How to Bag a Buck Deer at the Beginning...

Ten Secrets to Finding and Taking Trophy Buck Deer...

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Ten Secrets to Finding and Taking Trophy Buck Deer Day 1: Secret #1 – Locate Trophy Buck Deer Where You Hunt

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Editor’s Note: You can have an opportunity to harvest a monster-sized whitetail by learning these 10 secrets.

“You’ll probably see a number of 17- to 19-inch 8-point bucks this afternoon,” Mike Parsons, owner of Crow Creek Outfitters ( in Toston, Montana, informed me. “But don’t shoot any of those deer.  Be patient, and wait until you spot a really nice-sized buck.” I smiled politely at Parsons and answered, “Okay.” But I thought to myself, “Yeah, right. I don’t know of any place in the United States where you can see a bunch of free-ranging 16- to 18-inch 8-point bucks. I may look like a dumb hunter, but this is not my first deer hunt.”

Parsons drove me out to the tree stand he’d set up on the edge of woods overlooking a meadow of low bushes. “Now, John, don’t shoot the first buck you see,” Parsons warned me again. “Spend the afternoon looking at a lot of bucks, and wait until you spot a really-big deer before you take a shot.” I grinned again and replied, “Okay. No problem.”

Less than 10 minutes after Parsons left, I glanced through my binoculars and spotted a doe leaping across the meadow. Then I scanned the area behind her and noticed a huge head full of antlers. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I put my binoculars down. With my naked eye, I counted more antlers on top of that deer’s head than I’d ever seen in my life and thought for sure I’d seen trees with fewer branches than this buck had antlers. I brought my rifle to my shoulder and tried to get a sight on the monster whitetail – still chasing after the doe but not at a full run. I watched the deer’s huge antlers through my scope. However, before I reached for the trigger, deep within my brain I heard, “Don’t shoot the first buck you see. Look at a lot of bucks, and pick out the biggest one.” I could feel my brain stripping gears. I debated with myself for a few minutes, trying to decide whether or not to shoot. Finally, instinct replaced wisdom, and my index finger gently squeezed the trigger.

When my rifle reported, the big buck started running in high gear. I immediately realized that I’d missed my target. I bolted the second round and fired my rifle again, while whispering a short prayer that went unanswered. Although fairly certain I’d missed the buck once more, I told myself, “Maybe I got lucky. I don’t think I hit the buck, but I’ll still check for blood.” However, after spending 45 minutes looking for blood all along the path the deer had taken, I knew I hadn’t even cut a hair on that massive buck.

Before Parsons returned to pick me up that evening, I counted 19-more bucks – only two had fewer than 8 points, but none had more than 9 points. They all measured 17-18 inches wide between their main beams. But even though I could’ve bagged one of these trophy-sized deer, I felt sick, knowing I’d missed the biggest buck I’d ever seen in my life. The next morning when Parsons dropped me off at the hunting site, I watched seven, 8 pointers walk within easy killing range. This time, I took Parsons’ advice and waited for the buck I wanted to take. I received a reward for my patience when a gorilla-sized buck walked into the meadow. And, this one didn’t get away. The buck bottomed out the scales at 300 pounds, and his massive 8-point rack scored 138 points on the Boone & Crockett scale. He weighed more than any buck I’d ever taken.

Study to Find Big Bucks:

By studying the Boone and Crockett Club’s “Records of North American Whitetail Deer,”

(, you easily can see where many of the big bucks in this country live. You’ll find the best soil types for producing trophy bucks with big antlers that also have some of the most-restrictive hunting seasons and bag limits located in the Mississippi River drainage system or the “Bread Basket” of the nation.  Lightly-populated areas in the Northwest along the Canadian border also home habitat where big bucks live. The four states where I’ve learned I have the best chance to bag a monster buck include Kansas, Illinois, Texas and Montana. I’ve hunted all these states and either seen or bagged monster whitetails in each of them. Too, Idaho, Washington, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin have huge bucks, limited hunting pressure and plenty of high-quality agriculture.

Because of the increased availability of knowledge about deer management and deer nutrition and the hunters’ willingness to spend time and money to produce healthy deer on the properties they hunt, big bucks also can show up in many other states. Follow these secrets for discovering big bucks in your region.

* Ask the owner of the land you hunt if he ever spots big bucks during the spring, summer and fall before hunting season begins. Find out where he sees the deer, and learn what the deer will do during this time of year.

* Talk to a rural mail carrier. More than likely, the mailman sees quite a few big bucks and knows where to locate the big bucks, and who owns the property where these big bucks live.

* Ask the farmers who lease lands to hunters where and when they see big bucks.

* Become a friend of your local conservation officer, who gets out in the woods and travels on the county roads daily and – more importantly – nightly. He can tell you where he’s spotted big deer and who owns the land.

* Talk to the deputy sheriff and highway patrolmen who work the 3 pm to 11 pm and the 11 pm to 7 am shifts in your hunting area. These officers travel the county roads at night and see many big deer. They also know the places in highways where cars have hit big bucks.

All these people can help you find that buck of a lifetime on or around the land you already hunt.

To learn more about hunting deer, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” available in Kindle, Print and Audible versions, at (

Tomorrow: Secret #2 – Find the Buck Deer No One’s Seen and Secret #3 – Develop Game Plan for Off-Season

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