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big whitetail buck
(Photo: NPS)

Choosing the best time to kill big whitetail bucks is difficult. But knowing peak times can certainly help fill your tag.

Big whitetail bucks are far more difficult to tag than younger bucks and most does. They behave completely differently. This means that general tactics that work with harvesting most deer aren’t as effective.

However, there are certain times when mature bucks are more vulnerable. Here are 21 of those times.

Best Times To Kill Big Whitetail Bucks

1. The First Hour of Daylight

Deer are crepuscular animals, meaning they move most at dawn and dusk. This makes the first hour of daylight a great time to intercept deer movement.

2. The Last Hour of Daylight

Likewise, the last hour or so of daylight is a great time to kill a buck, too.

3. The Midday Shift

Oftentimes, deer hunters avoid midday hunts. Deer realize that and move when hunters aren’t afield.

4. Opening Day of Bow Season

Deer have gone months without hunting pressure. This is a great time to catch deer off-guard.

5. Opening Day of Rifle Season

The first day of rifle is usually the best one. Other than perhaps a muzzleloader or youth season, deer haven’t had any gun hunting pressure yet.

6. When the Escape Routes Are Hopping

When a lot of deer hunters are afield, deer start using escape routes. Post up on these.

7. Early Season Bed-to-Food Patterns

A reliable early season bed-to-feed pattern is an excellent time to intercept a mature buck.

8. Pre-Rut Frustration Events

As the rut nears, but does aren’t receptive yet, whitetail bucks get increasingly frustrated. Oftentimes, closer to the rut (but before it begins) they will start covering more ground but will do so in a somewhat predictable manner.

9. Late-Season Bed-to-Food Patterns

Once the late season arrives, fewer hunters remain afield. If you find a good late season bed-to-food pattern, you might just capitalize on it.

10. The First Acorns

Deer love acorns. Camp out on the first acorns to fall in your hunting area.

11. The Last Acorns

In late winter, deer really target the last remaining acorns on the landscape. Find these and set up accordingly.

12. The First Estrus Doe

The first doe to enter estrus can really shake up the deer woods. If in the right location, hunters can benefit from the sudden madness. It tends to get the oldest bucks up on their feet.

13. The Last Estrus Doe

Mature bucks realize the rut is temporary, but a marathon, nonetheless. They save a little gas in the tank for the end of it. This can be a great time to catch one daylight walking.

14. During Major Temperature Swings

The science shows mixed results, but from my experience, a major temperature swing (up or down) can get deer on their feet. That includes mature bucks.

15. After an Afternoon Rain

I’ve shot some of my best bucks right after an afternoon rain ended. Maybe it was coincidence, but it seems to be a trend.

16. When Fronts Hit

Again, the studies show mixed results on the impacts of fronts on deer movement. Still, a lot of hunters swear by hunting the front and back ends of weather systems.

17. When the Wind Kicks

A lot of hunters believe high winds keep bucks bedded. However, Penn State University has conducted multiple research studies that show that bucks oftentimes move more under moderate to high winds (excluding stormy conditions).

18. With the Barometer Over 30

Once more, some research supports that deer move more with a rising barometric pressure at or above 30. Other research shows no correlation. Draw your own conclusions.

19. When Big Whitetail Bucks Have the Wind

In my experience, bucks are almost always more likely to move during daylight if the wind is in their favor. Hunters can benefit from this by hunting a just-off wind, which puts the wind direction just off enough that the deer thinks it’s in their favor, but they don’t smell the hunter.

20. When the Target Buck Is Due

Some big whitetail bucks exhibit short-, mid-, and long-term patterns. For example, the deer might return around the same time each year. Or, it might hit a certain food source at a specific time each year. Or, it might be on a pattern, but missed a day or two, and is likely to repeat it soon. Whatever the case, be there when a buck is due.

21. When the Target Buck Is Daylighting

If an in-season mature buck shows that it’s willing to move during daylight, start hunting. It won’t do this every day or all season long. Capitalize on the behavior while you can.

When Should A Hunter Pass on a Buck?
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