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Whitetail: The Ultimate Adventure Animal

Jace Bauserman | November 1, 2022

When you think of adventure hunting, where does your brain go? Let me take a guess. Elk? Black Death in Africa? Bighorn in the Yukon? I get it. My mind drifts to these animals and these types of locales as well.


However, adventure hunts are often pricy, and tags, especially when planning a DIY mission, can be brutal to obtain.


My advice is to let North America's most popular game animal scratch your adventure hunting itch this fall. Yes, I'm talking about the white-tailed deer, but not referring to a Midwest treestand, shooting tower, or ground blind experience. Instead, I recommend a hardcore western whitetail sojourn on the sage-dappled plains where spot-and-stalk is the preferred method.

The whitetail is one of the most adaptable creatures on earth. In my youth, the cedar-sprinkled canyons, grama grass dotted hills, and pancake-flat cactus flats near my Colorado home held two critters: pronghorn and giant mule deer. That's no longer the case.


About 10 years ago, my scouting missions started to turn up a whitetail or two. Today, my local grassland landscape is chock-full of whitetails, and there are some giant bucks. The deer are flourishing, as they are in many locations across the West. The excellent news for whitetail fanatics is western whitetail tags aren't hard to come by, and most deer hunters in the West will turn up their nose at a gagger whitetail and put all of their attention on mule deer. Not to mention, western whitetail states are loaded with public dirt in the form of National Forest, National Grasslands, Walk-In Access, etc.


Possibly, I have the gears in your brain turning a bit, and this western whitetail adventure seems like something you want to look into further. Good. Let's continue. Here are some things that make this hunt a true adventure, and these are some things you'll need to know and do to punch your tag.



You didn't come West to sit in a treestand and hope a deer walks by in straight-wall rifle distance. You're toting a long-range shooter topped with top-end glass. Benelli's B.E.S.T. Lupo Bolt-Action shooter is a great western choice, and I tend to lean toward faster, flatter, long-range calibers like the .300 Win. Mag. Out West, this caliber is not overkill, as shots tend to be 300-plus yards. Yes, you can get lucky, come over a hill on a bedded buck and get a chip shot, but the terrain is open and unforgiving, and you'll often send lead at a distance.


I titled this segment "Shoot!" because that's what you'll need to do leading up to your western whitetail hunt. Spend some time at the range with your weapon ringing steel or punching paper at distances between 300 and 550 yards. The marksmanship this hunt can and often will call for adds to the adventure.


While at the range, get off the bench. You can bank on covering miles on your feet each day, crawling across the cactus-riddled ground, and slithering on your stomach like a worm. You need to be able to shoot well off shooting sticks, which are a must, and prone off a backpack. If you’re up for some training, give Outdoor Solutions ( a look. This hands-on long-range shooting school has locations in Texas, Utah, and Michigan.



I had a buddy that came out to my neck of the western world to chase whitetails in October on the plains. After day one, he looked at me, his cap stained with sweat, dirt streaked across his face, and cactus spines embedded in his knees, and said, "Dude, there are other places in the world to live and hunt. You don't have to do it here. That was brutal." 


I give you that quote because the country is rough and unforgiving. If you hunt in October, you can experience every weather condition, from 80-plus degree days to a blizzard. In addition, you'll likely battle a rattlesnake or two, and it will seem like something pokes you every time you crawl or lay flat on your belly.


You will need a pair of knee pads and heavy-duty leather gloves, and while I don't love snake boots, I like a 400-gram Thinsulate leather boot with at least 10-inch uppers.


You'll also want a First-aid kit with blister healing material and tweezers for removing cactus spines — some so small you'll need a spotting scope to see them in your skin. As for clothing, bring the kitchen sink. Have everything from cotton-free moisture-wicking warm-weather gear to insulated jackets and pants.



I'm not going to pound the get-in-shape drum too hard, but 25,000 steps is just an average day in the western whitetail woods. You'll be going hard, and while most of the time you'll be moving from vantage point to vantage point — there are lots of hills and rises — you'll also likely get in several stalks.


Optics are essential, as spying on deer from a mile or more is the norm. Out West, seeing them doesn't guarantee a shot. Once located, you'll have to pick multiple landmarks; I recommend photographing as many as possible on your smartphone so you can refer back to them during the stalk. I also like to pin my location and the target animal's location on HuntStand or another digital mapping app. The more references you have during your stock, the better.


I haven't been on a western whitetail stock where I didn't have to climb, run, crawl, and slither. Chances are good if you can get in position for a shot, you'll have worked extremely hard, and the better shape you're in — the more you can control your breathing and get steady on target quickly — the better your chances of putting a round on the mark.


Western whitetail hunting is an adventure. Not only are you dealing with an animal capable of eluding your best-laid plans, but you'll be chasing them on the semi-open ground, where locating them is just the first piece of the puzzle. The adventure and satisfaction that comes from finding a buck, stalking that buck, and putting that buck on the ground are second to none. Feed your whitetail fire while scratching your western adventure itch. You’ll thank me later.

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