MATURE BUCK BEHAVIOR: A Different Breed of Whitetail

I casually checked my MDL Outfitters Instagram today (@MDLOutfitters), and I saw a new story update from Midwest Whitetail, the 13-year old TV/Online hunting show out of southern Iowa by none other than the man himself, Mr. Bill Winke. From about 2008 through 2014 or 2015, I was a HUGE fan of MW and Bill Winke. I was arguably a bigger fan of MW and Bill than I was of the Drury's or Lakosky's. Why? The content from Bill and MW was always educationally informative, and since I was hunting in Iowa and southern Iowa more specifically, I really opened my ears to what he was preaching.


Life has gotten busier since 2014/2015. I have an outfitting business that I solely manage and operate. I have two kids and a lovely wife. Life is just busy! I have lost track of most hunting shows that I use to love and watch, which is probably because I only have Hulu Live, AppleTV, and free YouTube videos. No more Outdoor Channel, Sportsmen's Channel, MyOutdoorTV, etc. I lost touch with the shows primarily because I lost interest. I wasn't being delivered content that was relevant and valuable to my business, my time, or just me in general.


So when I started watching the newest Midwest Whitetail episode, I knew quickly that this was up my alley. @MidwestWhitetailOfficial: "This week's show is all about the coolest lesson Bill has learned about Whitetail deer..." I thought, this must be good. I watched the 20+ minute episode and took away a reminder that I have somewhat neglected in my planning of our hunts in years past. It is entirely true. Mature whitetail bucks have individually unique behaviors. Bill didn't like to use the word "personalities", but that is exactly what it is to me. A deer's personality, like a human's personality, is what causes the brain to make specific decisions. Obviously, deer do not have the same capacity as humans, but someday's you might feel like that's debatable. For all intents and purposes, I will use the term, "personality" here below as I put my own spin on this topic.


Each year in southern Iowa, I find myself somehow knowing of a specific mature buck or ten. It would be one thing for me to try and hunt one, two, or even three of them, but ten? Wow. That's a full plate, especially if I am trying to do so correctly. I am not the one in the tree, on the farm, tied into the stand. I'm just the guy with the aerial maps, the mental imagery and logic, the gameplay, and the authority directing my clients into the farms in hopes of killing these big deer. I would literally need to spend 20+ hours each week on the phone with these clients explaining the specific deer that we do know of, you know, the ones who are local during the summer and early fall before the rut craze. Usually, like 60-80% of the time, we end up hunting and killing new bucks that have just gotten into the area due to the rut. So, I just keep it all to myself. I might get into a bit of a detailed dialogue on a specific deer with a specific farm, but it's in a much abbreviated form.


Like Mr. Winke did on this episode referenced above, I will talk about two different deer who were on the same farm and in the same neighborhood in the same year. I will cover each deer individually, and then I will break down a compare & contrast breakdown regarding their known behaviors and assumed behaviors.


THE 200" GHOST

This is a photo that isn't mine. I just googled and found it fitting. See that fog? That's basically what I'd expect if I ever got a trail camera photo or video of this buck. This deer is a professional avoider. Over the two years of knowing hunting him, directly and indirectly, we have never gotten a trail camera photo of him. I've never seen him. Yet, I have had two hunters, one in 2018 and one in 2019, that didn't know each other nor each other's encounter. This whitetail could have been nearby all year. Maybe he was just passing through. It wasn't until 2019 that I learned he wasn't just passing through but actually living nearby. I know of too many 200" bucks who avoid cameras in Iowa. They make mistakes only a few times a year at best. I wouldn't say he's nocturnal because we have had two very different daylight encounters with him. One was in mid-November. One was in late December. One was focused on breeding. One was focused on eating.


This buck has unique personality traits. He's possibly the smartest deer we have ever had the chance at hunting. He knows where to avoid. As far as we know, he's only been within shooting distance of anyone once. I know of three neighbors that do NOT know of his existence. Seriously. They have no clue of this mystical giant. THANK GOD! This buck showed an avoidance skill in late December when we saw in downrange in daylight. This buck came no more than 20 yards from the timbered field edge. He was tucked in between two massively thick timber fingers that block view from both the east and the west. We would have not seen him if we were 50 yards to the west or the east. He fed right there. Never came out further. Then, he went back into the darkness of the thick timber where he was safe. He didn't know we were about 100-150yards too far away from a shot being made from a Remington muzzleloader. Then again, it is like he did. This buck has survived because of his behavior. He lives in arguably impenetrable timber that connects to the same density timbered river. Guys go in during shotgun season and he knows the way out. He comes out during the rut and roams, but in arguably 3-4 years, he hasn't been caught except for the 40yd encounter we had in 2018. This buck is very mature, not just in age but also behavior. He is a loner. He does his own thing. He stays away from most other deer. He's been