What I consider to be the most important concept that a deer hunter needs to understand and commit to in order to be consistent at tagging bucks is “persistence”. I’ve written about it before but I feel so strongly that this is the key to success that I’m going to really try and get you to understand the importance of it. Without persistence you are leaving a lot to chance or luck. Webster’s defines persistence as: to refuse to give up, especially in the face of opposition. To continue insistently, to endure, remain. Of all the successful deer hunters I know, this is the trait that they all have in common. Whether they are stand hunters, still hunters, or trackers these hunters persist when other hunters would have given up.
There is a lot of opposition to face in the deer woods. It might be the weather with bitter cold temperatures, wind, rain or snow. It might be that a buck you are tracking crosses a river or goes into a swamp or heads for the top of the mountain. Maybe you’re hungry, thirsty or just plain tired. All these things become an opposing force to be reckoned with. These are the things that most hunters use as an excuse to give up. And that is why most hunters are not consistent at tagging a buck. It’s easy to give up or quit. It’s not easy to be persistent. It’s also not easy to consistently kill good bucks. If you will just grasp the importance of persistence and practice it I guarantee you will become a more successful deer hunter.
Persistence is giving 100%, and being satisfied that you did everything you could that day to get a chance at a buck. The biggest racked buck I ever guided a hunter to was taken by a hunter who committed to staying in that stand all day for the week if need be. As it turned out he shot the buck at 11:00am the first day. The point is he committed to it after I told him that a guy sat there the week before but came out for lunch in the middle of every day. Several times I’ve had hunters shoot a buck on Saturday after sitting on the same stand all week.
We have hunters that stay in our cabins and go on their own without a guide. For these hunters I will show them a couple places on a map where there are deer to get them started. I’m amazed at how many will tell me they couldn’t find any deer sign there. I know why they didn’t, it’s because they never went into the woods enough to find it. They go out for a couple hours and then go back to the truck for coffee, lunch or whatever. They don’t have the persistence to keep going until they find some sign. Then they will go to the next piece of woods and do the same thing. They’re trying to make it as easy as possible and therefore there tag will probably go unfilled. You have to keep going. Spend all day in that piece of woods and you just might find the sign that is made by the biggest buck you ever shoot.
When it comes to tracking, it is going to take persistence and a lot of it to become consistent at tagging bucks this way. The old mossy horn bucks of the north didn’t get that way for no reason. Some of these bucks live in the nastiest out of the way places and will take you through some of the thickest roughest terrain to get there. If you don’t persist on these bucks, your chances of killing one are slim. Sometimes you have to press along at a fast pace on a track for hours, just to catch up to a buck. The track might take you through a swamp where you have to struggle not to have water go over your boots. Maybe he goes up over a mountain that is so thick on top that you have to crawl on your hands and knees in places to get through it. Maybe the track takes you into a lot of other deer tracks and it takes a while to sort it all out. Are you willing to do those things? That’s where persistence really comes in.
I have hunters tell me all the time that while tracking a buck they lost the track. To me there is no such thing as losing a track. Sure you can misplace it but it is still there and you can find it if you have the persistence. One of my better bucks that I like to call Fat Horns, I shot after four hours of sorting tracks in a fir thicket that he and a doe had used for a playground all night. That buck and doe had raced and chased in and out of head high fir trees covered with snow and I eventually went everywhere they went. You see, I had missed their tracks where they jumped across a brook in the middle of some other tracks. Anyway, through process of elimination, I knew I had missed where they came out of that fir thicket, so I made a bigger circle and found the tracks. Five minutes later I jumped the buck and doe from their beds. An hour later, I peeked over a knoll and caught the buck standing in the hardwoods. I touched off the “06” and that was the old boys last day in the woods. It would have been easy to give up on the tracks as I was soaked through to the skin from all the snow that went down my neck while crawling through the firs. Instead I have that buck laying in my living room as a full body mount. Be persistent, it really does pay off.