By Alex Comstock
Bowhunting whitetails is quite the challenge in itself. When one decides to bowhunt mature bucks, that challenge is escalated to a much more difficult level. And then there are the ones that make the progression to hunting specific bucks. This is taking it to an entirely new level of hard. I've tried it, successfully and unsuccessfully, and let me tell you, the feat is not easy, nor will it ever be. There are benefits of hunting a specific buck, and then there are the ensuing disadvantages as well. How do you know if you're ready to start targeting a specific buck? Consider these few pros and cons that I've come up with in the experience I have doing so, and maybe they can help you consider what option is for you.
The Added Challenge: The first, and what I would consider the most obvious advantage to hunting a specific buck is the added challenge, if that's what you are seeking. You don't have much room for error when singling out an individual. If you get busted once, odds are not going to be in your favor for a second chance. If you have "mastered" hunting mature deer, this is the next challenge to embark upon.
You Become More Detail Oriented: Ultimately if you are going to be successful harvesting an individual buck, the details become inherently important. You can't slack on anything, to include hunting the wind, scent control, hunting the right weather pattern, the right day, heck even the right stand and type of year. I believe this to be an advantage because it makes you a better hunter. By hunting a specific buck, it can open your eyes to the details you miss (when it doesn't work out) which in turn will help mold you into a more seasoned deer hunter, and you'll quickly learn even the most minuscule details count. You're not hunting deer, you are hunting A deer, there is a big difference.
A Deeper Learning: Stemming from becoming more detail oriented is what comes out of it. And that is you gather a deeper learning of mature whitetails. I believe that all deer are individuals and don't act exactly the same. Mature bucks are a little different than the rest of the herd, and you have to hunt them in a different way than someone who is simply "deer hunting". When you target a specific buck, you may hunt him for 2,3, or even 4 years. Over that time, you can develop a deep learning of his habits and tendencies. Whether you end up successfully harvesting him or not, those lessons you learn can be applied in the future. Though all mature bucks are different, many of them will have major (or subtle) similarities or differences. The more you can learn about a specific buck's habits and tendencies, the better chance of success you will have down the road.
Amplified Gratitude: In the instances that you are fortunate enough to send an arrow through a buck you've specifically targeted, the gratitude is incomparable to any other feeling (in my opinion) you can feel when deer hunting. There is just something about knowing how challenging it can be, and how little your chances of success are, and then when you make it happen, the satisfaction felt is unparalleled to anything else.
As it is with anything else, nothing is ever one sided. Chasing a single buck isn't easy, and quite simply it isn't for everyone. With that said, there are a few disadvantages when embarking on this type of deer hunting as well.
Tunnel Vision: When you pick a single buck to hunt, and focus all of your effort on him, it is easy to get tunnel vision. What I mean when I say this, is that I usually am targeting a specific buck for a reason. Whether that be I think he is the most mature, or a deer I feel I have a connection with, I normally don't target him if I think he's unkillable. There is something that I think I can exploit in his habit or tendency. Sometimes though, it can be easy to jump the gun, and target a certain deer before you have figured out that chink in his armour, and it can cost you. This has happened to me more than once, and it has cost me opportunities at other bucks. For reference, this past season, I found an absolute giant in the summer. After getting a number of photos of him throughout the summer, I decided he was the buck I wanted to harvest. To make a long story short, I never saw him, and he was ultimately killed over three miles from me by a rifle hunter. What did I learn from this? I made a hasty decision, and got tunnel vision. If I were to have looked at the facts more constructively, I would have realized that all of my pictures were at night, and a majority of them were between 11:00pm and 2:00am. That buck wasn't living where I was hunting, and I hadn't found a chunk in his armour, and it cost me opportunists at other buck in the process. Don't be afraid to take a step back, even after targeting a specific buck to make sure you're on the right track, and don't lose any other opportunities.
You Let It Ruin The Fun: Choosing a certain buck to hunt is quite the challenge, I think we've established that, but don't let it ruin the fun. It's easy to get caught up in the chase, and if it's not going your way, getting down on yourself isn't out of the picture. This is usually where people become more reserved, and end up not sharing any information with others, and become ultra secretive. If you do this, don't end up getting so caught up in it, you lose out on the enjoyment. Remember, deer hunting is supposed to be fun, whether you are hunting a specific buck or not.
Less Success: I've alluded to this a couple times already, but it's inevitable, unless you are the greatest deer hunter in the world. If you go into a season committed to only harvesting a specific buck, be prepared to eat tag soup. I listed this as a con because I think some people go into a season not thinking about this, and then become disappointed after the fact. But it doesn't have to be that way. If you are prepared to fail, and know your odds are far less than if you were just hunting bucks, or mature bucks, you will end up learning much more, and even if you are unsuccessful, you will know that you are setting yourself up for future success through continued learning.
Conclusion: Hunting a specific buck can be a tricky game. Some think they want to do it, but really don't, they just want to shoot that giant. Others know exactly what they want, and are ready to face the consequences, positive or negative. So it comes down to you, if you have a specific buck you want to chase, review your options, and if you choose to head down that path, get ready for the challenge, accept your possible consequences, and get ready for quite possibly the most fulfilling deer hunting adventure you've been on.