My 2021 Buck – Part Three – Tagging the Buck

My 2021 Buck – Part Three
TAGGING THE BUCK

Tagging the Buck

This is the buck that I hunted for 20 days this past season. He was definitely worth the effort.

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.

Tagging the Buck

As long as you move slowly on windy days and glass ahead often, you can usually sneak past bedded deer.

SNEAKING IN

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! 

Tagging the Buck

Hunting the ridges on this farm was a definite adventure. Just getting up to the tops of the ridges took an effort, but the biggest challenge was keeping the deer from knowing I was hunting them.

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. 

Tagging the Buck

This stand location had become familiar to me by November 12. I had hunted it several times but was able to keep it fresh by sleeping near the stand and not spooking deer after dark. This diagram shows the path of the buck and the doe the afternoon when I shot the buck. They were bedded only about 100 yards from my stand.

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.

Tagging the Buck

The hit looked and sounded good so I immediately climbed down and took up the trail. I was standing next to the buck within a couple minutes of him falling. This is the sight that greeted me.

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.

Tagging the Buck

Here is another trail cam photo of the buck from the previous season (2020). By comparing it to the field photos of me holding the buck, you can see that he grew a decent amount.

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.

Comments (76)

  1. Joe Blanchard

    Excellent story!!

    Congratulations Bill!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Joe. Much appreciated.

      1. Bryan

        Hello Bill. I heard u bought some land. Glad to see you got the big one! We need to get together soon!
        Bryan

        1. Bill Winke

          Thanks. That would be great, Bryan. It would be good to see you again. I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas.

  2. Quinten Brown

    Looking forward to the next one!

  3. Ryan

    You are the man Bill! Can’t wait to learn from what you learned. Thanks for always sharing the knowledge!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Ryan. I will get something put together on that within the week.

  4. Josh NY

    Great write-up Bill. Beautiful buck. You earned him!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Josh. Much appreciated.

  5. Chad Brady

    What an Adventure! Really Enjoyed this! Congratulations Bill

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Chad. I appreciate it.

  6. Dan

    Congrats Bill !!! It is amazing after all these years that we still learn so much bowhunting whitetails.

    1. Bill Winke

      Amen Dan. It was a great season for me on that count.

  7. Bruce Bruggink

    Thanks for posting this Bill. I really enjoyed reading the story! You definitely put in the hard work for this one, Congrats !!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks for the support Bruce. I appreciate it.

  8. Dave Smith

    Great story Bill! Congratulations on a great buck. Nice to see some content coming from you,I miss my daily Winke fix,but I understand.Look forward to more. God bless and take care.

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Dave. Much appreciated. I will make a commitment to being more consistent.

  9. Eric Southworth

    Awesome blogs Bill and congratulations! Man it feels good again to connect with your hunting stories!! Definitely my favorite!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Eric. I will do my best to keep them coming. Have a great day and Merry Christmas.

  10. Cody Warnock

    Great story Bill! I throughly enjoyed reading all 3 parts! Felt like I was right there with ya! Congratulations a great deer!

    1. Bill Winke

      I appreciate it Cody. Thanks for checking it out.

  11. Josh

    Just another classic winke hunt! Love it. Thanks for sharing your adventures Uncle Bill! To me you worked harder (physically) for this buck than any other! I thought you were actually joking on the huntr and MW podcast about camping! You were sooo serious! CONGRATULATIONS!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Josh. Since I am now your uncle, do I need to send you a Christmas gift this year? I really do appreciate the note and the support. Have a great day.

  12. Mark Reitz

    Wow. What a cool series of hunts/events. Congrats! You earned this one. Thanks for sharing. So glad to be able to keep up with your experiences again. Have a Merry Christmas! Mark

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Mark. Merry Christmas to you and your family also.

  13. Tim Loe

    Congrats! Your tenacity is impressive! I’ll admit that I wouldn’t put myself through that. Maybe 20 – 30 years ago but not now. That’s an experience you will never forget!

