How to Learn From Bucks That Elude You

Scott Bestul |

The 2016 deer season isn’t quite history as I write this, but the clock is definitely ticking. And, as of now, my home-state buck tag has not been punched, which means that many of the bucks that comprised my so-called “hit list” will have eluded me.  I’ll keep my cameras running for a few weeks, search for their sheds in a couple of months, and of course resume my efforts to find them next summer, but they’ve absolutely sucker-punched me this fall.

Not long ago, this hard fact would have bugged me a bit. When I was young and full of enthusiasm (and a healthy dose of seemingly boundless energy), getting beat by a buck irritated me. These days, with more grey in my beard and less spring in my step, that same scenario bothers me very little. In fact, in a kind-of-odd way, it actually gets me motivated for next fall. Here’s why:

*I put un-punched tags in context: Awhile back, I realized that whitetails were simply better at staying alive than I was at killing them. And when I figured this out, I had a kind of “eureka” experience….As in, why wouldn’t they be better? After all, they are being deer 365 days/year (and have everything on the line), while I’m actively hunting them only a fraction of that time (and lose nothing of value if I fail) each fall?

*I get (a little) better at hunting them: Every buck that kicks my butt teaches me something about whitetails, and that cumulative lesson-teaching makes me a better deer hunter in the long run. As in; when a buck pulls a certain stunt that I’ve seen before, I’m better able to adjust and figure out the buck I’m currently hunting. In short, if I pay attention to what Buck A teaches me about mature deer behavior, I stand a better chance at tagging Buck B when/if he pulls the same stunt.

*My love for deer hunting grows: It seems counter-intuitive, but not shooting a buck that I want makes me respect whitetails even more. This is not supposed to be easy, folks. If shooting a monster was simply a matter of finding a really good spot, or putting in X amount of time, I could find the same fulfillment in being a good golfer, or bowler, or….well, you fill in the blank. But the way I chase deer is simple hunting, pure and unvarnished. Getting my butt handed to me reminds me of the “game” I’m playing; going to head-to-head with one of America’s most difficult trophies. I’m going to lose more than I win, and I’m perfectly OK with that. With that in mind, here are just a few of the bucks that totally bested the best I’ve got this fall…


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