By Mark Kenyon
November is coming to an end, and I’ve finally gotten time to regroup and collect my thoughts on all that has happened over the past few weeks. It’s truly been a journey. I have hunted 26 of the past 30 days, and most of those days have been from sun up to sun down. I sat through rain, snow, freezing cold and blazing hot. I’ve had days where I was covered up in deer, and days without seeing a single one. Exciting and boring. Good days and bad. I’ve loved it and I’ve hated it. Truly, I’ve seen it all.
It’s been one heck of a journey. But unfortunately, I still haven’t arrived at the destination I’m trying to reach.
Too much has happened since my last entry to recap you on all of my hunts, but I’ll give you the highlights.
Since last time, as you may have already saw, Josh connected on a great buck during our Ohio rut vacation. That made for an awesome day and some terrific memories. I’m thrilled for Josh and his incredible first buck with a bow.
From there on, I kept hunting, but I wasn’t able to replicate Josh’s success. During those final days of that trip I saw a couple nice bucks, but all of these encounters were fleeting. Other than the buck that Josh eventually shot, I never really had a good close call. Things just never quite came together.
Most frustrating was the morning after Josh killed his buck. I was set-up back in the same area I hunted the day before, and at about 9:30 I caught a glimpse of a very nice buck heading down the trail on a ridge that would lead right to me. I turned the camera on, grabbed my bow and got ready. It was all for naught though, because just before heading down in front of me, the buck cut off the trail and went directly down a steep ravine. This off-road venture took him straight behind me, and of course, straight downwind. The buck blew out of there, and I nearly came unglued. This was Day 14 (I think), of my rut hunting marathon and the frustration finally came to a boiling point.
I’ve had so many close calls this fall, and every single time something has happened to keep it from all coming together.
That said, I’ve rode an emotional rollercoaster this season unlike any I’ve experienced before. It’s probably worth an entire article, but this season has definitely taken an emotional toll on me. This blown encounter definitely put me over the edge temporarily, but I eventually took a deep breathe and carried on.
Never the less, the Ohio trip ended after 10 days of hunting and I headed back to Michigan. Back on my home turf hopes were high, as the weather looked perfect, the corn had been cut on my best property, and I had four days to hunt before gun season.
Unfortunately, despite great conditions, the rutting activity was nearly non-existent. I saw almost no chasing, and very little in the way of decent or good bucks.
In fact I only saw one shooter over those four days, and I saw him twice. It was Leaner.
On Day Two back in Michigan, I spotted Leaner crossing a thin finger of cut corn at 9:30 AM, heading back into a swampy bedding area. Two days later, I saw him emerge from that same swamp and start cutting back across this cut corn field heading my way. I eventually grunted him in to about 80 yards, but once again, I couldn’t get him to close the final gap. Awesome encounter, but ultimately disappointing. I’ve now had six encounters with Leaner while hunting, four of which have been this season. He just always seems to be one step ahead of me or ten yards out of range
The next morning, I decided I needed to throw a hail mary, as it was the last day before gun season. I had seen Leaner enter and exit from one corner of the swamp, so I decided to sneak in there at 4:00 AM and hang a stand. I was pretty excited about this aggresive move, and I thought thought for sure it would pay off. But in the end I only saw one button buck. My bowhunting rut in Michigan ended for the third year in a row with no buck.
From there I spent a few days at our Northern Michigan deer camp enjoying a few relaxing days of gun hunting and catching up with family and friends. I then took 5 days off from hunting to catch up on work, and remind my wife that she does still in fact have a husband. It was a nice break.
That gets us to where I am now. Back in Ohio. Gun season hasn’t opened here yet, so I figured I might be able to catch a few more days of late rutting action. I left at 12:30 AM on Sunday morning from Michigan, in order to get down to our property in Southern Ohio in time to hunt that morning.
That first day, which was yesterday, ended up being a good one. I saw the top two bucks we’ve caught on trail camera, and both nearly came within shooting range! Unfortunately, both “Glenn” the big 8 pointer and “Jawbreaker” the giant I encountered earlier this year, got hung up just on the other side of a ditch from me and wouldn’t cross over. Interestingly, I saw both bucks during the middle of the day. Glenn cruised by at 11:00 AM and Jawbreaker at 2:30 PM!
That brings us to today. As good as yesterday was, today was equally bad. I sat 13 hours, and saw exactly ZERO deer.
Over the past four weeks I’ve seen it all. Scraping, rubbing, cruising, chasing, etc, etc. That said, on whole, I’ve seen a lot less than usual.
In fact, my rut has been relatively dull. While I have seen a handful of mature bucks, they’ve all been cruising on their own. I haven’t seen a good buck chasing once this fall. I’ve also hardly seen any chasing at all. Not sure if that’s just bad luck on my part, or if daylight “rutting activity” has been slower for others out there too. But overall, it was a pretty slow rut for me. I never had that wild rut day or days that I was hoping for.
As far as lessons learned, the biggest thing for me this year has been the mental struggle. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to kill a “big deer” and I’ve really been mentally beating myself up as the season has gone along, and I still haven’t been “successful.”
This is a topic that I’m planning on writing about more extensively in a post of it’s own, but for now I’ll say this.
Perserverance, mental strength, and a positive attitude are probably the most important traits you can have as a serious deer hunter. Despite knowing that, I’ve struggled with all the above at various times this November. Despite the struggle, I’m going to keep pushing on.
That’s all I can do.
With November almost in the rear view mirror, I’m left with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. I waited and dreamt about this time for so long, and then in a flash it’s gone. While the rut didn’t go the way I’d hoped, it still was packed with great memories, incredible experiences, and lots of lessons learned. Big buck or not, that’s got to count for something.
That said, from here my attention will be turning to the late season. Hopefully a season full of hard work can pay off during the final stretch.