Ending of an Era
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On this 1462nd post of The Outdoor Smorgasbord, I am officially signing off. Yes, right in the middle of finishing up my hunt-by-hunt 2017-2018 deer hunting season (buck tag soup, yum!) and right before blogging that my father took his biggest buck ever this year – a near B&C monarch from central North Carolina. Whereas the blog will remain permanently affixed in the interweb, I will not be creating new content. Certainly not because I am finished adventuring in new places, creating new memories, or continuing to live my (perhaps biased here, but…) extremely interesting life, but more so because it is time to end this endeavor which has spanned nearly a decade. Plainly and simply, it is time to move on.

I hope that what I have created here has allowed some readers to live vicariously through some of my experiences, lent advice to others, and perhaps even inspired on occasion. With multiple million page views, I am of course indebted to my readers – thank you. In fact, I myself have undoubtedly been the blog’s most faithful reader, re-reading old posts much the same way one cracks open the pages of an old journal. For those consistent and dedicated readers, please do not be a stranger. The email conversations and the occasional cause for meeting up in person has been the main return on my investment through the years. I appreciate those relationships forged in such a modern and 21st century-type fashion. For those new readers stumbling into the blog for the very first time, do not hesitate to reach out via email. I will maintain my [email protected] email address and will still check it regularly.

So without further ado..

2017 Deer Hunting in Ohio :: Hunt #12 “Lock Down”
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After my all day skunking, it was another 5 days before my schedule allowed me back in a treestand. I planned to hunt on a public-private boundary where I could see out into a massive soybean field that had been harvested but still peek into the big bush honeysuckle thicket where most of the deer seemed to be bedding.

Right at first light, a coyote came loping across the huge expanse of the cut soybean field and ducked into the woods just down the ways from me. Not long after that, I spotted a small buck walking out in the middle of the harvested soybean field – hundreds of yards away from any cover at all. I could not see any other deer and I had not heard anything that sounded like other deer, so I decided to try to call him in even though he was awfully small. A few grunts worked to perfection and he was circling the bottom of my tree just a minute or two later.

After convincing himself that the “deer” had moved on, the little buck headed straight back out into the field. I don’t know if he was lonely or what, but he just sort of milled around for 20 or so minutes. Shortly after I lost sight of him, I saw another couple of deer way out in the middle of the field—a tending buck and doe, and the buck was a STUD! He was wide and heavy and the end of his right main beam drooped down 3 or 4” on the very end, sort of like a drop tine I suppose. He was patiently standing beside the doe mirroring her every move. The only thing that distracted him was that young buck circling back around and approaching the tending pair. It was really cool watching that little buck try to circle downwind of the doe. Every attempt he made, the much larger buck cut him off with hackles raised and antlers lowered. Finally, the heavy 10 point lost his patience and gave a good rushing charge towards the little buck who managed to keep his distance. With the young buck ran off, I watched the tending buck and doe stay within a 100-yard radius out in the middle of the cut soybean field for almost an hour before they drifted south and out of my sight.

Somewhere around 10 o’clock, I heard a twig snap back in the thicket behind me. Cruising slowly but steadily through the dense brush was a two-year old buck with wide spindly antlers. I did not get a great look at the buck, but I was pretty sure one of his beams was either broken off or malformed. I grunted a time or two to try and turn him back in my direction, but his one track mind carried him off to the north for the last action of the morning.

When I got down from the stand, I slipped about 100 yards deeper into the thicket and found a hub of activity with a tremendous amount of fresh sign ranging from rubs and scrapes to beds and beat-down trails. I wandered around just long enough to pick out a tree and knew I would be back in that spot the next good wind I could get.

2017 Deer Hunting in Ohio :: Hunts #10 & 11 “Nada”
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Unfortunately, after the phenomenal action of the previous hunt, I had a 4-day lag before I could get back out in the woods. Even so, I was pretty excited to have an open schedule to take a whole day and do an all-day sit.

Regrettably, that is about as exciting as this post gets. I have no way to explain it, so I will not try. Perfect conditions spent all-day in 2 excellent spots in the peak of what ought to have been full rut and I saw jack squat. The first spot was on the edge of the big timber watching over the last overgrown field sandwiched in between the woods and the crop fields a little further out. The second spot was buried deep in a bedding area close to where my buddy and I had success on the Saturday prior.

Either way, it was a beautiful day to have spent in the deer woods, it just lacked deer.

2017 Deer Hunting in Ohio :: Hunt #9 “Booner”
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This morning was about much more than just the plainly stated and the titled obvious. But yes, I saw a Boone & Crockett gross buck from my treestand on this day. And no, I did not get to drag him, err…canoe him, out. These are the events of November 4th.

I was not overly discouraged that I needed to move away from the old field that I had been hunting around for the previous week. In fact, I was excited to move back into more inaccessible terrain to hunt, especially given the forecasted NE wind that is incredibly elusive but an absolute requirement to hunt my #1 public land stand in Ohio. My buddy and I also strategized a more stealthy, low-profile approach that would shave quite a bit of walking off our morning hike. Also, if we used the canoe to slip in to our stands, we would eliminate all our scent contamination that sometimes drifts into one corner of the bedding area. Hopes for this hunt could not be higher.

