Well I think old man winter has arrived. After the two, 8-degree days in November, I was worried that this would be the beginning of a long winter. Luckily, it was short lived and up until today we hadn’t had any snow or really low temps. As hunting season has progressed, I have been hearing a lot of the same. Nobody is really seeing any deer. Since early November I have been chasing the whitetails. Unfortunately, they seem to be winning our battle. Before shotgun season I was in the woods for 15 days trying to wait for the rut. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out with the bow this season. Ella has hunted with me a half a dozen times and we have yet to see a deer while bow hunting. This is definitely not something I am used to. Anyone that knows me knows that waiting isn’t one of my virtues. I wish it was but its hard for me to sit still for hours on end while not seeing a thing. If I see a few it seems to keep me interested but if I go a couple of times without seeing a deer, I tend to get restless. This was the year of restlessness. In past years it seems as the rut is usually in full swing from around November 4th to the 15th or so, so I try to spend as much time as I can waiting on the monster bucks that I know are in the valley. This year, during what I always say is the prime week or two, I saw nothing. I heard people talking that they thought the deer had found their doe’s and were just sitting waiting for them to consent. I wish I could say that was what I was seeing but it definitely wasn’t. Ella after the sixth time was losing interest and the last thing I wanted to do was burn her out before it started getting good. That just never seemed to happen this year. It seemed as if there was one guy hunting on our property and he was seeing deer but the other three of us were seeing nothing. It made me wonder “did the disease hit us again this year? was there a larger kill off last year than we had imagined? have we been messing with the property and the deer are not sticking around like normal?” Every day I seemed to be thinking of another reason I wasn’t seeing deer. I mean, when your sitting in the stand your mind wanders all over the place… well at least mine does. I have talked with several hunters that hunt nearly every day and it seemed to be having the same results. As shotgun season neared in mid-November, I thought for sure I would have some meat in the freezer by then and I could just sit and wait for Big Luey. The week before shotgun I hunted several days with the same result. A couple of days before shotgun I decided to check all of my cameras so I could have a game plan for shotgun season. As I went through the pictures, I saw several shooters that were in the 140 – 150 class of buck. They all seemed to be showing up at first light or during the night. I thought for sure I would see lots of daytime photos since these cameras had been out since the first of November but that just wasn’t the case. Two of my cameras only had 25 pictures on them in almost three weeks. Usually I would have up to 100 pictures in that amount of time but not this year. The deer seem to not be in their same haunts that I usually find them. As opening day arrived, I decided to try my luck in a ground blind that we had set up a few weeks earlier. This seemed to be the only location I was seeing any deer and definitely the only camera that had a few shooters. In October I was seeing eight to ten different bucks on camera. Not all shooters, by any means, but we had a few forks, a really tall spike, a wide eight and one really nice 10 point that look like a moose compared to the others. I decided that this was the deer I wanted to harvest during shotgun. All I could do was hope that he was living in the area and would make a mistake.