    1. Bill Winke

      Tim, It was more enjoyable than you might think. It was a lot to carry and it got pretty boring going to sleep at 6 PM, but it was surprisingly comfortable. I loved those nights when I woke up at 3 AM and listened to all the nighttime activity. Pretty cool. I really think most anyone would enjoy that part.

  14. Zach Peak

    This was great Bill, thank you for sharing. It took me back to reading your articles in my dad’s Petersen’s mags back in the 90’s.
    I’ve loved following your trajectory over the years. Your passionate following is well deserved.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Zach. I appreciate the note and the support. Merry Christmas to you and your family too.

  15. BRAD K. KREHBIEL

    Awesome story Bill. Spending time in Gods creation is what life is all about. Merry Christmas and I wish you all the best in 2022!!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Brad. I miss it already. Was a fun adventure. Merry Christmas and all the best to you and your family too.

  16. Mike F.

    What an amazing story with an amazing ending! Congrats! When I first heard your idea to sleep out there in a sleeping bag, I was mad I didn’t think of that. I hunt similar situation where all the timber is on the south side of the property and we have to walk the open fields to get there. Could access from water but too far and risky of a ride on salt water with a canoe or kayak. Think sleeping out there would work on an all flat property?

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks for the note Mike, and the support. Yes, I think it would work but you will need to stay downwind of your stand. Maybe hunt with wind blowing to the water and “camp” along the water’s edge. Good luck and Merry Christmas.

  17. Josh Keiter

    I love seeing you enjoy this the way you are Bill! For so many years MW was all I watched. So happy for you and glad to see you still have that killer instinct! Great story and buck!!! Stay well!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Josh. Stay well yourself and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  18. Goltine Plaques

    Awesome story and incredible buck! Congratulations!!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks. Much appreciated. Have a great day and a Merry Christmas.

  19. Don O'Donovan

    Awesome story Bill! That is one thing that separates your hunting shows/articles from the rest, is your in depth mindset of each move and how you navigate with the information you acquire every hunt. Congratulations on a grinder of a season!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Don. I really appreciate it. Hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas.

  20. Kyle Thorpe

    Bill, such an awesome story! You can bet many others will sleep in the woods next season. You’re a legend in the deer hunting arena – thanks for continuing to share your stories, tactics, and strategies with the world. God bless!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Kyle. I appreciate the kind words. I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas.

  21. Emmanuel Schwartz

    What a hunt, congrats on a really nice deer! It must have felt great finally tagging him after all the extra effort put into the hunt.

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Emmanuel. That was one of the most satisfying seasons I have had. Hope you have a Merry Christmas.

  22. Jake Ehilnger

    Congratulations Bill, beautiful buck & what an enjoyable read. Challenges out of our comfort zone is a great way to learn.

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Jake. Like you said, I learned a lot from this past season because I had to try some new ways of hunting. I definitely have a few ideas about what I would do different if I use this style again.

  23. Michael Aldridge

    What a story Bill! Just goes to show that your never ‘too experienced’ or ‘too knowledgable’ to learn. Getting to your stand undetected, past those bedded deer might be the best accomplishment of your hunt! Congratulations on a beautiful whitetail!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Michael. I appreciate the comment and the support. I hope you have a Merry Christmas.

  24. Kurt Bainbridge

    Awesome recap of your tactics to harvest this great buck Bill! While sleeping on the ground, did you ever have deer bust you or blow at you after dark? I love the perseverance and your, outside the box, tactics that make this an awesome learning experience for us all. Congrats on your success. Maybe we should try these tactics on some premium steelhead waters here in Michigan sometime.

  25. Paul Walerczak

    Great blog Bill. Awesome buck. Look forward to reading lessons learned. What a special moment. God Bless.

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Paul. Much appreciated. Wishing you and your family a great Christmas.

  26. Tyler Larsen

    Congrats Bill and what an awesome story. I always followed you at Midwest Whitetails and talked to you a couple times at the Iowa Deer Classic. Glad I found your blog! God Bless!

    1. Bill Winke

      I am glad you did too, Tyler. Thanks for all the support. I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas.

