The bread and butter of American game. Like most outsiders looking in, there is a whole world of whitetail hunting, bowhunters dedicating their entire year or years to chasing a mature buck, putting meat in the freezer, and preparing for the hunt.
As time passed my interest grew, I had to see what all the fuss was about. I was invited to hunt with some friends in Nebraska back in Oct 2009 and then Minnesota with another good friend. I spent 3 days in Nebraska and 7 in Minnesota and after learning a stack about whitetails, their habits, stand placement, deer management ect from a good friend James Gilmer, I came away with nothing but fun memories from NE and a miss with the longbow on doe in MN, and a drive to some day come back and give it another shot.
It would be 4 years before I could return to hunt whitetail, I put in a lot of research over the years, and had a much better understanding of the deer this time around. After a the full archery season in Colorado chasing Elk it was time to focus my efforts and thoughts to the upcoming Whitetail season. My first hunt would be a week in Oklahoma with a friend of mine, and then back to Jims farm in MN for another week accompanied by my beautiful partner Bec’s. I was well prepared this time and I would hunt the first week with the PSE and the second with my new VPA Vapour ILF recurve.
After a full day’s drive to Oklahoma, I arrived unpacked, sharpened the VPA 150gr three-blades to a crisp edge and hit the sack. Alarm sounds in the pitch black of the morning, Kuiu gear on, Coffee x 2 mugs, check the forecast, run outside to double check it and then head for the stand.
I had spent some time going through some Trailcam pics and knew there where a few great bucks getting around, I was not to bothered early on to take a doe, and decided to focus my efforts on a mature buck.
As well as lots of deer this area held some beautiful Rio Grande Turkey and was keen to also try my luck on a fall turkey if the opportunity presented itself. First day on stand I saw a stack of deer with some great young bucks with great potential, is was hard to let them pass ill admit, but they’l never get BIG if you don’t let them grow right.
The days passed and I was seeing some nice deer, and several nice flocks of turkeys, despite the warm weather.
Its still early and most of the bucks where still in small groups, but the smart old guys where being as elusive as ever.
After patterning some turkeys I decided to set up and try for one. It was bad wind for most of the stands we had and going against my friends recommendation to sit a stand over a good deer trail, I opted for my turkey set up, the wind was swirling and right on time the turkeys started to move through my set up, 30m out I rolled the cams over and sent the shaft on its way, centering the bird. I watched the shaft blow through the bird and saw it go down in 20m. I was pretty excited, as these birds have been somewhat of a nemesis of mine. There was still and hour of legal shooting light and I decided to wait until dark to recover it. Not 20mins later I watched a doe walk right past the stand my buddy had suggested, I had just lifted my binos for a closer look when I saw 3 buck following her Indian file…..BIG Bucks!!! Murphys Law at work as usual, encouraging to see some early rut activity non the less.
I climbed down before dark and recovered my first Rio.
The next morning I woke to rain, the others in camp had no intention of sitting in the rain so I would be out alone. I sat the day with some nice sightings, the rain cleared early and turned out into a great day with lots of deer movement, I let every doe walk in the hopes of a buck to come along following, until nightfall with no luck.
D day and Im up a small cedar overlooking a nice field, there was a doe out in the field and I had to take care to get in without alerting her, she fed until day break and then moved off.
8;01 am and I see movement, I pull out the video camera and see its a nice 8 point coming my way, perfectly symmetrical but still a young deer, he walks right past me at 20m to my left, I look back out and see another deer, I see antler right away, he’s coming and he’s coming fast, I fumble to get the camera into my pocket…He’s a good buck! Im struggling to get my bow up and ready, he stops at 30m front on and feeds for a while, then turns to his right and is going to pass on the same trail as the buck before, I risk it and come to full draw in the freezing cold, maybe he sensed something maybe he just decided to stop, I fight to raise my pin and settle, burning every once of focus I have and in a flash the arrow is gone, in my minds eye the arrow flew true. But things happened so fast I had just enough time to raise my bino’s and get a glimpse as he left the field at full run, I saw no blood.
