You’ve probably heard the saying, “You shouldn’t shoot a buck you passed on the first day on the last day.” I’ve heard that time and time again from friends, colleagues, outfitters and even strangers. Do I follow that advice? Heck no. Here’s why.
First, I like to shop. I enjoy field judging bucks and scouring the nooks and coulees for a cagey senior citizen. If I shot the first decent-sized buck I saw on every hunt, it would curtail my time in the field. Why cut a hunt short, and why not see if there’s an older buck around to appease my hunting desire?
Second, I’ve shot a lot of deer over my career, so this cat-and-mouse game keeps me inspired to keep trying to become a better hunter. The challenge of hunting is always a test, but by targeting older bucks I can continually increase my predator skills. I learn new things about deer every year, and much of that comes from time in the field and hunting the oldest bucks I can find. If I don’t do some shopping first, I won’t always learn something later.
Third, I like eating venison, and when I have more than our family needs, I get great pleasure from donating game to families, food banks and those in need of protein. Deer are a renewable resource so why not use them for a tasty meal and to benefit those in need?
Finally, when I’m in the field with a TV crew, it generally makes for a better show if I tag a deer. I’ve appeared in dozens of shows where we passed bucks and didn’t fill a tag, but I understand the viewers enjoy seeing a hunt end successfully. I do to.
My latest hunt in Wyoming revolved around passing a bunch of bucks as we looked for Mr. Big, a buck that could make Boone and Crockett. Over the course of the hunt we scoured the land managed by “Not Your Typical Outfitters”. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the monster buck, or the other two big bucks that were hanging around during bow season. We did see a large crop of up-and-comers, and several management bucks. What’s a management buck? It’s a mature buck or one nearing maturity that just doesn’t have the needed rack configuration to score well. In some eyes, it’s a trophy; in others, it’s just a nice buck.
After losing a day and a half due to a blizzard and not seeing any sign of the larger bucks, I focused on a management buck. I could have shot this buck several different times, but I passed. Now it was time to test this older buck’s savvy. Just as I was about to crawl into shooting position, the entire thing blew up. Unbeknownst to us, several coyotes were stalking the herd at the same time we were, and deer started running everywhere. I couldn’t believe it. But then outfitter Todd Steinbock and I consulted each other and decided we hadn’t spooked the bucks. Coyotes must have. I did a quick assessment of the canyon and once again located the deer herd. Thirty minutes later we had our show on a buck I passed on earlier, but after a long storm and a long stalk, it became a great trophy memory.
So what do you think? Should you shoot a buck you passed at the beginning of the hunt when the hunt is nearing its end?