Whitetail Tracking Tips From Lanny Benoit
This is excerpted from the book, Benoit Bucks. Signed copies are available at http://brycetowsley.com/store/products/benoit-bucks
“There is one way to tell a young buck, even one with big feet and maybe even a big deer that’s young. A young buck has never had much for antlers and he is used to dipping under branches without getting them tangled. When they are fawns, they are used to scooting under branches and stuff and it takes a while to get out of that habit. But, an old buck, one that’s had big antlers for a few years, won’t go under any branches he doesn’t have to. He is also more interested in walking in a straight line and not fooling around. He won’t be zigzagging around and wasting time like a young buck that still has a little ‘kid’ in him.
“Also, a big old buck has been walking these woods for a long time and he is not going to work any harder than he needs to. He knows all the best and easiest routes around and that’s what he is going to take.
“A lot of times those old bucks have nothing to do but sleep, eat and wander around. He may walk around all day, but he also won’t use any more energy than necessary and he will always take the easiest route.”
“One of the mistakes that people make when tracking is they go too slowly when they are close and give the deer time to get nervous. If he knows you are after him and maybe has seen you, it’s better to keep moving at a fast pace. If you slow down, the deer has too much time to think about it and if he knows you are there, he will probably decide to run. If you move fast enough, he may wait to see you and if you step into the right opening, you may get a shot.
“The death creep is only good if the deer doesn’t know you are there. It’s meant to surprise a buck that isn’t aware of you. But if that deer has already heard you coming, you won’t get him with the death creep. If he is 100 yards or 200 yards away and he has heard you going into the death creep and trying to sneak up on him, it won’t work. You are better off to keep going along at a fast pace. Sure, he will run off most times, but sooner or later, you will see him.
“It’s like when you are driving down the road. Those deer can hear you coming for a long time before they see the truck, but a lot of times they wait until they see you or even until you stop before they run away. It’s the same when you are tracking bucks. They are going to hear you, but if you just keep going, they may wait long enough for a shot. Going into the death creep in this situation is a lot like stopping the truck. It’s a change and to them, that signifies danger.
“When there are noisy hunting conditions, you are better off to move right along at a good pace. The deer are usually going to hear you anyway. I have had lots of bucks I didn’t want to shoot stand and watch me walk on by them. As long as you don’t make eye contact and they don’t realize you have seen them, a lot of times they will stand still and let you walk by.
“I know it sounds crazy, but probably 85 percent of the bucks I have shot, I just walked up and shot them. The key is in seeing the buck. You have to be watching for the deer. You can’t keep your eyes down on the ground looking at the track.
“Those old bucks are kind of cranky anyway, particularly when they are in the rut. Just because they can hear you doesn’t necessarily mean that they know you are a man. They might just think you are a rival buck and they will stick around to kick your butt or try to intimidate you.
“One thing is that when you do see him, you have to make up your mind quick and shoot him. The minute you stop to shoot, the buck is going to go into high alert. You can’t fool around and if you are sure it’s the buck you want, shoot him. You can’t try to judge his antlers to see if he is big enough. You simply don’t have time. You need to shoot him and hope his antlers are as good as you expected they might be from the sign along the track. Also, shoot at what you can see. Don’t look around or wait around for a better shot, because chances are you won’t get one.”