What a Trophy Buck Knows about Hunters

Earlier in my muzzleloading hunting career, I’d spend hours and hours and days and days attempting to pattern a trophy buck. Then, I’d go to my stand and try to take that buck. I might see him on the first day I hunted and not be able to get a shot, or for some unknown reason the deer just wouldn’t show-up. So, I realized I had to develop a different hunting strategy.


I believe that deer pattern hunters with their noses. They can determine where we’ve come into the woods, where we we’ve last been on the ground, and which direction we’ve walked as we’ve left the woods. We walk to our tree stand sites, we set-up our tree stands, and we leave human odor at the bases of trees. As a hunter starts to climb the tree, some of the bark and the dust on the side of the tree falls to the ground, a1nd maybe the wind carries some of that bark and dust with our human odor in it out past the tree. That night, when deer come through the area, the deer will smell where you’ve been, and I’m convinced they remember where they’ve smelled that human odor and therefore avoid that particular spot. During the daytime, they may not change their route and still may go to the same places, but usually an older-age-class buck will travel 100- to 200-yards from where he’s smelled odor. So with this information, like the older-age-class bucks, I tend to avoid the places that I’ve hunted that same season. I don’t hunt from a standbut once a season. I won’t return to that same stand site until the next season. Also, if I know where other hunters are hunting, I’ll avoid those places during that season.


I think deer put more emphasis on where you’ve been, than they do on where you are now. I believe that deer know that hunters are creatures of habit. All of us like to hunt places where we’ve hunted during other seasons.  If a buck avoids a spot where he’s smelled human odor, his chances of survival are much greater.


Many of the hunters in our study didn’t believe that the noise that the hunter made going to his or her stand, coming from his stand or while in his stand was nearly as important as what the deer smelled at night, after the hunter had left the woods. Deer are nocturnal by nature. They get up and walk around a lot at night, especially older-age-class bucks. After you’ve left the woods, these older, bigger bucks are trying to learn where you’ve been during daylight hours. Then they avoid those areas. That’s why not overhunting a region is so important. I believe that your best chance of taking an older-age-class deer will be the first time you hunt from any stand; and I only hunt from the same stand site once every season.


By Dr. Robert Sheppard of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who has been hunting and studying deer for more than 40 years and has conducted a study of 35,000 deer hunters over 20 years at Bent Creek Lodge in Jachin, Ala. He’s a total believer in the first-strike approach for taking trophy bucks. He’ll only hunt from a stand site once during deer season, because, in his opinion, deer are better able to pattern hunters than hunters can pattern deer.

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4 Responses to What a Trophy Buck Knows about Hunters

  1. BBK says:

    Excellent breakdown of how to be low impact for big bucks.I learned to be sneaky years ago while hunting high pressured bucks on public land that are primarily nocturnal. I’ve even played tricks on big bucks with my location and travel routes, and I have seen bucks appear when they think you are not there.They have nothing to do all day long but be on high alert for danger.

    I believe if a big buck hears you once,you might still have an opportunity to see him. If he smells you once, and doesn’t see you, your odds are terrible. If that big buck sees you, once, and your in his area, you will never see him again.

    I took a decent 130 class buck this year on my last day of gun season. After I shot him, he cut into a bluffed creek area that I never set foot in during the season. He was piled up in an area that had to be his bedding site. It was torn up in there, and obvious, well worn beds were visible. I had walked by that spot every time I entered that stand location!!! His bed was on the side of a steep bank facing the field I shot him in, and he had a perfect view of the whole area from one spot.

    The morning I shot this buck I approached from a completely different direction, about 400 yards away, in complete darkness, no light, and an hour earlier than usual. 7:15 that morning, he stepped out on the trail he died on. I let him come to about 150 yards and rocked em with a 270 grain aeropoint Powerbelt bullet out of my CVA 50 cal. Optima. BBD Baby!!!

    I’ve learned something from every single big buck I have ever had an encounter with. This buck taught me that, we as hunters make a lot of mistakes throughout a season.If a big ol smart buck ever makes a mistake, it could be the last thing he ever does.

  2. richard miller says:

    what ever hapened to the magizine Blackpowder Guns&Hunting? is there a mag out there just for black powder shooters &hunters?