really big deer. Hunting a specific animal will make you hunt harder and smarter also, just knowing he’s there!
Scout More Than You Hunt
Killing mature deer is all about predicting what he will do before he does it again, and the only way to do this is through scouting. I want to know where he eats, drinks, sleeps, breeds and how he gets back and forth from all the above.
The world of the whitetail is changing constantly during season, so my scouting doesn’t stop here either, I’m always looking for the freshest sign. The last thing I want to do is waste valuable time during season hunting the wrong area.
Scouting/hunting from observation stands placed 1-200 yards from the action is a highly effective tactic, too.
The Weak Spot
For me, the Holy Grail of whitetail hunting is finding a big buck’s weak spot — somewhere along his travel pattern where you can get within bow range of him while he’s using the wind to his advantage!
He’s got to move during daylight for you to kill him, and he needs the wind in his favor to move before dark. So give it to him and scout until you find the weak link in his pattern, usually at a turn, crossing or funnel scenario there will be an ambush spot that will give you the upper hand, even when he has the wind in his face!
Location, Location Location
Be more concerned about the right location than finding the perfect tree. There’s never a perfect tree in the perfect spot, get over it and hang your stand where you know you need to be. Don’t get caught up in worrying about height either, I’ve killed some of my biggest bucks 10-15 feet off the ground.
The important thing is to not silhouette yourself, and if you have to hunt low try hanging your stand on the backside of the tree to help hide yourself. Don’t forget about entry and exit also, a stand is only as good as your ability to access it without spooking the deer your after!
Kill Him Early
Your best chance to kill a specific animal is when he is the most predictable and there’s no better time than early season when he’s as patternable as he will be all year. Most of my biggest bow kills have come before November 1.
Be cautious, though, as big deer are basically doing the same thing everyday, but in a very small area you’ll need to be right on top of him to kill him. This makes it tough to invade the area without tipping him off and you might only get one crack at him before this happens.
Real Time Info
During the summer, I keep track of the bucks I’m chasing by monitoring my 30-06 mineral sites with trail cameras. A monthly visit to these sites to check pictures, batteries and to replenish the site is fine at this time of the year.
During season though, I want real time information and nothing is as valuable to me during this time as my wireless trail cameras, which text me vital information as it happens!
Make Patience your #1 Virtue
Sometimes the most difficult part of hunting a big buck is actually not hunting him at all. Having the patience and the discipline to wait until everything is perfect before diving in for the kill will be far more effective. The best time to hunt a stand is the first time in and if you don’t get it done here, the game just got tougher. Most of my biggest bucks were killed the first time I sat that specific stand.
The Red Moon
If I have one secret to my success it’s the Moon. I’m not sure why so many hunters ignore the moon’s influence on deer movement when everybody knows the moon is what triggers the rut. I have killed all nine of my B&C bucks during a very specific time I refer to as the “Red Moon.”
There are only a handful of days each month when the Red Moon coincides with prime time (when deer naturally want to move anyway) and these are the best days and times to catch a big buck moving during daylight. Check out moonguide.com for more on the Red Moon.
Develop a Solid Pre-Shot Routine
Another vital component of a bowhunter’s success when a large rack comes into view is to develop an effective pre-shot routine. Curt Wells goes over why a solid pre-shot routine is a must in this Moment of Truth segment from Bowhunter TV: