The Gentle Nudge: using human airborne scent rather than an aggressive hunting method to take big whitetail bucks

Now and then when snow covers the ground, my three sons and I take a big dominant breeding buck using an extraordinary hunting method we developed about 25 years ago, named “the Gentle Nudge.” It began with the discovery of peculiar deer tracks in snow made by a buck under the influence of the airborne pheromone emitted by a doe in heat, the buck dragging its hooves from track to track. If the hoof prints were about four inches in length (Minnesota), they were made by a dominant breeding buck, the largest buck living within the surrounding square mile. My boys named these tracks “railroad tracks.” From that time on we knew such tracks were made by a fully mature buck that was either accompanying a doe in heat (2-5/8 to 3-inch long doe hoof prints accompanying railroad tracks) or the buck was downwind of a doe in heat (no doe tracks accompanying railroad tracks). More importantly, upon first discovering such tracks, we knew that buck would be with that doe in the nearest whitetail feeding area during the first three legal shooting hours in the morning or the last two hours in the evening or in the doe’s bedding area midday during the next 24 hours – the length of time the doe could be expected to be in heat, assuming it began a short time earlier. We always realized, of course, the doe’s heat could have started much earlier, prompting us to always take quick advantage of railroad tracks.

The earlier discovery of the fact that mature bucks are rarely taken by hunters making drives had a lot to do with the development of a new hunting method we decided to use to take bucks under these circumstances. Older bucks generally have three ways to escape drives unscathed: 1) abandoning the area to be driven shortly before the drive begins, 2) outflanking the oncoming drivers, keeping track of upwind hunters via airborne scents and sounds, and 3) by hiding in dense cover between advancing drivers until they have passed. Mature whitetails (not fawns and yearlings) are determined to avoid being driven far in any direction by hunters or predators, especially downwind, apparently expecting an ambush ahead. As soon as they gain a safe distance ahead of an oncoming hunter, they’ll veer right or left and finally turn into the wind to avoid ambushers, thereafter quickly abandoning their home ranges.

Logically, then, upon realizing where a big buck is accompanying a doe in heat right now – in the doe’s feeding or bedding area – rather than attempt to drive the buck toward one or more downwind hunters, almost always certain to fail, I decided to try a non-aggressive approach, using my own spreading airborne scent drifting from a stationary upwind stand location to convince the buck and doe to depart without haste downwind (the key), typically happening on a deer trail toward the undetected downwind stand hunter. The first five times we tried this with me or one of my sons sitting upwind and my son, Ken who discovered the railroad tracks, sitting downwind, it worked perfectly. Three of those first five bucks are now on a wall in Ken’s den. Dominant breeding bucks taken by my daughter Kate and me while using this tactic are looking down at me from my office wall as I write this. To work, certain precautions must be taken while heading to decided locations of stand sites and, of course, the hunter must know locations of nearby feeding and doe bedding areas, provided by knowedgeable preseason scoutings. Done, right, the gentle nudge rarely fails. A big, unsuspecting buck usually ends up near the downwind hunter within one half to four hours. Learn exactly how and when to use this amazing mature-buck-effective, small group, stand hunting method in my newly published Whitetail Hunters Almanac, 10th Edition.

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