How to Become Regularly Successful at Taking Older Bucks

During my many years of presenting hunting seminars at Sports Shows and Sportsman Clubs across the eastern half of America, I was always amazed to discover great numbers of whitetail hunters, young and old, who were born with all the knowledge and skills needed to successfully hunt dozens of trophy bucks, therefore requiring no books or videos that explained on how to better hunt such deer. I wasn’t that fortunate. Starting from scratch as a farm kid at age 10, I had to somehow learn how to do it. During my first fifteen years of whitetail hunting, I had to settle for being taught by hunters with only one or two big bucks on their walls. Much of what they taught me either didn’t work or the deer I hunted didn’t do what they and magazine writers back then said whitetails do. Determined to finally learn the well-kept secrets of those who claimed to have dozens of ten-pointers or better on their walls, in 1970 I decided to try something desperate: study wild whitetails scientifically (part time at first and then almost full time). I then began to discover a world of whitetails little known by anyone. Soon my children and I began hanging mounts of ten- pointers or better on our walls. Between 1990 and 2017 my three sons and I took 98 mature bucks (8–13 pointers), all on public land inhabited by abundant grey wolves.

Such hunting success was made possible by our six new mature-buck-effective hunting methods, evolved first from the discovery of the inability of whitetails to discover me perched on primitive platforms only 6–9 feet above the ground, between 1962 and 1989, and second from discoveries made as a result of my hunting-related studies, between 1970 and 2017. These two overlapping periods now total 55 years.

My Whitetail Hunters Almanac, 10th Edition, took three years to write and edit because of the enormous amount of new field research completed since publishing my 9th Edition in 1997. This unusually large book (likely my last because I am now 83) was written to share with all deer hunters – beginners, veterans and advanced hunters – everything of greatest importance I have learned about whitetails and whitetail hunting since the 1960s. This includes deer signs that practically guarantee hunting success, habits, and range utilization of the five behavioral classes of whitetails, the many elements that affect the timing of whitetail activities, the four month and one week long whitetail rut with three two-week breeding periods, six new mature-buck-effective hunting methods and more. All play prominent roles in determining where, when, how and how long to hunt mature bucks or other mature whitetails at any site. Though the six new hunting methods introduced in this book were designed specifically for providing easy short-range shots at mature, unsuspecting (standing or slowly moving) bucks with gun or bow, they also provide regular opportunities to observe or take other deer. Used properly, these hunting methods keep you close to mature bucks and other deer every day or half-day you hunt. One or more of these new methods are certain to soon become your next favorites.

This book is available in two forms; an Amazon Kindle ebook and a paperback book. For a taste of its extraordinary whitetail hunting value, click now on the following: Dr. Ken Nordberg’s Whitetail Hunter’s Almanac, 10th Edition, ebook   Then click on “Look inside.” Information and forms for quickly and easily ordering a personally autographed, 518 page, 3–pound, 8″ x 10″ paperback version with 400 illusrations is now available in my website: Very soon after you begin turning the pages of your new Whitetail Hunters Almanac, 10th Edition, you are going to be astonished by all that is new about whitetails and whitetail hunting.


More About First-Time-Used Stand Sites

After stating in a previous blog my whitetail hunting partners have discovered first-time-used stand sites are by far our most productive for taking mature bucks, I’ve been asked by a hunter exactly when to hunt such a site. “When” depends on when the stand site is discovered: 1) while scouting preseason, 2) while heading back to camp for lunch or at day’s end during a hunting season or 3) while heading to a previously chosen stand site during a hunting season. Whatever the case, very fresh deer signs made by an unalarmed (not bounding or trotting) mature buck are the deciding factor.

We traditionally scout 2-3 weeks before a hunting season begins to ensure all deer will be back in their home ranges doing predictable things during predictable hours on opening weekend. After the first 2-3 days of a hunting season, however, mature bucks are well aware they are being hunted, which trails and which stand sites are currently being used by hunters and they are now doing the things that enabled them to survive previous hunting seasons, including avoiding known, currently-used stand sites and stand sites used and avoided during previous hunting seasons. From this point on during a hunting season, our best stands to take such bucks are those they do not yet know exist – never-used-before stand sites.

