Want to bag a big buck on opening day? Hunt like an owl.


For many hunters, taking a mature 200 pound plus whitetail buck is a lifetime achievement. Big mature bucks are wily and love to prove it to you all season long. If you know there is a bruiser cruising the woods near your stand but can never put eyes on him, take a few tips from one of the fiercest hunters in the woods – the Great Horned Owl.

If you hunt the Maine woods chances are you’ve heard the call of the Great Horned Owl. I hear these magnificent birds routinely as I creep into the tree line under the cover of darkness and even sometimes as I watch the sun set through the mixed hardwoods, across the ridge from my spot deep in the woodland hollow. A lot can be learned from nature – especially from a natural predator.


If you don’t spend a lot of time in the woods before deer season, you are bound to go through an acclimation process. It is a form of detox from the hustle of the everyday world. The quicker you put thoughts of chores and upcoming obligations out of your mind, the quicker you will find peace and the awareness that comes with it. Think of it as hunting yoga.

When squirrels scamper by you without a second glance and the blue jays remain silent, you are relaxed and in the zone. Much like the owl perched on high, be observant of everything and a part of the environment – not an intruder in it. I’ve seen more deer, some passing within feet of my stand, when I achieve this mental state and far less when I bring the outside world in with me.

Be still

Owls define patience. They can sit on their perch watching the forest floor for hours without moving. When they do need to move their head to scan different avenues, they do it slowly and deliberately. So should you.

Any necessary movement made on stand should be minimized. Does that itch really need to be scratched again or are you just fidgeting? When moving your hands, bring them slowly towards your body and up towards your head. Keep the smallest profile you possibly can.

Deer aren’t very good at picking up detail at a distance but they are very keen at noticing movement. Big bucks are the wariest of deer and even the slightest movement can send them bounding over the ridge long before you see them.

Be true

When the owl swoops down on its prey, it is with a precision strike. Waiting for the proper presentation can make all the difference when taking your shot. A clear broadside shot to the vitals will ensure a quick, ethical kill. Pulling the trigger before you have a clear path to the vitals can lead to a wounded and lost animal. Buck fever is nothing to be ashamed of but must be controlled to the very best of your ability. Not many hunters can honestly say their heart doesn’t pound like a jackhammer when a big 10 point buck steps into the open.

What you do next will determine whether you have the hunting tale of a lifetime or an empty cartridge with nothing to show for it. Don’t let your eagerness get the best of you. Put the thoughts of how heavy the buck is or how you will get the mount done out of your mind. Stay calm. Stay focused.

Like the Great Horned Owl, patiently wait for your quarry to be in the best possible position and when the moment comes – strike.

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