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Hunt the Big Boys….Where They Aren’t!

2013 was a very up and down year for me. My season started with 4 close calls with shooter bucks on Ohio’s opening day of archery season. The biggest buck and closest call was a big 11 pointer I had been watching for two years. I figured him to be about 150-155 inch range. I had my heart set on this buck like no other. I had him patterned, figured, and knew his hangouts by August. Opening night I had him at 10 yards but I didn’t have a good shot. Like mature deer always do, he knew something was wrong and bounded off.

deer side view

“Oh well!” I thought in my stand. “How many guys get to encounter 4 different Pope and Young bucks on opening day?” I knew after an opening day like that my season would just be full of big deer and lots of them. Day 2 of archery season reality set in. From Oct 1st to Nov 9th I hunted over 100 hours and saw 3 deer. On top of that, sometime between Oct 30th and Nov 2nd I learned that my honey hole, where I had put hours, days, weeks, heck- entire summers working on- had been hi-jacked by relatives of the landowner. What can you do? I learned a tent was pitched in my food plot, merely 20 yds from my best stand. The two relatives had camped and hunted for a week while I thought I was letting the area simmer down for the peak rut. Early November I received a text with a picture of the big 11 pointer killed by one of the spot squatters. I was absolutely heartbroken. I later learned the deer was killed from a climbing stand hung basically right on top of my “north wind” stand.

Nov 10th I shook it off and decided to put a new game plan together. I have three separate properties to hunt that basically covers the same herd. I planned to find the big boys by first finding out where the deer were not…that should be easy, right?

The morning of the 10th I hunted my honey hole. This area is also my northern most piece of property to hunt. The hijacked 18 acre area woodlot mentioned earlier. 3 hours in the morning turned nothing. 3 hours at night- also no deer.

Nov 11th I hunted my farthest east spot, also a bit South of the honey hole. This is a small 8 acres with view of about 100 acres of cut beans. I sat from dark to noon and saw a dozen does and two small bucks. The next day I hit the same stand. It was the coldest day of the year thus far. Daybreak was below 20 degrees. I saw 10 does by 0700 and the same two small bucks. At 0746 I made a long 47 yard shot on a doe. She didn’t make it 100 yds.

With meat hanging in the garage, I was confident I knew where the big bucks were. They weren’t north, east, or south. I knew they had to be hanging out in the western portion of woods that borders a nature preserve.

property view

Work kept me out of the woods until the afternoon of Nov 14th. I hung a stand about 40 yds off a large pine forest that runs to the nature preserve. This area has the intersection of 4 minor trails and one major trail. Deep ravines funneled the deer right to me. I saw two somewhat fresh scrapes nearby. I was out of the woods by 1400 and couldn’t wait till the next mornings hunt.

Nov 15th turned out a little different than I expected… In more ways than one! I get settled in by 0630. Its pitch black, quiet and the woods are calm. I’m about 35 feet up a hickory. To my front I am only 15 feet above ground at 20 yds. To my rear is a deep ravine probably 60-80 feet deep. ”Don’t look down. Don’t look down.” I convinced myself if I didn’t turn around I would be fine. 0700 comes and nothing yet except- you guessed it- nature’s call. I don’t usually have this issue, but, what can ya do? So as quietly and quickly as possible, I climbed down the tree. While the Tree Lounge is an amazingly comfortable and safe stand, stealth and noise control are not its best features. I imagine me climbing down this tree sounded something like a one armed man assembling a rusty box car with ten penny nails and a sledge hammer. Not good.

By 0715 I was back in my tree, settled in, and actually repositioned a little. I was praying I hadn’t ruined the morning with my noise. Then, at 0730 I hear a crash behind me. I looked to see a buck 100 yds away diving straight down one of these massive ravines. “Of course he isn’t going to follow the trail” I said to myself. He got up my side of the ravine but 80 yards out and heading away. By the time he was 100yds away I was blasting my grunt tube to try to turn him. After a few loud grunts, I estrous bleated. Nothing. I roared on the call (just to be loud not really because I think roars work) He snapped his head and turned my way. I did a tending grunt/estrous sequence. He was interested but turned and walked away. The woods were very open so I could see him 125yds away make a brand new scrape, about the size of a car hood, licking branch and all. It took him 5 minutes. I kept wailing on the grunt call. Another buck approached from behind me. I caught a quick glimpse but never really saw him.

Finally the buck left his scrape and bristled his back and came on a line to me. Directly downwind of me. About now I realize I can’t shoot to my right because of the construction of the stand and my decision to reposition myself. So as soon as he steps behind a tree I mid-air jump to my knees in the sling seat of my tree lounge. I draw back and my arm hits my safety harness. I can’t get all the way back so I have no choice but to let down and reposition my upper body. I did my best yoga impersonation and bent my body into a crescent roll to clear my draw. The buck is closing. 75 yds and on a trail that crosses 20 yds in front of me. I duck my elbow and get drawn back. I settle in on him and stop him.

“SMACK” I hit him a little high and only get 6 inches or so of penetration. Instantly I go into worry mode and fear he’s one-lunged. He trots 20 yds, stops, and I see the blood pouring out of him. He walks ten steps and collapses. Done. Game over.

The rage broad head turned his lungs into jello. For the life of me I don’t know why I only got 6 inches of arrow in him but oh well. The following picture is how I found him. I didn’t touch the deer or arrow before I took the picture.

deerhowifoundit-225x300

My 2013 Ohio buck turned out to be a main frame 9 pointer with a two inch kicker on his right side. His right G3 had been broken off while in velvet. The deer was run ragged! Absolutely no fat and he dressed out at 178 lbs. For my part of the world that is a small buck for the age of him. I estimated him at either 4.5 or 5.5 based on his molar wear.

medeer1

I hope your season is going well. If you are having trouble locating the big deer, try narrowing your search by hunting where the big boys aren’t!

Be sure to post your harvest pictures on our facebook page! #TheHeartbeatTv

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