Is it ok to spook a mature whitetail? If you do, what will happen? Will he turn nocturnal or leave the area completely never to return? Is there ever a good time to spook a big buck? All good questions and I wish there was a definitive answer. I don’t believe that if you do happen to jump a big buck from his bed that he will immediately become nocturnal or leave the county entirely! My whole approach to hunting big bucks is all about surprise, stealthy observation, entering and exiting my stands secretively and not letting a big buck know I’m after him.
I usually try and have all my stands set by the first of August so I don’t have to take a chance on disturbing a mature buck after he has shed his velvet. It doesn’t always happen that way though, no matter how careful I am. If I do spook a big buck, I know it’s not the end of the world, but the game did just get a little harder! I think there are times, like right now 3 months prior to season, when you can get away with bumping a big buck even though I wouldn’t recommend it. It never fails though, just when you think you have a giant figured out things change, and you have to be prepared for it. This can mean going into an area “blind” on a hang and hunt, or even bumping a deer intentionally just to locate him. This week we are going to take a look at “when to spook and when not to spook”.
Ok, so you’ve “drank the kool aid” and bought into my ideas on scouting year round. You’ve found a particular buck you want to shoot, watched him all summer and bam, he disappears, now what? It’s happened to me more than once. It never ceases to amaze me how a big buck can just flat vanish! Not if, but when this happens to you, what will you do? The last thing I’m going to do is waste valuable time in the wrong spot. During early season, Dominant Bucks aren’t moving very much at all and can be very hard to locate. If you aren’t right on top of them, you won’t have a chance. If I’m not getting any trail cam pics of the deer I’m after and he’s vanished from the green fields he was in all summer and there’s no big fresh rubs in the area, it’s time to go looking for him and I want to spook him! I will cover as much ground as I can, legally, until I bust him up right out of his bed! Why stay in an unproductive area for weeks wasting valuable time. If and when I locate him he’s going to do one of two things: relocate back to where I know he normally lives or return to where I have jumped him up. If he does the first, I’m already set up to hunt him there, if it’s the latter, I need to be ready to set a stand immediately! If that buck returns to that same spot, I need to be there waiting for him! That means having a stand on my back and everything I need to prepare for the hunt which has to take place the very next day or next few days. Reason being, if I let the area cool off for a couple days, then return and hang a stand, then return a couple days later to hunt, I have invaded that spot 3 times! A giant buck will not stand for that! You have bumped him from the area, take the opportunity to hang the stand, trim minimal shooting lanes, and be back there the next few mornings waiting for him before he returns and figures out what’s going on! A good friend of mine, Andrae D’Aquisto, the inventor of Lone Wolf Treestands has made a career out of that technique and has a wall of giants using that exact tactic!
Some times you have to push the envelope and get aggressive, take a chance that might end up spooking a big buck. Perfect example is my biggest bowkill to date. During the later part of October during the 2006 season, I witnessed the buck I was after emerge from a crp field one evening, scent checking does in a freshly picked corn field. With the rut just a week or two away, I knew the chance of him hanging around the area for long wasn’t good and I had to be in there the next day! Only problem was I had no stand hung on the trail he used, so I would have to hang one when I went in to hunt, right on the edge of his bedding area! To top it off, if it didn’t work out it was going to be next to impossible to get out of the area after dark without spooking whatever was in the field! It was an opportunity though, I witnessed him making a rare mistake and I had to take advantage of it, I might not get another chance. The next afternoon, with stand on my back, I slid in with the wind at my back ( something I try never to do) blowing right down the edge of the cover, and hung my stand as quietly as possible. Three hours later, as the sun began to set, the monstrous whitetail stood up not 80 yds. from my position and ended up giving me a 20 yard shot! I had broken a few of my own rules and taken a chance on spooking the giant buck, but I ended up harvesting a 208” bruiser of a whitetail!
The only thing definite about hunting monster bucks is this, “ Nothing is ever definite”, even when it comes to spooking a giant buck. We should strive to do everything we can to keep our presence a secret when chasing mega whitetails but sometimes we have to take some chances, hunt aggressively and occasionally throw caution to the wind.