This being the last opening morning we would be spending at this deer camp there was a lot of emotions going out that morning. It just felt like this was the end of an era and after 30 years at this deer camp this would be the final one. It is still hard for me to even think about but things change, people pass away and people move on so that is what I needed to do was suck it up and enjoy this last deer camp with friends. I headed to my ground blind about 5:45am in the morning. It was a quite walk out and usually I hear a couple of deer that I spook take off but not this time. Just me and an owl that made me almost soil myself and a hawk that couldn’t figure out what I was and decided to land on my blind and take a peak in. At first light I hear what I believe to be a deer stand up and shake off like a dog. I continued to look in that directions just hoping to see what it was. It wasn’t long and there it was a small fork just waking up and wondering right towards me. Of course, this deer was curious and once it saw me it decided to come about 15 feet from my tent. He was smelling the air and kept trying to get a different look at me as I sat there thinking four or five years ago, I would have shot this deer and not thought twice. Now since I have a little more time in the woods I try to manage our deer heard and with the little signs of deer around the last thing I was going to do is shoot a small deer that cost a small fortune to process without getting much meat for the freezer. The little buck was around me for more than a half hour when I look up and here walks a doe about 60 yards from me heading to a bedding area. As I was watching her, I turned to my left when I saw some movement. There stood a nice sized doe looking around checking everything out before she would move to the open area. All of the sudden behind her I see some movement, but it was behind a bush. I pull my binoculars up to my eyes to get a better look and low and behold I think it’s the big ten I have seen on my camera a few times over the last month. I was anticipating the doe to leave the cover and come to the open and when she did, I was sure he would follow. After standing there for five or so minutes I see her turn around and vanish with my target buck. My heart sank thinking that was the one I wanted, and I doubt I ever see him again. An hour or so passed and I was getting pretty antsy. I start texting my friends to see if they have had any luck and it was more of the same the only difference was, I was the one that actually saw a couple of deer. I have harvested several bucks late in the morning so I wanted to stick it out until noon if I could but with my stomach grumbling, I figured I would get out of there around 11am. As 9:00am rolled around and I hadn’t seen any other deer I decide it was time for some coffee. As I open my thermos, I hear something walking. Quickly I put the thermos down and started scanning the area. I could hear something walking but couldn’t see it for the life of me. Then I see a doe that trotted about 20 yards and looked back. I thought here we go… be Big Luey and I am going to take the shot! The only problem is this is swamp land and pretty overgrown in areas with willows and brush. I could see the buck walking towards the doe and but all I could see was a rack through the trees. I could tell it was a mature deer by the size of the body. Unfortunately, I had one little window where the deer was going to be walking through and it was about 80 yards. I was looking through the binoculars to make sure I had a clean shot without twigs or anything else in my way. I decided if he gets to that window, I am going to let the smoke pole eat. I really couldn’t have been luckier. He walked straight to the opening and stopped. I place my rifle sites on him and pulled the trigger. He hunched up like it was a good shot he ran 20 yard and it looked like he started walking. All I could see was his antlers and it looked to me like he was just walking away. I thought to myself “did I miss him or what?” I saw him hunch but maybe that is just what I wanted to see. I texted my friend Tim and said I thought I had shot a nice ten pointer but not sure if I made a good hit or not. I felt like I rushed my shot and the more I thought about it the more my stomach started turning. Tim said he would come by in a half hour or so to help me look for the deer. I decided we needed to give him some time in case it wasn’t a great shot. About 45 minutes went by and Tim was heading my way. As Tim walked up to my blind, I am sure I had this look on my face because Tim said “did you get him?” I said “I think so, but it happened so fast that I was second guessing myself.” We walked through the thicket to where the deer was standing and started to look around. A few minutes felt like an eternity looking for any sign of blood. I walked around the area and scanned the grass and weeks for any sign that would lead me to the deer. After about five to ten minutes searching the area I decided to walk to where I thought I saw him walking away. Once again a search turned up nothing and I was getting that uneasy feeling in my stomach and thought to myself that’s what you get for rushing the shot but hey, I have a few more days left to let’s make the most of it. I decided to make a big circle around the thicket to see if I could find any fresh signs. As I was walking a looked over and thought to myself, I think that is the group of trees I saw him walking through. I decided to walk over 30 more yards to be safe. As I was about to the group of trees I look down and there he was. He only went 25 yards from where I shot him but we stopped short of where I actually shot him so we were about 15 to 20 yards off. With the thick cover we hunt its not hard to miss. Man did a moment of joy come across my face when I saw him laying there. It was the 10 pointer I had been after. The only issue is the week before I harvested him I have him on camera with all ten tines. Now he had a broken G2 and a brow. He was a nice heavy deer with a giant neck. To say I was happy was an understatement. This was the biggest deer I have killed in 25 year and all I could think about was my dad and his buddy Paul looking down on me saying its about time you shot something to put on the wall. It turned out to be a great opening morning for shotgun season but since then it seems to have gone back to the way it was before not seeing a dang thing. Several of my friends have been hunting hard but to no avail. I hope your deer season was a success. I hope everyone had a great Christmas with family and friend and here is to an even better 2020.
May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!