Shotgun Opener Doe Down!
Posted by

I about had a nervous breakdown trying to decide where to hunt on the opener of shotgun this year in Ohio. Last year, I made an aggressive play on a deep-in hedge thicket only to go too far in to the public area and get skunked on a dark-to-dark sit. My goal this year was to go deep into the woods, but not to deep – try to find that happy medium and profit from the movement of other hunters throughout the day if necessary.

I ultimately decided on some public ground 1 hour and 20 minutes from our house that I had scouted the previous summer, but hadn’t set foot on in over a year. Lest you think I was unprepared, I knew exactly what tree would put me 3/4 mile from the parking lot, at the north end of a vast expanse of heavily-timbered public land, and not too far from a private land powerline that was planted alternately with clover, wheat, and standing corn. I made an extra early hike in on the roadbed and found my tree long before the sun came up.

I had an awesome morning watching the woods come to life with plenty of wildlife to be seen. Of particular interest was a mouse that kept going up and down the tree I was in – passing just inches from my face each time it carried nest materials up the trunk and into a small knothole. Around 9 AM, I was doing my revolving scan around when I saw deer moving quickly towards my tree from the direction of the private land. At least 2 deer that were moving quickly enough that I felt someone had probably moved them and angling towards the clearcut I was watching and into my shooting range.

I did some fancy maneuvering to get a kneeling rest on my small lock-on platform and watched for at least a couple minutes while the deer picked their way into the clearcut finally giving me a shot. Taking a firm grip on the stand’s frame, I steadied my scope and let the 870 do the rest of the work.

When the recoil settled, I had a white belly looking back at me – always a good sign. The smaller doe stuck around for a solid 20 minutes and I took my sweet time taking my stand down and packing my equipment up. As I approached the doe, rain began to fall which eventually transitioned to sleet. After a quick-quarter butcher job, I hung my meat bags on some nearby saplings and hauled my gear back to the truck. After watching sleet pellets hit my windshield for an hour or so, I got up the nerve to hike back and pluck my meat up in the backpack and haul everything back to the truck for a satisfying drive back home.

Hunt #9 – 11/25 PM
Posted by

I had some consecutive-day meetings up the road from the house the week before Thanksgiving and had some extra time one morning. Took the chance to meander through the snow-covered grounds of a state park that allows bowhunting in limited areas. I was kind of surprised how much activity I saw as I bumped into 3 or 4 different groups of does up and feeding along with this medium-sized 8 point that had his nose to the ground presumably trailing a late estrous doe. I did a little map recon and decided to make an attempt near some large oaks in a big thicket the next evening after work.

I bumped a couple does getting in but was pleased with my setup. Unfortunately nothing showed up until after dark with several deer coming in close to feed on the red oak acorns still littering the ground. Definitely a spot I’ll keep in my back pocket for next year.

Buck of a Lifetime! Congratulations Dad!
Posted by

As most any long-time reader can deduce – my dad is my best hunting buddy. We have shared many many outdoor memories over the years, and even though times shared are more infrequent than what they once were – they are some of the richest times we spend together. Dad is who got me interested in the outdoors, and I suppose is ultimately to blame for the career track I’ve chosen as well. We often talk about an 8 point he shot with his rifle 10-12 years ago that signaled a change in his (and consequently my) selectivity with regards to shooting bucks. He passes more bucks than anyone I know in the Southeast – usually ending each season between 35 and 45 different bucks. He also has become tremendously consistent in filling his 2 tags with great mature North Carolina bucks each year – without fail really. It’s no accident though. He hunts smart, keeps tabs on his deer with trail cameras, stays out of areas when the wind is wrong, and when it comes down to the moment of truth – he operates at a high conversion rate! In other words, don’t show up in range if you’re a big buck…he’s going to find a way to put you down!

Over the past 10 years of consistently putting down big bucks, he has a handful of bucks on his hunting properties that are in a totally different class of antler size. 140″+ – probably 3 or 4 over the years. Other than one buck that flirted with the end of legal shooting light a couple times, he has never managed to harvest one of those truly huge NC bucks and they each eventually fell off his radar.

I’m really happy to write this post, because this November 20th he put down his buck of a lifetime. 42 years of hunting and he capitalized on what is likely a North Carolina buck of a lifetime. Of all the trail cameras that he runs and all the bucks he knows about in the woods, this was one that appeared seemingly out of thin air. In fact, the buck showed up in the most unlikely of spots as he later found out that the buck was over 2 miles outside his normal range. At the taxidermist, a guy had pictures of the buck in velvet from the next township over and had been hunting the same buck all fall long.

30 minutes after daylight, this huge typical 11 point grossing 148 6/8″ walked within 10 feet of dad’s ladder stand as he cruised a corridor of big hardwoods between a thick cutover and a pine plantation. Dad let him get about 35-40 yards out before taking him down with his .243 rifle.

Congratulations dad! I suppose this buck is a true testament to one of your favorite sayings – “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”

Collision Course – 11/17 AM – Hunt #8
Posted by

Weathermen were calling for 3-5 inches of snow the following Monday morning, and I talked a buddy from work into traveling north to where I killed my public land archery buck last year. I hadn’t been up there all year and wanted to hunt there at least once this year, if for no other reason than to enjoy sitting in the same tree and relive those memories from last year.

I had just got done warning my buddy of the abundant Amish buggies on a certain back road and a blur of brown hide darted out in front of the truck. Looonnnngggg story short – we had secured some venison, but in the most expensive way imaginable.

Given that we were only 2 miles from the wildlife area, we continued on with the tire grinding against the inside of the fender well and one headlight dangling from its wire. I’ve hunted in snow a couple times, but never when it was falling this hard and in a snow that was so wet. It was enjoyable though we predictably didn’t see any deer movement. In fact, on the mile trudge back to the truck, I didn’t pass over a single fresh set of tracks.

I’ll drive next time Randy!

2014 Deer Hunts #6 and #7
Posted by

The following week, I got out 2 consecutive mornings on public land south of Columbus. Leaving my lock-on in the tree minus 2 sections of my climbing sticks, I hunted the same hedge thicket on a steady northwest wind. I saw nothing on the first morning, but knew it was a good area from last year’s trail camera monitoring and the amount of fresh rubs and scrapes present.

On the second day, I could see 2 deer working back to the timber from the adjacent private corn fields as it was getting light. They slipped in the woods about 75 yards downwind of my tree and I never saw them again. About an hour later, I heard brush cracking and turned to see a narrow-racked 6 point coming down the trail. He came inside of easy bow range and continued scent checking his way down the line.

At 8:45, the last deer of the morning made an appearance but it was again out in the cut corn. I never got a clear look at the buck’s rack, but from the quick glimpse I got of his body and his overall frame, I’d say he was likely mature.

A hunting buddy from work had an equally eventful morning with a 3 year old 8 point cruising within 20 yards at first light. When he drew back on him though, his shoulder gave out and he’s got a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday morning to get checked out. No idea how you can be that unlucky, but that’s when you just chuck your bow out of the stand and say “I quit”!

Infolinks 2013