How to Solve Missing-Buck Syndrome

One of the aspects of whitetail hunting that doesn’t get discussed enough are the cases of the disappearing bucks. You … Continued

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One of the aspects of whitetail hunting that doesn’t get discussed enough are the cases of the disappearing bucks. You hear reports every year of guys who get great bucks on camera in late summer, only to have them disappear for a month or more before they show back (hopefully) in season. The conspiracy theorist in me wants to think there’s some country-wide strategy session where all the big bucks gather to pre-game and share survival tips for the coming season.

In reality, a number of factors contribute to missing-buck syndrome, including changing food sources, shedding of velvet, and pressure from people who head into the woods to scout and hang stands. After the disappearing act, bucks will normally return to their core territory and, if a hunter is lucky, reappear under a treestand come deer season.

One of those lucky hunters is Steve Guernsey, who caught this Nebraska giant, which green scores about 178 5/8, on an alfalfa field in early October. Guernsey had first seen the buck in July and had trail cam photos of him at a waterhole in early August. Then, the buck went missing for more than a month.

The first time I saw him after that I was watching an alfalfa field on September 30 when he walked out,” said Guernsey. “He’d been missing quite awhile.

“I hunted him the next night and had him at 100 yards. Then Tuesday night at 75. I ended up killing him Friday night, October 5, when we had our first cold snap.”

When he finally did take that shot, Guernsey had a 150-class deer within range as well.

“He was tempting me, but that’s next year’s 170-inch buck,” he said.

Now that’s showing some restraint, but Guernsey and his hunting partners manage for big deer, setting up no-hunting zones on their property to keep pressure off bucks just like this.

So where did the giant disappear to for more than a month? That’s anyone’s guess, but Guernsey did say he talked with a neighbor who thinks he has photos of the same buck from a camera about ½ mile from where he was killed. Wherever the buck went, Guernsey was confident he would come back to his core territory, and showed the patience and, by not shooting a lesser buck, the restraint it sometimes takes to tag a trophy.

Since then, Guernsey’s sat a few times in the hopes of filling a few doe tags for meat, though he did say he’s hoping for another giant to show up. He mentioned the rut has really taken off this past week in south-central Nebraska, with trail cameras showing 140-150 class bucks out cruising at mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Four or five new scrapes have shown up since the weekend, and overall activity has really picked up.