Whitetail hunting usually doesn’t take place in what we like to term as the backcountry. It isn’t above 10,000’and usually not very many miles away from civilization at times. But hunting these critters is very addictive like any other style and type of hunting.
Glassing big whitetails in their summer patterns is very fun as well. When I am glassing whitetails that will easily make book I also realize that when they shed their velvet they become a very different critter. They go from being very predictable to being very difficult to locate and pattern after the early part of October.
This was very true about a buck that I had nicknamed “Tank.” He was a mid to high scoring 160” buck that I had watched through my glass on numerous days in the late summer months. He came out with many other bucks to allow me to watch him and determine his age and rough score. I could almost pin point the location to within 100 yards of where he would come out of the timber headed to feed. And I could almost pinpoint to within 15 minutes of when he would do this. I felt we had a relationship whether he knew it or not.
The opener came and gone and I didn’t see any sight of Tank anywhere. Again he became a ghost and I was left scratching my head wondering where he had gone. I continued to scout and sit in my stand. I had almost given up trying to find this buck but knew that in November the rut may make him show himself. The only problem is that it would be rifle season and I only had my archery tag. That is just a slight problem….nothing I haven’t done before!
So it finally happened. I caught a glimpse of tank on November 6th. Rifle season was under way and I wasn’t the only hunter in the area. I knew I had to make the right moves and I knew that I wouldn’t kill this buck by just sitting in my stand. I needed to go to my roots and hunt like I love to hunt. Spot and stalk!
On November 8th I still hunted into his bedding area where I was sure he was holding tight with a hot doe. I watched as a rifle hunter worked the area but didn’t turn up the buck. But I also didn’t see the buck come out. I knew he was still in there. I inched forward ever so slowly and it happened all at once. I saw a doe bedded staring at me and shortly thereafter I picked up the image of antlers bedded close by her in the timber. I tried my best to get within range but there were too many deer bedded in the area and they busted out of there.
I quickly pushed to the top of an open ridge to try and figure out where they were going to go. Luckily I caught them pushing into a bottom full of hardwoods and I was very confident that they would make their way back the same way that evening.
By early afternoon I was settled in. I picked a small group of timber and made a makeshift blind and waited. I had trails on both sides of me well within bow range. The wind direction was right and it didn’t take long to have deer filing by my position. Daylight was quickly fading as I was sure he had to show himself but I knew he would more than likely be one of the last deer to come my way.
I saw antler tips moving my way through the grass at 125 yards. It was him. He was very unmistakable with his matching kickers on each G2. He was moving on a trail that would put him coming by at 30 yards. This was perfect! Then he hit a trail that must have been taken by a hot doe and he turned and moved to the right. He was at 50 yards broadside as I came to full draw. He caught my movement and froze peering my way.
Usually I aim as if the deer is about 10 yards closer when they are alert such as this. I failed to do so on this shot. I squeezed my release and watched as my arrow hit the buck very high as he ducked my arrow. He ran off and stopped at about 75 yards and looked my way. I could see the non lethal hit as my arrow had hit him above the spine.
At that time I vowed that I was going to kill that buck and nothing else. I owed it to myself and to the deer that I would be putting a tag on him by the end of season! I hunted hard for the next week as often as I could trying to locate him again. It wasn’t until the 15th when I finally located him with another doe. I watched them go to a bedding area and not come back out.
So here I was a week later still hunting much the same as I was the last time I was on this buck. Regardless the initial outcome was much the same as I bumped another deer and it sent all the other out of the timber into an open field. Again I hit the top of the ridge to watch. I spotted 4 bucks standing in the open wondering what was going on. Right after that came Tank running out and joining them. I figured this was the end of this hunt until a hot doe ran by them. Tank postured up and challenged the other bucks and they quickly turned the other direction.
Tank pursued the doe and she wasn’t having any of it. She turned and came back toward the timber. I looked ahead of them and saw two draws that came together at the top of the ridge. I was certain they would move up the closer of the two draws. I also knew if I could get to the top of the other draw they may come within bow range.
I put feet to ground and began to run on the back side of the ridge. I ran down that ridge to the bottom where it led to one of the draws that would meet up with the draw I was certain they would come up. I was out of breath as I reached the top and peered down just in time to see a doe working her way up towards me. Right behind her was tank with his nose the ground!
I nocked an arrow and tried to control my breathing. The doe came trotting by at 30 yards just above me. I waited and he wasn’t coming on her trail. I looked down and saw him much closer as he was cutting the top of the draw to catch her. He came trotting by at 18 yards as I tried to grunt in order to stop him. He slowed and I was already at full draw. The arrow found its mark as he passed by but a little farther back than expected!
I watched as he ran off into the hardwoods bottom and I decided to give him plenty of time. It began to rain and I resumed my search at 3 pm. I wasn’t finding any blood as the rain had washed everything away. Rain turned to snow as I picked apart the terrain and followed it as I thought a wounded deer would. About 175 yards later I spotted a rack sticking up from the grass. He looked much larger than I had thought!
As I walked up to this buck he began to grow. During the last week of hunting him I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to his antlers. I remember what he looked like in velvet in August but it can be so hard to judge them at that time.
As I quartered and packed out my buck I realized that I had finally outsmarted one of the public land mature bucks in the area that many others knew about but were unable to capitalize on. It was a very rewarding hunt indeed!