I’ve seen buck hunts (and even friendships) ruined when hunters don’t decide—before the buck shows up—who gets first shot.

  • Is it the guy who scouted the buck in the summer?
  • Is it the guy who’s closest?
  • Is it the guy who spotted the buck first?

No matter what you decide, decide before you go.

I’ve seen grown men change into selfish babies when a truly big buck shows up in range (including this one).  Hunters who’ve been friends for years are suddenly vying for who gets to shoot.

This puts everything in rush mode (a terrible way to make a good ethical and accurate shot). Whether the buck gets killed or not, if you get this step wrong, there could be bad feelings for years.

Don’t be surprised that your hunting partner who says

“I don’t really care about big antlers,”

is suddenly captivated at the sight of a really big buck.  It’s likely the biggest he’s ever seen and is why he previously said

“I don’t really care about big antlers…”

He’ll be taking a shot at the buck before you can even get your glass down and rifle unslung.

And there will be bad feelings.

Better yet, decide who gets the shot before the buck shows up.

Most of the experienced big buck hunters I know fully understand that “Spotter gets the shot.”

This saves a lot of heartache and allows you to be rooting for you partner rather than competing with him.

Recently I was in a situation with a friend and very accomplished buck hunter: Travis Hobbs (ntrlbrnhunter on Rokslide forums).

We both well understood the concept of spotter goes first, and is one reason I choose to hunt with him.

When Travis picked up a big buck in his Swaro’ NLs as daylight flooded the hillside, the shot was his (that buck is in the lead video of this post.)

It didn’t matter that I’d been hunting the same buck since September…I’d glassed the same hillside he did and failed to see the buck in the spawning light.

As Travis is a true gentleman and knew I had a history with this buck, he offered me first shot. The buck was out of range for my capabilities and equipment, so I declined and got behind the spotter to help him call the shot.

Although that buck lived to fight another day, I was truly rooting for my friend.  Besides his generous offer of letting me go first, I know

“Spotter Gets First Shot.”

And that’s fine by me.

Rokslide Members can discuss this blog post here

If you like hunting big mule deer, check out my book:

Hunting Big Mule Deer.

Signed copies are available in the Rokslide store, or you can go Amazon for faster delivery.




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Robby Denning started hunting mule deer in the late 1970’s, only missing one season in 35 years. At 25, he gave up the pursuit of all other big-game to focus on taking the best bucks possible. He began hunting the West on a DIY budget hunting an average of 30 days a year for mule deer. Robby loves the hunt as much as the kill and the entire process from research to scouting to hunting. He’s killed four bucks over 200 inches in the last 15 seasons, mostly on easily-obtained tags. He owns a public-land scouting service and runs a private-land outfitting business helping other hunters in their pursuit of deer and elk. Robby has scouted and hunted literally thousands of square miles of mule deer country and brings a wealth of knowledge about these experiences with him. To him, the weapon of choice is just a means-to-an-end and will hunt with bow, rifle, or muzzleloader – whatever it takes to create an opportunity to take a great mule deer. He is also the author of "Hunting Big Mule Deer" available on Amazon. Robby believes all of creation is from God for man to manage, respect, and through which to know its Creator