Your early-season scouting pinpoints a group of four bachelor bucks bedding on a hillside above an alfalfa field. Each evening, they filter down through a 100-yard-wide hardwood thicket before emerging in the alfalfa to feed—and the one that always hits the field last is the biggest buck you’ve ever seen. You hang a stand 50 yards from the feed near a trail that leads to a fence opening, and settle in for an evening hunt. The first buck walks past your stand out of bow range, following a shallow ditch you hadn’t noticed. Minutes later, a second does the same, and you know that when one or two take a certain path and aren’t spooked, the others will follow.
[A] Seize the day. Get out of your stand right now and sneak to a blowdown that puts you in range to kill the last buck.
[B] Stay put and bleat. Wait for the trophy to come down the path and then call him into range.
[C] Try again tomorrow. Let all the deer go to the field undisturbed and slip out quietly. In the morning, come back and move your stand within range of the ditch.
[D] Plant a fake. Leave your stand where it is, but bring a decoy next time to lure the big buck into range.
What the Pro Would Do
“I’d choose [C]: Let the bucks pass by and move my stand,” says Stan Potts, the well-known whitetail guru and host of North American Whitetail TV and Realtree’s Whitetail Country. “In the early season, when I’m in no rush to fill my tag, the last thing I want to do is spook those bucks. They’re creatures of habit, and as long as they’re unmolested, they’ll likely travel the same route on that same bed-to-feed pattern day after day.”
Make the aggressive move to an in-range blowdown [A], and that’ll probably be your only chance to kill the big buck, according to Potts. You also give up your tree-stand advantage by going to ground. Calls and decoys [B and D] are most effective during the late pre-rut, rut, and early post-rut. Potts elaborates: “While either tactic may get a reaction now, neither is effective enough to outweigh the chance you’ll spook the deer off their routine.”
As you watch the buck parade, Potts adds, pick out a specific tree 15 to 20 yards from the trail they’re using. “Doing this now will save you time and keep you from filling the woods with your scent searching for the perfect tree later,” he advises. At midmorning the next day, long after the bucks have gone to bed, steal in and move your stand. Do it quietly and quickly, and get out. “Then you’ll be in perfect position to tag that biggest bachelor before the sun goes down.”