Each year, the second weekend in October, I hang White Pine branches in three strategic locations on my property. You guessed it… locations based on wind direction. These locations are on a prime travel corridor in riparian habitat which forms a natural pinch point between two somewhat parallel ridges. Generally by Halloween, these pine licking branches have become tremendous deer magnets as well as community scraping areas.
My busy schedule this season changed my typical hunting pattern more than I would have ever imagined. When season is in, I just hunt, period. Temperature or good ole Mother Nature rarely keep me off stand. My wife, family and friends know it and accept it. For me it’s “just Hunt” …now you know.
Spring projects became Summer projects. Summer projects became Fall projects and so on. We all know how it is. It was more so than usual for me this year. Our beloved Grandkids, how can you say no to Horses, goats, pasture fences, barns & etc. Then my projects, installing an outdoor boiler to heat the hot water and house, a barn overhang, the unexpected sale of some timber, then of course the food plot to replace the damaged area kept my spare time occupied.
October 22nd I finally started hunting daily. Hunting daily means after work and both mornings and evenings on the weekend. Licking branches were up almost a week and a half by now. Noticeably there had been very little activity at the most visible licking branch I see while entering my stands. Somewhat disappointed, I knew it was just a matter of time before they began to get “torn up” as they do every year.
Buck activity had been increasing up to the 28th. I was preparing for pre-rut approaching when the weather pattern came through and put a damper on hunting for a couple days . Friday, Nov 1st, while at work, I discussed I couldn’t wait to get out hunting. The winds had settled and I guessed it would be a good time for the deer to be moving and feeding. I remember saying “I’d have loved to be out this morning”…although, not as much as the evening as it turned out.
I hurried home as usual. I washed my face and hands, changed clothes and headed out. Without going into great detail about my efforts to be scent free, let’s just say, I’m over the top. So off to the stand I go. By the wind direction once in the bottom, I chose my south-east ridge stand. Upon arriving, I walked to within ten yards of the licking branch and hung a Trails End 307 scent wick. Then I situated myself in the stand and waited patiently for activity.
That evening was eerily quiet…whoooo post Halloween ?? No birds chirping, owls hooting, neighbors chainsawing or even dogs barking. Even the winds were almost non-existent now. The only noticeable sound was the vibration of my phone. Yep, sometimes even I need some entertainment to pass the time. A buddy had just text me to do some rattling. I opted not to. I decided to let the evening play out naturally.
Around 6:20 I hear footsteps in the swamp cattails, noticeably those of a deer. Through the Osage Orange tree leaves and the Honeysuckle undergrowth I spy a deer with some antler. My first instinct was to grab my phone for a picture to show my wife and daughter. However, I opted for the binoculars instead. Upon viewing at 40 yards through the leaves, I really couldn’t make out much until……
The buck cleared the leaves and was in full view, WOW! I immediately recognized him as a shooter and the split brow buck I had given a pass to several times last year. I quickly but smoothly lowered the binoculars and reached for the xbow. Once in hand, the big boy was already through this shooting lane but would be approaching the licking branch. I could hear him walking through the thick brush along a 20’ wide strip of grass I mow to the creek. So I readied the x-bow and composed myself for the shot once he steps onto the path. The licking branch is 30 yards and generally I have a perfectly broadside shot when the deer approach it from this direction. He steps onto the path and smells the 307scent wick. He looks that direction, which is almost looking at me. My crosshairs were already steadied when I squeezed the trigger and …..
THUMP was the sound I heard. The illuminated green knock flew perfectly through his chest. He wheeled and ran down the path towards the creek and then veered off towards the east. Having run almost 40 yards, he stopped. Facing away from me with his tail twitching uncontrollably, he stood. I’m thinking any second he’ll be down… Why are things not as simple as they appear…. To quote some of you…Dang!
This episode from first sight of him to him standing took less than 20 seconds I’d guess. Now a whole 10 minutes later, I’m still watching this buck. He had slowly moved 10-15 yards towards the fence still twitching his tail. I knew he was hit hard, and with the tail twitch, was eventually a dead deer. My concern now was dead where? At dark, I backed out for obvious reasons. My last sight of him was only 70 yards or so from my stand and was 12-15 minutes after shooting and he was still standing, twitching his tail.
My plan was to give it 1 hour then return to the arrow which was sticking in the ground glowing green. Upon returning to the arrow, I easily found blood splatter and trailed it to where he had stood. Three pools of blood 3-4” in diameter where it had dripped were visible in the 10-15 yards he had slowly walked. Then…
Nothing is as frustrating as losing a blood trail. Remember I am only seventy yards or so from my stand and I know, or should I say believe, he is dead. At this point I have not made a sound. I am a half an hour into the search in somewhat thick weedy cover in riparian habitat. I decide to shine the light around thinking he is within 20-30 yards and I’ll illuminate him with the beam. No white belly or antlers or anything resembling them. Now doubting my shot placement, I decide to wait until morning.
Originally I thought my shot was right behind the shoulder but a bit low but was confident I had nicked the heart or the arteries near the heart. Now I was beginning to doubt my shot placement or where I thought I had hit. Preparing for the worst, I initiated a back-up plan. I called Trackman. Trackman put me in contact with a buddy closer to my location. We discussed a plan that I would return in the morning and look within a 100 yard diameter of his last visible location without disturbing the area I last saw him. If the buck wasn’t found, then he would bring his dog and help track the buck.
The morning was an easy rise…lol …having not slept much. I decided to start at the creek. The buck was headed there and only 60 yards from it when I last saw him. Once there, I saw nothing. So slowly working the edge of the creek to the fence, I hadn’t gone ten steps and I spotted what I thought was deer hair in a washed out depression. Through my binocs I verified deer hair. I knocked a bolt and slowly proceeded with great anticipation. Then…
Yeah baby!! He was dead. The buck had expired approximately 40 yards from the last place I saw him. Most importantly, the buck had NGS…