Oh sweet November. We wait for you for 11 months and then you blink and its over. Many of us look forward to this time of year. The deer are starting to rut, ducks are flying as the sun rises and the crisp cool air has arrived.
It was time to get my daughter Ella into the woods. In the past we have hunted a few days in October and to be honest we really haven’t had much luck. Last year it seemed we didn’t have many deer on our property, and it has been that way for a few years. The main culprit was water. When we flood our duck grounds it seeps into our deer hunting areas and the deer who like to live there seem to disappear with a few inches of water. It is not surprising considering that all of our good bedding areas become soggy and no deer wants to lay in water to sleep.
So, this year we decided no more ducks than we have harvested over the last few years we might as well not flood this year and see if it changes our deer hunting.
For the first time in several years, we were able to get a trapper in there to take care of our ever-growing beaver problem. Man, I can’t think him enough because for the first time in the last 25 years I didn’t tear out one beaver dam in 2022.
Our water stayed flowing and as fall continued to grow closer we started seeing more deer on the cameras. We always had a few deer, but it just seemed we were not seeing the big bucks on our land anymore. That has finally changed and there seems to be multiple mature deer for us to hunt this year.
Ella and I decided it was time to hit the woods. I purchased all new gear for her this year since she has outgrown all of here other hunting clothes. Ella had a day off school so we thought it would be a good time to hit the woods for a few days. During our first morning was pretty slow but we stayed the course and a few hours into the day a nice doe walked out into our food plot, and it was time to test her skills. Our freezer is empty of deer meat and Ella really wanted to be the one to fill it. As the deer crossed into our food plot, she stopped at 20 yards. I told Ella the distance and I waited. As I was waiting for her to shoot another smaller deer walked in front of the doe and I was hoping she wasn’t going to take the shot. She waited until the deer cleared and then I heard the release of the arrow. The only issue was the doe had walked another 10 yards, so I was worried she didn’t account for that. I didn’t see where the arrow hit but as the doe was running across the plot, I could swear I saw it pouring blood.
Of course, Ella was shaking like a leaf and happy as I have ever seen her. She wanted to get out of the stand and go right over to get it. Since I wasn’t sure of shot placement, I told her we needed to give it some time. After about a half hour we got down out of the stand and preceded to the spot the shot took place. When I arrived, I didn’t see any blood, I looked up and there was the arrow. I looked it over and obviously it was a pass through. I couldn’t find blood at the shot site, so I went over to where I marked it going through the plot. There was an absolute path of blood to trail, so I called tracker Ella over and let her begin tracking.
To my surprise we continued to trail the deer into the set aside and I was trying to figure out which way it was going and trying to get Ella to stop running down the trail. I looked over and said to Ella, the deer went this way. Of course, the teenage girl said no dad I think it went this way. Well of course I was wrong and a few minutes later I hear Ella. Its over here. As I walked towards her the smile on her face was of pure joy. All she can say is we have deer meat in the freezer now dad. She loves to provide the family with food. Whether is harvesting an animal or cooking us a meal she loves to be a part of the whole process.
This was Ella’s 2nd deer she has harvested so I showed her one more time how to field dress a deer and made it clear she would be doing her next one on her own as I directed. I expected her to say she didn’t want to do that part, but she just nodded her head and said ok. Maybe she will gut my deer for me as well. Might as well give it a shot all she can do is say no.
We now have enough meat for the winter the only thing we are looking for is a nice mature buck so we can get some salami and sticks made. I am truly blessed to have my daughter in the blind with me. Nothing makes me happier than hunting beside her. She only has a couple years of high school left so I am trying to enjoy every minute I have with her. Really not sure how I will handle her being gone. She is my mini me and my baby girl.
I have been anticipating the first week of November since last year when I spent four days chasing whitetails in Missouri. Last year was my first time ever bow hunting in Missouri, so I didn’t really have any idea what to expect. After year one I know there is several mature bucks that are just waiting on me to arrive.
First, I had to get the November issue delivered to all of my clients. As soon as I finished my last delivery, I started packing my truck for nine days in Missouri. We arrived on Friday night and got settled in the house and decided Saturday morning we would scout a little than go to town for some breakfast and supplies for the week. When we finished those chores, we made sure our bows were still sighted in and ready for the week ahead.
As the sun rose over the horizon on my first days hunt, I see a majestic buck at 50 yards just walking the field to my west. I watched as he started to head my way then all of the sudden, he jumped and headed south instead of towards me. For a split second I was like what the hell just happened. Its opening morning for me and a nice mature buck was coming right towards me than poof he got scared. This was right before sunrise and then I realized why. Here came a coyote and unfortunately, I couldn’t pick him up in the scope because it was just to dim in the woods to see. He was lucky this time but if he keeps playing that game he will lose.
The first day I only saw five deer which surprised me a little, but the temperatures were getting into the upper 50’s and low 60’s and the deer just didn’t stay on there feet much past 9am. On the second day I decided it was time to go to my favorite stand and see what the day brings. This year this stand had corn in front of it and it hadn’t been harvested so I didn’t know what to expect. That morning I saw 15 deer and 27 turkeys. I had squirrels, coons, deer and turkey around me all day. Unfortunately, I didn’t see one I wanted to shoot.
