Late Season Whitetail Lessons...

E. Jones

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I can hardly believe the season is over in less than a week. It seems like just yesterday I was preparing to hunt in my favorite early season spots and complaining about hunting in 60 degree weather. Well the season has certainly flown by, but not after being very eventful. Spending countless hours in the woods has taught me some valuable lessons this season that will stay with me for years to come. As gun season came and went, I was feeling discouraged about not taking a deer, and after Christmas I decided it was time to get even more intense.

There was a special spot I had been scouting for years, and had numerous trail cam pictures of nice bucks moving around. I’d hunted it only a handful of times in the early season as a strategic move. Most of the areas I hunt get so much pressure during gun season that the deer become completely nocturnal, the ones that survive that is. This area is such a large amount of forest that it cannot be over hunted. Add in that you can only access it by foot, that you have to carry your stand, and you have a perfect sanctuary for deer. Over the last 5 years I have been slowly clearing and expanding a small food plot on the north end of this area. This year I went so far as to haul water back to it a few times in the summer and it was a lush little clover plot. Starting in October I kept a feeder in the area to hold the deer there and give them a good food source to make it through the summer. My trail camera was consistently getting pictures of nice bucks coming in to the plot immediately after dark. From extensive scouting last February I had located the bedding areas and most common travel routes. I had a good tree picked out to set my ambush; I just needed a little cooperation from nature. After a week or two of waiting for cold weather and the right winds I finally got in my tree, conveniently the moon was on my side by being directly overhead about an hour before dark. The day was perfect, I knew all my planning and work was going to reward me this night.
Even though the deer were not moving until right before dark I was settled in the tree by 1 o’clock to make sure there was no chance of disturbing the deer. I sat back and enjoyed the sounds and sights of the woods and waited for the deer to start moving. Like clockwork the does arrived about a half hour before sunset. This would be the test time for my set up, having 6 pair of eyes and 6 noses moving past me would be my first challenge. I became very worried that I placed myself to close to the trail as they came all around me. A few tested the wind and started to get nervous, but they moved past without detecting me. I was greatly relieved. About twenty minuets later two younger bucks came by and were searching for left-over acorns around my tree. As daylight was leaving me, I became worried that the big one wouldn't show up until after dark. After milling around for awhile the younger bucks started to move up to the food plot. They suddenly stopped and starred intently into the woods. I knew this was the moment I’d been waiting for all season, so I slowly eased to my feet before I even saw what was coming. Within seconds the nice eight I had been seeing was steadily approaching. At first my nerves and the cold got the best of me, but thankfully he too looked for acorns, obviously waiting for dark to move to the food plot. He stood behind a tree for a few minuets and that was all I needed to calm my nerves, I was ready to draw as soon as the shot presented itself. Since I was hunting in thick woods I only had a few limited shooting lanes and knew I had to be decisive. One of the little bucks decided he would try his luck against the big eight and came in to pick a fight. This pulled the eight right into one of my shooting lanes and the little deer had his attention. When they squared off I eased back my bow. Right as I hit the wall on my bow the slight movement caught the attention of the deer. There I was staring eye to eye with what could be my new best bow buck and my mind was racing. I didn't want to shoot while he was watching me, but if he took a step in either direction I couldn't get a shot. It was about a twenty yard shot, so I settled my pin right on his lungs and eased the trigger. At the same moment the buck decided it was time to get out of there and he ducked to run. I watched as my arrow narrowly flew over his back and he trotted off into the ticket. Disappointment was an understatement. All that planning, work, practice, culminated in a miss. I sat down in my stand and waited till dark, thinking that I had blown my opportunity.
Well after a day or two of mental recovering I actually have come to the conclusion that it was a good thing I missed the deer. He is a really nice eight this year, but only a 3 ½ year old buck. Next year he will be a super buck. All rationale aside, bow hunting is hunting with a bow, and only one little thing needs to go wrong and you won't get a deer. I have taken this experience as a learning tool to plan for next season. Knowing he has survived gun season and now late season will give me the confidence that he will survive and be a monster buck next year.

Posted by E. Jones under Field Journals on February 16, 07 01:00 PM | Permalink

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