130 hours in the treestand over 10 days has a way of making your mind do funny things. In the course of a few solitary hours, my emotions mysteriously would go from a joyful high, to a deep dark low seemingly on a whim. An Ohio oak tree became the perfect place for me to look back at each encounter I’ve had this year and pick it apart. The mistakes I made. The opportunities I missed. The failures stacked up on my internal scale and the weight grew heavier on my shoulders. I found myself, hour by hour, making myself a little more miserable as I stressed about my chances of bagging a buck worth sharing with the world here on Wired To Hunt.

And now, after my  great big rut vacation is over and I’ve returned from Ohio, I’ve realized that my biggest mistake may not have been in the treestand, but rather right in between my ears. The biggest missed opportunity was not a deer, but rather those 130 hours being wasted on stress and self pity, rather than enjoying those moments in nature and appreciating the blessing of time in the woods. So now as I look back on my Ohio trip and the week in Michigan before, I have found myself painting the experience slightly different in my memory. Rather than grilling myself over the errors made along the way or dwelling on the less than ideal outcomes, I’m now remembering the exciting encounters on crisp fall mornings and the beautiful sun rises I saw along the way.

Yes, it’s true. My hunt this year in Ohio was not successful when it comes to filling a tag or putting a mount on a wall…But when it comes to making memories, I’d say this trip, and my rut vacation in Michigan before it, was well worthy of the record books.

So with that being said, my Ohio trip. I know I owe you a recap, so here goes. 

With five days in Ohio planned, expectations were certainly high. We’d seen a few 150 class bucks in the area and knew that there was the potential for even larger. That being said, we expected to see a lot of good bucks chasing as the rut should have been rocking. Unfortunately that didn’t end up really being the case. Over the course of our trip, we saw very little rutting activity and in fact, very few deer in general. On average my buddy and I saw about 3-6 deer a day total! Below you can see a trailcam pic of a big ole Ohio buck we got on trailcam the week before we arrived, unfortunately we didn’t see many bucks like this one haha. Although it’s nice to know deer like that were in the area at some point!

What we did see were a lot of bucks similar to the one pictured below this paragraph! Lots of dinks! Kind of reminded me of Michigan haha. Interestingly, we hardly saw any does. A typical day was 5 little bucks and one doe. That being said, we did end up seeing a few shooter bucks along the way, just not in the frequency that we expected. Over the course of the trip, my bud Corey saw 2-3 120-130 class bucks cruising down through some creek beds he hunted. Unfortunately none offered shots. I too saw a couple bucks near this size, but they also were never in range.

We credited the overall low deer sightings most likely to the full moon and the fact that we had hundreds of acres of standing corn all around us. Those two factors can usually create some slow days in the whitetail woods and it certainly did for us. So that being the case, we planned to end our trip Saturday afternoon, after another slow morning.

But, not wanting to miss on a last chance prayer, we decided to stick it out for one more evening before heading back home. And I’m certainly glad we did.

After seeing a pretty nice buck cruise about 150 yards south of my treestand that morning, and hearing a big buck grunting down in that same area the night before, I decided that if we were staying another evening, I better go for broke. So at 1:00 PM, I pulled down my Muddy treestand, slung it on my back and started slowly creeping down the ridge. With very dry crunchy leaves and bedding cover relatively nearby, I made a point to only take steps when the wind was blowing. After what seemed like hours, I finally made it down to the area I was interested in and I quickly found a suitable tree. In a few minutes I was up and settled for the evening. And then, my Boone & Crockett memory of the trip unfolded before my eyes…

At around 4:30, I noticed a white picket fence about 70 yards to the north of me sticking up above the brush. After quickly rubbing my eyes, I realized this picket fence was in fact a row of giant tines attached to a heavy bodied whitetail deer’s head! The buck slowly turned his head back and forth, like a satellite dish searching for reception and my jaw dropped. What I was looking at was a perfect, typical 160 class buck. Wide and tall. For a second I needed to pinch myself to make sure I hadn’t fallen asleep and ended up in a “Monster Bucks” DVD dream, but I soon realized this was for real. This was the biggest buck I’ve ever seen in the woods while hunting and wow was it an incredible sight to behold. Every time I think back to it, it gives me goose bumps.

Unfortunately, that buck wasn’t meant to come my direction and he slowly meandered down the hill and into the thick brush, not responding to my desperate calls. But just that encounter alone was enough to make this whole trip worthwhile.

So despite the fact that the majority of my deer hunting opportunities have passed by this year with no big buck to show for it, I am now sleeping a little bit easier. I can now sit in a tree without beating myself up and actually enjoy the wind blowing through the leaves and the chickadees bouncing across the branches in front of me. It’s a strange peace that has come over me, and I believe it comes from the realization that success and enjoyment in hunting doesn’t always have to come at the end of  a bloodtrail.

Instead it can, and should, be found in every moment you spend in the wild. Every breath of fresh air, every rush of excitement with the crunch of leaves, every story shared back home with friends. These are the true trophies of our hunts.  So as I work to better realize this, I’m proud to say that I brought a few record book worthy moments home with me from Ohio. And while they won’t reside on the wall, I’ll certainly be proud to look back on these past couple weeks and remember the highs and lows, the long hours in the tree and the encounters along the way.

Becasue while I didn’t get my buck, I did give it my all. And in the end, that’s all that really matters.