Why a top whitetail expert believes confidence is the most important part of killing trophy deer
You know that one guy who seems to have a lucky horseshoe stuck up his rear end every deer season? He seems to be an average guy who hunts like everyone else, but he knocks down big bucks one after another.
What’s the deal with him? Why is he so lucky?
I don’t think he’s lucky. The more I try to figure out what guys like that are doing differently, the more often I see one consistent variable: Those hunters have a nearly arrogant confidence in what they’re doing — even when others are questioning their tactics or setup. That’s why I’ve come to believe the most important aspect in becoming a consistent big buck killer is simply confidence and attitude.
I think my own success is due to good tactics but more importantly, my confidence in them. I truly believe I’m going to kill my target buck on each and every hunt. When I fail, I go out again the next day and believe again.
If you don’t have confidence, you make mistakes. You won’t take the time to sneak into your spot quietly, and you won’t be ultra-quiet on stand. You won’t take time to pick the perfect tree or create great shooting lanes. Your mind will wander, and you’ll get there late, or leave early to get back to your truck before dark. And when a big buck does appear, you’ll get caught by surprise and get buck fever, draw at the wrong time, or get caught moving.
Gaining confidence is probably a hunter’s biggest hurdle. There are a lot of reasons people lack it, but lack of success is the biggest. If you have not killed a big buck, you question your tactics and scouting. It can be pretty tough building confidence enough to kill big bucks, though, when it takes killing big bucks to gain confidence. It’s a catch 22.
Good news is there are some things you can do that will help.
Set achievable goals. If the biggest buck on the property is a 130-inch deer, and your goal is to kill a 150, you won’t succeed. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
Step 2: Pick Partners Wisely
There are two types of people. The first kind lights up the room when they walk in. “Looks like a great day to hunt! Let’s go get that buck!” The other brightens the room when they leave. “This weather sucks. I should’ve gone golfing. We’re wasting our time.” Choose wisely who you hunt with. A positive partner brings out the best in you. A negative one brings out the worst. Sometimes it’s better to hunt on your own. Don't waste your time with people who feed off negativity. Your hunting time and sanity is far too valuable for that. Happy hunters are successful hunters.
Step 3: Scout with a Purpose
Find fresh spots to try, and spend lots of time scouting them. Becoming more knowledgeable of the area produces confidence when it’s time to hunt.
Step 4: Put in Effort
A hunter with a do-anything attitude will kill more bucks than the guy who’s unwilling to wade across rivers, kick through muck, or hike a mile in the dark. Try harder. Work harder. And put in maximum effort.
Step 5: Hunt Target Bucks
It’s hard to achieve goals by wasting hunts on does or lesser bucks. You must hunt mature deer intentionally to consistently kill them. There’s nothing wrong with settling for a nice 2- or 3-year-old. But if you dream of monsters at night, you have to hunt where monsters live. Hunting deer in general and expecting monster bucks is like hunting rabbits and expecting squirrels. They’re two different animals.
We don't write articles or make shows about the days when we fail. You don't see the mistakes, or the 20 days we hunted without seeing a deer.
Step 6: Be Mobile
Hunting the same spots over and over, or simply rotating through several preset stands, is a bad idea, especially if they’re bad spots to begin with. It creates the mindset that nothing will be different from the last time you hunted it. Be mobile. Hunting fresh stand locations produces fresh hope.
Step 7: Believe in the Setup
You can’t believe you’re in the wrong spot. If you do, move to where your gut leads you, and have faith in the new spot. If you don’t, you’ll start thinking about things other than hunting. Your mind will wander. You’ll start fidgeting. Subtle — but important — sights, noises and clues will be missed. And then opportunities get squandered. Don’t let that happen.
Step 8: Take Breaks
If it gets to be a grind, or if you find yourself frustrated, just take a break. Put hunting aside temporarily. Do something different for a few days. Hunting is supposed to be fun. Keep it enjoyable.
Step 9: See the Truth
Magazines, hunting shows, social media and even hunting events jam success down our throats. From the outside looking in, it appears most people shoot big bucks every time they hunt. I look at my deer mounts, and even I have a hard time believing what I’ve accomplished in 40 years. But those mounts don’t show all the struggles and failures that got me there.
Step 10: Meet Problems with Solutions
Challenges arise. Respond appropriately. Everything happens for a reason, and nothing is coincidental. If a stand squeaks, locate the origin and fix it. If a buck comes from an unexpected direction, investigate and find out why. If a deer sees movement, pay better attention. Move forward rather than backward. Never leave a question or problem unresolved.
Step 11: Be Tenacious
We don't write articles or make shows about the days when we fail. You don't see the mistakes, or the 20 days we hunted without seeing a deer. Smart hunters don't dwell on bad hunts. Instead, they press on. They don’t fear screwing up. It drives them. Hunting big whitetails in pressured areas is a series of failures, one after another. A smart hunter laughs at them, learns from them, and drives harder to succeed.