If you’re truly serious about huge whitetails—10, 12 or 14-point giants, with drop tines, forked brows or webbed beams—you must also commit to hunting hard. Here are seven steps to taking boss bucks.
1. Manage Your Scent
Don’t toy with the nose. The wariness of a boss buck when it comes to scent is second to none in the deer world. To ignore this is a guaranteed game ender. Without careful scent management, the only time you’ll encounter such a sly buck is if the wind is 100 per cent in your favour. Even then, wind direction is often far from reliable, especially when there are swirling breezes and thermals to contend with, depending on the topography.
For hunters who don’t manage scent, the only possibility of success is at the beginning of the rut. That’s when the very first does enter estrous, sending all the bucks scrambling for their first hot date of the season. Then maybe, just maybe, those hunters will have a chance at the trophy—if they’re lucky.
For antler-obsessed hunters planning to pursue heavy-beamed bucks beyond the start of the rut, however, it’s imperative to develop scent-reducing strategies. The same goes for early autumn, when the archery season begins and you need to get up close for a shot. In either case, there are simple and effective precautions you can take to minimize scent.
For starters, wash all your hunting apparel—from base layers to outerwear—in scent-free detergent. Hang the clothing outside to dry in the sun. Don’t use a dryer, which can impart the perfumed scent of dryer sheets and fabric softeners from previous loads. Once clean, store the apparel in a sealable plastic tub that has been aired out for at least two weeks to reduce the plastic smell. To create a masking cover scent, add a few small branches from the trees where you hunt.
On the days you go hunting, shower first with scent-free soap and shampoo, especially if you’re bowhunting. Put on your base layers at home, then add the outer layer just before heading into the bush. Also wear a cap or toque (when it’s colder) to help contain scent escaping from your hair and scalp. Wash or change your hat every three or four hunts.
When placing your treestand or ground blind, think it through and be selective with the area you choose. Avoid gullies and other spots that tend to create swirling air currents. And set up where a buck would have to reveal itself within range in order to circle downwind.
Finally, don’t ride a gas-powered vehicle such as an ATV to your set-up, as the smell of the exhaust will drive all deer away. And carefully choose your route to and from your set-up so that you’re walking into the breeze, while avoiding active deer trails and scrapes.