Typically, when the alarm clock begins ringing at 4 AM opening morning, everyone in my camp has a special buck stand site in mind (tree stand or ground level stand site) with some good alternatives to use if the wind direction is unfavorable (we never approach stands from upwind). We time our departures from camp to arrive at our stand sites one-hour before sunrise or 30 minutes before first good light – generally the beginning of legal shooting time, thirty minutes before sunrise.  We always want the opportunity to sit without discernable motion or sounds 30 minutes before the first and best hour for taking older bucks begins, giving nearby deer that may have heard us tiptoeing unseen to our stands ample time to decide whatever we were, we are either no longer there or we are harmless. Some hunters argue with me about the wisdom of heading to stands in darkness, but doing this has enabled my three sons and me to take most of the 94 mature bucks (none yearlings) we have taken on public land since 1990. Most were taken during that first legal shooting hour of the day. This is why no one will ever convince us heading in after first light is better.

Beginning on day three, we switch gears. Many stand sites we then decide to use are spur-of-the-moment selections, based on where very fresh deer signs made a mature buck are discovered while hiking to or from stand sites or on special connecting deer trails midday that we refer to as “cruise trails” (one per square-mile). Multiple stand trails branch from our cruise trails. Our stand trails and cruise trails provide unfailing and ample discoveries of fresh signs made by mature bucks during hunting seasons – signs that reveal vicinities of trails and sites (feeding areas) favored by mature bucks right now or will be later today or tomorrow morning (if not alarmed meanwhile). During hunting seasons, the only trails we use are our stand site approach trails and designated cruise trails, thus minimizing the spread of long-lasting human trail scents in our hunting area. By doing this (and avoiding bedding areas), our deer remain in their home ranges throughout our hunting seasons.

Some of the never-used-before stand sites we use while hunting were discovered before the hunting season began and have well planned approach trails (existing deer trails). Most are ground level sites (for use with silently-used, backpacked stools) that need little or no preparation. Very little or no preparation prevents premature stand site recognition by experienced older bucks. These sites are used during AM and/or PM hours. In the morning, as usual, we get to them one hour before sunrise, following fluorescent tacks on tree trunks adjacent to existing deer trails. We usually get our afternoon sites by 2 PM because dominant breeding bucks, alone or with does, sometimes show up as early as 2:30.

Some of our stand sites are not chosen until fresh buck signs are discovered, tracks made a short time earlier on a deer trail, for example, or tracks of a buck with or without a doe that headed toward or into a feeding area. When planning to stand hunt at a site in the morning where I had not previously selected a stand site or approach trail, I head out from camp early, as usual, but stop short where deer in the feeding area ahead still can’t see the beam of my flashlight and wait if necessary  (sitting on my stool) until it becomes light enough to quietly find my way without the use of a flashlight. In the afternoon, I give myself enough time to find a spot to sit well before deer are expected to become active.

Some of the largest bucks I have tagged since 1990 were taken as a result of unexpectedly discovering their very fresh tracks and/or other interesting signs in my flashlight beam ahead while on my way in darkness to a previously chosen stand site, prompting me to immediately back off 20 yards or so downwind and select a spot to sit on my stool where well hidden by natural cover. Three times during the past ten years, the “interesting” sign was a rare, just-renewed ground scrape in November. I don’t have time or space here to explain why such a discovery is rare or “interesting” in November, but in each case the buck that renewed the scrape showed up within 15 minutes to 4 hours and I got the buck.

Spur-of-the-moment stand site selections are commonly used by my sons and me during hunting seasons. Using such stand sites generally requires the use of a silently carried, silently used stool (unlike a noisy to carry and noisy to install portable tree stand) at ground level and unaltered natural cover as a blind. We never feel inadequate for having done this because as we happily discovered many years ago, nothing beats natural, unaltered cover at stand sites never used before for taking the most elusive of whitetails, bucks 3-1/2 to 6-1/2 years of age, like the one taken from such a stand site by my son, Dave, pictured above.


Deer Tracks that Ensure Hunting Success

If there ever was a way to simplify whitetail hunting, this is it: only hunt near fresh tracks of a deer that walked next to or into a feeding area (not necessarily a farm field or clearcut).

