With the passing of the first major cold front of the year, I pored over my decision about where to spend Monday evening. With over 10 of my potential stand sites being good with the wind direction, it wasn’t easy but I finally settled on a public land fence jump that connected a bedding area (2 CRP fields) to a feeding area (solo apple tree leading to soybeans). There was also an isolated corn field in the area, but any deer heading in that direction would be going away from me. I hoped that the breezy conditions dropped more than the normal load of apples and that the deer would be keying on that food source.

I was actually intending to head all the way to the apple tree, but even at 4:40 PM I bumped into a 2 year old 8 point that I had on trail camera this summer. He had apples on his mind and he was popping out of the cover as I was stepping up to my tree. He turned and headed for the apples and was the none the wiser of my presence as I got things set up and settled in for the afternoon.

The lingering effects of the cold front was a stiff breeze that kept me swaying until about just before sunset but that didn’t stop the deer from moving. Right at 6:00, I looked 200 yards across the field and saw this decent buck making a scrape.

He made his way towards the corn field and after making one more scrape, he disappeared into the stalks. I’m pretty sure this is a 3 year old 7 point that I have a couple blurry trail camera pictures of. He’s not a shooter, not at this point in the season anyways, but he is a nice deer on public land.

About 30 minutes later, a small 3 point cut the corner of the CRP angling in my direction, but he eventually jumped the hedgerow into another CRP field where I lost track of him.

Somewhere around 6:45 (sunset was at 7:09 PM), I could hear antlers lightly clanking off one another. For a moment, I was tempted to believe another hunter was perched nearby but after processing my environment I decided there no way anybody else was this deep in the public land. Just no way. Thankfully, I was right.

At 7:08, a flushed pheasant flew into my CRP field and 2 minutes behind it, and coming right from the direction of the prior “rattling” sequence, was this cool 6×3 buck.

I was thinking he was angling towards my fence jump, but at about 50 yards I could tell he was going to take option B and cross into the beans about 45 yards south of me. Probably a good thing… He was a great buck, very unique, but I didn’t want the decision of whether or not to take that buck this early in my season. Thankfully he made the decision for me.

Well, obviously a buck can’t fight himself, so I was expecting another deer to pop out at some point, but I certainly wasn’t expecting this caliber of deer to emerge from the hedgerow. With the 3 point from earlier in the evening in tow, a BIG 10 point made an appearance as the final few minutes of shooting light elapsed.

***Make sure your resolution is bumped all the way up for the Youtube videos (little gear symbol at bottom right) – the low light filming conditions killed the quality, but you can see plenty enough to understand why I was REAL excited***

It was the sort of buck that I had hoped to encounter in the Midwest and there was NO doubt he was a shooter. At the moment I thought he was heading away, he decided a little go-round with the 3 point was in order.

When they parted, I knew I had a chance. That 10 point obviously knew about the 6×3 from earlier and I had already gotten his attention with a couple soft grunts and bleats. Hoping curiousity had gotten the better of him, I was hoping for him to break away and head for my fence jump where I hoped a short 10 yard shot would end my season almost before it began…notice the word “hope” appearing 3 times.

He did break away and he did head my way, but it slightly to my south as he took the same exact route as the 6×3 from earlier.

I certainly didn’t have anything to complain about though. My expectations were confirmed and my faith in my own scouting ability/efforts were more than validated with 5 different buck sightings on my first hunt on Ohio public land. Obviously, it’s unrealistic that every hunt will be this successful, but bottom line – Ohio public land HAS BIG BUCKS if you know where and when to look for them. I’d like to think that if I keep rolling the dice in these high probability areas that I’ve identified, success will be eventually attained.

Can’t wait to get in there again (hopefully…Thursday afternoon) and give them another try. The wind has shifted and I’ll be focusing on the corner of the corn field instead of the apple/soybean combination. Not my top stand location in the area, but I know there is a scrape line over there that is getting some attention. With these bucks in a predictable bed-eat-repeat pattern, I can’t believe I’m actually saying this – stay away rut, stay away. I feel like another couple sits on the right wind could yield a shot at one of these bucks. They are bedding where I thought they would be bedding, and they are eating where I thought they would be eating. Just need to predict their movement path within 30 yards and execute the shot…sounds so simple…

Just for curiosity, I rough scored the big 10 at 145 conservatively. His huge eyeguards and awesome width go a long ways in taking him from a very nice buck to a great buck!

The “live” hunts have began, check back for more soon!