Experienced hunters know that you have to hunt each type of deer differently if you hope to be successful. While there is a specific way to hunt bucks, as nearly all of them share the same characteristics regarding movement, old, mature bucks need to be hunted slightly differently or you might not ever see them again.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that old bucks are old for a reason. Simply put, they're smart. If they've lived this long without another hunter taking them down, then they obviously know how to avoid most hunters. Fortunately, this just adds to the challenge and the thrill of hunting an old buck.
Below are a few of the reasons why old bucks got to be so old. Understanding these is the key to tracking down a smart buck on your next hunting trip.
Response to Hunting Pressure
Deer catch on surprisingly quickly to hunting pressure. Studies have shown that deer that spend the majority of their time in open fields before hunting season, quickly learn to only visit these areas at night once hunting season begins. And old bucks, who have been avoiding hunters for years on end, are even more likely to respond quickly to the hunting pressure a new season holds. In fact, the average buck has been shown to change their behavior only three days after a season starts.
Naturally, this poses a lot of problems for hunters. First of all, it means that you need to have a smart plan laid out before trekking into the woods. Furthermore, depending on your local hunting area, it might mean that you need to get ready for some deep woods hiking where the brush is thicker and the trees are closer together. While you won't see many deer in open fields, they still have to be somewhere. And the deep woods with thicker cover is where they'll be.
Movement at Dawn and Dusk
It cannot be stressed enough that dawn and dusk are the times when bucks move. In fact, bucks are almost always shown to move solely at these times, even when there is environmental pressure in the form of poor weather. Yet many otherwise able hunters still have not caught on. If you want to hunt buck, you have to get out there very early or very late, just as the sun is rising or setting. Old bucks got to be so old because they only move at these hours, when it is much less likely for hunters to be out and about.
Bucks are individual, solitary creatures. Some might call them hermits or recluses. They almost always live alone and go about their business alone. At the same time, they also have individual personalities, meaning that no two bucks are alike. In fact, there are very few trends that point to similarities in bucks, no matter their age, regarding movement (other than dawn and dusk), home range size, and any other number of factors. This makes them much more difficult as a whole to hunt. You can't make any assumptions about a particular buck until you get to know them.
There's Always Another Buck
Perhaps the biggest reason that old bucks make it to such old age is because there is always another buck. Upon fruitlessly chasing a smart buck for days, many hunters simply give up. They know there are other deer out there and they'd rather track down one that is easier to find.
At the end of the day, old bucks are old bucks because they are smart. They've responded and adapted to lifelong hunting pressure by sticking to areas with thick cover and only moving at night. The somewhat unpredictable nature of bucks in general makes hunting them even more challenging. The only real way to up your odds is to understand these factors and stick to your hunt. If you're the kind of hunter that just wants an easy kill, then you're not going to get that big, old buck that you dream of.