  27. Jason

    Congrats on a dandy buck! You put the time in and did some things most would never do (Sleeping in the woods). You’re stories are always wonderful to read and learn from.

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks for the support Jason. I appreciate it. Hope you have a Merry Christmas.

  28. CHRIS BANTHER

    Man what a buck , and adventure ! Thanks for sharing . Merry Christmas !

    Chris

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Chris. Merry Christmas to you too.

  29. RANDY SAMMET

    Saved reading the story with my Christmas cup of coffee. Thanks for the present Bill. I see you are wearing your old lucky paperclip vest. Merry Christmas to you and your family.—-Randy S.

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Randy. Merry Christmas to you and your family too.

  30. alan lenske

    Like you’re sitting in the room telling the story Bill. What a relaxing day reading your hard work. Merry Christmas.

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Alan. Much appreciated. Merry Christmas to you and your family too.

  31. Jay Bailey

    Love reading these stories with your strategies Bill! They have helped me become a better bow hunter over the years. Thanks for the content.

    1. Bill Winke

      I appreciate the support and the comment. Have a Happy New Year.

  32. Dan Wagner

    Congrats Bill! Just stumbled across the site glad I found it. Always been a fan from early real tree vids to MWW and Petersen’s. Still shooting great bucks Bill!

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks Dan. Much appreciated. I hope you have a Happy New Year.

  33. Wade Johnson

    Congrats on the great buck, Bill, and thanks for taking us along on the adventure. I keep checking back to see the Lessons Learned follow-up you referenced in your #3 post, but I haven’t seen it. Did I miss it or are you still working on it? I look forward to reading that follow-up, when available.

    1. Bill Winke

      Thanks for the support. I have not written that yet. I will get on it very soon.

  34. Tony Felich

    Thanks for sharing this!
    Reading your account kind of depresses me about your stepping away form Midwest Whitetail. I want to take a moment to express my appreciation for what you accomplished with that “show”. Really, it was more like a personal diary. It was beyond just managing land and hunting it, it was a glimpse in to who you are, just a bit. But the way you managed property for mature deer, regardless of trophy-status as such, was different from the other shows out there. Your bow-centric approach made MWT unique and that was your doing. Sure, you would have regional contributors that used an assortment of weapons- which is totally fine- but for those of us devoted to archery tackle, what you did on your property and in your practice was just so compelling. The program is still good, with Jared and Mike, but it lacks the central figure who takes your approach. In their defense however, no one has really done what you did with MWT- at least on the main show level, which extended to Chasing November. NO DISS on Jared/Mike/Owen and the others by complimenting you this way- what they’re doing, while no longer very unique as there are many shows kind of like their approach out there- is still tremendous- but what you did now seems to be even more unique. Successful bow-centric land management like you did is pretty unusual. I could go on…but you are missed, Bill!

    1. Bill Winke

      Tony, I appreciate the comment and the years of support. I am considering getting back into the production of video, but now I am at a different stage. Hopefully, I can come up with a format that will both entertain and educate. Wishing you the best.

  35. Vince

    Bill, this was a tremendous series and you have inspired my 50+ years to get out and do so more “non-typical” methods of trying to score on a decent buck. I have access to both public and private. I shot an 8 on public this year after scouting out a great creek crossing littered with legacy rubs from previous years on a post season February 2021 scouting foray. I marked the location and on Nov.1 when the wind was what I thought it should be for the location, I went in with my saddle and a one stick and set up for an afternoon hunt. By 1:30pm I was situated and at 3 a small buck crossed and was beyond before I even knew what happened. I saw slight movement up back from one of the trails leading to the crossing and sure enough the 8 was making its way along the same path as that other buck. At five yards I slipped an arrow in and watched him go down a mere 40 yards away. It was neat going in once, finding a spot and then setting up on it 5 months later and connecting on a public land buck. It wasn’t a monster but now that’s out of the way, I’m going to hold out and try for a much more mature deer.

    1. Bill Winke

      That is a great hunt Vince. Congrats on the success and thanks for sharing it with us here.

