Profiling a Killer (Buck) - flipping the odds in your favor this hunting season.
Profiling might be the best way to cheat the odds of taking a bruiser!
They do it on NCIS, and all the cop shows on TV to help them nab the elusive criminal. Identify characteristics he must have, or make a profile, and narrow down the list of possible suspects to get them much closer to their man. Does he have a habit of eating fast food? Scratch vegetarians off the list. Did his government teacher fail him in high school so now he abhors politics? Yep, that politician didn’t do it. It works nicely on TV shows, but what if we could do the same thing with hunting to increase our success? Fact is, many hunters spend too much time hunting elusive, and downright unkillable bucks each season because they don’t make a profile of one they actually can. So here’s how to stop spending critical time hunting the wrong bucks, and find the right ones, by profiling a killer!
In this age of trail cameras, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking every deer that shows up in our pictures is killable. In reality, they are not. Thinking so is a fatal error that causes many wasted hunts and missed opportunities on bucks elsewhere. We need a filter to help us determine which bucks we should hunt based on evidence. When we run across a buck from our scouting that fits this well thought out decision filter, we get a “yes” and know we should put in time on that buck. However, when we see that huge buck show up at night, that makes our mouth water but does not meet the requirements, we need to be able to pass on hunting him for the time being because he’s a “no” based on this filter. So yes, we need to make a profile, and find bucks that fit it. But how do we do that?
THE PROFILE OF A KILLER:
These factors are musts for me to find that killer buck. Your profile may be a bit more specific, but should include these basics below. Keep notes on bucks you find, until you find one that fits the profile, and then hunt him!
PROFILE CHARACTERISTIC #1: SHOWS HIMSELF IN DAYLIGHT. If a buck you are hunting never shows up in daylight, it is impossible to kill him (legally). So why hunt him unless he proves that he does, or will? Many times we hunt bucks that we see show up at night at our feeders and trail cameras, but never have intel to prove that he is active when we can actually kill him. Why? Maybe out of ego, or that irresistible draw to that mythical ghostbuck of which legends are made, or maybe because of the challenge of such a task. However, chasing him does not put the odds in our favor. Yes, we never know when he may show up in daylight, and betting on the rut does put that chance in our favor a bit more, but if we don’t have sufficient evidence this characteristic is present, we should not waste time on him.
YOUR PLAY: Stay out but keep tabs on him. If she shows in the day, he starts fitting your profile more and you may be able to move in on him if he fits your other criteria. Otherwise, stay out and hunt elsewhere until he fits this part of the killer profile.
PROFILE CHARACTERISTIC #2: IS ABLE TO BE PATTERNED. This is all about odds. If you don’t know anything about his movements, habits, or patterns, then odds are very low that he will show in a random place you happen to hunt. This requires intel from scouting (foot, glassing, trailcams, etc.). The more clues you have about this, the better you can tell if he fits the profile. Does he show repeating behaviors that will help you kill him? Let’s break this into two parts:
1. PLACES HE SHOWS: Does he show in areas at certain times of year (based on past experience and intel) or get careless during the rut? If you can find predictable, repeating patterns this is what you are looking for. This could be routes he takes from bedding to feed, where he likes to feed on a consistent basis, where he cruises during the rut, or other repeating occurrences of travel. The key here is repeating, and the more he repeats the better.
2. PLACES HE LIVES: Can you find his home range and favorite bedding areas?
Does he like to bed on a certain ridge, so you know where not to intrude (and thus keep a sanctuary, and him on your property)? Or is he just occasionally cruising through your ground, at night, but spends most his time somewhere else (and therefore a largely unkillable buck)? Answering these questions is key to getting a buck patterned, and determining if he fits the profile of a killer buck.
YOUR PLAY: The key is intel here, if you don’t have it, you won’t know if he fits the profile and is therefore worth spending precious time on. Gather intel as if your life depends on it, and make your decisions with it. Remember, there are only so many good hunting days during the year, so make them count!
PROFILE CHARACTERISTIC #3: HAUNTS HUNTABLE AREAS. You now have him patterned, but if he does not hang or travel in a huntable area on your property, then you may have to scratch him off the list. Do you know where he beds? Do you know how he accesses food, and bedding areas so you can catch him coming and going? Do any of these areas he frequents allow you to get in and out without alerting him? If your entry and exit are not rock solid, or if he just does not like to show much in huntable areas on your property, attempting to hunt him may just drive him out of your area for good, so beware.
YOUR PLAY: Do a property inventory. Put on a map his bedding, feed, and travel routes as best you can based on gathered intel. Find potential stand sites close to these where you can catch him in daylight that are low impact, and identify potential routes to come and go with minimal intrusion, as well. If you cannot find these, keep searching and keep an open mind. However, if not, the checkmark may have to go from huntable, to unhuntable on your hitlist.
PROFILE CHARACTERISTIC #4: IS A BUCK YOU’D BE HAPPY WITH. This is probably a no-brainer for some, but also essential. No one wants to hunt a buck they don’t want to shoot, but at the same time we do want to have success. There is a balance that must be found when putting bucks through the profile’s filter to see if a “yes” or “no” pops out at the other end. Again, these should not be pipe dreams, and we don’t want to waste time, but just because a 1.5 year old spike makes it easy does not mean you should shoot him either. Be realistic with your area, and your goals, and making a killer profile can amp up the odds of taking a great buck this season.
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