The last three weeks have become blended together in my mind as a big blur of packing, driving, hunting, driving, unpacking, driving and some more hunting. Between November 5th and November 27th I spent 16 out of 23 day in November deer hunting. It’s been cold, hot, frosty, raining and even snowing at some points. The hunting action has ranged from dead slow to fast and furious but usually hovered somewhere in the middle. It’s been hectic, crazy and tiring but for someone who loves hunting like I do it has been an awesome month.
The chaos started back on November 5th when I headed to the property for two days of hunting during the prime of the bow season. If you have to pick a time to be in the woods the early part of November would certainly be it and I was super excited to hit the woods and try to get a look at some of our shooter bucks. They had been doing a pretty good job of dodging us so far but at this time of the year things you would never expect to happen can happen at any time.
I had high hopes heading into the 5th and 6th of November but by the time I was heading back home on the evening of the 6th I was left scratching my head. I certainly wasn’t “expecting” to go harvest a huge buck this weekend but I was definitely hoping to at least have an encounter with one of our target bucks at least. My time in the woods had produced sightings of a 6pt, a small half racked buck and a spike.
The spike was perhaps the most interesting encounter of the weekend not because of the buck itself but because of the fact that he had previously been shot in the rear quarter and had the arrow still sticking out of him. He came in just before dark and I wasn’t able to notice the arrow in time to draw and take a shot. The deer didn’t have a noticeable limp and didn’t appear to be suffering much but after some discussion we decided that if seen again he would be harvested if possible. He became known as Arrow and apparently he gets around pretty well despite the injury because we have gotten several pictures of him on different cameras around the property.
After that short weekend it was back home for a few days of work and then back up to the property. I would be up hunting from the 10th of November through the 20th and was very excited to hit the woods and try to wrap up bow season with a bang. I’m not opposed to shooting a good buck with my gun but if I had my choice I would much rather take deer with my bow. One of my goals for this year was to take a good buck with my bow and I knew that the next few days were going to be my best chances to do just that.
I hit the woods on the 11th with my eyes peeled hoping to spot a good buck out chasing does.
I decided to sit a stand we call The Intersection on the morning of the 11th. It is located on the north side of our sanctuary area and has a good run going past it as well as good cover around it and a bedding area to the north. It seemed like a good place to catch a buck cruising so I headed out nice and early and was prepared to stay sitting for a while. At about 9am two button bucks came from the sanctuary heading north along the run and passed at about 15yds, never once noticing me or getting spooked. If I could get a big buck to do that I would be all set.
About 10am I noticed movement off to my left and spotted a doe working through an area we call The Finger. At this time of year I always check the back trail of any does I see and sure enough about 15yds behind her was a buck. As I glimpsed his rack I saw it was a decent buck and once I got a good look I knew it was a buck we call Pinchy. He was following the doe as they headed to the cedars behind me.
This buck, who we call Pinchy, came through with a doe but I decided to let him pass as I had my mind set on something bigger.
As they got to the corner of the cedars and The Finger they held up for a minute. The doe urinated and Pinchy immediately went to where she had been and began smelling the air and bobbing his head up and down. I let out a few light grunts but he wasn’t too interested in anything but the doe. Instead of heading into the cedars she began to angle towards my tree and got to about 20yds south of me. Slowly Pinchy worked out of the edge of the cedars and began to follow her towards my stand.
Any year prior to this Pinchy would be a great buck for what we have seen on our place and I would have been all about getting a shot at him. This year has been a bit different for us though. By this time we had picked up 7 shooter bucks and Pinchy is pretty much the smallest in the bunch. I decided that if he got to 20yds or less and offered a shot I would likely take the shot. If he stayed farther out I wasn’t going to force the issue and would pass him in the hopes of coming across one of our bigger bucks.
Pinchy must have known my decision because instead of following right behind the doe he paralleled her trail a bit and stayed at about 30 or 35 yards as he passed south of the stand. At this point the doe, who had been a little skittish thanks to Pinchy bugging her, had worked downwind of me to the right of the stand. I’m not sure if she caught my wind or if she was trying to stay ahead of Pinchy but she started to run, then stopped, then spooked again as Pinchy ran towards her and they both headed off back towards the cedars.
I’m sure some wouldn’t technically call that a pass but in my mind I definitely passed an opportunity to harvest that buck and he now becomes the biggest buck I have ever passed on. He is a 2.5yr old from what we have seen and seems to be a homebody that is sticking right around our property more or less. I have had two encounters with him so far this season and we can’t find a spot to put a camera that we don’t get his picture on it. I really, really hope that he makes it through this season and stays local come next year. He will be a great buck next year and won’t be getting free passes in 2012.
