Over the years of actively seeking and hunting whitetails, I have learned that there are a deer that have truly used intelligence to achieve their age. I truly believe that these deer do have that sixth sense. It is actually backed by the scientific study of energy vibrations in nature. Deer are usually more sensitive to vibrational energy than people. That has something to do with being natural prey. Now, understanding that bucks don't know how big their rack is, it's truly a case-by-case basis with these bucks and their intelligence from the sixth sense.
Trail cameras, on average, do not produce enough vibrational energy to alert the deer... I think that some of my southern U.S. hunters would disagree (humor attempt). So, I have no problem catching these deer on camera, but once we even try to start hunting them, we lose them. They picked up on something, possibly the vibrational energy from the present human, and they changed course. That is exactly what happened with the above captured stud in Zone 6 back in 2018.
I somehow managed to get lucky to get into his 3-acre bedroom when I set this camera. The skyline over his front shoulders is literally the road and entrance where we park. It's a 100-150yd walk to the camera tops. I had pictures of him in daylight multiple times each week, and even multiple times a day. There was a pond about 20' to the right of this frame in the woods, and nasty ravine-filled timber behind the camera. He was living in this spot. He was always close.
Every time I went to check this camera, I was scared of bumping him, horribly scared. Everything remained calm and collected through August. When he shed his velvet, he disappeared for a few days, but appeared again in daylight. Still, no nighttime photos. I had one hunter with a Zone 6 archery tag that year, and I was determined to kill this deer. Bring on October 1st, 2018, opening day.
Unfortunately, my hunter was unable to get there until October 12th. He was out west on an elk hunt, and had to drive back to Ohio before coming back to southern Iowa. I never went in to hang a stand here because I was too darn scared to bump this buck. Without showing the aerial of this farm, it's hard for you to understand where, if anywhere, you could hunt this buck. Look at the trail camera photo again... the overhanging trees on the right side of the frame, about 40-60 yards behind the buck, there was a spot to brush a blind in. We got in there quietly and got it done. I pulled the camera card quick, and got out.
The night before, around 10pm on October 11th, this buck went nocturnal for the first time on my camera. My heart sunk. I let him hunt that stand for a few sits, and then I sent him home. We still had late October and early November. We had two other studs to hunt on another Zone 6 farm that was 40 acres... one that had disappeared September 2nd, and one that was quite regular. We ended up killing the regular buck, who was at least 1 or 2 years younger & smaller than this buck, probably 4-1/2-years-old, and he taped out at 160" gross B&C.
I have relived that pre-season trying to comprehend what I did wrong, aside from timing, and what I could have done differently to kill this deer. He was killable from October 1st - 10th. 10 whole days that we could have possibly killed him. We only needed one chance within range within daylight with the right wind. I remember having 1 or 2 chances based on the camera recon. It's those types of situations that cause me to lose sleep at night. I can't be too mad. After all, my hunter killed a great deer, and he was stoked about it.
I have had numerous situations like this over the last four or five years with big bucks. They usually win the war. We try to win the battle as often as we can. I try to think like a commander would, placing my troops in the right positions, in the right timeframe, with the right mindset, with a solid purpose. I'm an outfitter, a hunt manager. It truly is different than the mind of a hunter but only in the sense that it's multiple hunters and multiple deer. It is a true challenge each and every time.
Deer like the above pictured buck are unique. Not every buck is sensitive to their surroundings, or at least not enough to continue living in a hunted area. We have killed deer bigger than that brute above. Was it luck? Was it fate? Was it skill? Was it the deer's lack of sensitivity? Possibly... Who knows. Yet, this is what is in a hunter's mind.
(Below: The 160" stud we killed in mid-November 2018, a consolation prize for hard work)