Here it is, the middle of the 2015 deer hunting season I've dubbed "The Drive For Five". Simply put, I'm striving to harvest my fifth shooter buck in five seasons. When I say shooter buck, I'm referring to 150" or bigger at this point in my hunting journey. To say the least, the season to date has been difficult. I thought I would take a moment and outline some of the obstacles and what I have learned the past several days.
I saw a post on Archery Talk where the question was asked....."How do you hoist bow / gear into the tree?" I realized by reading the post that sharing my process might be beneficial to some. As a result, I have outlined my process that I feel is very efficient, quiet, and easy to implement.
1. Backpack attached to bottom of climbing rope with carabiner.
2. Retractable hunting hoist attached to backpack.
3. Bow attached to end of hunting hoist.
4. Climb up to stand with lifeline attached to prusik knot (Slide up knot as you ascend).
5. Pull up backpack attached to the lifeline and hang on limb (retractable hunting hoist lets out line as you pull up backpack).
6. Pull up bow attached to hunting hoist.
This system eliminates pulling up a ton of weight all at once and makes handling the gear easier vs. trying to unpack a bow that is attached to a backpack. In addition, the backpack serves as a weight to hold the line tight as you slide up the prusik knot. Always remember to keep your anchor point or the prusik knot above you to limit the drop distance if you slip and fall. See the video below illustrating I can go from the ground and have equipment in the stand in just over a couple of minutes.
As I reflect on the past three seasons, it is critical to evaluate common threads and distinct differences associated with the three bucks harvested. I hope through this process to better understand the property and how to improve my hunting skills to focus on more mature deer in future seasons.
To begin the process, I had to outline the three individual bucks and the details around each hunt, which has been completed with the links found along the right column of this blog page under the title "Successful Hunts". Below are the common threads and distinct differences to develop my conclusions on how to improve.
In conclusion, the above clearly helps me understand what I have done well and what I need to work to improve. I hope through this process others have learned or at least will conduct a similar review on buck harvests. The additional or background information below is broken out by category with details on each buck. This information was used to help determine the above common threads and distinct differences.
Date of Harvest:
Location on Property: The images below illustrate where each buck was shot on the property and includes the associated tree stand location.
Travel Direction and associated Topography, Terrain, and Vegetation:
Wind Direction / Location of Buck to Stand:
Camera Evidence or Sightings to Understand Travel Patterns:
Crossing of In and Out Trail:
Score and Age:
Since purchasing the property in 2006, I was fortunate enough to harvest my third buck yesterday. I started hunting hard on November 4th, on stand through each day. As previously blogged, it was shaping up to be a difficult hunting season.
This buck was first noticed on the property on Nov. 6th (see video below). The buck visited the watering hole at 1:00 pm (didn't change the clock on the camera after end of daylight savings time as it reads 2:00 pm). This helps confirm that bucks do travel in the middle of the day. Since he approached from the west to the watering hole, I had a pretty good idea of the route he was going. There were one of two options. Over the years, I have come to realize that bucks travel on my property in a circular pattern. They travel through the food plots on an east to west or west to east line. That means they either circle from the north or south. I believe this has a great deal to do with the topography of the property. I gambled that he was working the north side.
As a result, I had been hunting the stand on the NE corner of the property since it was producing more sightings than any other on the property this season. This also has to do with the topography, plus the stand concealed me very well. The down side is that I had no shots further than 20 yards.
At about 8:30 am, a lone doe crossed to the north of my stand going towards the east. A few minutes later, a 1.5 year old buck followed her exact path indicating she was a hot doe. My hope was this would be a mature buck, but that was not the case. I started to think the morning was going to be a bust, when I heard another deer approaching. Upon glassing the buck, I could see immediately it was the main frame 8 point with a few kicker points. This was the biggest buck I had seen this year on the property, either on stand or via trail cameras. As a result, I made the quick decision to shoot at this one.
