When I first started this website almost two years ago, the main focus of my writing was to showcase the strategy and struggle of hunting new landscapes and the challenge of overcoming unknowns. Hence the name, Transition Wild. In today’s article, Alex Comstock walks us through his own transition from an inexperienced deer hunter to specifically targeting and hunting mature whitetail bucks. Enjoy! – AP
By Alex Comstock
I spend hundreds of hours each year obsessing over whitetails. More specifically, mature whitetail bucks. Something about them fascinates me, and it drives me to do things that some might find out of this world crazy. Between running trail cameras, scouting, shed hunting, hanging stands, and staring at maps every month of the year, it simply never stops. But it wasn’t always that way with me – there was a time before mature bucks practically dictated my life.
When I started my deer hunting “career”, seeing a deer was quite an ordeal. I can remember every fall as a young kid I would put on my big orange coat and head to the deer stand with my dad during rifle season. The only thing is, I hardly have any memories of seeing a deer, but on the few occasions that I did, no matter whether it was a button buck or a doe, my pops put it down because it ate well. I followed suit, carrying a rifle in the woods with me at the age of 12, sitting in a stand by myself, and hardly ever seeing a deer. Except, unlike my father, on the few occasions I saw deer, it never panned out for me. There was the basket rack eight pointer I missed that first year I ever toted a gun to the woods. And then two years later, I got a crack at a giant buck. He too evaded my bullet and lived to see another day. But it was that day I knew this addiction or lifestyle or however you want to put it was starting to form within me. After missing that buck, I was sick to my stomach. As a 14-year-old boy, I wanted to figure out his every move, game plan, and have time to figure him out…but 3 days later rifle season was over, and I was done hunting.
This is where I honestly believe I turned into a mature buck hunter, even though I had never harvested a deer yet. What I immediately fell in love with was the chase. It wasn’t the kill that satisfied me, rather the pursuit. With that said, I knew I needed more time to hunt, so that summer I picked up a bow, practiced every day, and come September of 2010 at the age of 15, I started bowhunting. I read every magazine article I could find, watched every episode of Midwest Whitetail that had ever been made at that point, and headed to the woods with a bow in hand. Even though I knew I wanted to pursue mature bucks, I knew I needed to get some practice sending an arrow through a deer before jumping right into the “next level” of deer hunting, so a month into the season, I finally had a chance to shoot a young doe. Sitting in a ground blind with my younger brother, the doe fed her way towards me until she turned broadside at twelve yards. I remember nestling that pin right behind her shoulder, touching the release off, and watching her tip over, not more than thirty yards away from us. I think that’s the day my brother figured out I was crazy. I was jumping up and down in the blind with a mix of nervousness, excitement, and everything in between surging through me. It was a day I’ll never forget.
A month later, I was fortunate enough to harvest a beautiful 140” ten pointer, and then another doe (both of those with my rifle), and decided I was ready to start passing bucks. Granted, I understand the buck I shot was a mature buck, but I didn’t hold out for him. I actually almost shot about an 80” eight pointer moments before, but couldn’t get a shot. After shooting these two deer with my rifle, I put the gun down, and have yet to pick it back up. Since then, I’ve gone bow only, and the pursuit of hunting mature bucks began.
The following year couldn’t have gone any better for me. I had absolutely zero luck, and anything and everything that could have gone wrong did. I was completely humbled, and honestly, I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way that I still take with me to this day. I messed up multiple mature buck encounters, and looking back on it, if I knew then what I know now, I know it would have been a different story, but that shows how much I’ve learned since then.
The following year encapsulated the same thing. At one point, I even had an encounter with a buck that I had been chasing for a few weeks during the rut. But he busted me as I went to draw my bow back, and avoided an arrow being put through him. By the end of that season, I decided I needed to get that first buck with my bow shot, regardless of what it was. I wanted to experience what it was like, and I was finally able to put down a young eight pointer on Christmas Day, and I couldn’t have been any happier.
Since then, I’ve become strictly a mature buck hunter. If I need or want meat, I’ll shoot a doe, but when it comes to bucks, I’m completely and utterly obsessed with mature bucks as an animal. The challenge they present, and to be successful bowhunting them is almost next to impossible. Knowing that though makes each encounter that much more precious because you don’t know when that next encounter with a mature buck is going to present itself.
In a nutshell, that’s why I do it. It’s not just to shoot bucks with big antlers, or because I think I’m better than anyone else. I am a strong believer that you hunt what makes you happy. If shooting a young buck makes you happy, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. For me, if I can shoot one of the most elusive and smart creatures that roam the woods, that’s what makes me truly happy at the end of the day.
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Alex Comstock is an avid whitetail deer hunter and outdoor writer that has been featured in North American Whitetail and Bowhunter Magazine. To find more of Alex’s articles and content pertaining to whitetail deer hunting, visit WhitetailDNA.com.