Deer Hunting Tips: How To Tag a Buck After You Bust Him

Four ways to spook a whitetail buck—and how to put your tag on him anyway.

Photo by Mark Raycroft (deer); Bill Buckley (hunter)

Scenario 1: As you sneak to your stand in the hardwoods with the wind in your favor, you snap a twig underfoot and bump a buck that was standing within bow range of your stand tree.
Recovery Plan: There's a good chance he only heard and didn't see you. Make a few fawn bleats followed by a doe bleat. Get in a position to shoot, and wait for 20 minutes. He may walk right back in. Otherwise, climb into your stand—​he or another buck may still show.

Scenario 2: While still-hunting during gun season, you jump a buck from a thicket. He's gone before you can raise your rifle, leaving you with your mouth wide open.
Recovery Plan: Don't chase him. Mature bucks know that running pell-mell through the forest is dangerous. Instead, they typically stop a few hundred yards distant and wait. If you don't pursue, there's a good chance he'll circle around to check the wind. Move 100 yards downwind, and wait for him.

Scenario 3: You top a rise in a pasture and see a 6-pointer, a nice 8, and a dandy 10 all hoofing it away from you, heads high as they disappear into the brush.
Recovery Plan: Odds are these bucks are hot on the trail of an estrous doe, and even if they saw or heard you, they are not giving up the chase. Move fast to cut them off. Then set up and make estrous doe bleats followed by buck grunts. If a doe has given these bucks the slip, they might run right to you.

Scenario 4: Walking back to your truck through open cover at midday during peak rut, you jump a lone doe from a small thicket, ditch, or other odd spot.
Recovery Plan: Raise your gun. This doe probably has a tending buck with her that could pop up any second (see Open Up the Lockdown). Just as likely, he'll hold tight until he thinks the coast is clear. Give it 20 minutes. If he doesn't show, jump him up as if he were a giant cottontail.