Big Bucks: A Logical Approach

By Caleb Unger:

If you are a deer hunter like me (if you are reading this article, there’s a good chance that you are), the ultimate goal is to bag the “biggon” or take down “big brown,” otherwise known as shooting the giant bruiser buck that is on the property you are hunting. To accomplish such a gratifying endeavor, it is quite logical in the way we hunters must prepare for and pursue these beasts that can so easily evade the carefree attitudes that many hunters possess. Notice I said logical, not easy. As with the majority of impressive and satisfying accomplishments in this short journey of life,  perseverance and patience pay off in the pursuit of trophy deer. By keeping a level head throughout the process of this daunting adventure, it becomes a reality to bag and appreciate the giant trophies that lurk and thrive in their natural habitat.

Pre-Game Preparation

Championship fourth quarter and you are down by twenty making no progress. The Coach says, “keep the same players in and run the same play we have been running with the same defense that hasn’t been working all night. After all it’s the only thing we know how to do because that’s all we have ever done.” That’s clearly poor preparation for the big task at hand. Though deer hunting is definitely not the same as shooting a basketball or catching a football, they do all require sound preparation to accomplish the most prestigious goals.  And I’m not just talking about sighting in your gun/bow and practicing in every situation you can think of to prepare for that shot (which is extremely necessary and practically impossible as well because it never fails that an animal gets you in an awkward position that you weren’t expecting). I’m talking about putting yourself in a situation/environment in which you can win, in which you can kill that trophy.

Food

Now ponder this thought. What does it take to grow big and strong? A healthy diet, requiring available nutrition and plenty of water. Duh, it’s elementary. Therefore, make sure you are providing such an atmosphere on your property for the deer that inhabit it. That’s really all I have to say about that.

Caleb's Wide-guy
Caleb Unger with his 4 1/2 year old he encountered on one of the few cold days this past 2015 season.

Wait! I promise it’s worth it.

You want a big buck huh? Stop shooting little guys with baskets on their heads that make the occasional deer observer say, “oh good for him; he probably just started deer hunting this year.” That’s cute; it really is. But really?? Stop complaining that you can’t kill a big buck when you’re not even patient enough to pass up the occasional 100 inch eight point that walks in front of you. You’re better than that. It’s logical, and you know it. Deer cannot grow to gigantic standards when they are being taken out within their first years of living on this earth. Let him grow and age so as the years go on and you see him on the camera or in the woods, you appreciate him more and more for what he is, enjoying your hunt even more than before. Then, when you shoot a big buck (which there will be more of them), that same deer hunting enthusiast will say, “wow, he must be a skilled hunter. Look at that rack!”

Don’t wait on all of them.

This lesson I had to learn myself over my high school years when I wasn’t thinking nearly as logically as I do now when it comes to deer hunting. Bucks like does, just like men like women. And like men, big bucks love to pursue their women. However, if there are does everywhere and so numerous, then that big buck does not have to risk much or travel far or in the open to go find a doe, especially if he is the dominant guy in the area. Therefore, what is the logical answer to this? Shoot does. I’m not saying go on a rampage and shoot every doe you see. If you hunt enough and use a trail cam, you have a decent idea of the population of deer you are hunting, so don’t be afraid to take a couple nice-sized does to feed your family or hungry people other than yourself. This also helps prevent overpopulation and malnutrition, as it keeps the deer population just right so that everybody has enough to eat on your property. Just don’t shoot a doe that will leave a small Bambi who is right next to her helpless, not knowing how to survive. You have a brain; make the right judgement call. However, like I said before, don’t sway to the other extreme and kill every doe you see because there also needs to be a future population of deer, and she is in charge of giving birth to it.

Where do you hunt?

Obviously, you cannot kill a big deer without hunting where the big deer is. So find out where he is traveling, when he is traveling, and who he is hanging out with.

Put these logical tactics into place, and you will find yourself with a great recipe for successfully hunting a mature whitetail!

Good luck and keep hunting!

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Hunting: It’s About The Experience

By Nathan Unger

As I’m writing this I’m driving to my home state of Virginia for one last shot at a mature buck that has filled my dreams since January. The season is almost over and I’m not sure where it even went! So in an event to reflect on this past season, instead of giving out some pointers, I wanted to reminisce on what this year has meant to me and talk about some of the tokens I’ve gleaned from the experiences.

This has been one of those years where the experience has had to be more important than the kill. This is mainly because, thus far, I’ve struck out on a mature buck.   I’ve been in the woods 25-30 times this season which is pretty good considering I work a full time job. However, with limited time and fluctuating temperatures, I’ve had one heck of a time trying to match up the perfect conditions, and the few times I did, I still didn’t have any luck at a mature buck.

However, looking back on the season, I have constantly asked myself one question.

“Did I do everything possible to put myself in a position to succeed?”

My answer to that question, quite simply, would be, “No.”

Due to unusually warm southern temperatures the deer have been suppressed to nocturnal movement much of the season.  The two opportunities I had were difficult and required extreme patience which is my first token I took from this season.

1.) You can never have too much patience while hunting

I was hunting the weekend before Thanksgiving in northern North Carolina which during that time of year, during the rut, I typically see several deer. This specific day I hadn’t seen any. My first mistake was assuming that I wouldn’t see anything just because I hadn’t seen anything the first two hours in the stand.

I knew better than this.

