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Welcome to this week?s Whitetail Weekly. The other day I was watching the Top 10 on SportsCenter. It got me thinking back on the 2010 hunting season and wondering what a Top 10 list of moments from the season would look like. Once I started thinking about it I came up with way more than 10 and was a bit surprised how hard it was to narrow it down to just 10. One thing I realized when putting this list together is that hunts were making the list for several different reasons. I only took one deer this season so obviously the list wouldn?t be made up of just hunts where a deer was harvested. A couple of the contenders were hunts where I never had a deer in range, including one hunt where I never even saw a deer. How does a hunt I got skunked on end up as one of my top 5 hunts of the season? Answering that question certainly puts into perspective what you are looking to get out of your hunting experience. I won?t say that I go afield hoping to not see anything, but I certainly learned long ago that the word ?success? when referring to a hunt can have a lot of different meanings. After much deliberation I came up with a list of my top hunts of the season and I?ll share the top 5 with you, along with why the hunt made the list. --5-- (October 15th) The first day of our UP bow camp. My brother and I arrived about noon and quickly tossed a stand up in an area I knew well. After getting situated at camp I headed out for a short sit. The stand was in the woods off the edge of a few year old clear cut and offered a nice view of the surroundings. Getting into the big woods of the UP is always a great time and that first sit of the trip is always fun. I got out late and the night went by quickly as I took in the sights around me and enjoyed my surroundings. As the sun left the sky the coyotes began to sing out in the clear cut. Three separate packs calling to each other, arranging their evening get together. I didn?t see any deer and headed back to the truck in the dark listening to the coyotes off in the distance. Even without seeing a single deer this sit was just awesome. There?s something about the big woods and after waiting 357 days to get back up there that first sit can almost be a religious experience. When I spoke earlier about defining what ?success? means this is the type of hunt I was talking about. In terms of hunting deer it was an utter failure, in terms of giving my mind and soul that certain something that I love about hunting, it was a smashing success. --4-- (October 11th) The season started off pretty slow for me and I was getting a bit discouraged. This particular weekend had been warm and wasn?t the type of weather that makes you think bucks will be moving. I sat our Southline plot this morning since we had several deer on the cameras using the plot. The morning wore on and no deer showed up, I was beginning to think I was jinxed. Suddenly a small buck popped into the plot, quickly passing through and back into the woods. It was short encounter but was good enough to get me mentally back on track. About an hour later I heard movement and saw a deer slipping through the cover where I?d last seen the buck earlier in the morning. I assumed it was him again but I was wrong. It was three other bucks working through the cover. We had pictures of these bucks through the summer in and around this plot. They worked through the slashings, stopping to graze and rub on the small trees along the way. They were upwind of me the whole time and never knew I was there. I just sat and watched as they passed, eventually disappearing off to my left. This hunt was a great reminder to keep things in perspective. I was four or five sits into the season and was already getting mentally frustrated. Watching this group of up and comers was just what I needed to get me back on track and show me that a few bad sits does not a season make. The Lopsided 6 was one of the bucks seen this morning
--3-- (November 12th) I went to a ground blind that is more of a gun season spot but I wanted to give it a shot with the bow. I got to the blind early and settled in, unfortunately about 35 minutes after light I had to hustle back to the cabin for a restroom break. It is a relatively short walk and on the way back I spotted a doe out in the cut canola field. The blind is in the corner of the woods with the open pasture behind and the canola off to the right. I used the lay of the pasture land to cover my movement and slipped back in without spooking the doe. Right after I sat down I noticed a buck heading my way through the woods. The small 4pt worked through the woods to the canola. I looked back to check on the doe and saw another deer in the field that I hadn?t seen previously. It was a beautiful 8pt that was tending the doe. He had a nice tall rack, just about to the tips of his ears. Judging by the rack and body I would say he was likely a nice 2.5yr old or maybe even a 