Country or City Bucks, What’s Your Preference?

Posted on June 23, 2020



The country is lyric, the town dramatic. When mingled, they make the most perfect musical drama. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



I’m out on the lonely road now, a road that will lead to my vehicle several miles away. It is darker than a pocket as the snow continues to drift lazily down upon me. There are no artificial lights out here, only those on the front of trucks traversing the logging path.

Three had already passed me without even putting a break light on. Who does that in this country to a fellow hunter, especially one with his rifle slung hiking in the black of night fall with snow piling up around him? I’d like to tell you my thoughts on that, but it might be best if I hold my shot and leave it at that, a story for another time.



So how did I get so far from my truck in a day’s journey, you may be asking? Chalk it up to a country buck that obviously never learned he was designed to circle.

Country Buck

Locating his fresh track at first light was advantageous for me. As he led me up the ridge, his spoor weaved in and around numerous doe prints, none of which he followed. Bucks bed high and rut low, and this guy was giving off all the classic signs of a tired bar hopper unable to locate a lover.

Reaching a bench just below the top gave me pause to stop for a few moments and do some watchful waiting. And magically, there he was, walking up to the summit. And as suddenly as he first appeared, he disappeared just as quickly. With my rifle now leveled, I anxiously waited for him to reappear beyond the screen of spruce firs. And he did, eventually, only it was where I first observed him. Yes, I know, this is the point where the gun should have sounded, but I was not prepared for what I was witnessing.



And yet again, the buck disappeared. Okay Bernier, what are you going to do now, I asked myself? Following several minutes of personal deliberations, I began to methodically walk toward where I last saw the buck. And as I closed the distance, I heard a thud, immediately followed by flashes of brown and white bounding straight away from me and down the opposite side of the ridge. And in case you were wondering, no, there was no shot opportunity.



The reason this buck never reappeared was because when I lost sight of him, it was due to him actually bedding right there. So, now we were off to the races. After verbally chiding myself for missing a golden opportunity at an unsuspecting buck, off I struck on his running trail.

Down the ridge he went, across the road where I first located his track and then began a straight line bearing directly East. I jumped him three times during the chase before getting close enough to actually fire at him. I can only guess, but the longer I tracked him the less bothered he was by me. Was I no longer an enemy to him? Did he believe I was now more of a curiosity than threat? I don’t fully know as I cannot speak the whitetail language. What I did know was I was getting closer and closer to him.

It was mid-afternoon when he catapulted from yet another resting spot. I served a volley of rounds through thick timber at a buck that seemed to run faster at the sound of each successive shot. Regrettably, at least for me, there was no sign of a hit, no blood staining the white, no patches of dun colored hair, no dead pile of deer flesh lying prone upon the forest floor. Nope, just my wounded pride of being less than a marksman at a target I should have connected with.

The race had been run and today, he won. It indeed was a long walk out to that lonely road first described in the opening.

The Difference

Whitetails are whitetails regardless of where they reside. They are the most adaptable big game animal in the world. The wilderness, places that I primarily hunt, are also similar so as far as vastness is concerned. The difference lies in what is required by the whitetail deer to inhabit each terrain, such as food, water and shelter and their proximity to each other.



Deer, like bass, are drawn to land structure and edges. This, coupled with a variety of nutritional foods and water, are all ingredients that solicit whitetails to take up residence and call a place home. When I find such a location, I make every attempt to learn all I can about it, the way whitetails are using it, and where their food source is located.



A city is a place where populations are higher, more concentrated, a location whose inhabitants have little necessity to travel far in order to have all their needs met. Whereas, in the country, a great deal of hoof-pounding is required to obtain that which is necessary to subsist and procreate. The reason is simple, doe family groups live a long way apart, and because of this, bucks looking for love during the rut put on countless miles visiting these different groups regularly.

City Buck

A city buck has everything he needs and wants right under his nose: food, water, shelter and skirt-wearing does. At this point in my deer hunting career, I much prefer to hunt a city buck as opposed to those that dwell in the country. Bucks residing in areas with higher concentrations of deer – the City – typically will not travel the same long distances as those bucks that live in the country. Why? Because they don’t have to. Plus, having it all under their nose plays well into the buck’s propensity to be lazy.



Slowly, very, very slowly I inched my way along the well-worn path traversed by many whitetails. I had located an exceptionally large set of buck prints the day prior and was now concentrating my efforts within the confines of this city.

One advantage, and perhaps the most significant, to hunting a city is you don’t need snow. And if you go slow, you will know, because the ground will show what has transpired. There was a scrape the size of my truck bed with tracks of various sizes in and near it. The licking branch hanging over the oval was beat up, along with three trees just beyond the scrape that were rubbed.



My heart began to beat a little faster. I was getting more and more excited by what I was seeing. By all indications, this part of the city was a well visited hang out. I had not gone more than a quarter mile in four hours of still-hunting, a huge difference in relation to hunting a country buck.

What was that I just heard? The wind was blowing strong enough to distort the sound I thought I’d heard. Then I heard it again. This was not the creaking of a tree in the wind, that was definitely a guttural grunt.

Thankfully, due to my stomach more than any hunting savvy, I decided to stop. It was snack time and I wanted a comfortable spot to sit and enjoy it. I found a suitable log to sit upon forty yards on the downwind side of the trail. It was a good ambush spot and with the sunshine hitting me, it provided a bit of warmth. Hopefully, a buck, not just any buck, but the buck whose hoofs sank deeply into the soil would stroll down the cobblestone street I was surveilling.



There was the grunt again, only this time it was much closer. Standing now with rifle at the ready, I strained to hear any further whitetail talk, of which there was none. And then, just as I was relaxing a bit, I spied a buck coming on the trail. Only bits and pieces of him at first and then, once he cleared some forest debris, I counted three tines up, saw the big body, and without any further thought, the next sound on this city block was a boom. The thunder-stick had spoken.


The End Game

Remember this, dead is dead regardless of the methodology used, or the miles gobbled up to get to that end. There’s not a purist among us that would pass up a slam dunk opportunity at a big buck. Few go looking for this kind of chance, but when it presents itself, no hunter that I know is going pass it up, in order to chase the beast 15 miles or so before shooting him. Yes, we want the adventure and, yes, we want the excitement, but we need the charm, intrigue, and even the uncertainty of how the chase will eventually end.



A city buck offers the same challenge as his country cousins, only in a much smaller arena. And lest we forget, even city bucks can and will go on a walkabout every now and again, especially when looking for love. The older I get, the slower I become, period. It happens, it’s part of life.
I’ve chased many a country buck and shot them a long way from home and relished those chases. Up and over ridges, down into bogs of cedar, cranberry and spruce and a lot of in-between-ground I have trod on the big buck track. I will, with boyish enthusiasm, take it up again should the right size track present itself! However, rather than bemoan the inevitability of aging, I now purposefully look for a big aged city buck; a buck I can overtake. The quest can still take the length of a day, but the miles saved off my hide help me to keep coming back – day after day.

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer