Big Bucks Aren't All Smart, Are They?

Big Bucks Aren't All Smart, Are They?

Of course not. Some whitetails are more huntable than others.

I oftentimes wonder if we give whitetails too much credit. There’s no doubt that these critters — especially mature ones — are intelligent in the realm of survival. But are all of them as smart as we say they are? Perhaps not.

But to discuss this, we must define “smart.” Whitetails aren’t intelligent in the traditional, human-focused sense. They can’t add, subtract, reason or rhyme. They’re purely reactionary and adaptable to environmental challenges, including hunting and predation. And in those ways, they’re geniuses of the wild.

Not all of them express the same level of aptitude, though. Some are inherently nocturnal, skittish, and otherwise actively avoid human intrusions. Others are less afraid of the daylight, bolder, and aren’t impacted as much by hunting pressure.

Oftentimes, these things are influenced by their age, unique personalities, testosterone levels, experience with hunters, and more. Interestingly, I’ve also noticed that specific bucks can change over time. Naturally, as younger bucks age, they tend to get “smarter.” Because of that, most 4 ½- and 5 ½-year-old bucks are the hardest deer in the woods to hunt. And most of the times, ones even older than that only get more difficult.

However, I’ve also noticed that once some deer reach a certain point — which is generally 6 ½-plus years old — they can regress and become more careless again. I can’t explain why, but it certainly seems to be the case. Perhaps they’ve lived so long that they become more confident in their ability to survive. Who really knows. I just understand that it happens.

It’s also important to note that I’m (mostly) excluding the rut here. While there are unique cases where bucks don’t participate, most do on some level. It can drag the savviest whitetail past a treestand.

That aside, it certainly seems that some deer are easier to kill than others. Sometimes, their bedding locations, feeding destinations or travel routes might make them simpler to target. But sometimes, it’s just because deer walk more during daylight, tolerate more pressure, and do other things that can land them in the freezer. And those are the mature bucks I like to target.

The most difficult part of the process is determining whether a buck is smart or not. Scouting is the only real way to tell. Where the terrain allows, glassing from afar is part of the puzzle. Seeing when a given deer moves, where it comes from, where it goes, when it does things, how it behaves, and other important aspects are all factors in determining a buck’s huntability. And as noted, the higher the huntability, the less “smart” it is.

Fortunately, trail cameras are incredible tools to reveal a buck’s strengths and weaknesses, too. These are adept at revealing whether or not a whitetail is susceptible to this or that tactic. Being able to get inside the head of a buck, and then develop a game plan, is a major achievement, but one that consistently-successful deer hunters master.

Article by: Josh Honeycutt

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