In America hunting whitetail deer is a tradition, and taking trophy bucks is the focus, but not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is the hunt itself...the matching of wits with the stealthiest big game animal in the world. It is a chess match of wits that leaves even seasoned hunters wondering if they have what it takes. If you love the hunt, the reward will come. This is the one truism I would leave with any hunter. Love the hunt. Maintain strong integrity and compliance with the laws as well as the unwritten rules of sportsmanship. To those who walk this path come the rewards of many successful hunts, and the satisfaction that you did it right.


Rick DeStefanis


The intent for this blog is to supplement the book The Philosophy of Big Buck Hunting with articles on a regular basis. The book is intended, not as an “A to Z” on all facets of deer hunting, but rather as a focused look at how a big buck hunter thinks. The articles will provide background and further explanations of things covered in the book as well as new ideas and additional information on hunting whitetail deer. The latest article follows below. To see previous articles, click on the "Articles" tab in the navigation bar. You can see the book's first review by clicking here.

Are You A True Hunter?

(Posted 12/07/2012): What is the definition of a “true” hunter? I suppose anyone who picks up a weapon and goes afield in search of wild game can be considered a hunter. Listing some of the traits and skills of a good hunter may provide a better picture. A clearly drawn line of sportsmanship and high ethics is one of the first traits I would look for in a hunter, followed by an ability to shoot well. But in my opinion, the defining trait would be the answer to this question: If you were dropped in the middle of a wilderness with no deer stand, no food plots, nothing but you and your weapon, could you succeed on a regular basis? This leads to what may be the correct question for this discussion: Are you a complete hunter?

It seems in recent years I am meeting more and more hunters whose skills are limited to a few basic tactics. Probably as a result of the exploding whitetail deer population, many hunters have developed one-dimensional hunting styles. This is not to say they are bad hunters, because most experience a good deal of success, but take away that one style of hunting and they become the proverbial fish out of water. Taking away their shooting house is tantamount to stealing their clothes. Take away that tree stand and they are intimidated by the surrounding woods. Prevent them from sitting on a food plot and they despair.

The deer stand, the shooting house and a food plot are proven tactics for deer hunting success, but they are nonetheless useless for a sudden invitation to hunt that place you’ve always heard about. You know the one: that totally undeveloped wilderness with a reputation for big bucks roaming everywhere. No stands allowed. It’s just you and the woods around you. Are you ready?

Here are some more simple questions that may provide you with the answer: When did you last spend the entire day hunting afoot? One out of five days that I hunt, I spend stalking. How many bucks have you taken while still-hunting? My last two were taken this way. Have you ever had a bow-kill while still-hunting? I’ve had several. Do you know how to use various terrain features to your advantage? And possibly the most important skill that comes into play is when your invitation includes qualifiers such as: you can take only a 125-inch, 8-point or better buck.

A hunter’s lack of ethics and sportsmanship may often preclude such invitations, but if you are a member of the “brown is down” crowd, you will never learn the skills required to estimate a “shootable” buck on the hoof. Bottom-line is that there is a heck of a lot more to hunting than sitting on your hind end for hours.

Yes, the odds are lower when still hunting. The challenges are greater and stamina is a must, but the skills learned in the process will take any hunter to a new level of performance. Your hunts become more interesting, you find new hunting areas and new deer sign. Next time you go hunting, start and stay afoot for the entire hunt. It may be an exercise in frustration the first few times you try it, but soon you will begin to develop a whole new set of skills that will in fact make you a more complete hunter.

Want to learn more? Check out my book: The Philosophy of Big Buck Hunting.

Good luck and good hunting.

Posted 09/04/2012 by Rick DeStefanis


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