At 9:30 a.m. after three hours in the stand I decided to adjust my swivel seat in our box blind. Low and behold I didn’t get a chance to spray some WD40 on it and it squeaked as I rotated. Next thing I know something behind me less than five yards away jumped up out of the thicket and pranced off. As I turned around trying to get a peek at what it was I caught a glimpse of white bone bouncing through the pine trees which leads to my second token I took from this season.

2.) Preparation leads to success

Had I either not moved or properly fixed my seat beforehand I would have had a nice mature 10 pointer at less than five yards. As I sat there mentally beating myself up for squabbling the opportunity, within minutes I heard more movement. After seconds of looking to see what the noise was, there was another mature buck trotting in the thicket behind me having no idea I was even there. My Horton crossbow was still sitting next to me because I never would have thought a second mature buck would have followed the first one I spooked. Clearly I was wrong!

3.) You HAVE to maintain mental toughness

Deer hunting, especially archery hunting, can be one of the most mentally taxing endeavors a hunter can experience while he or she is in the field. As I continue to gain experience bow hunting I never stop learning this. As many of you know, and many of you will learn, you will hunt often times without shooting anything, and sometimes you may not even see anything. This has discouraged me all season, but until you can learn these valuable lessons you can never truly enjoy the experience of being outdoors. As I’m writing this a young spike buck walked 30 yards from me and, for me, just seeing that young deer makes my hunt worth every hour even if I don’t shoot anything.

All this to say, don’t give up, don’t be discouraged, enjoy the experience and keep hunting!

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Hunting Bad Weather Conditions: Is It Worth The Trouble?

By Nathan Unger:

First of all I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! I hope that you have had valuable family time as well as some rest and relaxation.

Any opportunity you get to hunt a torrential downpour or a blizzard you should. I’m not advocating hunting in a tornado or lighting storm, but just enough nasty weather to use it to your advantage. Here’s why.

  • Rain eliminates scent

Anytime it’s raining you probably have a distinct advantage against a deer’s nose. The rain seems to wash away any scent you may leave behind, and personally, I have seen a lot of deer movement during the rain both in mild and cold conditions. The only time I have not seen much movement is during warm, rainy days, however that can be said for most warm days. In addition, I believe immediately after it rains is a prime time because deer will be eager to eat the moist vegetation.

  • Snow is great!

Okay, maybe not for you, but there is nothing some hand warmers and several layers of clothes can’t fix. The cold temperatures that come with snow are ideal because deer have to keep and maintain body warmth during these harsh temperatures which inevitably leads them to search for food. These cold temperatures also produce day time movement because the deer have to be on their feet so often in order to survive which plays right into the hands of hunters. During these cold temps be sure to hunt around high calories food sources such as corn that deer prefer in the dead of winter.

  • Wind

It’s exactly that – wind. It can be advantageous or it can really kill a hunt. I’m not really talking about seven to ten mile an hour winds. I’m more so talking about in the 20-30 range. Strong winds can dampen noise, and if you use the wind correctly deer will have to get down wind of you to smell you which hopefully will offer you a shot which is why it is important to have a stand placement downwind of the deer. However, we’ve all been busted by a deer’s nose before, so I don’t really need to explain what happens if a deer catches your wind, but in short you might as well find a new location to hunt. This is really up to you to decide whether you like hunting strong winds. I’ve heard experts say that they love hunting strong wind conditions, but I’ve also known deer to bed down and wait the strong winds out. I’m still personally trying to learn more about this myself.

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Nathan Unger’s doe he took during a hard rain in 2014
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Caleb Unger’s 4 1/2 year old he shot in rain storm in 2014
So comment below, and I would like to get your thoughts on these and which you like to hunt and the ones you don’t! Good luck and keep hunting!

Keep scouting and good hunting!

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Turkey Season is Right Around the Corner

By Nathan Unger

It’s almost here! The season we’ve all been waiting for. No not March Madness or college football, but turkey season! That’s exactly right. One of the most underrated seasons in all of North America, unless, of course you’re a turkey hunter.

Why is turkey season so great?

1. It’s thrilling!

2. It allows you to be outdoors

3. It creates time to be with friends and family

4. Turkey tastes good

For all the avid turkey hunters out there you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the time of year when you sit between the pines on a bed of straw and call the gobblers out of their hiding. Then, your adrenaline spikes as one answers you back closer than you expected. There’s no thrill remotely like it.

Turkey hunting strikes a special chord with me since my father and I spent many hours in the south Georgia woods as I was growing up. Since I hadn’t taken up deer hunting yet, I looked forward to every spring knowing that dad would take off work for us to go hunting for a few days. Because we were practicing a DIY way of hunting, just learning as we went along, turkey hunting proved to be fairly difficult with their incredible eye sight and keen since of awareness. We would hunt many days and hear several birds without ever getting an ethical shot on one which resulted in a “we’ll get ’em next year.” As time went on, and the years went by our luck began to change. Dad recorded his first turkey which was very exciting! Then eventually his second and his third. Several years later during my college career, turkey hunting has been put on the wayside due to the busy schedules and lack of convenient places to hunt. Eventually my younger brother recorded his first long-beard while I’m still at zero.

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Hit-list gobblers for this season

My hope for this year is that I make the time to get out of town and go sit in the woods and have my first shot at one of natures most unpredictable game animals. However, if I don’t, I’ll just remember dad’s old saying that still rings in my mind, “we’ll get ’em next year.”

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