Big, Old, Smart, and Massive Bucks do not get that way by being stupid! These Trophy Bucks have a knack for avoiding hunters, traffic, and death. Because of this, they survive to become every hunter’s dream bucks.

Famous Old Bucks often earn names like Old Mossy horns, or the Swamp King. Maybe they are named for a specific area, stream, or feature where they live. A Big Bucks habits may earn him the name as The Ghost, or … We have all hunted these Famous Beasts.

When I scouted my hunting haunts early in the season, I often encountered heavy, massive sign. HUGE rubs, scrapes, scat, and tracks. On occasion, I saw these massive, old bucks. It was common to see them feeding in open fields. I would also find HUGE sheds that were evidence of Big Bucks in the area.

Once the season would begin, my expectations of this specific buck were high. Many smaller bucks would get a free pass as I keep my sights on the Big Beast of the forest.

BIG BUCKS need to be at least 4.5 years old. A buck in captivity can live nearly 20 years. In the wild, even a smart old buck may only be able to survive 7-10 years in perfect conditions. After about 7 years, wild bucks begin to have smaller and thinner antlers. Their bodies may still be large, but antlers seem to be at their peak between 4-7 years of age. One of the main reasons for this decline is that the deer’s teeth begin to wear out. Once they can not consume, chew, and grind enough plants to survive, they decline.

Less than 5% of most Buck populations include a Big, Old, Smart, Massive Buck. Once most bucks grow branched antlers, they end up on the meat pole. Back in the day, any buck with spikes over 3 inches was a legal target. Without a scope, hunters rarely tagged out. It was thought that these smaller spikes were genetically inferior and needed to be removed from the herd. In fact, many of these Spikes could grow massive racks over time.

Once States began to manage for larger bucks, these Spikes became protected. Antler requirements of 3 points to a side, or other standards, became law. Within a few years, more branched and bigger bucks began to show up.

To grow a massive rack, bucks need great genetics, healthy and abundant food, proper minerals, age, and plenty of places to hide. In more developed areas, with roads, and interstates, Big Bucks are less common. It is just a matter of time before a sanctuary is discovered, the buck tries to cross a road, or … More remote and rural areas tend to be better options for enormously Big Bucks.

When hunting a Big Buck, you usually get one chance. A buddy and I once leased a woodland island on the eastern shore of Maryland. The area had a history of massive bucks. During an early bow hunt, my friend Larry was still hunting an edge of the island. We were surrounded by corn and soybean fields. Suddenly 3 of the biggest bucks Larry had ever saw were standing just inside the woods.

He raised his bow and tried to get a shot, at less than 20 yards. Each buck was a s big as the next and were all together and unaware that Larry was at full draw. He was going to shoot whichever buck gave him an ethical chance. None did. Larry could no longer hold back the bow and had to relax the pull. All three bucks saw the movement and … We never saw those bucks again.

Big Bucks have escape routes, cover, and experience on their side. They are not smart but wise. After a scary encounter, they adjust and adapt. It is hard to not remember a close call, predator threat, or simply a comfortable environment. Experiences are the best teachers.

Old Bucks learn fast and quickly become Man Cautious. Routine human activity does not seem to scare them. Farmers, school buses, and random interruptions become a part of their living rooms. Many bucks become nocturnal. Thanks to their great night vision and other senses, they can own the darkness.

Many Big Bucks are “Lucked”. Just like Larry’s accidental encounter, the Buck may get caught with their antlers down. Sadly, many great deer end up as Roadkill. In remote areas like Montana, as Big Bucks age, they get slower and fall to wolves or other predators. Some hunters end up on excellent properties that serve as sanctuaries and provide many years of awesome opportunity. Once the hunter learns all the Hidey Holes, nooks, and crannies, they can begin to target the Biggest bucks.

Recent radio tracking and studies offer a lot of great information for hunters. Big Bucks tend to have Core Areas. Even in broken country, a Big Buck may range over several miles during the Rut but spend most of their time in a relatively small spot. These spots tend to offer specific needs. First, they are High Security spots. This means that here is little human traffic. Often this area is in a swamp, island, or rough area. These oval shaped areas offer the bedding at one end and the feeding at the other. Water is also nearby. Seasonal mast trees or other foods are also nearby. Natural salt lick sites are also common.

Trail Cameras often film these Big Bucks, that are never seen during the day. Nocturnal movement is their way of life until the Rut. Most of these trophy deer are lured into the light and out of their secret places to chase a hot doe. Typical!

Experienced hunters avoid these Big Buck areas until the Rut. Big Bucks avoid pronounced trails used by other deer. Even when chasing a doe along these well used paths, the Big Bucks hang off to the downwind side. They are cautious but for about one week, they have just one thing on their mind. This is when many great Bucks falter and end up on the walls of hunters.

Big Bucks are an ultimate hunting challenge. If you wait for that one special Big Buck, your freezer will rarely be full. Take the first honest and legal buck that God sends down your path. It takes every trick, tip, and skill that a hunter can use to have success. Over the course of a lifetime, you will tag some great wall hangers.

Every legal, honest, and ethically harvested Buck is a trophy!

Montana Grant

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