Secrets to Killing a Record-Class Whitetail Deer


Insightful Tips from Deer Hunters Who Have Actually Done It

You Can’t Kill a Deer If You Don’t Know It’s There

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1 | You Can’t Kill a Deer If You Don’t Know It’s There

The first step in killing a record deer is knowing that it’s there. That in and of itself is practically half the battle. That’s what Whitetail Freaks’ Don Kisky had to say.

“First of all, to clarify, any 5- or 6-year-old deer is equally as hard to kill,” Kisky said. “Just because they are a 180-incher doesn't mean they are any harder to kill. So, with that being said, the hardest thing is to find the Boone and Crocket to start with. And how do you find that buck? By finding his sheds, seeing him on the hoof, word of mouth (the most unreliable method) or from a trail camera picture. It all starts with putting as many cameras in that area as possible. You have to verify that buck is alive and by running enough cameras you should be able to find out where he lives. Then we start putting the pieces of the puzzle together — where I found the shed; where I took his trail camera photo; and where I spotted him through scouting before, during or after the season.”

Don’t Miss: Want to Kill a Boone and Crockett Whitetail? Read This.

Photo credit: Whitetail Freaks

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Have Patience and Use Good Entry and Exit Routes - Kandi Kisky

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2 | Have Patience and Use Good Entry and Exit Routes - Kandi Kisky

There are many aspects that goes into killing a mature deer. But having patience and knowing when to hunt is a big part of it. Knowing how to get to and from your treestands without fouling up the area is an even bigger challenge. That’s something Don Kisky’s wife, Kandi Kisky, knows a thing or two about.

“You have to get a feel for his home range legitimately before you can harvest that buck,” Kisky said. “Now that you have an idea where that buck’s home range is, you don't hunt anywhere else if that is your No. 1 buck. You spend every day trying to find that deer. Now, it comes down to how you hunt that buck. We are talking about a mature deer. So, you can't do anything wrong. Your entry and exit routes to and from the stand are huge. That buck will make a mistake if you hunt him long enough. You just have to outlast him.”

Don’t Miss: 10 Ways to Improve Entry and Exit Routes

Photo credit: Whitetail Freaks

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You Have to Pinpoint the Buck’s Habits and Hunt It Continuously (But Responsibly) to Stack the Odds in Your Favor

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3 | You Have to Pinpoint the Buck’s Habits and Hunt It Continuously (But Responsibly) to Stack the Odds in Your Favor

Most bucks that make record books are at least 5 years old. That’s what the data shows. Sure, they say the Hanson buck was 3½ years old. And that might be true. But most bucks that reach record status are between the ages of 5½ and 8½ years of age. Furthermore, once you’ve found the deer, you have to be completely strategical about how you hunt it. Here’s Midwest Whitetail’s Bill Winke on the subject.

“If a gross Boone and Crockett buck is one in 10 in good areas and one buck in 10 reaches age 5, that means gross Booners are actually one in 100 (in good areas),” Winke said. “In areas with poorer genetics, poorer nutrition and higher hunting pressure, that number could easily become one in 500 or even one in 1,000. So, the real key to shooting a Boone and Crockett buck is having one to hunt in the first place.

“You have to focus in on that one deer and hunt him exclusively as often as the situation will allow,” Winke continued. “Every minute you spend carefully hunting in a big buck’s range takes you one minute closer to tagging him (or at least encountering him). You have to put the time in for the odds to swing your way. But you can’t hunt him so hard that you spook him or educate him. That is the art of hunting any mature buck, not just those with big antlers. It’s the art of hunting him as often as possible without the buck knowing it.

“You have to monitor the buck as well as possible with trail camera photos,” Winke continued. “You start to learn not only his core area but also various parts of his range. He may be more vulnerable in one area due to terrain or cover than another. If you know that he sometimes goes that way, it makes sense to hunt him there. Learning as much as you can about the buck using trail cameras is the real key to making good decisions about when and where to push. Your camera photos can even tell you things like his most likely bedding areas (the direction he approaches your cameras from in the evening will tell you this). Like I said, knowing where he is living is just the first part of the process. Hunting him exclusively, but carefully, is the true art of deer hunting. Every buck is different, so every situation is different. It is what makes this so fascinating. No two are the same. Every buck represents a new puzzle that you get to solve. And that puzzle may take multiple seasons before you learn enough to put the pieces together. That is why it is so rewarding when you finally do.”

