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A Change of Routine Pays Off

By Afton Fletcher

Whitetail DeerIt was the second week of the 2003 gun season in north-central Arkansas. I had been hunting my favorite ladder stand near my hometown of Mountain View. My stand was on a ridge in the middle of a fork intersection. The ridge split there, with three hollows around the stand. It was excellent natural deer crossing. Because it was situated between their bedding and feeding areas, deer came from every direction.

Although there were a lot of torn-up saplings nearby, I saw only does and fawns on these hunts, which lasted from daylight until 11:00 a.m.

One morning, I decided change tactics. I got up late and had some breakfast, taking my time. I arrived at my stand at about 11 a.m., climbed into it and settled in. It was a clear, pretty day in the mid 50s with no wind. I was feeling really good about the hunt.

Thirty minutes passed, and then I heard a distant rustling of leaves in the woods to my left. It sounded like deer running up the ridge toward me.

Two yearling does dashed into an opening and then darted into the woods behind my stand. Thinking that maybe they had winded me or I had disturbed them somehow, I began to get discouraged.

Fifteen minutes later, a mature doe appeared far down the ridge. She began trotting down the ridge toward my best shooting lane.

The best of it was that a big old buck was following her. When she stopped, he stopped. If she turned, he turned. His tines were tall and he had a decent spread — a definite shooter.

The pair was in sight only for a few seconds, and then the doe stopped to check things out before continuing on. When they passed behind some brush at 50 yards, I raised my rifle and got into position to shoot.

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Today!The doe stepped through an opening with the buck about 20 feet behind her. I found the buck’s shoulder in the scope and grunted with my mouth to try to stop him. 

He barely slowed down, but once he was in the clear, I squeezed the trigger.

The buck wheeled and ran over the crest of the ridge. Seconds later, I heard him crash out of sight.

I had only been in the stand for about 45 minutes.

I was really excited, but made myself wait to make sure he was down. I called my dad on my cell phone and asked him to come help me retrieve the buck. 

Thirty minutes passed, and I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to get down to look for sign.

The trail was short and easy to follow. Soon, I was I checking out a good 8-pointer with some character in his curvy G1s and tall palmated G2s about 11 inches long.

It was one of my most memorable and enjoyable hunts.

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