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- Category Bowhunting
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- Prostaff Member Steve Johnson
There are a few rules (more than I will mention in this writing but these are important) I have and usually follow very strictly when picking a tree to ascend for bowhunting. Number one is the wind, I never hunt a tree that does not provide favorable wind direction based on where I think the deer are coming from and heading to. Number two is cover, as a serious Bowhunter you need to be up close and personal with the deer your hunting and without cover that becomes a VERY tough game.
I had been scouting this area with the use of trail cameras for a few weeks. I had hunted it one time and scored on a huge doe. However, the stand site I had chosen that night let 6 of the 7 deer slip by me just out of range. It's not easy to get a south or east wind in late January here, but a little patience and a storm from the south and on the last day of the season, I was in business. I was super excited because not only where a lot of deer using this area, but I had a HUGE piebald coming through quite regularly.
I got to the woods early enough to give me time to find the right tree based on my observations from the previous hunt. I normally don't venture around in the woods until I am hunting, so I did not have a specific tree picked out but a good tree for a climber usually isn't that hard to find in this area. In this case, I had a few popular trees to pick from but cover was scarce! One tree in particular seemed to be in the perfect position 10 yards from 2 different trails leading across the hillside. As I stood there contemplating I thought about “the rules” so I walked another 15 yards looking for another perfectly positioned tree, with cover. After standing there looking for a few minutes I couldn't find what I was looking for and decided the big popular tree would work if I positioned myself right.
I setup and climbed up the tree 25 ft and settled in. I decided to get about three quarters the way around the backside of the tree to give me a way to hide and keep me out of line of sight. My hopes were that I could stay hidden around the backside of the tree as the deer passed by at 10 yards which would offer me a perfect quartering away shot. Sounds great on paper, but here in the real world deer are great survivors and lets just say it doesn't always work!
It was 5:00 on the last day of the season and I was super excited to be in the woods however dreading sundown which would signal the end of my bowhunting season. I took a minute to reflect on my travels and successes of the season when I heard something behind me. I looked back and sure enough caught a glimpse of movement. I slowly got turned around to face the tree and began glassing that direction. Twelve deer in all were cresting the ridge and headed down my 10 yard trail!!
I got setup with my bow in hand and leaned in tight to tree in hopes they would single file by and I would get a shot at one of the largest does. Well, as late season bowhunting sometimes goes, the deer were on alert and about the 4th deer by (a huge doe) walked down the trail towards me and instantly picked out something in the tree that wasn't there yesterday! I wasn't moving and I had a perfect wind but she was having none of it! She stared and head bobbed for probably a minute then jumped back 10 yards and stood there. Of course this alerted all the deer that something was amiss, and they were literally all around me in every direction. Having 12 deer within 20 yards of me on alert as you can imagine this isn't the ideal situation for a Bowhunter to be in. The bright side is they hadn't bolted yet. I stood motionless hoping they would go back to feeding through. After a couple minutes the doe that “thought” she saw something started heading back my way and I was back in business, or so I thought.
As she ducked under that same holly tree she kept walking and everything seemed to be going my way when another huge doe whipped her head up and started the same process all over! The staring contest was on but this doe was a little less tolerant, she blew one quick snort and jumped back up the hillside and stood there. Most of the deer were now 31 yards from me standing there, but I couldn't find a hole. After a minute or so they decided this wasn't the place to be and went back over the hill where they came from. My last day in the woods was a bust, a little reality check and a reminder, follow “The Rules”!
The moral of this story is follow the rules, deer are very adapt at picking out danger and they will bust you more often than not when you don't. Hanging out on the side of a telephone pole straight tree with no cover is just not a good decision at anytime of the season, but especially late season. In hind-sight I should have continued walking until a found a tree a little further from the trail that offered at least some cover. Had a done that, there is a good chance I could have tagged number 7 on the 2010/2011 season. Instead, I’m writing yet another “what not to do” article… Until next time….