Two days in the New York wilds makes a believer out of this admitted scent skeptic.
By Duncan Dobie
Photo courtesy of Dan Bedell
Although he's probably best known for the one-of-a-kind competition handguns he's been building for professional shooters for the past two decades, Dan Bedell of Lancaster, N.Y., is also a veteran whitetail hunter with numerous deer to his credit by handgun, muzzleloader and bow. With all of that experience, you'd think Dan has pretty much seen it all, but the 2009 New York archery season yielded a couple of surprises.
Dan was hunting on private property in Orleans County owned by Joe Weiss. Over the past three years, he's hunted the tract maybe five or six times.
"Joe invited me to bowhunt with him on Wednesday, Nov. 11," Dan said.
"Just prior to that, a buddy had stopped by my shop and told me about some New York-based deer scents he'd been using that had been very effective for him. He suggested I use some of their buck scent the next time I went hunting, since the rut wasn't fully underway.
"Like a lot of hunters, I've had mixed results with scents, and I've never been a real big user of them," Dan continued. "But I decided to take my buddy's advice. I stopped by and picked up a bottle just before I went hunting.
"When I got out to Joe's place, I put some scent on a drag line and made a trail as I walked to my stand. I hadn't been sitting there more than 35 or 40 minutes when I saw a buck - about a 130-class 10-pointer - following my scent trail, nose to the ground.
"It was coming in from right to left. When it got about 42 yards out, the buck veered off the trail and stopped behind a thorn bush. I decided to take the shot, but it wouldn't move. After what seemed like a long standoff, I tried to send an arrow through a little opening in the bush into the vitals.
"But my arrow hit a small branch, deflected and stuck in the ground in front of the deer, which immediately ran back the way it had come. A friend of mine, who was in a stand about 150 yards up the trail, ended up shooting it. After all was said and done, I was kind of glad I'd missed because the rack had a couple of broken tines and didn't carry a lot of mass.
"Later, I asked Joe if we could hunt the following weekend, and he invited me back for Saturday afternoon, Nov. 14.
"On my way to the property, I picked up another bottle of scent, this time estrous doe. The rut was starting to kick in with a little more intensity.
"I made another drag line going to my stand. When I reached it, I also set out a few scented wicks.
"I got settled in at about 2:30 p.m. and did a loud rattling sequence. I followed up with a few grunts. Ten minutes later, I heard something coming from my left.
"It was thick over there, so I couldn't see much. Finally, I saw a buck walking through the woods about 60 to 70 yards out - this time from my left to my right. When it got to the ATV trail I had walked in on, it immediately put its nose to the ground and started coming toward me. I couldn't believe it!
"The buck went a short distance, broke off the main trail and stopped behind a large oak tree. There was a small opening in front of it. Beyond that was the same thorn bush that the other buck had stood behind three days earlier. I planned to shoot that deer as soon as it hit the opening," he said.
Dan normally hunts with a compact hunting bow. However, on this hunt he had decided to use a more forgiving one in case he had a longer opportunity. As he came to full draw for the 42-yard shot, the bow's bottom limb hit the edge of his stand and made a loud ping.
Briefly distracted, Dan looked down. When he looked back up, the buck had already stepped through the opening and was standing behind the thorn bush.
"I had a good shot at the vitals, so I let the arrow go. But when it got to him, it deflected slightly and went forward into the neck. The buck ran and stopped about 90 yards distant. I tried to grunt and lure it back, but it wouldn't respond.
"After it disappeared, I got down and went over to where it had been standing. The bush and ground around it was covered in blood.
"I called Joe and told him I'd shot a good buck. He said he would get the four-wheeler and meet me in a few minutes. I followed an unbelievable blood trail for about 400 yards. Then Joe arrived and we continued on for another 100 yards.
"I looked up and saw the dead buck against a tree that had been rubbed raw of its bark. I don't know if the rub was its handiwork or not. We walked up to it and couldn't believe how big and massive the rack was.
"The buck's eyes were glazed over, its tongue was hanging out, and it was motionless. Joe and I stood talking for about a minute, and then I reached down and grabbed a huge antler like I had done many times before.
"To our amazement, the buck immediately tried to stand up. I held onto the antlers and yelled for Joe to put another arrow in it. After what seemed like many minutes -in truth probably only a minute or so - Joe was able to put an arrow through the deer's heart, ending the drama.
"In a lifetime of hunting whitetails, I'd never had anything like that happen," he said.
Editor's Note: To learn more about his competition handguns, e-mail Dan at email@example.com, or call (716) 681-2248.
• Hunter: Dan Bedell
• Official Score: 180 4/8
• Composite: 195 1/8
• Compound Bow
-- Reprinted from the July 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.