The time of year has come when the orange army has hit the woods. First up, the opening weekend of shotgun season. I always look forward to this weekend every year. It used to be that I enjoyed deer camp more than anything else. Unfortunately, we really don’t have a place where we can all stay together so the feelings are a little different.
I have been looking forward to this weekend ever since Ella decided she was ready to shotgun hunt, and my son Gabe kept asking if we could get him a tag as well. The day the over-the-counter tags went on sale Gabe, and I made our way to Walmart to try and get him a shotgun tag. Luckily, we were able to get one before they were all gone.
As the weekend grew closer my excitement level continued to rise. I have harvested enough deer that I really would rather watch someone else do it, especially a kid. It seems I get more of an adrenaline rush watching them get so excited.
Ella didn’t have school on Friday, so we headed to our box stand on our food plot. Usually opening day is really good on the plot, so I wanted to make sure she would at least see a few deer. As we arrived that morning and walked to our stand the anticipation grew. It was only a few minutes after daylight, and we saw a couple of does at the other end of the plot. We watched them for quite some time until they finally walked out of site.
As we sat there watching the sun come up over the trees, I looked over and Ella just had a big smile on her face. I looked at her and realized she loved watching the sun rise as much as I did. We didn’t have to say a word as we both sucked up the morning sun. After sitting for about three hours, I looked at Ella and asked if she was ready to head home. She was so we loaded everything up and headed for home.
Now on Saturday I would have both Gabe and Ella with me, so I planned to sit with Ella in the same stand as opening day and about 130 yards away was another blind, I would sit Gabe in. As Saturday morning arrived, to my surprise, Gabe showed up early. That doesn’t ever happen, so I was pleasantly surprised. We loaded the truck, made a quick stop at the gas station, and headed for the property. We arrived a little early to make sure I could get everyone set up with at least a half hour before shooting time.
After we were all set and the sun began to rise, Ella and I look to south and there comes a little four pointer getting ready to walk straight across the plot to Gabe. I looked at Ella and said I bet he smokes that deer. He hasn’t hunted in five years, so I know he was chomping at the bit. We watched the deer just walked across the plot and went in just south of where Gabe is, about 40 yards. I looked at Ella and said I was surprised he didn’t shoot that deer. I thought maybe he wanted a bigger one, or it was still a little too dark to see.
As soon as that deer walked by Gabe and I said that to Ella, we look up and there is an eight point buck that just popped out of the willows in front of us at 40 yards. I grabbed the gun to hand it to Ella and as I sat the gun down on her leg, I hear the crunching of a water bottle. The deer looked right at us and bolted. I looked at Ella and said, “what the hell is a water bottle doing in your pocket”. She casually looks at me with here eyebrows squished together and says, “Its my drink.” “Well, no kidding but why is it still in your pocket?” After a minute or so I realized it is what it is let’s move on.
We sat there for another hour and then a six point came out on the north side of Gabe, about 50 yards, and starts walking towards us. I looked at Ella and said if he sees this one, he will definitely shoot. The deer worked its way over to us and no shot. I look at Ella and say go ahead and shoot that one if you like. She looks at me and says, “No, it’s not that big let him grow up.” There is no way when I was 16 years old, I would have let anything pass. I guess there is a slight difference between her and I.
We stayed out until around 10:30 am that morning but no one took any shots. I messaged Gabe and asked if he was ready for breakfast, to which he soon replied yes. We gathered our stuff up and headed over to Gabe and walked out together. One we got to the truck I asked Gabe, “Why didn’t you shoot one of those bucks?” He says “What bucks?” I said “You had two bucks within 50 yards of you.” I asked “Were you looking at the food plot?” He replied “Yes.” I still have no idea how he didn’t see the deer, but It really didn’t matter. As we were leaving, he said how nice it was just to be back out there. That made my day. You never know if your kids will come back to the outdoors. It seems many of them love it early on then once you get your license life changes. I am very lucky to be able to spend time with my kids in the great outdoors. Nothing can ever replace those memories.
