Rut Reporter Scott Bestul is a Field & Stream’s Whitetails columnist and writes for the website’s Whitetail365 blog. The Minnesotan has taken 13 Pope & Young-class whitetails and has hunted, guided for, and studied deer in the north-central region all his life. States covered: IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, WI.


Avery Hansen is a good friend of mine from Soldotna, Alaska. For the last several years, he’s made an annual pilgrimage to the bluff country of western Wisconsin to bowhunt for whitetails. Back home, Avery has tagged almost every Alaskan big game animal, including–last March–a very large muskox, which he took with a bow. I’d like to go on record that muskox tenderloin is extremely tasty, and the only reason I know that is because Avery grilled one and served it up after I’d joined him for a hunt last week.

At any rate, Avery was in the fifth day of a six-day hunt and had not seen a buck he was ready to tag. All that changed on a windy, rainy, nasty afternoon. That’s when Avery snuck into a ground blind (one made to mimic a round bale of hay) tucked just off a field edge. To sweeten the setup, Avery stuck out a buck decoy, hoping to lure in a mature buck out cruising for does or looking to fight.

Like so many plans, Avery’s seemed about ready to fail. But with just a few minutes of shooting light left, he noticed a large-bodied whitetail just inside the timber. Just as Avery spotted the buck, the buck saw the decoy, and my Alaska friend was in for one very cool experience. This 4-1/2 year old giant strutted boldly into the field, bristled up at the decoy, and was preparing to knock the fake into the next time zone when Avery made a perfect shot. The huge-bodied deer ran 40 yards before piling up.

Avery’s success proves–as if any of us need reminding–that perseverance pays when whitetail hunting. It also demonstrates the highly aggressive nature of some mature bucks. Even when their main mission is finding a willing doe, a monster like this will make time in his schedule to clean the clock of a lesser deer.