On the second day I noticed a nice buck running some does some 300 yards away. He was just bumping them around checking everyone. He was there again that afternoon, the next morning and the next afternoon. Now we have a mature ten point that we had patterned so my buddy Marc went to a stand near this big boy’s bedroom. On the first sit there, he watched the buck with the does and of course I saw him in the field again. I messaged Marc. He just went in the woods so be ready. The deer came into the area and bedded down 60 yards from his stand. This cat and mouse game didn’t end all week.
We had it in our mind if one of us hunts there the rest of the week he will make a mistake. On the fifth day I went to the stand near this buck to see if I could coax him out. As I was sitting there, I heard a grunt from behind me. I grabbed my grunt call and did a short series of grunts, and I could hear this deer walking straight up behind the stand. I didn’t want to turn around so I just prepared for him to walk under me and then when the shot was there I would take it. My heart was pounding thinking finally I am going to get my shot at a beautiful Missouri ten point. As the deer walked right under my stand I look down and it’s a small four pointer. Then I look over to my right and here is this really nice ten point that wasn’t the one we were after but definitely a shooter. He walked around a couple of thickets and started working my way. I had a 35-yard shot if he kept coming the way he was. He did keep coming along the path but unfortunately, he was hugged up to a little drop off and all I had a shot at was his spine or neck and I wasn’t taking that shot. I had to watch him walk away.
After day five we were expecting a cold front with some rain. I thought this would be the ticket to getting them going but unfortunately it shut them down. I saw deer every time out but the last couple of days the big boys just weren’t on their feet. So, for the second year I came home from Missouri empty handed but in reality it is my fault. They mainly rifle hunt there so all of the stands are rifle stands. Now coming up for 2023 I will have a few stands set up for bow which should up our chances of a big one.
Marc was staying for another week so I was confident he would get him to make a mistake. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen but on his final day there he was able to take a nice 8 point with his rifle.
Now that my Missouri trip was over it was time to get back home and get this December issue rolling. The first week I was home Ella kept asking to go deer hunting. I told her I had to work during the week, but we would go out Saturday the 12th.
As Saturday rolled around, we headed to the club to see if big Luey would make an appearance. As we were getting into a box blind Ella says dad there is deer right in front of us. I used a drag line with Hunziker’s Deer Scents on it and dropped it about 20 or so yards from the stand. I was making way too much noise getting in so I figured they would be gone when we were set up. To my amazement the little fork buck came right to the drag and wouldn’t leave. We were right there and not being quiet, and he didn’t seem to care. It was a nice start to the morning.
As the day went on Ella started to fall asleep. When I looked her way, I saw a really nice buck and it was coming our way. I shook Ella to get her up and the deer walked perfectly in front of us at 35 yards and stopped. I told Ella 40 yards and she let the arrow fly. I heard it hit like a freight train and the deer took off like a bat out of hell. Now I thought she was excited the first time this kid was shaking like a leaf and of course wanted to get right down and look for it. I wasn’t for sure on the hit it looked good but maybe a hair high and a hair back so I thought we should let it set for a while.
After an hour or so we got down to see what we could find. We found the arrow that was broken off right by the fletching. We tracked the deer for about 50 yards when it started leaving a great blood trail. We tracked that deer 500 yards with blood the whole time until it crossed the road. You could see the blood on the road. I was dumbfounded on how this deer was still walking.
Unfortunately, this was devastating to Ella. The last thing she wanted to do is injure a deer. That is why we talk about taking broadside shots at 40 yards or less. I felt so bad for her she was in tears and all she said is I want a trophy by your deer dad. My heart sank. She did everything right, but those deer are tough, and they can go along ways before passing.
I knew that I had to do whatever it took to try and find this deer. I called my friend Mitch Atherton with Timber Ghost Recovery. He has a great dog Kane and I know if this deer is dead, he will find it. It was also kind of unique that Mitch’s wife Stacy was Ella’s babysitter when she was just a baby. So, this made for great experience for everyone. Luckily Mitch had the number to the gentlemen that owned the land across the road. I was worried I wouldn’t get permission and that would be the end of my search.
That was not the case at all. I talked to the owner Brett, and he was absolutely amazing. He had some guys in there hunting but said once they are out for the evening we could go in with the dog. I can’t thank Brett enough for his kindness. We texted several times over the afternoon hours, and he was doing everything he can to help us find this deer for Ella.
At 6:30pm that night we headed out on the track. Kane was on him immediately and we found a spot where he laid down. This dog followed the scent of the deer well over a mile and my that time there wasn’t a lot of blood.
From where the shot took place to where we finally called it was more than two miles. It looked like he crossed a creek and that is where we ended for the night.
I received text from the landowner saying he would go out and look for the deer the next day. He didn’t have to do that, but he has gone way above and beyond to help us try and find the deer. I can’t thank him enough for being so kind during this process. He could have easily said no we are deer hunting and its November and he doesn’t want anyone in there. Instead, he helps up look for the deer. I can only hope that everyone neighbor is this kind. None of us want a deer to go to waste and the way everyone came together for my daughter was amazing.
Unfortunately, as I write this the deer has not been found. However, with shotgun season this weekend I am hoping someone shoots it or maybe finds it. I would love to end this chapter for Ella. Before last year this had never happened to me. I had it happen in Missouri last year and now my daughter this year. Hopefully it never happens again. I still think about the deer in Missouri, and I even went out this spring for one last shot.
Until next month. May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!