The long, agonizing wait was finally over as I hiked my way through the darkness using only a slowly dimming headlamp as my guide. Somehow, the one thing I’d failed to pack in preparation for bowhunting on this particular morning, was fresh batteries. The path wasn’t unfamiliar, though, as I’ve taken the route many times before in previous hunting seasons. But it was a first in the fact that few people had likely been through this part of the forest since last year’s hunting season.
I’d been trying to keep out of this area all season long in the hopes of nailing down the perfect wind and overall weather conditions to make my approach. This was the day that I predicted to have my best shot at arrowing a good buck.
Trouble is, that buck has yet to be seen, and I’m not even sure if he exists. The largest buck I have on a trail camera is a spindly 6-pointer. But as the rut marches in, so do the chances of seeing a big buck on the move, cruising for does. And with a decent amount of does in the area, it’s only a matter of time before a bigger buck slips in.
Depending on where I park my vehicle, the hike in to the stand takes roughly 15 minutes, but five minutes in, it was clear, things had changed. The trail was no longer a trail at all and had overgrown with tall weeds and prickly shrubs that clawed at my legs and arms.
It was a minor setback and I was able to approach the stand relatively quietly. Any snow that had fallen overnight had melted, all except for the seat on the stand, which was coated in ice. Using one of the two extra shirts I stored in my backpack, I placed it over the seat and sat down.
Coyotes could be heard yipping in the distance as I awaited first light. It was cold, mid- to upper 20s, and my butt had already gone numb and damp as the ice on the seat melted. It was clear early on that my hopes of sitting all day long, were going to be impossible.
Nothing seemed to be moving with the exception of my legs, fingers and toes. This was one of the few times the cold truly got to me. By 10 a.m., I was headed to the truck, unhappy with not seeing any deer, but pleased to finally get some warmth back into my body.
At midday I met up with an uncle and helped him and his son hang a ladder stand, before heading back to my area, to waste some time in the truck and eat some lunch before going back out to the same stand. I didn’t want to go back. The chill had taken its toll and I was tired, but time is precious, and I needed to hunt.
I climbed up again at around 2 p.m. Plenty of light left to the day and I was pleased to have not spooked any deer on my way back. Only an hour into my sit, a doe fawn emerged from the thicket in front of me, and kept me company over the next hour. She was as close as any deer could possibly get to my tree, and even moved my ladder slightly as she nibbled on buckthorn leaves.
Another hour passed and the fawn eventually did too. As I wondered where the doe might be, a light grunt could be heard in the distance. I quickly grabbed one of my calls that emits a doe bleat sound, and within a minute I had my bow in hand and ready to pull back on what appeared to be a decent buck heading my way. It took a few seconds to make the decision to pass on the opportunity as I got a better look at the rack of a 2-year-old buck making his way into a perfect shooting lane. He proceeded to circle my stand and walk and sniff the areas the fawn had been, merely inches from the ladder.
It was a nice buck, and one that I’ve never seen on camera. It gave me some hope that there might be a bigger one out there, but I’m also worried that the decision might backfire, having let the opportunity pass to put some desirable venison in the freezer.
Once the buck moved on, he eventually crossed the river into a combined cornfield, and proceeded to harass each doe that was busy trying to feed. Two other smaller bucks also joined the pursuit of chasing does around the field, yet nothing big ever did show up. All the same, it was good to start finally seeing some deer, and hopefully that will continue over the next couple of weeks, as I try to fit more time in the schedule to chase white-tailed deer.