When To Pull The Trigger On A Last Chance Whitetail

You're sweating -- even though it's cold -- as the gun deer season starts to wind down. Oh sure, you've seen and tracked a number of deer -- and some decent, if not spectacular bucks. Other hunters have long since headed back to their homes, replete with their tagged and soon to be processed and bragged-about deer.

But you've been waiting for that special big buck that you just know is out there -- that trophy you spotted off in the distance both this past summer and again a number of days ago. Is he still around? Did someone get him? Should you move on? So when do you finally give in and take the shot that will at least give you a deer ­ maybe not a trophy, but something to take home with you? There's no easy answer.

Most hunters like to bag their deer the first weekend of the season ­ and then get back home immediately afterwards. Others spend the entire season at deer camp, hunting, relaxing, and enjoying themselves.

When tracking a potential deer, you must consider just what is the anticipated reward for your particular hunting wishes. Do you want a "sure thing" ­ regardless of the size of the deer? If you do, then you take the first available quarry, and that's that. Many hunters have a different attitude ­ some even say, "I'll do without, rather than take something that isn't a trophy." And once the season is over, then that person may look back and say, "I was a fool. I should have taken that first nice buck I saw on day one of the season."

Deer season success varies by year. Some years there are lots of good-sized racks to be had -- and other years, less. Savvy hunters try to read the DNR stats of what the deer herd population is in a particular area. In Wisconsin, for instance, there are certain zones or areas that usually have a larger percentage of trophy deer than others ­ and trophy hunters flock to those areas. Having said that, those areas with larger trophies don't necessarily have that many deer.

So it's a mixed bag of opportunity. And good numbers of hunters seeking the trophies in a particular zone are competing with each other for those deer.

There's also the law of diminishing returns. In any particular year, deer may be plentiful on the opening weekend, and then suddenly they seem to disappear. It happens. Hunters who wait and wait and wait until the last part of the season, will at times come away with nothing. There is no predictable pattern.

The best suggestion is for the hunter to determine definitively what he/she ultimately wants that season before going out. If the hunter wants to surely end up with a deer, then they take that first decent one they target. If the hunter wants a trophy, all well and good, but then be prepared to come home without anything. Only you can determine what you're going to do, and, after the decision is made, you'll have to live with it, good or bad; or, as baseball fans say, "wait till next year."

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