Now my blood was rushing, the cold had dropped my core temperature and that along with the excitement was causing me to shake. Loving ever second, scenes on high taking in lung fulls of fresh air, and reliving the event in flash repeat in my mind. I waited 40min before climbing out of the tree, text my friend Doug and told him I hit a good buck, he arrived with Barry to help track at 9;15.
I walked over to the arrow, the VPA tipped shaft was deep in the soil, the tracks showed a heavy deer. We started the track and made it to where he left the field, moving slowly up the hill I looked up and there he was, having traveled 130m from the shot. I did not say a word..or at least I don’t remember saying anything, just soaked it all in.
A Beautiful Buck, everything I could wish for after waiting it out for a mature deer after passing many before him. It took some time to really realize it had all come to pass.
It was made even better by having spent time hunting and making new friends though the binding vines shared by like minded hunters. We celebrated with a 18 year old Macallan single malt which let me tell you went down like a home sick mole!
The next few days where bliss just roaming around “attempting” to stalk turkeys and filming animals. The last day I stalked and killed a nice doe at 20m. With cool-boxes full of venison I headed for CO to pick up Bec’s for the next leg of the hunt in MN. Another 3 days on the road and we hit 5 pines farm. Oct 25th with a cold front moving in and a huge storm. We spent the next day catching up with our friends, going over stands, deer movement, upcoming forecast the usual. Also gave me a chance to get a days break between traveling and hunting.
Time to break out the VPA Vapour and get the brain sighted in.
Jim and I getting in some practice behind the Yurt.
Now MN is cold and for an Africa I wont lie I froze my ass off up there like usual, and loved every minuet of it. The bucks where starting to move and there was great sign on the ground.
We hunted hard and put in a lot of hours on stand, we set up a few new stands after monitoring movement.
First morning I had a nice doe feed behind my stand, in the cold I could see another breath on the cold air, a glimpse of antler….turned out to be a BIG buck, he moved to 30m behind my stand and never presented a shot, I watched as he walked out of my life and like almost all big bucks….never to be seen again. Great start non the less. Before getting down for the morning I could hear more movement 3 does heading my way, I got into position and readied, they moved through in front of me and at 15m one of the does turned slightly quartering away, tension built on my finger as the recurve limbs tracked back, at the touch of the corner of my mouth the arrow was gone. I did not see it fly but heard the unmistakable sound of the arrow. I looked up to the skies and smiled back at the hunting gods that where smiling down at me.
I returned to the yurt and had a pot of coffee waiting for Jim upon his return, after a quick cup we headed out on the spoor. 150m down the heavy blood trail was my doe. A beautiful big Doe.
Now it was time to try focus our efforts on some of the great bucks cruising the area. We’re up early and in bed late, but just could not get things to work out. We where seeing some young bucks though.
One morning I hunted a transect of too old logging roads and early through the leave over the ridge came a nice big 10 point, he passed by me at 60m and dropped onto the road heading strait for James, who was sitting 250m across from me on that very same logging road. He was great buck, I sat back down when he tipped over the ridge, hoping he would pass by my hunting partner. Next thing I know I hear some leaves and the big 10 is heading strait back towards me, it was everything I could do to get up and get ready before he passed my shooting lane 25m directly in front of me. Game on, he stopped just before my lane, quite relaxed, 2 more steps and id have my shot, my brain was racing reading for the shot, the buck then ran through my lane stopped again just the other side of it and walked slowly out of my life. I was kind of stunned, “What the ?” “what are the dam odds of that” just 2 more steps that’s all I needed. All I could do was sit back down and laugh…just was not meant to be on that one I guess.
I hunted that same Ridge again in hopes of catching that buck moving through again, with no luck. I did however see a nice buck across the valley tending a doe, 30yards from one the stands, wrong place and the wrong time. I took this pic through my bino’s whilst on my way out. It was to be the last buck I saw for my season, and the whole experience had left me with a greater understanding of the passion for chasing these majestic deer, and I fondly look forward to my next time in the whitetail woods.
Read more whitetail tales at adventurousbowhunter.com.
Images courtesy Andy Ivy