Way before dawn, I was at the base of my tree and working in the pitch black darkness to hang my stand as silently as possible. It took me nearly an hour to successfully do so, working painstakingly and methodically slow, as I had deer working back and forth in front of my set-up almost non-stop. On two different occasions, I could hear bucks grunting and chasing does out in the bedding area.

Finally, I had my stand positioned perfectly and dawn broke. And I saw nothing. Zero. Zilch. Just one time, around 8:30 AM I could some deer grunting and snort wheezing at one another deeper into the bedding area, but that was the only action I had before 10:30 AM. Meanwhile, my buddy was having a public land sit for the ages. A two-year old buck, a yearling buck, a doe and a fawn, another doe and a fawn, 2 more does, another yearling buck, 2 different does, another yearling buck. A non-stop parade of deer the whole morning long. Does moving in to and out of the bedding area with intermittent bucks cruising nose to the ground scent-checking for those first receptive does.

Back to my hunt, just past 10:30 AM I could hear deer pacing down one of the two ridges that dead-end into the steep bluff that border the creek. I am positioned with my back to the creek and overlooking the ditch crossing that connects the two ridgelines. With a loud grunt, almost what I would consider a “buck roar”, the deer burst out of the thick cover and into the slightly more open hardwoods where I could see. Although there are no shooting lanes directly north or south (only due east and west), there is enough visibility to pick apart the cover with binoculars. What I saw through my binoculars, my eyes could hardly believe. There, standing just 30 or 35 yards away, was a bona fide Boone & Crockett grossing buck. Two or three inches outside both his ears, wrist-thick mass throughout his beams and his tines, brow tines that measured 8 or 9 inches, and a towering frame that featured absolute spears for second’s and third’s plus solid G4’s. I could not see a doe, though there surely was one in the immediate vicinity, and he was locked in place. As a couple minutes ticked by and he did not move, I let that image sink into my brain as I studied him through my binoculars. Finally, he slowly turned and moved off in the opposite direction, I have to assume following the doe that still remained unseen. Simultaneous with him turning and walking away, I threw a couple soft grunts out and got an instant response from a button buck that drifted right in below my stand. What an encounter!!

An hour later, at 11:35 AM, a yearling buck came grunting right down the same trail and walked right out in front of the tree inside 15 yards. Oh, for that to have happened an hour ago!! In any regard, I let that buck pass underneath me and wander off before sending my buddy a text that we had better start conserving our respective water and snacks, because it was looking like an all-day hunt was in order.

Not necessary. Just 30 minutes later, I got a return text back that an all-day sit would not be necessary. Deer #13 on his morning had just cruised underneath of him and taken an arrow right in the vitals. He was confident the arrow placement had been on the money and that following the trail would be a mere formality. Success!! He had just connected on his first OH public land buck out of our other quality set-up in this general area.

We convened at his arrow around 2 PM and followed the short trail to his buck before taking field photos, dressing the buck out, and dragging him back down to our awaiting canoe. Thankfully it was all downhill back to the canoe, and after a bit of wrangling, we had the buck positioned for what is surely one of my favorite hunting photos of all-time.

2017 Deer Hunting in Ohio :: Hunt #8 “Back in the Bucks”
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Two short days later and still before the rush of inevitable weekend hunting pressure coincident with the opening of pheasant season and peak rut vacationers and out-of-staters, I still had the perfect wind to revisit the same set-up where I had the letdown hunt of only seeing the one lone spike. The only downside was that my one opening landed on a warm front that saw sunrise temperatures jump to a balmy 55 degrees, not exactly ideal weather conditions.

With the warm morning temperatures and no perceptible breeze, a predictable layer of fog hung low in the river bottom at dawn. Without being able to glass very far into the surrounding thick cover, I decided to try rattling in hopes of drawing any nearby bucks in closer to investigate. It worked. Within just 2 or 3 minutes of hanging up my antlers, a decent 2-year old buck was circling my stand about 75 yards out. Though he never worked to within archery range, he was not a buck I would have shot given the opportunity. He was a bit broken up and would not have scored higher than 110 or 115 inches even if completely intact.

His curiosity waned after 10 or 15 minutes, but it was not long before I spotted a second buck, smaller than the first, cruising perpendicular to my set. A couple loud grunts got his attention, and a couple more soft doe bleats coaxed him in from at least 200 yards away. Now to get a big buck interested.

It was another morning that I had to climb down early to go fulfill some teaching responsibilities, so my time was running short when I glassed a big set of what looked like antlers sticking up above the low dense cover 300 yards away. He was bedded down and tucked right up against a hedgerow of thick bush honeysuckle. I was not even completely sure it was a deer until I rattled aggressively and observed his antlers swing in my direction. To the best that I could determine, it was the heavy antlered, short-tined wide 10 point from the hunt where I saw 7 bucks roughly a week earlier. Definitely a shooter. Unfortunately, he was settled in for the morning, and a couple loud and quick attempts to call him out of his bed and in my direction did not work.

Had I not had to get down and go into work, I likely would have tried to put a spot-and-stalk play on him. The wind was perfect and the warm front had dropped a little precipitation the night before. With everything wet and quietened, it would have been interesting at a minimum.

Oh well, duty calls.

Infolinks 2013