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November 29, 2013

Whitetail bucks are as smart as they come


A whitetail buck learns very quickly. He knows his territory and how to use it to his advantage. That little buck had a perfect spot to deal with the hunters on the other farm. He could smell them as they approached and had an easy escape back to where he came. I guess he didn’t expect someone to come in from behind.

I’ve followed a lot of wise, old bucks over the years. I hunted one for several weekends in the Adirondacks. I knew where he lived and finally figured out how he escaped. I climbed Upper Pine Mountain, always knowing that he’d be there. He was. He’d run off and then double back to watch his back trail, ever planning his next move. When I got close, he’d go off the back side of the mountain down a break of sorts through the ledges.

One day, I drove one of my friends around to the backside of his territory.

“Go right up there and wait,” I told him. “I’ll put him past you in about an hour.”

I drove back around and started the long, steep climb up after that old ridge runner. There was no snow and I heard the buck get up and run. Just like clockwork, he headed for the notch in the rocks.

Suddenly, he stopped and headed back toward me. I saw a flash, but the buck quickly disappeared. He jumped down over the jagged rocks to a leveler spot nearly 20 feet below. He won again.

We would normally hunt a big buck like that until he made a mistake, but the season ended before that happened. The next year, I climbed back up that wooded arm off of Upper Pine. There was no sign of that old buck. I guess he moved on or didn’t make the winter.

I’ve learned a lot about deer over the last 50 or so years. One thing’s for sure: When you finally have it all figured out, those smart bucks change the rules of the game.

I just love it.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at  

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