The second season of shotgun was not very good at all. On opening day of second season, I was busy so I couldn’t get to woods until the afternoon. I decided to go to a stand I hadn’t sat in all year just to get a different view and see if maybe I could put one more down before I call it a year. The one problem was I was sitting in the stand, and it was 60 degrees. Not ideal weather for deer hunting in December. I finally did see a deer right as sunset. It was a small eight pointer that had some future potential, so I watched him walk by and into the willow thicket.
On Friday of second season, Ella decided she wanted to sleep in so I headed to woods with my buddy Tim to once again try another spot that has only been hunted a couple of times. We call it the cottonwoods for obvious reasons. We got there a little later than we liked, and I was only in the stand with fifteen minutes to shooting time. No big deal, sometimes I don’t like being there too early. Some people like to get in their way early but that has never really worked for me.
It was a very quiet morning. The leaves were wet and you really couldn’t hear anything walking unless it was a squirrel. I sat there for the first two hours and nothing. Then I heard some ruckus across the creek, I looked over and finally saw a squirrel moving around. I watched is cross the creek on a log and head to a tree behind me. I decided I was going to text my buddy Marc and tell him I miss Missouri. I see a lot more deer over there than on my place. As I hit send, I hear something right under my stand. I thought it must be the squirrel, but I just sat there and listened. I didn’t hear anything else after a few seconds, so I lifted my head. When I did, I had a small four point jump up right beside the stand. I swear I could identify this deer by his butt. I was twelve feet up in the air and I bet he jumped over six. We scared the hell out of each other. He ran about 50 yards and stopped. I thought well I might as well take this little guy. I can cut him up in my garage and he will make some great steaks. As I put the scope on him, I saw he was looking back. I pulled my head back from the scope and looked where he was looking, and all I could see was antlers. The deer then turned his head and I could see that this was the real shooter. I looked back at the four pointer as it started walking up the hill. I put my scope in the area where if that buck came out, I would have a nice clear 75 yard shot. As the four pointer was walking up the hill he started to blow. The bigger buck immediately ran to the four pointer and stood behind a tree. Well, that didn’t go as planned, I thought to myself. As I am watching these two bucks, they are still looking back. Sure, enough here came a doe and she just walked right up to them and over the ridge they all went. One thing is for sure, it doesn’t take much for things to go south in the woods.
Unfortunately, Gabe had to work all weekend and I think Ella is happy with the deer she harvested this year, so she is not as into it now. Saturday of second shotgun season I didn’t see a deer. I hunted in the morning and afternoon and nothing. I planned to hunt on Sunday but when I woke up it was raining. It just gave me an excuse to head back to bed. So, our shotgun seasons are complete, and the deer live for another year.
I did go out with the bow during the muzzle loader portion of deer season, but again didn’t see a thing. This year has been unique. Have we seen deer? Yes. Have we seen the big boys during daylight? No. After reviewing the cameras, I have had out since late September there were a few things I noticed. From the dates of October 27th through November 9th the deer were on their feet at all times of the day. After November 9th, the bigger bucks went nocturnal. Now I know that this is just our property, I just found it odd that the same exact thing happened last year on the same exact dates. I keep a small record of activity and it seems like since I have been keeping track of info, this is the time to be in the woods. After that it really starts to change. The big bucks get locked on a doe and nocturnal they go. Sometimes I wonder if this is because of hunting pressure or is this just their natural sequence they go through each year. We usually try not to hunt much until the end of October and then we get a couple of good weeks chasing the big boys then back to the smaller guys the rest of the season.
One thing we have been doing to try and change this, is adding much more winter food for them. We have several acres planted and once the temperatures get a little colder, we are hoping to pattern a bigger buck post rut. One thing I must admit is, I hit it as hard as possible the last week of October – November than I kind of burn my self out and never get out much in late season. This year I plan to change that so hopefully there is another deer story to tell.
Until next month. May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!