This picture, taken mid-day on November 14th (the date and time are wrong on the picture) is one of several we’ve gotten of Pinchy this year.
That encounter with Pinchy would be my only hit list buck encounter of the trip but I did have another run in with Arrow the following morning from the same stand. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to seal the deal on him thanks to some bad luck and a big time mistake on my part.
Arrow and the doe he was chasing (yes, despite the arrow sticking out of his rear quarter he was still on the hunt for love. They are amazing animals aren’t they?) came out of the cedars and were heading right down the run that passes the stand. They were milling around a bit and as they got to me Arrow was actually in front of the doe. I drew my bow and, as I was getting ready to shoot, the doe must have picked me off and she froze in her tracks. When she froze Arrow spun around to look at her and I was left with a very steep quartering away shot. The arrow from the first failed attempt by somebody else was in my line of sight and I decided it was not a shot I wanted to take. As the doe prepared to bolt I started to let down my bow and somehow tripped the trigger on my release. The arrow launched into the ground at the buck’s feet and he bolted about 15yds before stopping to look for his doe and then walking off. In the end I not only blew the chance to harvest Arrow I also cost myself a broad head and an arrow (the shaft ended up broken) in the process. Not exactly like I hoped that encounter would go.
The next few days of hunting were good but didn’t produce any note able encounters and as I headed up to the cabin at about 1:30pm on November 14th I couldn’t believe that the early bow season was actually over. I don’t hunt on the evening of the 14th so for me bow season ended with my morning hunt on November 14th. It had been a good season, very exciting and a little disappointing as well but that is nothing new.
While I was bummed out to see the end of bow season I am always excited for opening day of the firearms season. Here in Michigan if you say “November 15th” the majority of people will know that it is the opening day of the firearms deer season. Every year on websites like Michigan Sportsman there are debates about whether the date should be changed or adjusted and while I can see the merit in moving the date I also love the tradition that goes with November 15th as well. I am much more of a bow hunter than a gun hunter but taking the field on opening day is one of the most anticipated and exciting days of the year for me.
Our opening day camp consists of my father in-law, my two brother in-law’s and myself, although this year we were down a man for the first day as my brother in-law Chris couldn’t make it up until the second day of the season. We are a relatively new camp having only been around for a few years now but we certainly enjoy ourselves and it’s a great time for all the guys to get together up at the cabin and have a little fun and do some hunting.
This year with all the bucks we had been seeing we were really hoping to be able to put our first good buck on the pole as a camp. I don’t think any of us cared who shot it just as long as there was one up there for us to be proud of. The few days before the 15th were filled with game planning, strategizing and making last minute set ups and adjustments to get things just right for opening day. By mid day on the 14th we had things ready to go and it was time to get the 2011 firearms season under way.
The sun rises every day of the year but it’s always a little bit more exciting as the light starts to fill the sky on November 15th. There is excitement in the air and I love the fact that I know a bunch of other hunters are out there enjoying the same morning that I am. I’m never tired or cold on opening day; the excitement takes care of that. You’re never bored or busy daydreaming because you know your buck is just about to step into view. It is a great day to be a hunter and a great day to be in the woods.
My opening day sit ran from 6:05 am till just after 5:50pm or so and during my all day sit I managed to spot four deer. I saw a spike, a six point and a doe and a fawn. The doe tempted me by dancing around in my shooting lane for a bit but I didn’t want to take the shot and let he head off down the trail. All the deer were seen by about 10am and the rest of my sit was uneventful, but still enjoyable.
A doe stood in this shooting lane opening day but I decided to wait, not wanting to disturb my area so early on in the hunt.
My father in-law and brother in-law both saw deer on opening day but none of us saw anything that made us squeeze the trigger and as darkness fell our buck pole was still bare and our quest for a good buck on opening day would have to wait until 2012 to be fulfilled.
The next few days of the firearms season tend to slow down a bit for us and this year was no exception. There were very few deer sighted during the next four days worth of sits and as we headed back home on the 20th there was a bit of disappointment in the air but not enough to offset the great week that everyone had enjoyed. The hunting had been slow but we had all had a great time, made some memories and are already planning and looking forward to next year.
Since I’ve been slacking a bit the last few weeks in terms of getting good entries posted up I will be doing a few entries this week to get things caught up. I did manage to take a doe on Thanksgiving evening so I will talk about that hunt a bit. I also have a few trail cam pics to share of some new bucks that wandered onto our property once the rut got rolling. Then I also want to put up another update of our hit list now that we know the fate of several of our target bucks. Stay tuned the next few weeks as we’ll be pumping out some good stories and pictures.
Take care, and thanks for reading!!