He followed the exact path of the doe, which meant my shot would be 20 yards. I picked up the bow off of the hanger and the routine that bow hunters practice took over. I drew and placed the pin behind the shoulder and tracked him until he eventually stopped right on my trail to the stand. He was quartering away from me and just barely in the shooting window I had. There was a tree to my right that if not careful could become an issue.
I released the arrow and the shot made an extremely loud POW! It sound as if I had missed and hit a tree directly. However, the shot looked good and I was confident that it was a kill shot. After the buck ran off, not limping, I started to rationalize that the shot must have passed through the kill zone and hit the opposite shoulder. If that were the case, I couldn't figure out why he ran off without limping. Upon climbing down from the stand, I could not find my arrow anywhere. This was evidence that maybe I did stick it in the opposite shoulder and hoped the tracking would be short.
The shot was made at 8:45 am and I waited 2 hours before going after the buck. It took 40 yards before finding any blood or hair...not a good sign. I then began to find blood and white hair. Now it was getting interesting. The blood trail became heavy with a lot of blood being lost. At about 150 yards, I had to make the decision to either back out or continue trailing. There was no evidence of the buck bedding down, but I did find two areas where he stood. I also found a set of weeds that had blood at high levels and in a spraying pattern, possibly indicating he was blowing blood. Could this have clipped a lung? I was hopeful.
I elected to continue tracking the deer. He began to take the low road sticking to the edges of ridges and valleys. Fortunately, he did not leave the property and actually turned back south following the creek. At one point, he entered the creek going back and forth and crawled through some dense brush. The blood trail continued to be heavy. With that amount of blood, it was clear the deer was going to die so I pressed on.
Fortunately I found him about 100 yards later. He was just on the other side of the creek and was walking around a point. Convention wisdom is to simply back out on a shot like this, which is probably what I should have done. However, it worked out and I was able to eventually find him at about 1:30 pm.
Upon investigating, my shot was a liver pass through shot. I never did find my arrow and believe it must have glanced off of a log on the ground which resulted in the sound I heard. I do plan on looking more later on to see if it can be found.
The buck was the biggest bodied buck I have shot. His live weight was 260 lbs., with field dressed weight of 210 lb. I haven't put a tape to the rack yet, but he will not score high given he is a main frame 8 pointer. I like the split brow tine and the two kicker points and believe he is older than 3.5 years. How much older than 3.5 years old needs to be determined once the jaw bone is removed. I hope to send the teeth into a lab for confirmation, but have heard that this process is a little costly.
In conclusion, I feel fortunate to harvest this mature buck. I've been told to shoot the biggest buck on your property each year and I believe this was it. There is obviously the possibility that the rut would have brought through a bigger buck. However, the sightings and trail cameras were telling me this was the biggest buck so I took the opportunity on this mature 8 pointer. Now on to hunting with the kids and trying to thin the doe heard.
I want to thank my wife and kids for putting up with this addictive hobby. This definitely is a stress reliever for me and becomes more a part of me each year. Tom and Cindy Rothrock at Lonesome Elk Archery are good friends and continue to provide a good bow set up for me. Todd Crane of Crane Excavating for helping with the habitat improvements. I also want to thank countless others that share their stories and talk with me about hunting throughout the year.
Stay safe this season and keep checking back. We will begin in a few weeks to work on plans and property improvements for '14.
It's early November and the season is presenting some interesting challenges. It has been a while since I have written anything, so I'd thought I take a few minutes and provide an update on what is going well and the mistakes I believe were made.
Let's start first with the successes. The watering hole put in earlier this year has been huge. The deer are hitting it regularly and the 2.5" of rain received a week ago have it full. I've seen it first hand from the stand two nights ago and the trail camera is capturing visitors throughout the day. As the rut hits it's stride, I expect the bucks to catch a quick drink before they continue their chase.
