While driving back home after my morning hunt turned John Deere farming equipment parade, I had stopped at a couple pull-offs on the main highway to glass in to some fields that were considerable walking distance from the nearest public access point. Most of the fields were not that interesting – either standing corn or standing beans, maybe even already combined and harvested – but one field in particular did hold some intrigue. It was a field that I had expected to be converted back into agriculture, but for whatever reason, it had been overlooked or purposefully left fallow for at least one more year. In short, it was a thick old nasty field overgrown with head tall weeds and grasses and even some aggressive woody encroachment.
That night, I did some looking on Google Earth and some other aerial imagery that I consult here in Ohio and came up with a game plan. The wind was not good for me to get tucked in to what I thought would probably be the best area, but I could slip in and hang a blind set to observe things from afar…perhaps even do some blind rattling or grunting to try and generate some interest from a pre-rut buck.
I did alright finding a good tree well before dawn on October 26th, and the brightening skies showed that a heavy, heavy frost had blanketed the ground. It was not long after sunrise that I glassed up the first deer of the morning – a heavy antlered and wide 10 point sporting thick but stubby tines. Even from 300 yards or so distant, it was immediately obvious that I was staring at a mature buck. He was striking a quite attentive pose, perhaps like another deer was close by that he was monitoring, but he did not give any indication that he was moving direction or another. I decided to keep quiet and let things play out a little bit. 5 minutes later and not 20 yards from the mature buck, another buck popped out into view – this one much younger, probably a yearling. As the yearling buck approached the mature 10 point, the two began to move a little more, weaving in and out of the tall cover of the field. Disappearing sometimes, then re-appearing in the next visible gap. All of a sudden, there was another buck. This one standing right behind the wide and heavy 10 point. It did not take much studying with my binoculars to reveal a real slammer of a buck that towered in height over the first one I had seen. 3 bucks…time to make something happen. I grunted some and did some real light sparring. Nothing serious, just enough to catch their attention.
Somewhere in the midst of not generating much attention with my calling attempts, I glassed in another direction onto some private agricultural fields and caught glimpse of a big mature-bodied deer walking into a woodlot that bordered the public. Though I could not make out any antlers, it had the appearance and gait of a mature buck. Buck #4. When I glassed back to check on the trio of bucks to my south, a fourth buck had joined ranks, this a two-year old type buck – buck #5. His introduction to the group appeared to have rankled some feathers, and all the bucks were starting to demand a little more of their own space and defend it accordingly. It was about that time that everything started to make sense. I could not see the doe, nor did I ever actually lay eyes on her, but there was a doe in there. Those bucks were single-filed puppy-dog following her movements into that old field to her day bed. A couple times the bucks would course and cut through the old field, raising their heads up high – racks gleaming in the bright morning sun – to try and see above the cover. Whenever a buck expressed a more curious posture, I threw some more calling their attention. A couple times I thought it might draw a buck over to my corner of the huge block of thick cover, but they always turned back to the group after a minute or so of cutting a few yards off the distance between me and them.
Paying so much attention to the bucks to my south, I was leery of having a deer sneak up on me from another direction. Sure enough, just before 9 o’clock I glanced behind me to see a decent 8 pointer sticking his head up in some overhanging branches to work a licking branch. I got turned around quickly and reached for my bow, but he was not the caliber buck I had my heart set on. 16 or 17 inches wide with solid mass but short tines, the buck was well within range but safe on this particular occasion. I watched as he pawed out a scrape within 25 yards of my set-up and then he slipped back into the bush honeysuckle thicket that I was bordering. Buck #6.
When I turned back around after the exciting close-range encounter, the bucks (and doe) were working their way towards a small woodlot that straddles the private-public land boundary where I presume they bedded for the day. Finally, and it absolutely kills me that I had to get down early this day, but there was no way around it. I had to teach class at 11:00 AM. At 9:30 AM, I was clipping my pull-up rope onto my bow cam when I caught movement just 50 or 60 yards out in to the old field. Another buck, the 7th on the morning, was slipping through and paused momentarily to gobble down a few low-hanging crabapples. Just a yearling, I watched him cruise through the field and disappear on to adjacent private ground before climbing quickly down and hiking back to my truck. What an unbelievably action-packed morning on Ohio’s public land.