Busted by Bucks
How to recover and still seal the deal!
If you’ve been hunting for any amount of time, you’ve been caught, busted by a buck. It’s something that to even talk about can make a hunter cringe, and even cry. This unpleasant experience can leave “could have beens” burned in the memory for decades to come, and has been the genesis of most “the one that got away” stories told year after year at deer camp. But, what if there were some tactics, some tricks that could be used to still get a clean shot off even after being busted by a mature buck? Those sad stories would turn into happy ones with real trophies hanging on the wall instead of unpleasant memories. The fact is, there are such secrets about whitetail behavior that if a hunter knows, could help him accomplish just that. Here are two of those secrets that just might turn a potential sad experience into a happy celebration around a downed buck.
First, I need to say that the type of “bust” that a buck gets on you matters. One is very recoverable, the other, not so much. We’ll focus on the former, of course, but let’s define one that is very tough to overcome: when a deer knows what you are and that you are hunting him. If a buck smells you, see’s and identifies you, and knows what you are and is greatly disturbed, he will avoid you and that area like the plague. This is very hard to come back from. Not that you can’t, but it may take all season just to get another glimpse of him, if you’re lucky. However, if a buck busts you, and isn’t overly alarmed because he’s not quite sure what you are, you have a great chance at getting a shot, and soon. There are two scenarios where this is very predictable based on deer behavior that can be used to your advantage.
THE TWO SCENARIO’S
1. The Bump & Dump: This technique has been around for awhile, but centers around the idea that a buck is bumped from his bed or home turf as you are scouting or moving through it, and takes off but doesn’t quite know what it was that spooked him. In this scenario do not be disappointed. In fact, you just got valuable information that could help you seal the deal. Many times bucks will circle back to that area hours later to check out what spooked it, or the next morning to bed because they weren’t spooked too bad and they survived unscathed. They still feel safe. This is when you need to find the best tree or ground location, and hunt right then. That evening, and/or the next morning are prime opportunities to see the buck again, because you know his home turf and he probably didn’t go far and will return. There are many stories of this working, and I have one of my own, as well.
About 15 years ago I was hunting a property that was mostly corn field with a small bit of woods on the back end. I had to walk through the corn to get to my stand on the woods edge, and on the way I bumped a buck that was already out in the corn (which was partially cut around the edges but still standing in the middle. As I rounded the corner out of the corn, he was standing about 30 yards away and jumped off into the woods and nearby bedding area. He didn’t snort, he couldn’t smell me, and I was sure he didn’t know exactly what I was. He was just startled by something. So, I climbed right in my stand, and 1.5 hours later he walked right under me back into the field and gave me a ten yard shot with my aluminum Easton arrow. 80 yards later the curious buck was piled up in the corn field, even after being busted by him a short time earlier. His desire to come to the food, curiosity, and the fact that he wasn’t alarmed too badly allowed me to capitalize on this predictable behavior of whitetail deer.
2. The Re-bound. The majority of the time I’ve have opportunities at good bucks thwarted has been right at or before the shot. It seems like mature bucks just know when danger is imminent sometimes, and tend to react accordingly just a step before your open lane. Sometimes, this is the end. However, bucks usually react predictably in this situation and this can be taken advantage of to get off a clean shot. My two archery bucks from my home state of Michigan are prime examples of this.
On October 15th I took a break from my public land grind and decided to hunt my parent’s property that I hadn’t hunted in five years. The night seemed perfect as I climbed into the stand, and deer movement began immediately. For 45 minutes ten does fed around me, and I was just enjoying the night in the woods. A little while later, I noticed a small tree swaying and shaking behind me, and noticed a good buck working it over. After ten minutes of this, he started working my way from directly behind the tree. As he got closer, and I finally figured which side of the tree
he would come out, I had to shift my body to the right for the ten yard chip-shot that was about to happen. As I twisted just a bit more, and was putting tension on the string, my bow made contact with a big metal handle on my dad’s treestand (he obviously didn’t use buck bumper -SEE HERE- that I gave him). The “ting” immediately made the buck stare straight at me. What was a slam dunk, had just become a total brick. My experience, however, told me not to panic. As we stared, I planned my next moved based on what I thought he would probably do. Years of whitetail observations told me that he would either (a) turn his head sideways, take a step, then look back up again, and I could draw and quickly shoot when he did that, or (b) he would bound off quickly two or three bounds and slow or stop and I could have a possible quick shot. After what seemed like forever, he chose option b. As he took two quick bounds I drew, he slowed to a trot and look back, and I released a perfect lung shot at 25 yards. He piled up 50 yards later within sight.
On November 7th, I was hunting state land nearby and returned to my little backyard food plot to check the camera mid day. To my surprise a brute Michigan 10 point had been there in daylight that morning. So, I made plans to hunt every morning and evening the next week (and have my dad come some mornings when I was at work) to see if he returned. The next morning, I was in the blind a half hour before daylight. At about daylight I began hearing a noise directly behind the blind, that to me sounded like a possum or small animal in the crackling dry goldenrod. It got so close (2 yards) I thought is was going to enter the blind with me through the back door. Having the side windows closed I listened for five minutes as it moved toward the plot. As it entered my first window I saw tines, and realized it was the ten point just yards away! He casually walked five yards in front of me and stood broadside. I could hear the beast breathing, and was in aww being so close to such a huge animal. I knew I couldn’t draw with him this close, and was worried that something would give me away at such close range. Casually he looked into the blind, not acting alarmed, and we locked eyes for several moments. As I stared at the huge beast I thought, and hoped he would look right through me and would continue his walk out into the
plot where I would have a shot. He was not. Suddenly, as if sensing something wrong, he snorted and took two bounds out into the plot. I drew immediately, and as if scripted he stopped and turned broadside at 20 yards, and looked back to further evaluate what he didn’t like in the blind. The shot was off, and the rest is history as I held my second biggest Michigan buck in my hands a short time later.
In both these scenarios the bucks were not fully alarmed, but knew something was wrong in their immediate environment. Knowing what a buck was likely to do in such a scenario (create a little distance between the unknown source of question and itself by taking two or three quick bounds, and then slowing or pausing to reassess the source) and reacting immediately for the potential shot opportunity allowed two clean shots and kills that inexperience hunters, or those prone to give in to self pity and give up, would not have had. They are very quick, small windows of opportunity, but ones that knowledgeable and skilled hunters can take advantage of to seal the deal even when busted by a big buck.
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