There are lots of kinds of deer tracks, fresh tracks, old tracks, tracks of a walking deer and tracks of a bounding deer are some. Fresh tracks mean the deer that made them passed through the area where found minutes to a few hours earlier. If the deer was walking, meaning it wasn’t alarmed, such a discovery means you are now in a portion of that deer’s home range currently favored by that deer. On any one day, especially during hunting seasons, whitetails generally limit their movements to only about 10% of their home ranges. An important question is, will the deer that made those tracks walk through this same vicinity again later today or tomorrow morning when deer are active? If so, this might be a good place to stand hunt later today or tomorrow morning. If the deer was trotting or bounding, however, meaning it was alarmed, hunting there would be a waste of time.

The trouble is, whitetails generally have a dozen or more routes to use to get to whatever destination they have in mind, the choice during hunting seasons are typically dependent on quality of cover, the current wind direction and trails and sites known to being used by hunters. The odds for hunting success at any randomly selected deer trail are therefore not particularly good. Such odds can be greatly improved, however, by hunting within sight of where whitetails spend most of their time while active in early morning and late afternoon, namely, feeding areas. All deer trails funnel down to whitetail feeding areas where the odds of seeing deer are infinitely greater. Until the deer that made those tracks discovers a hunter waiting in ambush adjacent to its current favorite feeding area (mature whitetails are very good at this), it is almost certain that deer will return to that feeding area later today and early tomorrow morning (don’t count on it happening more than two days). Taking quick advantage of such knowledge provides the best odds there are for hunting success in whitetail hunting.

Potent Tips For Improving Stand Hunting

Theoretically, stand hunting is the very best way to hunt whitetails. This is because while stand hunting, you are stationary, therefore less visible to the motion-sensitive eyes of deer, less apt to make telltale sounds and not laying down ruinous human trail scents and equally ruinous human airborne scents that spread downwind throughout a lengthening area 200 yards wide.

The trouble is, stand hunters must (or should) walk on foot to get to a stand site. While doing this, they are not motionless, not usually silent and they are then laying down a path of persistent human trail scents, all the while emitting an invisible cloud of airborne human odors that temporarily permeates an expanse 200 yards wide along the entire extent of the stand site approach trail – a rather imposing expanse of potentially ruinous scents indeed. To make matters worse, upon arriving at a stand site, most stand hunters are not inclined to remain motionless or silent very long. Many even begin banging antlers together, blowing on noisemakers and/or releasing scents into the air that most mature whitetails now realize are dangerous if accompanied by human odors.

As a rule these days, between the first few minutes of using a stand site and the final minutes of the third consecutive half-day of hunting at the same stand site, virtually all stand hunters are discovered and identified by the doe and her young (including yearlings) that live within their surrounding 125-acre doe home range, the 2-3 mature bucks that live in overlapping home ranges within the surrounding 300 acres or so in your half of a square mile and the largest buck (the dominant breeding buck) that owns the entire surrounding square mile. The tipoff is usually a dark human silhouette that moves, a uniquely human sound such as a cough or metallic click and/or a complex mixture of odors only characteristic of human hunters, unexpectedly or expectedly detected by deer passing unseen within 200 yards downwind. Whitetails that have survived two or more hunting seasons generally avoid a newly discovered stand site being used by a hunter throughout the balance of the hunting season.

Many hunters believe elevated stands and products claimed to eliminate odors of hunters make it impossible for whitetails to smell them. Actually, recent experiments with K-9 dogs used by law enforcement officers in Minnesota have proven any product available today that is claimed to eliminate or cover odors of deer hunters does not in the least fool noses of dogs. It has also been proven odoriferous molecules emitted by hunters, their clothing and hunting gear drop steeply toward the ground from any stand height. This means though tree stands and such products can provide important benefits while hunting whitetails, they cannot keep extremely sensitive noses of downwind whitetails from readily identifying stand hunters (and all other deer hunters).

With few exceptions, therefore, it no longer makes sense to waste valuable hunting time at one stand site throughout a hunting season. When hunting older bucks, in fact, it is generally a waste of time to use one stand longer than 1/2 to 2 days per hunting season. Ideally, then, especially when a mature buck is your intended quarry, you should never begin a hunting season with less than one well-located stand site  (elevated or ground level) to use for every 1/2 to 2 days you plan to hunt My sons and I select one for each half day we plan to hunt. Many are natural, ground level blinds intended for use with a backpacked stool that require little or no preparation. First-time-used stand sites are generally our most productive for taking mature bucks (see photo).