NDA Members Have Varying Goals When it Comes to Hunting Bucks

September 29, 2020 | by National Deer Alliance

In a recent edition of our On Watch Newsletter, we asked National Deer Alliance (NDA) members about their buck-hunting goals this season. Deer seasons are here for some of us, and they’ll soon be here for the rest of us. We wanted to know if members already tagged their buck, have their sights set on a specific buck, or if they’re just hoping to harvest any buck that makes them happy. Here’s what they had to say.

As of September 28, only 15% of members have already hunted deer this fall and 84% have not. For many members, deer seasons haven’t opened yet, and for many of those whose seasons have opened, warm weather or other obligations are keeping them out of the woods. As Robert from Georgia put it, it’s too early: “If you killed one this early, what would u do for the next 3 months?”

Still, some members are finding early season success. Bruce from Kentucky waited for the perfect time to make his move. “I waited until the third day of the Kentucky season until the wind was right, and on September 7th at 7:15 PM, I harvested an 11-point buck that I had been watching all summer. His gross score was 140 6/8”.”

Next, we asked members if they’re hoping to tag a specific buck this season. Forty-three percent are after any buck that makes them happy, while 31% have certain characteristics they look for in a buck, but they’re not targeting a specific buck. Still, 21% have one (or more) specific bucks they’re targeting.

Ron from Nebraska has a specific buck in mind: “One that has meat! I do not digest antlers very well!”

“I use the word ‘target’ loosely,” said Kevin from Illinois. “While I’ve seen a nice 14-pointer on my trail camera, I generally hunt to fill the freezer.”

Others are just trying to take advantage of any time the get to spend afield. “COVID-19 has had us on overdrive all year at work,” Rand from New York said. “I have had zero scouting or prep time this year. Any mature deer works for me!”

When members are targeting a specific buck, nearly 83% learn that the target buck is in their hunting area via trail camera. Forty-eight percent rely on in-person sightings to confirm the presence of a target buck, and 37% rely on sign, such as rubs, scrapes and tracks.

Finally, we asked members what criteria they use when determining if a buck is an animal they want to harvest. Thirty-five percent said they know it when they see, while 24% base their harvest decision on the animal’s estimated age. “I will immediately know if it's a ‘target buck’,” Stephen from Maryland said.

For Rick from Illinois, the decision to harvest a buck is largely based on the experience. “It could be the complete experience,” he said. “If I rattled and grunted in a small buck but really enjoyed the experience, I quite possibly would take that animal.”

Keep your eye on your inbox for the NDA’s last newsletter and survey. But don’t worry – you can sign up for the new NDA/QDMA combined newsletter, which will continue to feature surveys from time to time!