Hunting One Target Buck Can Ruin Your Whole Whitetail Season

Hunting One Target Buck Can Ruin Your Whole Whitetail Season

Within the next couple months bucks will start growing their new antlers. By mid-summer, social media feeds will fill up with trail camera images of velvet-antlered hitlisters. Quite a few of these deer will be given names if they don’t have one already.

This will happen with hunters ranging from celebrity power couples to random dudes scattered across the country who spend their whole season on grandma’s 40 acres. The one-buck hunt is all the rage right now, which is great for some people.

The challenge of letting one go for a few years before targeting him is something that a lot of whitetail junkies love. It’s also a hunting style that presents a nearly impossible task for others. If you’re interested in hunting this way, figuring out how well it’ll work in your world is important.

Just as important as figuring out whether you actually care to hunt this way at all.

A Lot Of Disappointment

Eight years ago, a buddy and I glassed up an extremely tall 10-pointer as it munched away in a summertime beanfield. After hanging some cameras in the area, I started to realize the buck was spending a lot of time on a farm I had permission to hunt. I got obsessed.

The buck was all of 160 inches and framed up like a mule deer. He was also really good at not walking past me in daylight. I hunted him as meticulously as I could and never laid eyes on him, even though my cameras showed that he was hanging out right under my nose.

It got to the point where every deer I saw coming down the trail was a disappointment, and I didn’t like it. As the Minnesota gun season loomed closer, I started to back off of that deer to just hunt, and ended up on another part of the farm one late October morning.

Not long into the sit, a doe trotted by. I then heard a buck roar twice, which had never happened before, nor has it happened since. The deer, a main-frame eight with split brows, charged past my stand and made the mistake of stopping when I mrrped him. It was one of the coolest hunts I’ve ever had, but also tainted by a little disappointment. The buck I shot was a good one, no doubt. But he wasn’t the one I had been thinking about all summer and fall.

Not For Everyone

It’s hard for people who have a decent spot to hunt to realize sometimes how good they really have it. In so many places, passing up a buck in hopes that he’ll make it another season or three is a lost cause. Hunting pressure, predation, nasty winters, EHD, and a host of other factors can conspire to keep deer from getting old on private land. On public land, it’s often worse.

You might want to find a target buck, babysit him for a few years, and then set your sights on him when he’s mature. You might also never, ever get a chance to do that. In that case, the best you can do is try to find the biggest buck in the neighborhood on any given season, and focus on him. Or, you can forget about one-buck hunts and embrace the mystery.

Something Antlered This Way Comes

I’m old enough to remember hunting in the pre-trail-camera days. There were plenty of question marks in the pursuit back then, and it’s something that I love about hunting. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I like to travel to random states to hunt public land.

Having no history with a spot and no trail camera images to persuade me to hunt one way or another is freeing. It’s fun not to know who is going to come down the trail and to decide, in the moment, whether a deer is worthy of my tag or not.

This might be how you are wired, too. A great way to find out is to dive deep into the one-buck-hunt world. I did, and more than just with that big Minnesota 10-pointer. I found out that my spots aren’t great for it, and that I don’t really like that style. Your mileage might vary, of course.

That’s the great thing about this stuff, and it’s something to consider in the off-season as you’re planning on getting a few cameras out or maybe thinking about taking an over-the-road trip this fall. Should you find a target buck and laser in on him, or play it fast and loose and let the deer gods decide your fate?

Try both, figure it out. Then, lean into whatever works for you so you can get the most out of your season.

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