Busted!

It's not necessarily the end of your hunt.

Field & Stream Online Editors

We've all heard the alarm snorts and seen the white flag bouncing away-sure indications of getting busted by a whitetail. It means something went wrong, but it's not absolutely a reason to give up on that deer. Depending on the severity of the spooking, you can often remedy the bust and continue your hunt. Here's how to revive your strategy in three common bumping scenarios:

**LIGHT BUMP **
You're still-hunting a brushy ridge with the wind in your face and the sun at your back. Suddenly, you're staring at a bedded monster, and he's staring right back at you. The bruiser rises and trots away.

Rx: With the wind and sun in your favor, this buck probably didn't see you clearly-he spooked because he knew something was amiss. This actually can be a good bump. You might have known very little about this deer an hour earlier, but now you've stumbled onto one of his sanctuaries. Big bucks choose bedding areas carefully, and as long as you don't step into the middle of this one again, your trophy will return. Rest the area for at least a day, then back off the bedding zone and try to intercept him en route to a food source. HEAVY BUMP You've spent hours behind binoculars, nailing down the feeding pattern of a whopper buck. But when you finally set up in his favorite field corner, he doesn't show. You climb out of the stand at dark and start heading back to your vehicle. Then the buck enters the field, nails you, and blazes off.

**Rx: **It's not a good situation but there is a bright side: The buck wasn't in his pet corner when you spooked him, and he didn't pinpoint your stand. This time, give the entire field-not just your stand-a substantial rest of at least three days. Return only when conditions are perfect, and have a better exit strategy when you do.

CRASH AND BURN
It's two weeks until peak breeding and bucks are on their feet, nosing does and checking scrapes. To capitalize on the action, you pull out the rattling horns and stage a mock battle. Suddenly you hear a twig snap behind you, and when you turn around, you see a huge buck scrambling away at Mach 6.

**Rx: **With the rut not yet in full swing, the buck was in his home range, and he won't soon forget your fracas or its location. You'd better relocate. Use rub lines, scrapes, or doe feeding and bedding areas to find another promising stand site that is still near the buck's core area but as far as possible from the spot where you spooked him. And do so quickly. You've got only a short window of time in which to kill this deer before he abandons his normal haunts to chase does.