Don’t Miss: 8 Bedding Habits of Mature Deer

Photo credit: Midwest Whitetail

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Hunt the Wrong Wind For You and the Right Wind for the Deer

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4 | Hunt the Wrong Wind For You and the Right Wind for the Deer

It goes against everything you’ve read in hunting magazines. It might sound unorthodox. It might even sound a little crazy. But hunt the wrong wind. To clarify — hunt the winds that are better for the deer than they are for you. This is called hunting a just-off wind. The wind is in the deer’s favor. But you’re set up just off enough that your scent is coasting by the deer. Adam Hays with Team 200 has something to say about that.

“Quit hunting the winds that are good for you and start hunting the wind that is good for the deer you are after,” Hays said. “Hunt his weak spot — a place where you can get within bow range while he is using the wind to his advantage.

“Don't go into your spot until you have the right wind and the right moon on the MoonGuide (Red Moon),” Hays continued. “The combination of giving a mature deer the wind he needs to feel comfortable enough to get up out of his bed and move during daylight combined with the correct moon position (not phase but the gravitational pull occurring at prime time — which only happens a handful of days each month), is the perfect storm for killing a big buck.”

Don’t Miss: How to Hunt the Wrong Wind

Photo credit: Team 200

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Find Isolated, Overlooked Pockets, Understand Buck Bedding Habits and Don’t Get Discouraged If You Bump Them

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5 | Find Isolated, Overlooked Pockets, Understand Buck Bedding Habits and Don’t Get Discouraged If You Bump Them

A white-tailed deer and a fully mature white-tailed deer are two completely different animals. Their personalities. Their bedding habits. Their behavioral instincts. Their toleration to human intrusion. And much more. All different. Hunting Beast’s Dan Infalt knows that as well as anyone.

“When you’re hunting actual mature bucks that are 5 years old or older, you need to realize it’s like you’re hunting a whole new species,” Infalt said. “Stepping up from 3- or 4-year-old deer to Booner-class animals is the same difference as going from pheasant to rabbit. These giants draw a lot of attention, and the reason they don't get discovered and killed is because they stay hidden in spots people don't often go. It’s pretty easy to pick a great spot and kill good bucks out of it year after year, but the biggest bucks I ever shot were killed by hunting that animal, not by getting lucky hunting ‘deer.’

“You have to hunt that buck and his habits,” Infalt continued. “Generally, I find these giants living in very small spots and having smaller home ranges than the younger bucks. When I kick a 2- or 3-year-old out of a bedding area, it’s usually a task relocating him. But these big bucks . . .  it’s really hard to get them to leave the area they call home. You need to be on top of that bedding, because older bucks, and especially those with racks that draw lots of attention, don't move far from their beds in daylight. My best success on giants has been the first few days of bow season. And the last few if you’re lucky enough to live in a bitter-cold area. The biggest bucks I’ve taken with a gun have come from sneaking into their bedding areas very slowly and quietly on a crosswind. He is looking downwind and smelling behind him. So I shoot him in his bed, or when he jumps.”

Don’t Miss: How Mature Bucks Use the Wind

Photo credit: Hunting Beast

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First and foremost, it’s important to clarify that it’s no easier or harder to kill a 195-inch 5-year-old buck than a 120-inch 5-year-old. Antler size doesn’t directly affect behavior in whitetails. (It can indirectly, because they attract attention. But more on that later.)

As for killing these mega-giants, it takes a little extra skill than your typical whitetail, though. And that’s why we’ve pulled together some of the best advice around. We asked those who’ve done it to give their top tips on how to go about hunting record-class whitetails. Here’s what they had to say.