I have a Muddy Outdoors  logo almost permanently tattooed on my rear end. I have a growth on my face that looks something similar to a badly trimmed roadkill raccoon. And to be honest the black rings under my eyes are lending to that racoon appearance as well.

Whats going on, you ask? Here’s what. 74 hours in the treestand over the last five and a half days. My butt hurts, I have the distinct look of a psychopath and I think I have in fact just about lost my mind too. But I guess thats the beauty of the rut, right?

I’ve been hunting in Michigan the past 6 days, hoping to intercept a rutting buck. And unfortunately I have to report to you that things didn’t go my way. Over the course of my hunt, I saw tons of doe, and probably the most bucks I’ve ever seen in a weeks time. But unfortunately about 99% of them were year and a half olds.

I did have two encounters worth noting though. The first occurred the morning of Friday, November 4th. It was a frosty, quiet dawn and a buck had already walked underneath my stand snorting before daylight. Soon after the sun broke over the horizon, I heard leaves crunching behind me. I reached for my bow and simultaneously turned my head. The first thing I noticed were a lot of points and a quickly approaching buck. Within seconds though, I determined he was a 2 year old basket eight pointer and I immediately reached for my camera. As I fiddled with the camera, he quickly walked through my shooting lane and out behind some trees. I finally was able to get the camera on the buck and zoom in, and thats when my stomach dropped. He wasn’t quite the little basket eight I thought he was. Instead he looked like a pretty good buck for me. I frantically reached for the grunt call and did my best to coax him back in. Unfortunately, he wasn’t having it. Now to be honet, this wasn’t a giant buck. For lots of you guys, he might not even be considered a big buck at all. But for me, in Michigan, this would have been a nice one to put on the ground. And I immediately started beating myself up for missing this opportunity.

Fast forward three days, and I’ve essentially now convinced myself that there are no shooters left in Michigan and that I blew my one opportunity.  It’s Monday night, and warm temperatures have pretty much shut down deer movement. But as clouds rolled over me and raindrops began hitting my face, a smile appeared on my grizzled mug and I knew things might be changing soon. For the next hour I kept talking to myself, reminding myself that a buck would be appearing any second now. And at about 5:00 PM, there he was. Tall tines swinging in the swamp grass. I immediately knew it was a good buck, but in a few seconds as he stepped from the cattails I realized it was in fact “Six Shooter”!

I at first was as cool as a cucumber and I began walking myself through what needed to be done. It seemed like he’d continue walking North into my left shooting lane, so I began shifting my position and got my bow ready. Soon though, I realized something was different with this buck. He seemed hunched over and every time he moved forward it was almost a lurch. I immediately could tell that “Six Shooter” was seriously injured. After slowly moving my way for about 15 seconds he got behind a big tree in the tall grass and adruptly bedded down.

It was at this point that I lost it. My heart started beating like a humminbird and my hands shook like a leaf in the wind. Over the next 30 minutes or so, I again waited “Six Shooter” out as he bedded, similar to my encounters with him earlier in October. But this time my greatest enemy was the quickly fading light. I didn’t want to force anything, but I also realized that if he didn’t get moving soon, it’d be dark. So finally, with 10-15 minutes of daylight left I decided to try a can call. And after several turns over, he finally, slowly and haltingly rose to his feet. He lunged forward. Stopped. Took half a step. Stopped. Lurched. Stopped. And slowly the light continued to fade until I could only make out his tall tines every so often when he turned his head.

I finally realized my shot at him was gone. And my concern now shifted to whether or not “Six Shooter” would make it to see another day. I was concerned he had been shot in the paunch, based on the way he was walking all hunched over. And over the past 30 minutes, I constantly scanned the woodline expecting to see hunters tracking him onto my property. But none ever appeared.

I was left sitting in the dark, rain soaking my head, wondering what the fate of “Six Shooter” would be. I could hear him slowly moving away, almost as if he was staggering through the swamp. And then crash.

My heart sank and I worried that he’d died right there. The buck I’ve chased all year, somehow died right in front of me, but not because of an arrow from me. I waited another 20 minutes in the dark, but after not hearing anything, I slowly snuck down the treestand and back home. I was worried.

Heading back into that location this morning, I was very frightened that I would find him dead 30 yards from my stand. But at 2:00, I headed down from the stand and began searching the swamp in front of me. I’m very glad to say that I did not find him. So now I’m just holding on hope that he’ll fight through whatever is hurtin him, and that he’ll be able to make it through our upcoming gun season. I’d love to see what he turns into next year.

….

So now that my Michigan rut hunt is done, my season here at home is essentially through. Although I have the last half of November and December left, once gun season hits I’ve found that buck sightings go down to almost zero. Between other commitments, and lowered chances of buck encounters, I’m not counting to heavily on any more Michigan success. So with that being said, my hopes now lie in Ohio. I’m packing up the truck right now actually, and we’ll be on the road tonight.

Hopefully over the next 5 days, this hard work will finally pay off. I’ve never hunted harder in my life than I have this year, nor have I wanted something so badly. It all comes down to this.

So here’s to endless hours in the treestand, bad facial hair and frazzled nerves. Because that’s what the rut is all about, and thats what we live for.