Ask Dr. Dave About Whitetails: Finding Bucks

Ernesto B. from Southern California writes to say that he scouts and finds good deer before the season, but then doesn’t find them later. “What am I doing wrong?” he asks.

I’ve never hunted Southern California, but let me tell you my story. Years ago (I’ve bowhunted 50 years), I was hunting hard, but only shooting does and small bucks. Roger Rothhaar, a tremendous whitetail hunter and author, told me I was hunting the wrong deer.

Dr. Dave Samuel

“Dave, you need to start thinking like the older bucks, scout for them instead of the small bucks. Start thinking like a big buck,” he said.

He said the bigger bucks are like a different species, and you need to treat them as such. Thus, I changed my approach to hunting. I moved farther from the fields and roads and into much thicker cover. I scouted more in the spring when trails were move visible, started paying attention to wind more … tried to think like a bigger buck. And gosh darn if I didn’t start seeing and taking bigger bucks. I also started seeing a ton more smaller bucks as well.

Since then I’ve talked to Roger again. He has moved from Ohio to Iowa, and he now hunts at a different level. Today, he scouts for and hunts those huge, monster bucks that are never seen until they get hit by a car or shot. Having made that move, he now sees a few of those monsters, but also sees a ton more big bucks. So, over the years Roger has hunted three levels of deer: the average deer, the big deer and the huge deer.

I’m not sure if that helps Ernesto, but I hope you have a great fall. Best regards,

Dr. Dave writes a weekly column for If you have a deer question for Dr. Dave, e-mail your question to Dr. Dave in care of Tom Kacheroski, senior editor of‘s content at

Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for over 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for 30 years.


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