Another success has been the new stand placed in the NE corner of the property. I have sat there twice and observed multiple bucks traveling unaware of my presence. It allows easy access and is located where the topography funnels deer. The bucks were not shooters, but will quickly mature if they make it through the gun season. It is close to a staging area where chasing during the rut will heighten.
Today's weather was ugly with constant rain and high winds. The weatherman predicted rain, but I think he missed the mark on the continued rain throughout the day. The evening hunt proved that having a good set of rain gear is essential for deer hunters. I bought this set a couple of years ago after getting soaked to the bone. If I had followed the forecast, I would not have worn the gear. My gut told me to wear it and it paid off huge.
Now for the bad. The tree stand I placed near the watering hole is a failure. It is completely out in the open and not high enough. I was busted by three different deer walking by. Each of them looked right up at me and spooked. Cutting shooting lanes when installing a stand is always a fine line to walk. I've had sets where I missed shots because I didn't cut enough. This time, I cut way too much and stick out like a sore thumb. The only way to salvage this stand it to move the lock on to the opposite side of the tree and use the trunk to hide behind. Even then, I'm skeptical of getting picked off.
Another mistake I made was with one of the fall protection ropes set. The tree the stand is in, must be higher than normal. The rope is too short making it difficult to attach my backpack and also my harness to the Prusik Knot. I'm made another rope that is 10' longer, which will allow safer and easier use of the stand.
The season is setting up to be a difficult one. I don't have any resident shooter bucks this year and the bucks that normally show up in October when the crops are harvested have not shown up. That means I'm waiting on the transient bucks to arrive with the rut. As a result, I don't have a real plan or a buck patterned as done so the last two years. Both bucks shot the past two years were patterned using the trail camera and on stand observations. The trick is staying close to the does that will attract the bucks, without the alpha doe growing wise of stand locations. I've had this happen before and they ruin everything. A doe will walk out and stare right at you stomping and blowing once they know the stand has been used.
I've got seven more days off of work to hopefully get the job done. I feel like the heat is going to turn up anytime. A hunter has to be in the woods in order to capitalize when the switch is flipped.
Please remember to send me your entries to the ATW Big Buck Contest. More entries are needed. Email your photos and details to email@example.com.
As I review several forums, there are a high number of hunting strategies being discussed. Ultimately, each hunter must decide how to hunt and do so in a manner that provides confidence that they can be successful. Over the years, I have tried several strategies given my lack of harvesting a mature buck. With the last two years of success, I seem to have found some strategies that work for me. These are listed below:
1. Hunt the fringes of the property in the month of October. There is a caveat to this....see further down. Typically, I avoid diving deep into my property to allow the bucks to settle in after the majority of the ag crops have been harvested. Every year, I have a number of bucks that appear from nowhere during October and take up residence.
2. Hunt only in the evenings until Nov. I've had very little success seeing deer in the mornings and don't like to risk bumping deer going in when they are traveling under darkness. A new strategy that contradicts this is listed further below....I'll explain.
3. Use extreme scent control methods.
4. Regardless of #3, I try to hunt the wind if at all possible. During the rut a lot of that goes out of the window, but I try to still key on wind direction based on doe bed locations.
5. Associated with #4, hunt where the does are during rut. Enough said...
6. Doe harvesting depends on the situation. If I'm hunting the fringe during the early season, I may take a doe. I also don't like to take does when it is 80 degrees. Fighting the flies is not fun. Normally I focus on taking does during the late season.
7. Youth hunt weekend....do whatever is necessary to get my kid a shot and she gets to shoot whatever she wants. Bailey has been trying to take her first deer with a bow. Much of the time that is from the box blind on the main plot. The room allows me to work directly with her and help spot and ensure she is ready when the shot is presented.
8. All day hunts during the rut. Although this is physically and mentally draining, I hunt early November all day long from the stand to get opportunities during the middle of the day. During doe hunting last year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I saw the Big 8 Point walk right by my stand and out into the plot with his head down the entire way. This was after 11:00 am. If I had left the tree earlier that morning, I never would have seen this and further understood his daily circular pattern around my property. Hopefully he returns again this year.
