This year, for the first time in my life, I was going to have an opportunity to hunt on my own property. My wife and I recently purchased a house, and while I do not exactly own a large tract of land, I have enough to safely hunt, and early trail camera checks showed that there was plenty of deer for the upcoming season.
Before the season started, I decided I would hold off on harvesting any deer until I started getting some photos of good buck movement, and at that time, hopefully shoot a good buck. Early on there wasn’t much exciting happening on camera. My property sits nestled between agricultural fields to the north, west, and south. I suspected that while the crops were in the fields, there wasn’t much of a reason for the deer to venture far. My suspicions seemed to be playing out as I only had a few does and yearlings on camera for the first few weeks of season. However, I figured that once the crops came out I would start to see some antlers. Sure enough, mid October rolled around and things started to happen. On October 15th, I got home from work, and like previous weeks, I went straight to check my camera. On the way to check my camera I came across something new on the trail I always take. A big scrape! Excited, I nearly sprinted back home to see what was on my camera. 100 photos in, and I had my first antlered buck on camera. Over the next 2 weeks, I identified 23 unique bucks on camera, and several of them were coming in almost daily. It was now time to start spending some time in the tree.
I hunted a few times, but the deer movement was slow. I did manage to have a great encounter with a young 1.5 year old buck my first sit, but after that, I didn’t see many deer during daylight. I decided to give it another week or so in hopes that as the rut got closer, the daylight movement would pick up. It was now November 7th, and after a slow sit in Indiana, I decided to return home and give my place a try again. I got to my stand early that afternoon, and after getting all settled in, I just had a good feeling tonight was going to be the night.
Not 20 minutes later, I heard something noisily coming through the creek bottom south of my setup. I hoped it may have been a big buck with it’s seemingly “I don’t care how loud I am” attitude, but seconds later, I heard the loud clink of metal on metal. I knew immediately what it was. The stand that previously sat vacant just across my property line had finally been visited by it’s owner. Within moments, I began to hear an endless barrage of rattling, grunting, and bleating. At that point, I figured my night was likely ruined. Still, I had taken all the time to set up my cameras and get settled in, what could it hurt to sit the evening out?
It had started to cool off, and amazingly somewhere around my “buddies” 5th rattling sequence, I heard the unmistakable sound of a deer walking behind me. I slowly turned around to spot a yearling doe crossing the creek in my direction. Just a little behind her, 2 other deer were making their way to the same creek crossing she had taken. At that time, I decided that if the big doe presented me with a shot, I was not going to pass it up. I still hadn’t harvested a deer on my property, and considering the conditions, this doe would be nearly as great of a hunting accomplishment as I have experienced.
As the three deer made their way within bow range, I slowly panned my camera to the lead deer. I knew very well the tree I was hunting in didn’t have as much cover as I’d prefer, but I hoped I was high enough that I could get away with the movement necessary to shoot a deer with a bow. Of course, the minute I reached for my bow, the lead doe looked right up in my direction! Panicked, I sat as still as possible, not even blinking. For what seemed like an eternity, but was likely only a few seconds, she stared right at me. FINALLY, she went about her business feeding in front of me. As she moved on, I finally got ahold of my bow. I positioned myself to get ready for a shot, but just as I began to draw my bow. The rattling began again! All three of the deer quickly began to retreat, but lucky for me, the biggest doe in the group stopped at about 30 yards and stared back in the direction of the rattling. I could tell she was not spooked, but she definitely wanted nothing to do with the source of the commotion. I waited patiently for her to turn her head so I could draw my bow. When she finally did, I took one quick look at the LCD on my camera to make sure she was in view, and pulled my bow back.
I settled the pin of my Hogg Father and let an arrow fly. The arrow struck her just slightly forward, but perfect up and down. As she turned to run, I could tell she was hurting and having trouble using her front legs. She began to run directly towards my house and by the time I got my camera back on the general path she was taking, the woods became silent and still. I was slightly in disbelief. Had this evening I had written off suddenly become my first successful hunt of the year, and my first successful hunt on my new property? I sat down and reviewed the footage, making sure I hadn’t imagined what had just happened. After seeing that the footage upheld my belief, I started packing up to retrieve my deer. Before I got down however, I had to text my wife. She had been so excited over the fact I finally had my own land to hunt, and she had to be the first to know. Just as I expected, she replied to my message with almost as much excitement as I felt.
As I made my way down to the spot the doe was standing when I shot, I could see immediately there was good blood on the ground. The Grim Reaper Whitetail Special appeared to have done the job again. I had a good idea of where she had gone down, and instead of following the blood trail, I simply walked up the trail a short ways and sure enough she was there. She was far from the monster buck I hoped to shoot that night, but she may very well have been one of my most memorable harvests to date. At this point, nothing could ruin my night, not even being locked out of the house by my loving wife! But that’s a story for another time. For now, it was time to focus on getting my hands on some antlers!
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