Deer Hunting: How to Find Trophy Whitetails

Updated on October 13, 2017
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Holle is a retired English and creative writing teacher. She is a professional freelance writer and contributes to Horseman Magazine.

Trophy Deer Hunting - Big Bucks

If you enjoy trophy whitetail deer hunting, you probably don’t waste much time on young bucks or does, unless you're deer hunting for survival. You might see several deer pass right under your nose and let them go, unmolested. You’re holding out for that big rack, that master of the forest, that really big buck, right? If so, you have to be smarter than the average deer hunter. A big buck didn’t get that way by being dumb. He’s already managed to outsmart a lot of hunters, and if you don’t go that extra mile, you’ll end up just another notch in his…antlers.

Use Good Scents

You’ll have to use good sense and good scents to bag a trophy buck. Deer have an amazing sense of smell, and they don’t like the small of man. Even if you bathe in doe urine, trophy bucks can still pick up on your distinctly human scent. So before you slather on the lure, first neutralize your own smell. Do so by avoiding any fragrances and give the deer what he’s used to smelling. I wrote a whole article about how to do this, and the link is below.

Location, Location, Location

The trophy bucks might be a lot deeper in the woods than young bucks and does. He’s a survivor and obviously has superior skills compared to most younger deer. He’s learned that thick cover equals safety. Just because you find a lot of deer sign in area doesn’t mean it holds a big buck. In fact, older bucks are often loners except for short periods at the height of the rut. Most trophy bucks are taken far away from heavy hunting pressure, too. Try swampy, low lying areas that provide lots of cover. Yep, it’ll be a lot tougher for you to navigate such an area, but it’s more likely to pay off with more chances for trophy bucks.

How to find trophy bucks? Think like a deer!
How to find trophy bucks? Think like a deer!

Rattle ‘Em Up

The best time to use your rattling horns is at the end of the pre-rut. Bucks are more aggressive then and are more likely to fight other male deer. Luckily for you, it’s often the big male deer that are the most willing to tangle with another buck. Make loud rattling noises, but do so in an irregular pattern. Remember that when a buck hears the rattling, he’s going to be looking for where the sound is coming from. If you’re using a lot of movement, he’ll see you. Some experienced rattlers suspend their rattling horns from a cord beneath their tree stand so they can make the sound by just jerking the cord from time to time. That way, the sound will be near the ground and more difficult to see, especially if there is tall grass or brush to hide the rattling horns. The trophy buck will be looking near ground level instead of up in the trees where you are.

Many hunters use their rattling horns at the height of the rut, then they’re surprised to find that they’ve called up a doe instead of the trophy bucks they hoped for. The doe was attracted to the sound because she was searching for an appropriate mate. At this point in the rut, the older big bucks are usually more interested in breeding than they are in fighting.

Deer Grunts

Doe grunts should be used at the end of the pre-rut and during the very beginning of the rut. A doe grunt is typically softer and higher pitched than a buck grunt. Use three soft grunts fairly close together about every 15 minutes.

Buck grunts are deeper and louder than doe grunts. Use the sound of a buck grunting during the pre-rut. Blow a single grunt every 15 minutes, using soft pressure to attract trophy bucks.

Timing Your Time

A large number of trophy bucks are taken when few deer hunters are in the woods. They must know the coast is clear. They’ll often come out of hiding when the hunters have decided to meet somewhere for breakfast. Don’t follow the crowd. Stay in your stand. A disproportionate number of really big trophy bucks are taken around the middle of the day.

Trophy whitetails
Trophy whitetails

Trophy whitetails:

Trophy bucks:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • profile image

      Sergio Freddson 

      5 years ago

      I knew that location was important in business, but I never really thought too much about it for hunting. I guess I always re-visit my usual spots and don't spend too much time trying to pick the 'best' spot. I'll have to try going out a little further than I usually do. Thanks for sharing these tips with us!

    • profile image

      Edwin Brown 

      8 years ago from Oregon, USA

      I live in Oregon and have harvested some blacktail deer. But as a rule, I focus more on birds and squirrels. Dealing with a deer once you have nailed it can be a fair amount of work. Maybe I'm just a bit lazy.

      Anyway, I am echoing Jery above regarding your writing style. You write clearly and well. As a part time journalist, I appreciate good prose when I see it. Keep up the good work.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      10 years ago from Georgia

      Good point, Drock, but I think hunting pressure or the absence of it can have an effect. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      true, but one a big mature whitetail is spooked, he will be about 99% nocturnal the rest of the year.

    • Jery profile image


      10 years ago from Kennewick WA USA

      I think hunting whitetails in your country would be easier than the mule deer out here in Washington State (although we have some whitetails and blacktail deer as well.) The mule deer once spooked can and will run until he's in the next county! Your whitetails usually stay around I think, so you could get another chance at the same deer. Anyway I really like your writing style, very easy and entertaining reads! Thanks habee.


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