Illinois bowhunter waits for just the right day to hunt his favorite stand.
I had waited two weeks for the weatherman to tell me the wind would be right to hunt my favorite stand. It was a cold November morning with temperatures in the mid-20s and a northwest wind of about 10 mph. I knew I had to be in the stand.
I was able to juggle my schedule for a morning hunt but also knew I had to be out of the woods and on my way to work no later than 11 a.m. I got set up and strapped in my tree 45 minutes before shooting light.
I had hardly gotten settled in when the woods exploded with the sound of running deer. It was too dark to see, but I could imagine the scene as I heard running, grunting, snorting and wheezing all around me. It was by far the most exciting morning in the woods that I have had in a long time, and the sun hadn’t even come up!
When it finally got light enough to see, I learned what the whitetail rut really looks like. Does and bucks of every shape and size were all around me, running and chasing. I had timed it perfectly.
My treestand is set up in a natural funnel — a strip of trees between a large creek and a 100-acre area of CRP and corn. The deer use the cover of the woods as they travel along the cornfield. I have hunted this setup for 6 years, tagging four record-book bucks from the same tree.
At about 7:30, I caught a glimpse of a lone deer about 150 yards out. It had a huge body, and I was pretty sure it was a buck.
My stand sits right up against the creek and, with deer on the cornfield side of the tree line, I wouldn’t be able to get a shot. I could tell it was a big buck, so I tried grunting at him a couple of times. He never even looked my way, so when he got to about 50 yards, I let out a snort-wheeze.
He jerked his head up and took a couple of steps my way. I thought, “Buddy, if you come over here looking for a fight, I will give you an Easton Axis heartache.”
As is often the case in deer hunting, things don’t always go according to plan. Just as the big guy started my way, a 2 1⁄2-year-old 8-pointer chased a hot doe down a trail right between us.
The big buck took off down the trail, following the 8-pointer. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, but knowing the terrain around my stand like the back of my hand, I was pretty sure the doe would lead both bucks back past my stand in about 10 minutes.
It was actually 15 minutes before I heard deer running through the woods. Sure enough, the doe and the 8-pointer trotted by at no more than 3 yards, but the shooter was nowhere in sight.
Just when my hopes sank to rock bottom, I heard another deer coming down the trail. As he followed in the footsteps of the other two, I drew my bow and settled the 20-yard pin behind his shoulder. I mouth-grunted, and the biggest buck I had ever seen in the woods stopped to look back at the sound.
I touched the trigger and watched my arrow disappear into the buck’s ribs. As he mule-kicked and ran off, I saw my lighted nock sticking in the ground where he had been standing.
The buck ran through a drainage ditch about 30 yards up the trail, and when he came out the other side, he stumbled while running up the bank. I knew he was done and wouldn’t go far. After he went out of sight, the woods got quiet again.
I don’t know how it is for most hunters, but I don’t get too shook up until after the shot. Let me tell you, the nerves really kicked in as I relived the previous few seconds in my mind. I was shaking so bad, I had to sit down to keep from falling out of the tree.
Five minutes passed before I was calm enough to call my wife. Even then, she thought I was having a heart attack as I tried to relate the story. Evidently, I was not speaking clearly.
I then called my sons and told them what had just happened and asked if either of them could help me get the buck out and take some photos. My oldest son, Clint, said he would leave work right away. Thirty minutes later, the two of us picked up the trail.
The buck went just 40 yards from where I had last seen him. Until I put my hands on him, I really didn’t appreciate how beautiful he is. I was speechless.
The buck is a 12-pointer with a 26-inch spread. He weighed 225 pounds on the hoof, making it quite a chore to get him out of the woods.
As I walked around him just taking in the sight, I couldn’t help thinking what a perfect morning it had been.
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• Climbers vs. Hang-Ons: Being wrong isn’t always a bad thing. This article was published in the September 2012 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.