A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine killed a tremendous buck in the closing days of the 2013-14 Texas archery season.
That late December hunt reminded yours truly once again that when it comes to chasing big bucks – like the one that my pal Dale Moses had nicknamed “Captain Hook” – there’s one rock-solid principle that hunters must always keep in play.
And that’s to always hunt with the wind in your favor. No matter what.
A stickler for a variety of scent control measures – from bathing in non-scented soap to washing his clothes in non-scented detergent and always wearing scent-controlling clothing when in the field – Moses’ hunting of the giant Lone Star State buck was still hindered at times.
As shifting winds sent the breeze tumbling from an unfriendly direction, one that would keep Moses out of the various stands he had set up on the North Texas property where “Captain Hook” roamed.
“The ability to scent a hunter is the number one defense that a deer has and mature bucks, they especially trust their noses,” said Moses.
“The first year that I hunted a big non-typical I killed several years ago – I nicknamed him Bullwinkle – he came in downwind and scented me one day and then went nocturnal for the rest of the season.”
In a subsequent season, Moses eventually tagged that buck.
But it wasn’t until he got the wind right and in his favor, a truth that continues to play a key role in Moses deer hunting success that now includes nearly 10 record-class whitetails.
With yet another big mature buck on his radar this fall, Moses’ scent-control regime is extensive, consistent and revolves around the idea of always hunting the wind correctly.
That same core hunting principle has driven the impressive track record of Ronnie Parsons, a 70-something bowhunter from the Lubbock, Texas, area who now has 43 Pope & Young Club class whitetails to his credit since he began chasing bucks with a stick-and-string more than 30 years ago.
During that lengthy and successful bowhunting career, the likable Parsons has learned that a hunter can never – NEVER – cheat the wind.
“Probably one of the main lessons (I’ve learned) is that if the wind isn’t perfect, don’t hunt a stand,” Parsons has advised me in past visits. “I don’t care how much you cover up with scent eliminators or if you use sent-control suits, if the wind isn’t right, don’t hunt the stand.”
Like Moses, Parsons does all that he can to contain his scent from showering in scent-free soap to washing his clothes in a UV and scent-free detergent to storing his clothing in a scent-free container.
But even with all of that being true, he still doesn’t play around with the wind direction.
“If I’m hunting a big buck and when I get there the wind is perfect, but 10 or 15 minutes into the hunt it becomes somewhat marginal, I’ll get out of the stand,” said Parsons.
“If I have time to go somewhere else, I will. Otherwise, I’ll just quit hunting for the day.”
If that sounds extreme, keep in mind the hefty taxidermy bill that Parsons has acquired over the years.
With all of this talk about the wind direction being duly noted, keep in mind that Parsons isn’t saying that wind is an evil thing when it comes to deer hunting success.
In fact, he believes just the opposite.
“You need a little wind,” he said. “If I’m going to hunt a big buck, I never hunt a stand in light and variable winds. You need a good, steady breeze in the five to 10 mph range.
“If it is a good steady breeze, you know it isn’t going to (suddenly) swap on you. With a light and variable wind, everything seems to settle. Your scent seems to hang in the air and the light wind just doesn’t move it out of the way.”
If you’re tempted to think that being a stickler for hunting a stand on the right wind direction is only a Texas thing, think again.
The Midwest’s Myles Keller, for many years one of the nation’s top bowhunters with well more than 30 Pope & Young whitetails to his credit, told me a few years ago at a Texas-based deer hunting seminar that basically, I stink.
Before he then grinned and ruefully admitted that he stinks too.
At least when it comes to the olfactory senses of a big, mature whitetail buck, the kind that Keller specialized in tagging for many, many years.
According to Keller, the bottom line is that whether a hunter is perched in a stand in Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Saskatchewan or Kansas, if a mature whitetail gets the faintest whiff of essence de hunter, he’s gone.
And perhaps before a hunter even knows that the big old buck is there in the vicinity.
“Natural predators do everything right and are still only successful about half the time,” said Keller. “A deer can smell 1,000 times better than we can.
“It’s a sport for us; it’s survival for the animal,” he added. “A deer’s nose really puts the old kibosh on you pretty quickly. We’re the amateurs, he’s the pro.”
Which is why perhaps the single greatest truth in chasing big whitetails anywhere in the country is simply this: always hunt the wind right.
Each and every time, even if that means getting out of a stand that you’ve only spent a few moments in prior to an unexpected wind shift.
Because at the end of the day, hunting the wind right is really the only surefire way to beat a whitetail buck’s nose.
And to avoid getting busted as a big set of antlers and a buck’s white flag heads for the next county, maybe for good.
But don’t take my word on the subject.
Instead take the wise and time tested words of bowhunters Dale Moses, Ronnie Parsons and Myles Keller.
A trio of hunters with more than 80 Pope & Young Club caliber whitetail trophies hanging on the wall behind them.
Trophy bucks that are proof positive that their advice works. No matter what direction the wind might happen to be blowing from.