Bucks Will "Half-Circle" You Downwind
Updated: Mar 26
A buck's curiosity makes him predictable if you spooked him without him seeing you. Most times they want to know who's in their back yard.
(Pictured above: On a grouse hunting trip a curious, chocolate-antlered buck circled down wind to study the intruders. Photographer - Chris Baker - Kalkaska State Forest, MI)
I spent my early years of bow hunting getting too close to a buck's bedding area. I was always scouting with bow in hand for the closest spot I could find next to a bedding area with billboard-like signs of a buck being in the area. A broadcast of tree rubs, and ground scrapes were what I was searching for. A handful of times I made the mistake of NOT stopping, and backing off when I found just that. I really underestimated a deer's senses. I always tried to push a little closer. What always seemed to happen? "SNAP!!" The heart crushing sound of a grass-buried twig snapping under my boot. Up ahead I would hear brush rustling, and branches breaking followed by what I at first described as the sound of a horse galloping away. The "stop & stare" moment followed when my feet where still in the direction I was stalking, but my body was twisted around as I locked eyes with what I was after - those big, brown, bucks sniffing the air down wind of me. Then without blowing, or stomping they would bound away with the white tail flagging. I expected them to circle back like that, as I have read a Field & Stream article years ago that they will do just that , but I never took the chance of a shot. I mentally wasn't ready to react with my bow. I was more in awe at what just took place, and would freeze in high hopes they wouldn't bound away. That was the denial talking! They did bound away! Quickly! Every last one of them! (I'm chuckling right now) You would think something reached up, and bit them. Something did though - my scent!
I haven't had this situation come up in a long time, because I changed some ways of going about my archery season. If it did happen, what would I do? I'd like to think I would knock an arrow, if one isn't already, and draw that bow back quickly. Track the animal's movements at full draw while moving the body in a way that doesn't compromise the shot. If they're not running to Canada to escape, I have found that they will stop at two points: the first opening that they can get visuals of you, or they will circle to down wind to get visuals, and smell. I find it fascinating that they seem to know the exact point of downwind. They're a curious animal, and bucks have a tendency to see what's up. Think of a dog in it's own back yard. That's their back yard. Where you are is the buck's back yard. They want to know everything about you unless you came through clowning around making all kinds of noise. The more subtle the intrusion, the more curiosity. If you manage to pull your bow back, and get on track in time, pay attention to what's beyond you. There may be saplings, or branches from saplings in the arrows flight path that are out of focus. Only take an ethical shot. If it's rifle season, it should be a done deal. Just pull that gun up, and track the animal. Wait for the shot. PAY ATTENTION TO WHATS BEYOND THE TARGET!!
Why did I run into this problem so often? I did, because I was hunting public land that I didn't get a chance to scout yet. I was scouting on the fly, and would get too close to the bedding areas. I still primarily hunt public land. The only bucks I've ever taken were taken off of public land, one of which I took just 20 minutes after parking the truck, and doing a quick scout of an area I had never been to before. What happens is I usually work a lot of hours, including Saturdays. That used to be my excuse in my early 20's as to why I would never scout till I was on foot, with bow in hand. In hindsight, that was lack of dedication. I have since corrected it. I make time nowadays. I found it's importance. It's okay to go in an area to scout, and spook deer a couple months before you plan on hunting the area. They'll be back. If you scout at the end of the summer, you'll have plenty of time to scout several locations. You may need a couple locations as back up when hunting public land anyways due to crowding from other hunters. When it comes to bucks, if one buck liked an area, and has it all marked up, then other bucks will like that area too. They recycle bedding areas. You can plan a treestand location based off of old tree rubs, and scrapes if the area is heavily marked. One scrape, or rub here, and there isn't what I'm talking about .
I'm talking about 6-8 saplings, and trees next to each other in a thicket rubbed up, and a couple of scrapes nearby. There should have been several rubs you passed up on the way to that location. Once you find that location, back off a ways. Figure out what direction prevailing wind comes from, and find a tree to strap a stand to. Surely you'll catch him off guard.