3.5 yr old. He was a shooter in my book and I was excited. I tried grunts and bleats but he would not leave his doe. He?d look my way and scent check my way but he just wouldn?t budge. Eventually he ran her off with the 4pt in tow and I thought my hunt was over. Turns out I was wrong as two more small bucks showed up later following the scent trail of the doe. This was one of those fun, crazy, rut hunts. Just when you think the morning is ruined by running back to the cabin you end up having a great hunt and seeing a great buck. A perfect example of how quickly and unexpectedly things can change during the rut. All it takes is the right doe and things can go from zero to ninety in a flash. Of course it doesn?t hurt when the buck is the second biggest buck ever seen on our property. --2-- (October 19th) It?s UP bow camp and I?m in a ground blind on the side of a hill above a thick bottom area. Last year?s trip I struggled to even see a deer from the stand and this year?s trip hadn?t started out well either. I?ve taken deer from this stand in the past and my brother saw deer here earlier in the trip. I sat patiently waiting for the deer that I just know is going to show up soon. I start to hear movement in the thick stuff below me and finally see a deer off to my left. It?s a lone doe and she?s slowly working my way. She finally gets to a shooting lane and turns straight away from me, offering no shot, and heads back into the thick stuff. She pops back out off to my right a bit and stands dead still for a few minutes before starting to turn and leave. I quickly raise my bow, draw and settle my pin behind her shoulder. At the hit the shot looks good but after she leaves I retrieve my arrow and find sign of a gut hit. I back out and head back to camp. We end up giving her several hours before tracking and find her at the end of an easy 215yd blood trail. The shot was a lung and liver hit, revealing that she was quartering too a bit more than I realized. This hunt was a great ?lesson learned? moment in several ways. First and foremost I took the evidence presented to me at the point of impact and made the right call to back out and give her time. Secondly, I was patient and waiter for her to offer an acceptable shot. I could have tried a long shot or bad angle shots as she worked in but I knew better. Lastly, the shot was about 28yds which is the farthest shot I have taken on a deer. I hit where I was aiming (although with the angle it wasn?t a great hit) which showed me I do have that ability if needed. Taking a deer with a bow from the ground is always a high point and taking a deer while up at camp is always a great feeling. Add in the lessons above and its obvious why it?s number two on the list. The happy hunter with his only deer of the 2010 season
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--1-- (November 5th) I was in a stand my brother in-law put up in an area we know is good but that we don?t often hunt during bow. We weren?t really certain the stand was in the right spot but knew it was in the right area. I hadn?t been there for long when I caught movement in front of me to my right. As the deer stepped out of the cedars I could quickly see the rack and knew it was a good buck. He was about 50-60 yards away and would end up not getting any closer. He worked past me, ignoring my grunts and bleats, and into a bedding area off to my left. I could hear him pushing does around for a bit and caught one more glimpse of him a bit later but that was it. The reason this hunt took the #1 spot is that it was a bit of a culmination for me. We have put a lot of time and effort in over the last few years in hopes of improving our land and seeing more nice bucks. The return on our investment had been seen in some decent trail cam pic?s but no real tangible encounters. This was the first mature (he was a 3.5 based on trail cam pic?s we have of him) buck I had seen on our property and was a reminder that the hard work will pay off. This buck was on our property a lot based on trail cam photos and it was awesome to see that our work was not without results. Here is a picture of the buck in our plot
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So there they are! My top 5 hunts from 2010. I?m sure that some of you reading this are wondering how some of them made the top five. I?ll be the first to admit that in terms of harvests and great encounters it may seem like a pretty weak list (heck, there is only one hunt on there where a deer was within range) but each of those hunt?s were great in my mind. I think that is the biggest thing I took away from making the list, the fact that there are many different things that can make a hunt enjoyable and seeing or harvesting deer is just one piece of the puzzle. Try making your own list. You may be surprised by what you find to be your most enjoyable hunts of the year. Take care, and thanks for reading!!
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