By Tyler Erickson
-- My South Dakota season started in late August when I purchased my first game camera. I moved it to several locations and photographed some nice bucks. One in particular caught my attention. I thought it was an 11-point buck with a distinctive split left G2. This was a beautiful deer and became my number one target for the season.
I spent a lot of time on stand during October and passed on a lot of deer, including several other nice bucks. By the time November rolled around, I had not spotted the one I was after but I was still getting pictures of it. It became frustrating as the rut picked up with no sight of the big boy.
My good friend, Matt Moeckel, came up during the first weekend in November to videotape some of my hunts. We doubled up the stands and sat, passing up many does and smaller bucks. I wanted to at least get a doe while he had the video camera rolling but didn't want any commotion to chase away the big buck.
Sunday night came and I decided to hunt a different location. It was about a mile away from my stand and where I had been getting the pictures of the big deer. About half an hour into the hunt, we spotted a big buck trailing two does across the field from a different treeline. The buck disappeared in the standing corn, and later we were greeted by two yearlings playing under the tree we were in. I passed on them and decided we would move the treestands the next morning to where we had seen the big buck, hoping to set up an ambush between its bedding and feeding areas, which held all of the does.
Monday morning Nov. 5, was my 23rd birthday. We decided to sit for one last time in the old location before moving the stands. I told him that I would take a doe now if the opportunity arose, since we would be moving to a different location that afternoon. Several hours later, we spotted seven or eight does approaching the treeline through the corn stubble. We both readied only to have them split us and go opposite directions.
As we were just about ready to leave, I spotted four of the does coming back toward us through the trees. I told Matt I was going to shoot the biggest one. As they closed to 25 yards, I drew back and waited for the largest one to step out. As it continued walking, the doe rounded a tree, turned and walked straight for us. My 20-yard shot quickly turned into a 7-yard shot.
The doe turned broadside as I released my arrow. The doe expired seconds later just 100 yards away in the standing corn. After retrieving the deer, we made a trip back to my place to hang the deer, get a bite to eat and watch the video. After slowing down the video, we realized that she jumped completely over the deer next to her to turn and run after I shot her. It was neat - my first on-camera deer harvest, and even on my birthday!
A short time later, we found ourselves back in the woods hanging stands in the new ambush location. After a short deer-less sit we called it a day. What a great birthday; time spent with a good friend marveling over God's great creation, while taking my first videotaped deer. My videographer left that night so I was flying solo again.
Thursday morning, Nov. 8, wound up being a day I will never forget. I took the morning off from work and climbed into my treestand while it was dark. The silence was broken by the sound of mallard wings whistling overhead. It was a clear, cool morning and a great time to be in a tree.
The excitement began when three does came in and would not leave. By 8 a.m. the does had moved on and as I looked out across the corn stubble, I noticed a doe moving very quickly toward my location. I pulled out the binoculars and right on her tail was a monster with a beautiful rack gleaming in the sun.
This 10-point buck was certainly a shooter. The buck would not leave the doe's side and quickly pushed her to the trees, disappearing from my line of sight. I readied myself, hoping they would turn east and push past me. Five minutes passed, then 10 minutes. Nothing happened. All hope of arrowing the monster slowly began to fade from my mind. As I relaxed back into my stand 15 minutes later I figured they had turned and gone the other way.
My thinking was violently interrupted about 8:15 when I heard some crashing to the west of me in the thick of the grove. I slowly turned to see a huge set of antlers raking up and down a midsized sapling just 50 yards back into the brush. I grunted several times with no response. The buck was interested in the doe and nothing else, and I quickly learned that this doe was browsing out on the edge of the trees.
Slowly the couple came my way, the doe on the edge and the buck deeper in the brush. Step... pause for a few minutes ... step ... pause for a few minutes, and so on. It was taking forever! The buck was within 30 yards of me for 30 minutes, and I couldn't get a shot because it was so thick but the buck was not going anywhere.
I studied the deer for some time and suddenly realized that this was the buck I was after! That made my heart race even faster. By this time I was shaking slightly because it was cold outside and this buck was huge. The doe was just 10 yards away, and finally the buck started to move again.
I thought he was going to pursue her again when I heard a thud and looked back to the see the buck bed down just 25 yards away from my treestand. Great! Now what? I was stuck in the tree with no shot at my buck, and the doe started to bed down just 10 yards away from my stand.
I immediately reached for my deer call and bow. I put the call to my mouth and began to blow, "Haaaaaaaaaaaa, haaaaaaaaaa." No sound. The call was frozen just like my body. I looked back to the doe and it began to kneel down. Just as the doe was going down, my call began to thaw and a slight bleat came out. The doe stood up. I bleated again and the doe began to move away from the buck. Curious, the doe sped up and walked past my tree out of the buck's sight.
Yes! It had worked. This was my only chance.
My focus quickly shifted back to the bedded brute. Just as I expected, the buck let out a grunt, jumped up and quickly made its way to the edge of the field. I spun around and drew back, waiting for its shoulder to appear in my narrow shooting lane. As the buck came into view, it stopped behind some branches, scanned the area and looked up at me.
The buck's brief pause gave me time to level my pin on where its vitals would come through the lane. I knew the opportunity was only going to be a split second as it was eager to pursue the doe. Just then the buck began a brisk walk. As its shoulder came into view, I eased down on my release and sent the 100-grain Muzzy perfectly behind its front shoulder. Wow - what an adrenaline rush!
I got out of the stand and checked my arrow for sign. I couldn't contain myself. Quickly, I called a buddy. I left the area for a few hours and returned to town to get my truck and my buddy for some help. We followed the trail and found my trophy.
What a feeling as I saw the buck on the ground! The buck ended up having a small kicker pointed back from its left main beam making it a 12-point buck. This is my biggest deer to date.
The buck is now displayed in my showroom at Top Notch Taxidermy. What a great season: beautiful sunsets, 12 trail cam pictures of my trophy, several unforgettable hunts, time spent in the great outdoors, and a beautiful mount that will last forever. I can't wait until next season!
Thanks, God, for a great year!
Brookings, South Dakota
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