The variety of mature buck personalities have always fascinated me. Of course we as humans are born with various personalities that we often exhibit immediately upon our entrance into this world. But it also takes time to develop our true personality, as the various influences of family, school and personal relationships serve to not only enhance our future individuality, but also to temporarily hold us back from becoming ultimately who we are as an adult. Eventually, the vast majority of us spread our wings and leave the nest to transform into the man or woman we eventually become; no different then development of a mature buck's personality.
*Make sure to check out my whitetail book series including, "Whitetail Success By Design" and "Food Plot Success By Design", to help you find mature bucks this hunting season!
Monster brawlers, elusive ghosts and calculated survivalists; we have all seen them! The cool thing is that they each continue to reflect more of their personality the older they become, even if it takes the removal of another buck that was holding them back through domination. During the past 15 years, I have had the privilege of being able to spend a couple dozen opportunities on the phone, in the kitchen or in the living room with John Ozoga discussing one my personal favorite subjects: Mature bucks. John Ozoga is one of the most quoted and authoritative sources for peer reviewed deer research material; research that he gained through his work for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. John has written several incredible books, but his memory is full of many whitetail stories that may most likely never be shared publicly.
One of my favorite stories that John shared with me was about a mature buck that grew to a ripe old age 10-12 years of age within the 1 mile by 1 mile Camp Cusino Wildlife Research Facility in Shingleton, MI. The buck was fairly low in the buck dominance hierarchy while being suppressed by an aggressive monster. Several buck deaths could be blamed on the monster brawler that ruled the enclosure for a short period of time, and most likely to no suprise by anyone the aggressive ruler eventually died from his own wounds. As soon as the dominant buck perished, a subordinate, reclusive monster rose to the rank of the most dominant in the enclosure. The buck didn't fight, but instead rose to his level of dominance by bluffing, posturing and by using his sheer size to intimidate. During his long reign as the Cusino Enclosure Monarch, there were no buck deaths that could be blamed on fighting related injuries.
Although the story may not be exactly how John delivered it to me (my best recollection!), it was one of the most influential buck behavioral insights that I can recall, for my own personal development as a hunter, habitat manager and whitetail author. I finally realized on that day, most likely 15 years ago or more, that individual mature buck personalities are real! And I have found that if they are real and can be recognized, that they can be exploited.
Monster Buck Brawlers
John Ozoga's experience with both passive and aggressive mature buck personalities couldn't have been created without a short-reigned brawling monster. I personally would have loved to have witnessed first hand the incredible fights and displays of power, that resulted in injury or even death to those attempting to establish their rank within the dominance hierarchy.
The end of the story often comes quickly for mature bucks with an aggressive personality, and that unfortunate trait can often easily be taken advantage of by hunters. Bucks with an attitude seem to fall to the temptations of does more easily, seem to have a short memory when it comes to hunter encounters and rarely back down from a fight. During the hunting season of 2004 I was able to spend several days attempting to harvest a mature buck with a serious attitude! He charged me in the dark while snort-wheezing, responded to my own snort wheezes while on stand with an awesome display of snorts, grunts, scrapes and rubs, and finally fell to an arrow while chasing a small herd of does under my stand. Something even better was that the year before I observed him for nearly a 1/2 hour, taking on the oldest and largest buck in the forest. Repeatedly, he was pushed sideways through the brush while attempting to breed the older buck's doe nearby.
*After being charged on the way to the stand in the morning by this buck brawling monster, he came back for more just 3 hours later. Hunting toe numbing mornings is one of my favorite tacticts for running into monster bucks during the rut! For the complete morning rut hunt strategy, make sure to read "Morning Sneak Tactics For Mature Bucks".
Elusive Ghost Mature Buck Personalities
My friend Max was able to connect on an elusive ghost that we had hoped to run into for the entire hunting season of 2009, and until the 4th morning of gun season in 2010. The only problem? The buck was gone. Following a handful of pictures during the Summer of 2009 he just vanished, never to be seen from again for the entire hunting season either by game cam or the naked eye. During the Summer of 2010 we happened to see him about a mile away in shaded grassy hollow flanked by 1 young buck, and although our hopes became optimistic, they were certainly not high. That was the last time that we saw the buck until Max sent a round from a 30-06 into his chest cavity, early in the morning. The buck appeared to be anti-social, always alone in the game pictures we had captured of him, and did a great job of completely disappearing from site. Although I sat in the same stand the prior day and saw over 50 deer by noon during one of my most active hunting days ever, when Max harvested him he was with a young, single doe.
*This is one of my favorite mature buck personalities to hunt, because elusive bucks tend to grow old, big and create the status of near mythical legend in many hunting locations. To read a more detailed look into the behaviors and hunting strategies for these reclusive giants, check out "Ghost Buck Hunting Tactics".
The oldest buck that I can say that I hunted with a fairly high degree of certainty was the buck we called the "Wide 8", or "Kickstand" buck. He grew to the ripe old age of "8" as a calculated survivalist, before succumbing to an unfortanate gut shot by the client of a neighboring guide. The Wide 8 was a local legend and although his death was anything but legendary, his life was an incredible expression of skilled survival.
*One of the reasons the Wide 8 became a local legend was in his ability to slip in and out of the habitat while always keeping the wind and conditions in his favor for movement. The Wide 8 highly preferred to make an entrance through heavy cover staging areas. To read all about how staging areas kept him safe and secure for many years (including my own personal near-misses with him), try reading "Recognize and Hunt a Deer Staging Area".
Monster brawlers, elusive ghosts or calculated survivalists; honestly, I find it hard to have a favorite mature buck personality! They are all very rewarding to experience first hand and I truly appreciate each one of them. Whichever one of the mature buck personalities that you are after, I have found that you can use his personal traits to your own advantage. Just make sure to match the personality type to your hunting style when going after a mature monarch! For example, using aggressive calling and hunting techniques for an elusive ghost will most likely end with a mysterious disappearance. It pays to know which personality type you will be after this hunting season.