By Cody Altizer
Greetings, W2H nation! I hope every one of you is getting to spend plenty of time in the woods this November and are seeing plenty of deer, especially big bucks! As I sit in my hunting camp on November the 8th and type this blog, wishing I could share with you stories of tremendous rut hunting success, I am actually looking at trail camera photos and aerial maps trying to pin point a certain buck’s location. More on that later.
While I haven’t enjoyed the same success that our W2H prez and CEO did in Iowa (congrats again, buddy!), I can’t say that the first week of November has been a total disappointment. It has, however, been painfully slow as far as mature buck sightings. Here’s a quick update.
I returned from Illinois on October 30th and, going on about 8 hours of sleep the previous two days, I decided to hunt the morning of the 31st. Hurricane Sandy had just blown through Virginia and I expected deer to be moving, and I wasn’t disappointed. I had deer filtering past my stand all morning, and had a nice mature doe head straight for my stand. I grabbed my Mathews, and readied myself for a shot. She was completely calm and collected and when she walked behind a giant poplar tree at 13 yards when I drew back my bow. I needed her to take one more step to clear her vitals of a small branch that was in the way. In all honesty, I absolutely could have taken the shot she gave me, but she was walking a trail that would offer an even better shot, and she showed no signs of veering off that trail. Unfortunately, though, she did. She made a hard left and started walking directly towards my tree. She looked up at me, stared a whole right through me, and simply led her group back in the direction from which they came. She definitely saw me, but she wasn’t alarmed and just casually fed out of sight. I was thankful they didn’t blow out of there!
That same morning I did see a nice 2 year old 8 pointer and a spiker make their way past my stand, but they showed absolutely no interest in the does around the stand. I did, however, hear a mature buck grunting loudly about 200 yards to my East. I know it was a mature buck because they weren’t really grunts, more like bellows. They were deliberate, bossy, and he was upset. The only problem was I couldn’t find him through my bino’s. He had bumped a couple of does my way, but he was either interested in a hot doe, or whipping the tail of a younger buck. He carried on about 10 minutes working his way north and south covering 100 yards or so, but would never make his way towards my stand. I desperately lobbed a couple of contact grunts in his direction trying to make him mad, but Hurricane Sandy’s winds kept the does that were even 75 yards away from hearing my calls. Oh well, fun hunt nonetheless!
I hunted a couple other times between then and now (Nov. 8), but don’t have much to report. I went deer-less a couple of times and saw 15 deer the other. But it’s pretty evident that the bucks are still nocturnal, and showing no interest in the does. That may sound weird, being we are already a week into November, but I’ve learned over the years that the bucks don’t start pushing does until the 10th or 11th around here. When I start hearing of bucks acting goofy in the Midwest, I usually give myself a week before I start expecting the same.
I did have one cool hunt with yet another coyote (they seem to be following me!) Nov. 7th. I was hunting with my muzzleloader and was just enjoying a cool fall morning at the time when I heard footsteps from behind me (I was standing up in my hang-on leaning against the tree looking the opposite direction the coyote was coming from). I looked over my shoulder and saw an all black coyote coming right towards me. Now, based on what folks from the Midwest have told me, black coyotes are extremely rare. They no doubt exist, but, again, are very rare. Now let me further compound the rarity of this even that this is only the second coyote I’ve ever seen on my hunting property in the 18 years I’ve been hunting it! Pretty cool if you ask me.
Anyway, he was approaching quickly, and I knew I had a small window of opportunity to get a shot at this bad boy, which I now wanted badly. So I grabbed my muzzleloader off the hanger, flicked off the safety turned completely around in the stand only to have him in an open shooting lane staring at my broadside 50 yards away. Time was ticking. I drew the hammer back and shouldered the muzzleloader all in one motion (if someone was filming me, it would have looked totally cool. I’m talking John Wayne, or Clint Eastwood cool. I felt important), found the coyote in my scope and pulled the trigger.
Clean miss! The jet-black dog took off without a scratch. I was pretty bummed. One for missing the coyote, and two because, like I said, I wanted him badly; he would have made a beautiful trophy and I would have had him mounted, or at least had his hide tanned. He was a gorgeous animal.
After I got down from the stand checked for blood or hair (I wanted to double check) I checked one of my trail cameras and was pleasantly surprised. I captured photos of a buck that I will now likely exhaust myself trying to kill with a bow. He’s not a giant buck, and he’s certainly not the biggest on our property, but where he was captured on camera, the time, and situation (between bed and food an hour after dark) all tell me this buck is very killable with a bow. And killing a 3.5+ year old buck with my bow is always my number one goal going into any hunting season.
I decided to name him Maverick because he got caught on camera in the danger zone (see Top Gun’s “Highway to the Danger Zone) in a transition area 21 yards from one of my stands. It’s exciting to have a target buck to go after, and I sure hope I can harvest him with my bow. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to hold off exclusively for this buck, nor will I only hunt with my bow for the rest of the season, but it does mean when I hunt with bow in hand, I’m in pursuit of Maverick.
Let the games begin!!
– Cody Altizer