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Worth the Drag

PhotoBy David Martin

-- Early November is a special time for all who chase the elusive white-tailed buck. While I could only daydream of the big bucks I would be chasing in a few weeks in Wisconsin, I was pretty content with a stand I had placed on the side of a steep hardwood hill next to a large cutover in my home state.

On earlier scouting trips, I witnessed two nice bucks feeding on this hillside and one particular 8-pointer that liked to bed in some blowdowns nearby. After watching the weather and deciding that the approaching cold front would offer a wind direction suitable for this stand, I called a hunting buddy to see if he had definite plans for his weekend hunt. About three minutes into the conversation, he asked me where and when to meet and the hunt was on. 

We set out on Nov. 4, 2007, and after a half-mile trek to the area without spooking any deer, my confidence was high as I left my partner in a well-used saddle about 300 yards north from where I would be situated. As I approached the tree I wanted to climb, I could hear what sounded like a few deer milling around up above me on the ridgetop. I paused to get my bearings and could hear a buck grunting and chasing does. Deer began to filter by me in the pitch darkness, which made for some great excitement.

I stopped short of the actual tree I planned to climb due to the buck remaining above me and quickly attached my Ol' Man to a suitable red oak and made the 17-foot climb with little noise. I had just sat my Mathews bow in the holder and was adjusting my safety harness when I realized two does were directly under my stand. All at once I heard the buck on the hill snort-wheeze and here it came to check out the nearby does. I was unable to stand immediately due to the deer below being alert and looking uphill.

The buck was closing the distance fast and was going to come up behind me, so I sat patiently to see what would happen. He came to within 30 yards of the does and directly under the tree I had planned to be in with every hair bristled, neck swollen, and lumbering with a stiff-legged gait.

At 20 yards, the does exploded toward the cutover, and the buck veered away from me to cut them off. I was able to get drawn and lean away from the tree to attempt a now 30-yard quartering away shot at a moving target. I quickly grunted with my mouth several times to stop the buck with no luck and decided to pass. The buck moved in on the does and after being satisfied that neither was quite ready for the game it turned and proceeded back up the hill.

As if he knew I was there, he spent the next 20 minutes shredding every sapling he could find and pawing at several large scrapes. I grunted lightly and even tried an estrous bleat, but to no avail. This buck was in its own little world and eased out into the cut to bed I assumed. I looked at my cell phone when it was all over and it was a whopping 6:45 a.m. All of this had taken place in the first 25 minutes of daylight. That dreaded feeling of a chance being blown was settling in fast. Thinking I still had the chance to see one of the other bucks in the area I sat until 11 a.m. with no action.

I called my partner, who had seen a few deer but none close enough for a shot, and then I decided I just could not leave that area just to set up somewhere else for the evening. I slowly climbed down and moved my stand 30 or so yards up the hill and freshened the nearby scrapes with doe pee. After a quick snack and stretch, I was once again perched high above with great anticipation.

The glaring afternoon sun and warming breeze quickly sent me into snooze mode as I tightened my safety strap and drifted in and out over the next couple of hours with no activity (that I know of anyhow). At 4:45, I heard a deer snort and looked up to see the buck coming out of the cutover on the same trail he had left on, and upon reaching the edge of the hardwoods, he began to thrash every limb or vine it could reach.

At 30 yards and grunting every step, I realized the buck was heading to the next set of scrapes, which were directly below me. At 17 yards, the buck began to chew on a licking branch, and I took the opportunity to draw smoothly, anchor just behind the front shoulder and let loose. Upon impact the buck slightly jumped as if it had been startled and slowly began to stumble away downhill toward the cut.

I could see that my arrow had penetrated three-quarters of the way in, and I knew it was a good hit. After hearing him crash, I gathered my nerves and my gear and made my way down and over to my great buck. After a few minutes of giving thanks and admiring my trophy, I called my partner to tell him we had some dragging to do.

He quickly informed me I'd be solo as he had just anchored a nice 8-pointer. Thankfully the adrenaline from a rutting performance by a trophy buck coupled with a great harvest was enough to pull me through for the long drag to the truck.

David Martin
Spartanburg, South Carolina

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