9. Caveat to #1......react to what the trail cameras tell you. Last year I waited until Oct. 21st to pull camera cards. I had three weeks of pictures. When I did pull the cards, it was clear I had new bucks coming to the plots regularly and the patterns had been set. It was critical to get out there as quickly as possible before the pre-rut and rut changed the feeding patterns. Oct. 22nd I hunted the east plot stand with a wind out of the south. Based on my pictures, I needed a north wind.....no bucks that evening. The following Saturday, Oct. 27th, I had a north wind, which is when I arrowed the buck you see above. See the photos below from the trail camera that captures just before I shot and two pictures immediately after.
10. Contradictory to #2, I have a new strategy for morning hunts. Jim and I found a heavily traveled trail on the north side of the property. It is along the east edge with a tree 15 yards from the trail. I can access the property from the north gate and we have cut a new patch with skid steer to the stand. This path runs right against the property line so I can safely get into the stand without bumping any deer during the morning hours. Deer funnel from the agricultural fields on the adjacent property onto mine during these morning hours. Wind is predominantly from the south and southwest, which is perfect for this stand. Hopefully a shooter comes by during the early part of October.
The count down clock below currently shows 15 days until October 1st. Good luck and feel free to let me know some of your strategies. I'd love to add more to the above and share with others.
I thought I'd take a short break from blogging about whitetail related topics. This isn't exactly tied to whitetails, but then again it is.
Our county 4-H fair begins this Saturday. Tomorrow night ends the 4-H Archery Club's bow shoots for '13. We will finish with a prizes night where every club member who shows up gets a prize or two depending on how well they have honed their archery skills. Either way, each of the 49 members will receive some kind of gear or equipment that is designed to grow their passion for archery. This is the night all club members look forward to attend.
I'm one of two of the archery instructors certified through the Indiana Hunter Education Program. On the archery end of the shooting sports spectrum, we are tied to NASP (National Archery in the Schools Program), even though we are a 4-H Club. Over one weekend at Purdue University, I was able to acquire a certificate through the State of Indiana and NASP. Purdue Extension does a fantastic job with hosting and coordinating this program for educators across the state.
I've lost count of how many years I've been doing this, but I can truly say there isn't anything better than seeing a kids face light up when they hear what you say, apply the learning, and hit a bulls eye on the target. My three girls all now shoot in the club and I do it primarily for them and to teach the importance of this primitive skill (granted compound bows have come a long way from the days of sticks and sharpened stones). I think it makes them better human beings, but what I really like the most is when one of my girls out shoots a cocky boy trying to puff up his chest. Funny how an arrow in the 12 ring ends any question of who is best. This is truly one sport that levels the playing field (age, gender, height, weight, disability, etc.). It all comes down to disciplined form and skill.
What I have noticed is the discipline it teaches kids with the 11 steps of shooting. My hope is that they will transfer this type of discipline into other aspects of their lives. Some of the kids have a tough road ahead of them and this may be the one sport / hobby that keeps them on the right track. A few kids shoot a couple of years and then leave the club. More than not remain in the club year over year. When I see them out in this small community, they always seem to bring up the 4-H Archery Club.
I'd love to post pictures of the kids in the club, but I'm a little funny about doing so with kids that are not mine. Hopefully I have painted the mental picture of the joy archery brings to young kids. If you have such a program in your respective area, I urge you to support it to the fullest. In today's world, archery proves there is more to growing up than just video games and TV.
Thanks for visiting my blog and please keep coming back to allthingswhitetail.com.
Andy Hayes is a devoted husband and father of 4 kids living in West Central Indiana. Outside of his family, his passion is hunting whitetails. He does not claim to be a professional hunter, but simply wants to share what he learns during his quest to improve whitetail habitat and hunt mature bucks.