Personality Plus

Scott Bestul |



I spotted him one evening as I sat by a picked bean field along a creek. The buck was quite a distance away, with his head in the stubble, and I couldn’t see his antlers very well. He didn’t hear when I grunted at him, so I picked up rattling horns and gently clacked them together. The buck snapped his head up, looked around nervously, and started to slink off the field. But not before I noticed a distinctive right antler, with several unique kicker points. I shrugged and hung the horns for the evening. I’d obviously encountered a timid buck, and aggression was not the path for killing him.

But the very next morning, on a stand nearly a half-mile off, I spotted a good buck trotting through the timber. I knew he’d never hear a grunt call, so I instinctively grabbed my rattling antlers and crashed them together, just to get his attention. The buck slammed to a stop, turned his head toward me, and ran full bore in my direction. When he stopped 10 yards away, his flanks were heaving and his tongue hung from his mouth. It was the same kicker-racked buck I’d seen the evening before!

That buck showed me the difference between personality and mood. Who knows what happened that first encounter? The buck might have been hungry and not in the mood to fight. He could have tangled with another, stronger, rival earlier that day and lost. Or, he could simply have mistaken the antlers for some other loud, scary sound and high-tailed it on principle. I’ll never know. Whatever the cause of his indifference, it was gone the next morning….and I’ll never know the cause of that, either, except to know that something had changed in the buck’s mood.

I think of this deer any time I’m observing bucks. Given enough time and encounters, I can usually make a safe assumption about a buck’s personality. But if all I get are a few short glimpses of his demeanor around other deer, I reserve judgement. Given the right circumstances, even that shy, bashful, recluse might turn into an exciting brawler tearing up turf by the blind.

Next week, we’ll examine some of the clues to look for when judging a buck’s demeanor.