This weekend I had the chance to get back to Nebraska, a place that I love to hunt as much as anywhere. I was more excited than I should have been due to the fact I didn't get the chance to hunt there last year. As I was headed down, my anticipation was at an all time high. I had one trail camera that I had set up while shed hunting in February and was pumped to see what was on it. I also was thrilled to do some glassing on a new property that I had picked up in the spring, and was hoping for big things. Yet, the weekend didn't go as planned, and I thought this would be a good time to touch on the ability to adapt as whitetails hardly ever do exactly what you want them to, and how adapting can lead to harvesting many more mature bucks.
The first thing that might be the most important is to not get frustrated when something doesn't go your way. I struggle the most with this by far. After arriving in Nebraska, I went and checked the one and only trail camera I had set up. I knew I was in trouble when I walked in front of the camera, and no pictures were taken. I was right, as the camera had died for whatever reason only three weeks after getting it out. That means it sat there from March until this past Saturday, not taking a single picture. To say I was frustrated would be a vast understatement. You know how it is, every time we check trail cameras, it's like Christmas morning.
When you get frustrated, it does absolutely no good. My buddy Ben that I was with literally had to calm me down, and just remind me how we would rather have this happen now, opposed to when we come back in September to hunt. When something doesn't go you way, figure out a way to solve the problem, instead of letting the problem get the best of you. In this case, we simply got more mineral out, and put up a different, more reliable trail camera to evade the occurrence happening in the future.
Don't Have Predetermined Plans
Predetermining what's going to work months ahead of season usually isn't going to work in your favor. More often than not, you may have a good idea of how a buck is going to move, or even know of a good buck in a certain area, but what determines success is what you do when your ideas don't go as planned.
Once again, this applied directly to my Nebraska hunting efforts. As I said earlier, I picked up a new property in the spring, and I really thought that a particular secluded field could be a great early season spot for me to pattern a mature buck. While shed hunting the area, the sign looked terrific, and it set up so perfectly, or so I thought.
Once I figured out that the field I had thought would be so good in the spring was planted in beans, I knew I wanted to sit up on high ground and glass. Friday night I got all set up, and was ready to watch the show unfold. Except, it wasn't much of a show. I saw a few does here and there, and one nice buck way off in the distance, not in the field I had hoped for. It was a bit of a letdown, but I thought maybe the next night would be better. But it only got worse. Night two yielded zero deer. The spot I thought would be so great, now doesn't look as though it will be so great after all.
So what do you do in a situation like this? You could go a few different routes. 1. Forget about the spot completely. 2. Hunt it anyway, and hope for the best. Or you could go the route I did. I put up a trail camera back in the timber, just off of the field edge, and instead of hanging a stand like I thought I was before I got there, I opted to just wait. Adapting means to be able to change. I changed my plans, because I didn't see a mature buck like I wanted to. When I come back in September to check my trail camera, it will tell me what I need to know. If there are pictures of a buck I'd like to shoot, I'll then make a plan on how to hunt him. If there isn't any pictures of a shooter, I'll simply put more focus on one of my other spots.
The most important thing in the summer is to go out and seek mature bucks. If they're not where you thought they would be, it's up to you to go out and find them.
Leave Your Favorite Tree
When it comes to adapting to how a mature buck moves, this can be the hardest part for some people. Let's face it, we all know somebody (it might be you) that has their favorite tree to sit in. It could be for a variety of reasons, maybe you shot your first buck there, or you've consistently seen big bucks from it, but never have put an arrow through one. Not being afraid to move, and being bold can lead to more mature bucks hitting the ground.
Just because a certain stand was a great spot 10 years ago, doesn't automatically mean it will produce this season. Heck just because a stand was dynamite last year, doesn't mean it will be great this year. It doesn't mean it won't, but just don't assume it will yield the same results as the year prior.
Adapt yearly, just as whitetails do.
A whitetail is a habitual creature, and an area is usually good for a reason. But their movements still shift at least a little bit from year to year. It's common for me to move a stand thirty yards from one year to the next. Don't be afraid to move and leave your favorite tree, it doesn't always have to be drastic.
Change Your Tactics
Switching up your tried and true tactics can be somewhat of a challenge for a good number of hunters. This year, when something isn't working, instead of keeping with it and it continuing not to work, change it up.
If your somebody that swears by rattling during the rut, but you haven't rattled in a buck yet and it's already the second week of November, consider hanging the antlers up for a different approach. It might just mean to stop calling and see what happens. Bucks can be responsive to different calls and such daily, so if one thing isn't working, try something else.
When it comes to changing tactics to harvest more mature bucks, don't be afraid to change your hunting style. For example, I know a lot of guys that refuse to pursue mature bucks in October with the same effort that they do in November. November can be a great time of year, we all know that. But October can be pretty darn good too. Don't get tunnel vision on a certain time of the year.
When it comes down to it, getting out of your comfort zone can be the difference between harvesting a few mature bucks in your lifetime, and being consistent at doing so.
Just when you think that you have the whitetail deer patterned to a T, they do something that makes you scratch your head. This is even more prominent with mature bucks. If your not able to adapt, and change as mature bucks do, the odds become higher of having that mature buck slip through your fingers, opposed to hanging on the wall.