Whitetail Weekly, “The Puppa Buck”

All the waiting was over and a moment 9 months in the making had finally arrived.  As sunlight began to illuminate the woods around me the opening day of Michigan’s 2013 season slowly came to life.  Right at first light I spotted a small buck on the northern edge of the food plot I was sitting over and about 20 minutes after he wandered off a doe entered the plot from the south.  The season was off to a good start and a few hours later as my morning hunt came to an end I couldn’t believe how good it felt to be back out in the woods again. 

As I headed back out for the evening hunt I couldn’t help but think that this was not the type of evening that you’d expect to see a lot of deer up and moving.  Temperatures were in the mid to upper 70’s and winds were running at 15 to 20 mph most of the day.  Despite my doubts I went to a stand that overlooks our largest food plot knowing that a nice 9pt that my son had nicknamed “Puppa” had been using this plot with some regularity throughout the summer. 

When we got this picture back in July we had a feeling this buck, who was later nicknamed "Puppa", was going to be a good one.

We had been watching this buck all summer and using our trail cameras to try and establish some hunt-able patterns on him.  He was definitely a buck we were looking to harvest and based on our observations we thought our best bet may be to catch him on his way to, or feeding in, our larger food plot.  The WSW winds we had on this particular evening worked out really well for a stand we have tucked high up in a large, triple trunk tree on the NE corner of the food plot.    

With the high temps and howling winds I was quite surprised to look over my shoulder and see two small bucks crossing the wide open winter wheat field behind me with over 90 minutes of light left.  I took it as a good sign and hoped they weren’t the only deer up on their feet.  Unfortunately, as the winds finally let up and we neared the end of shooting light those two small bucks from earlier were the only deer I’d seen all night. 

Figuring my night was pretty much over, I decided to try and get down a few minutes early to hopefully avoid getting pinned in the stand if the plot filled up just after dark.  With my back to the plot I slowly gathered up my gear but when I took a quick glance over my shoulder my plans quickly changed. 

By August we knew that he was a definite target and we were consistently getting pictures of him in and around this plot, often times right around dusk.

Puppa had snuck into the plot during the few seconds my back was turned and he and another buck were now feeding calmly out in front of my stand.  I grabbed my bow and drew but I had no angle on him as he quartered towards me.  I let down and let him continue to feed but by the time he worked his way into a good shot angle the last bit of light had faded and I wasn’t able to comfortably settle my pins and make a good shot.  I had no choice but to let him walk.

I had the wind in my favor as they headed west through the plot and once they turned to the south and disappeared I quickly got out of the stand.  I used the exit path we had cut through some raspberry bushes to get out to the field quickly and quietly and slipped out of there knowing that he and his buddy had no idea I was ever there. 

While I would have preferred to get an arrow into Puppa that night I was still quite pleased with the hunt.  I was proud of myself for making the right, albeit tough, decision to let him walk and I was happy with the fact that I had been able to slip out undetected.  If I wasn’t going to be able to harvest him this sit at least I hadn’t been busted or tipped our hand at all.  I was hopeful that he would be none the wiser and would continue to use the plot as he had been.    

The following afternoon I was talking with our neighbor about the upcoming hunt.  My plan had been to hunt down by the river on the other end of the property where we thought another big buck was frequenting.  After discussing it for a bit we both agreed it would be foolish to leave the plot as long as we knew that Puppa was using it during daylight hours.  There is a small window early season where you can catch these bucks moving around freely during daylight and it would be a mistake not to capitalize on that movement when we knew it was occurring. 

The winds had changed a bit from the prior day and their WNW direction allowed me to get into a stand near the run that I assumed Puppa took to get to the plot the night before.  I got situated in the stand with a few hours of daylight left and quickly ranged a bunch of spots to refresh my memory as to what distances my shots would likely come at.  As the night went on I couldn’t help but notice how much calmer it was than the night before and I hoped that the calm conditions would help get the deer moving a bit sooner than they had the night before.

About an hour and ten minutes before dark I was listening to the squirrels behind me when I suddenly realized something didn’t sound quite right.  I looked over my left shoulder and spotted a deer a mere 10yds behind the stand.  I quickly stood and grabbed my bow and as the deer emerged I realized it was our resident doe and twin fawns.  They were on their way into the bottom of the plot and would eventually all pass within 15yds and move out into the plot.  After a few minutes of cautiously checking the plot for danger they settled in and began feeding.

Finally getting my hands on a good buck made the hard work well worth the effort.

Just as I hung my bow back up I heard more footsteps but this time they were on the run I had come here to watch.  I grabbed my bow and turned to my right to ready myself.  I immediately spotted legs coming and then saw the body and rack and knew right away it was Puppa.  He was moving in from my right to left and the 5 point side of the rack I’d spent all summer watching in pictures and videos instantly gave him away.  He was moving in quickly and I realized I’d better stop watching and get ready.  I drew back and found the next shooting lane to prepare for the shot.

Earlier in the sit I had ranged the lane he was heading for at 23yds and when he hit the lane slightly quartering away I settled my pin and took the shot.  The hit looked to be good but in two big strides the deer disappeared into a thicket and I was unable to get a look at the hit.  I knew he had stopped in the thicket and I just kept thinking “he’s gonna go down…..he’s gotta go down!!”.  After a few seconds of silence, I heard the unmistakable sound of a deer hitting the ground and I knew it was all over.  The Puppa Buck was down and I had accomplished one of our main goals for the season and for our property in general.

It felt simply amazing to put my hands on this buck.  Aside from being one of my best bucks ever he was also the ultimate reward for all the hard work that we had put into our property over the last several years.  Bucks like this are what we had in mind when we set out to improve our property and to finally be able to sit behind a buck like this and know that our hard work had paid off was an awesome feeling.  Knowing how excited I was and seeing our neighbor, who shares our same hunting goals, just as excited as I was truly showed what hunting, and working towards a common goal, is all about.

We believe Puppa to be 3.5yrs old, he weighed in at 170lbs dressed and scores right at 120 inches and is definitely the best buck that we’ve taken off of this property.  Hopefully this is just the start of a great season and a string of great bucks for us.

Take care, and thanks for reading!!

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