We’ve all seen mature bucks on television charging in for a fight. And we’ve all read the countless articles on dominant buck behavior and how to harvest that king of the woods. But what if we told you that more often than not it is the timid buck, the one who is hesitant and scared, that is the biggest in our suburban hunting spot?
Dominance kills in suburban America. It’s as simple as that. Aggressive behavior like running does across interstate highways and through parking lots kills deer. The active response to fighting other whitetails kills deer. The curiosity to figure out what something is by taking an extra look kills deer.
Most hunters go out with this aggressive buck mentality in mind. Mainstream hunting media has embedded it inside us. We hunt with this folklore image of some big dominant buck stuck in our heads. As a result, we can often overlook timid behavior and misread the signs.
We enter many hunting situations assuming that the biggest buck on camera is making all the scrapes and rubs in an area. Now we can debate whether the chicken or the egg came first. What we do know is that there are timid personalities out there and they make for mature bucks. As hunters, we need to keep in mind the behaviors of a timid buck when pursuing our potential target.
Mature bucks that mostly maintain nocturnal behavior even during the rut may be timid. Whitetails that stay away from sparring deer or shy at the signs of a doe in heat are most likely timid.
What does this all mean? It means that we must change our approach to bucks with this personality. Where are these cautious animals most vulnerable? Bucks with this unique behavior can be some of most challenging and frustrating whitetails to hunt. Yet they’re well worth the harvest in the end.
I often look back and rack my brain about whitetails that I think I had all wrong. They were bucks where dominance was not a trait. In many cases, my whole train of thought was screwed up because I thought that dominance was a trait. This often resulted in failure. We need to analyze every whitetail we approach for signs of timid behavior and adapt our methodology to account for these once-in-a-lifetime bucks.
A.J. DeRosa founded Project Upland in 2014 as an excuse to go hunting more often (and it worked). A New England native, he grew up hunting and has spent over 30 years in pursuit of big and small game species across three continents. He started collecting guns on his 18th birthday and eventually found his passion for side-by-side shotguns, inspiring him to travel the world to meet the people and places from which they come. Looking to turn his passion into inspiration for others, AJ was first published in 2004 and went on to write his first book The Urban Deer Complex in 2014. He soon discovered a love for filmmaking, particularly the challenge of capturing ruffed grouse with a camera, which led to the award-winning Project Upland film series. AJ's love for all things wild has caused him to advocate on the federal and state levels to promote and expand conservation policy, habitat funding, and upland game bird awareness. He currently serves as the Strafford County New Hampshire Fish & Game Commissioner in order to give back to his community and to further the mission of the agency. When those hunting excuses are in play, you can find him wandering behind his Wirehaired Pointing Griffon in the mountains of New England and anywhere else the birds take them.