Top Ten Secrets to Killing a Booner
I have hunted whitetails for over 30 years and have guided trophy deer hunts for over 20 years. I have learned more from listening to my hunters over the years and taking knowledge from them all. Below is a list that combines the minds and years of the most successful hunters I have met. These strategies have helped me successfully harvest multiple Boone and Crockett Whitetails. I hope they help you too.
Gary Harpole, Owner Harpole’s Heartland Lodge
- #1 Hunt Where They Live>>
- #2 Keep It Simple>>
- #3 Mental>>
- #4 Marksmanship>>
- #5 Woodsmanship>>
- #6 Luck>>
- #7 Wind/Terrain>>
- #8 Preperation>>
- #9 Pay Attention To The Details>>
- #10 Management
This may sound simple but, you can’t kill what is not there. If you truly are on a quest to kill a Boone and Crockett class buck you must hunt areas that have a history of producing B&C class bucks. This is the most important factor in success. People who kill lots of big deer hunt areas with lots of big deer. Plain and simple.
To many hunters over think hunting whitetails. Once you learn the formula stay with it and only tweak the details to put the odds in your favor. These 10 steps will give you 90% of what you will need. The last 10% is luck. You have to be lucky when hunting these elusive animals. Master these 10 steps and you will see multiple booners on your wall.
You have to always be in the right mindset. Hunting mature whitetails is more mental than it is physical. Mentally it can wear you down, and if you are not sharp each and every time you enter the field, the advantage goes to Mr. Whitetail. This includes having a great deal of patience & spending as many hours in the woods as possible. You will learn more this in our next e-mail called Hunting Trophy Whitetails.
Successful hunters consistently hit their target. Sounds redundant but it’s true. Not only is it unethical to go hunting with poor shooting skills but you are also wasting your time and money being in the woods. The luckiest, most patient hunter, with the best gear, hunting the best property in the world must still be able to make the shot at the moment of truth. You will be spending hours, days and weeks in the field, spend a few minutes every day to shoot your bow and make sure your gun is sighted in before you hunt. It amazes me how many hunters invest money and time with us but don’t invest time in tuning their shooting skills. Also, using a range finder should be as important as the ammo you are shooting. If you don’t know the yardage how can you hit the target?
This is a trait that every consistently successful hunter has. Knowing when to draw your bow, when you can move, being able to sit still, using your eyes and ears, when you can use a flashlight and when you can’t, reading sign, etc. The better you hone your woodsmanship skills the more animals you will harvest.
This could easily be higher on the list. Every hunter no matter how skilled must have a little luck on his side. To have everything come together and to put a Booner on your wall takes some luck. But no hunter consistently kills trophy class bucks on luck alone. If Jack Nicklaus made a “hole in one” on a Par 3 it was certainly luck, but it was his skills that put him close enough to the hole in the first place.
To kill a Booner this must always be on your mind. Before you go to bed, when you wake up, while you’re walking to your stand, while you’re sitting in your stand; you must always be thinking about the wind. If the Booner smells you, you will not kill him. But a very important aspect of the wind that many people disregard, is how the wind affects the bucks your hunting. Most mature bucks will not spend much time walking with the wind at their back. Where they eat, sleep, drink and travel all depends on the wind direction. You must set up your ambush in a way that the wind is favorable for the buck to show up in the first place and then not smell you in the process. This is where you have to analyze the terrain versus the wind to pick the most favorable ambush location. It’s difficult to do but a necessity.
The average hunter starts hunting when he gets to his treestand. Successful hunters start hunting hours, days and weeks before then. They take every scent precaution they can, check the wind, check their gear, etc.; all before leaving their house. You must plan where you will park, how you will enter the woods, what direction the wind is based on your access, how early do you need to be in the stand, how can I access & leave the stand without spooking deer, should I use a flashlight?, should I wait until it’s light enough for me to see, if I jump deer should I press on or wait? You also need to be a weatherman, make sure the weather conditions are good for the stand you will be hunting. You may only get one chance to harvest that buck of a lifetime. All of these things are vital to putting the odds in your favor.
As mentioned above you want to simplify things as much as possible. The less you have to “think” about the better. But on the things you need to think about pay attention to every detail. My philosophy is that 80% is everything we have mentioned in these 10 steps, 10% is luck, and 10% is the details. I break each detail out to increasing/decreasing my odds by a 1% or maybe just a 1/2% but that one detail can make the difference between harvesting the buck of your dreams or not. I always hold my bow versus hanging it. I would not have killed the largest buck of my life if I had to reach for my bow. When walking to the stand do you take your time and blend in with the other wildlife or do you walk straight to the stand? Have you taken every scent control possible or do you smell like bacon & eggs?
Management is a key part of harvesting Booner bucks consistently. Yes, large bucks have been killed on public ground but to harvest them consistently you must manage your property. Allowing your bucks to reach mature age is essential. If you are always killing your 2 1/2yr old deer you will never harvest a booner. Doe management is a must in areas that have an over population of does. Most of the time a mature buck in nocturnal but during the rut if you have a balance herd your chances of seeing him go up dramatically compared to if have too many does. If he doesn’t have to “find” does in heat chances are he will only move at night. So if you even want chance at seeing a monster you should start with shooting does. Food plots, trail cameras, many stand locations, etc. are also essential tools of a properly managed farm and can certainly improve your odds if executed correctly. I placed this last on the list simply because it is not a requirement for killing Booners. Many people consistently kill giant deer on public ground and small farms, but I can assure you that someone with all the luxuries of management at their disposal will certainly have more opportunities if they apply the other 9 skills. You have to allow them to grow up and also harvest your does.
A special thanks to Corey Wilkinson, good friend and hunting buddy whom I exchange hunting strategies with on a daily basis during the season. He helped me create this list. Also to all the hunters who have hunted at Harpole’s Heartland Lodge. Gaining their knowledge over the years has been priceless.