My 2021 Buck – Part Three
TAGGING THE BUCK
By November 12, I was starting to get burned out from all the nights spent sleeping under the stars and the overall lack of sightings.
Not only had I not seen my target buck in a week, I had not seen a single shooter during that time. No mature buck sightings in seven long days.
I hate to admit it and sound like a wimp, but I was ready for a break – I planned to head back home after my evening hunt on November 12.
I needed to get some things done around home that I had put off and I needed a break to recharge my batteries before coming back a few days later for another round. Sometimes success comes when you have all but given up. That describes November 12 perfectly.
PICKING THE STAND
With the wind from the northwest, I had a choice to make. I could hunt the stand I had on the south side of the ridge, the one I had hunted several times already, the one I had been in when the buck smelled me on October 29.
Or, I could sneak in and pick a new spot farther out on the ridge, closer to where the deer bedded in the hopes of making something happen.
It was tempting, especially given that I planned to rest the farm for a few days anyway. The spontaneous part of me wanted to press in, but my conservative side quickly over-ruled. I have learned the hard way that it rarely pays off to be aggressive in this game. I would spend that last evening before my break hunting the stand I put up back on October 29 and take my chances with a clean exit.
I could write a full blown two part series on all the things I learned from hunting these bedding areas every day. Normally, I have only hunted deep on ridges in the mornings, preferring to hunt closer to food in the evenings.
But the deer weren’t making it to the food before dark, at least not many of them. And the only place I had ever seen that buck in two years was on, or very close to, that ridge.
One of the most interesting things I learned was how effectively a careful hunter can sneak past bedded deer. I only went in to these bedding areas late in the morning and only when the wind was blowing hard enough to rustle the leaves in the trees. This would cover my sound and help blend my movement.
Some days I just couldn’t hunt the ridge. I had to hunt somewhere else and wait until the wind blew harder. On those still days I hunted my Redneck Blinds down in the bottom field.
To sneak past bedded deer you have to see them first. You have to move really slow and glass ahead, but it is amazing how mellow the deer are when they are “safely” bedded.
As long as they weren’t looking right at me, I could slowly creep past them at a distance of under 100 yards. A few times I actually found them sleeping! What a spectacle that is! One pretty nice buck was stretched out like a dog and slept the whole time that I snuck past him and then put up my stand at less than 50 yards!
If I hadn’t seen him lift his head at one point, I would have thought he was dead.
On my trip up the ridge on November 12, there were two bucks I needed to navigate around. One spotted me and stood up from his bed about 50 yards farther up the slope.
I immediately stopped and watched him carefully until he looked away and then I dropped down behind a tree trunk. After another 15 minutes he gave it up and wandered off toward the top of the ridge, not really spooked but just moving on.
The other buck was bedded about 70 yards from my tree, in plain sight. He wasn’t looking my way and somehow by moving slowly I got past him and up into the stand without him noticing.
Good thing I started early because it took me a full hour to gain that last 150 yards to my stand. But, now I was in without bumping a deer. I could never have done that, not even close, back in the filming days when I had a cameraman and tons of filming gear with me everywhere I went.
SPOTTING THE BUCK
I didn’t see many deer, but I do remember a doe stood up from behind a deadfall less than 40 yards away about halfway through the sit. Like I said, it is amazing what you can get away with when it is windy and you go slow. She headed up the slope and then toward the big ag fields on top.
An hour before the end of legal shooting time, I spotted movement out of the corner of my eye – to the right, farther out on the ridge. A buck had just stood up and was shaking himself about 100 yards away. Throwing up my binos, I was shocked to see that it was the 6 X 5. He had no idea I was there.
He started slowly drifting toward the top of the ridge. I feared he would cross over the top and I was tempted to grunt at him, but then I saw a doe angling my way and knew I was in business.
They were moving very slowly toward the big ag field farther out on top. He was following her but staying about 10 yards to her downwind side, which was perfect for me since I was downwind of the ridge top.
The doe slowly followed the ridge, stopping often to stand and look. He stopped whenever she did and the entire process was rubbing my nerves raw as I waited nearby. Finally, the doe was past my stand, following the top of the ridge 50 yards away.
The buck was straight up the slope from me, 38 yards out (I had ranged a stump in that direction before he got there). I didn’t have a lot of wide shooting lanes from that stand because I had tried to keep my impact as small as possible when I put the stand up. I was going to need some luck.
When he stopped this time, I was able to find a small lane through the thin branches between us. Luck found! I held my 40 yard pin low on his chest and triggered the shot.
He never moved, never tried to drop to load his legs to run. I guess he was so focused on the doe he wasn’t really paying a lot of attention to other sounds. Plus the wind helped muffle the sound of the shot. That is what I had hoped.
The last thing I had wanted to do was stop him at that distance. When you stop them they are on red alert and you never know what they are going to do when they see the bow limbs move and/or hear the release.
The hit was good and I heard that hollow thump we all love. It’s the same sound you would get if you shot a watermelon. He immediately took off toward the top of the ridge and was quickly out of sight on the other side.
I figured he was done for, so I just climbed down and started following the running tracks in the leaves, which soon showed red as the trail progressed. I was there only a couple minutes after he fell about 100 yards from the stand.
What a feeling. I just pointed up and said, “Thank you Lord.” What a blessing to be part of a moment like this. It is humbling to know that God made all this for us to enjoy.
I spent a few minutes quietly soaking it up. You don’t get many times like this in your life so you have to soak each of them up for all it’s worth.
That’s it. I gutted the buck and headed down the ridge – no need to be quiet anymore! A neighboring farmer helped me get the buck out and I was soon on the road to my parents and then home.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM THIS HUNT
Gosh, I learned a ton. I learned more during those 20 days than during any other season I can remember. The many lessons resulted from having to hunt in a way I had never hunted before due to the challenges of a farm with very difficult access.
Rather than go into those lessons here, I will just write another Hunt Blog soon that touches on all the things I learned. Look for that in about a week.