  36. Vince

    So a couple of more questions for you about this buck. Did you ever confirm, was he always bedding on that main-primary ridge? How would you know that he would be heading to the top ag fields instead of the bottom ag fields if they were both cut corn? Because of the wind direction? I read in your Peterson’s Bowhunting article about this hunt that you used the old Elimitrax hip wader style legging covers to try and eliminate your ground scent. Do you still recommend these and where can you find them? Finally, what factors went in to your final and specific stand location? Was there a terrain feature? A trail?, rubs or a scrape? What made you pick those two specific trees to hang your stand in to hunt this particular buck?

    1. Bill Winke

      Vince, there is no “always” with whitetails so I only knew he “often” bedded on that ridge or usually bedded on it based on where I saw him the year before, where I got photos of him the year before and where I saw him during the 2021 season. I am sure he bedded other places too, but that ridge was his favorite spot. The only reason I knew he was using the top fields more than the bottom fields is because I often sat on the bottom fields (in Redneck Blinds) on evenings when I didn’t hunt the ridge and only saw him in the bottom once. That told me one of two things – he was either heading the top field more or was not leaving the timber before dark (feeding on acorn and browse during daylight.) I do think he spent a lot of time feeding in the timber so maybe he didn’t go to the top field either. I didn’t have permission to hunt that and the neighbor wasn’t seeing him much or getting photos of him often.

      I do still recommend the Elimitrax system if you have to cross the areas that deer travel when heading to your stand. I have seen them on e-Bay so I think they are still available in limited quantities. Regarding stand location, I think I did describe that decision in some detail in the series, but to summarize, I tried to find a tree where I could cover all the trails and likely travel routes (the deer don’t just use trails on the sidehills). The goal was to find a tree where I could cover anything up the slope (which would be upwind) and have my scent blow over the heads of any deer traveling down the slope (downwind). It didn’t work super well because I selected a tree too far down over the slope and had to deal with swirling. If I had stayed closer to the top my body would have been above the ridgeline and there would have been less swirling. It is a tricky setup, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t – has to do with exactly where you are in the slope and how thick the leaves are, etc. Anything that slows the wind (trees, leaves, brush, the ridge line itself) will cause swirling. If you can set up in a way that you don’t have this swirling you can expect your scent to blow over the heads of deer downwind. It didn’t work well for me in 2021 but I learned my lessons – again.

      1. Vince

        Bill, once again, thank you so much for your detailed replies. Much appreciated. One other quick note. I appreciated in part three of this series your gratefulness to the big man for the blessing he bestows upon us. It is amazing…. that spiritual realm that we get glimpses of from time to time. I feel blessed as well and much more than I deserve!!! Thanks again!!

  37. John Oneill

    How did you keep the thermals from sucking your wind up to the deer? How did you access without the deer smelling you while they are bedded in the hills nearby?

    1. Bill Winke

      John, thermals aren’t as big of a factor as one think when the wind is blowing. The amount of elevation change determines the strength of the thermals. In this area, it is roughly 400 to 450 feet from the tops of ridges to the valleys below. That is not enough to create strong thermals. When the day wind (what you see on the weather forecast) is light or light and variable, the thermals will have some effect, but otherwise the day winds take a much greater influence on where your scent blows. I only worry about thermals when it is more or less dead still. That sometimes happens, but usually only right at sunset on the occasional day. So, I rarely consider thermals when choosing a stand site since the forecast day winds will have the biggest effect on scent flow. As relates to how I got to the deer without being scented, I always approached into the wind and then only on fairly breezy days. My scent would swirl around in the valley as I climbed to the ridges, but the deer were almost exclusively bedded high and my scent never got to them. The bigger problem was to avoid being seen or heard. The winds helped with that too as it covered my sound (crunching leaves) and blended my movement. I climbed slow and stopped often to glass ahead. If I spotted a bedded deer above, I would stop and watch it for a while and then detour around it. I headed for my afternoon stands in late morning so I had plenty of time to get up there carefully.

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