Today’s reader success story comes from Western New York hunter Seth Davis, as he recounts his early season hunt for a big bodied eight pointer. Please join me in congratulating Seth on this great buck! – MK
By Seth Davis
This year my pursuit for Western NY whitetails started like many do. I had seen several nice shooter bucks throughout August and September grazing in the agriculture fields that we hunt. Typically these are corn fields with them occasionally rotating in soy beans, which seem to really attract the deer early but don’t hold them once the plants turn brown. This year we had a really hard winter (late thaw) and relatively wet spring, so the fields that typically have corn were planted with beans due to the shorter growing season. The beans grew up great and each pre-season night it was possible to spot several bucks grazing and getting fattened up. Consequently as the beans dried up so did the buck sightings. The first week of archery (beginning October 1st) came and our “typical” stand locations were not producing good sightings.
I like to set stands in areas that are ambush spots in thick draws that lay between bedding and feeding areas. I don’t care about the quantity of deer I see but it’s the close encounters that get me going. Usually if I have a close encounter with a doe and some fawns or smaller bucks it is a better hunt than sitting in the open and watching multiple deer from afar. This season as patterns seemed to be a bit off due to the beans drying up I decided to sit in a new stand location on Saturday October 4th in order to scout and try to locate a good buck. Low and behold, after having ~12 doe, fawns and small bucks walk directly under me to enter a freshly cut hay field I turned and saw a big bodied deer approaching from the same direction as the other deer I was seeing. It was a pretty good eight pointer, especially in our extremely pressured area where a buck older than 2.5 years old is a rarity. I readied and as the buck approached he stopped at about 30 yards broadside. I assumed he was going to continue on the same path, so wasn’t going to rush a longer shot in favor of the eight yard shot the other deer were presenting me with. Suddenly a couple small bucks that were already in the hay field began sparring and totally grabbed the attention of the big guy. He turned slowly and entered the hay field ~50 yards directly behind me. I crept out of the stand early that night knowing I wouldn’t get a chance at him out in the open and realizing it was better to get out while I could rather than take the chance at busting him.
All night I obsessed with my encounter with the buck and wondered what would have happened differently if I had taken the 30 yard shot. I’m a bit conservative with shooting distances but 30 is well within my range. I decided to return to that same stand on Sunday October 5th to see if I could have another encounter with the buck.
In a scenario that felt just like Groundhog’s Day I climbed in my stand that Sunday and had practically the same experience as the night before however this time I saw 24 deer walk by prior to the big guy showing himself. He did the same thing as previously, approached like he was going to pass right by me and then stopped, got distracted and entered the hay field directly behind me. As I crept out of the stand that night careful not to bust the herd that had emerged in the field I wracked my brain trying to figure out how to get closer.
A couple days passed and I wasn’t able to get back out there. I had slipped up and told my cousin about my encounters and he sat in the stand that Tuesday night. He saw plenty of deer but did not see the eight pointer, much to my satisfaction. I might have disowned my cousin at that point if he had shot the buck as somehow in my mind I had already claimed rights to him.
Wednesday October 8th came and as I sat at my desk at work I kept checking the wind and weather conditions. It was perfect for the mission I had in mind. It was slightly cool for the warm weather we had been having and a strong West wind meant that if he approached again he would not wind me. The noise the strong wind was making helped me as well. I made up a half-assed excuse to get away from work and sped home. At home I jogged ~400 yards down the hillside behind my house to retrieve my climber stand that I had put on a preferable tree. As I ran back up the hill I asked myself what I was thinking because I was practically being blown over by 30 mph wind gusts. I loaded the stand in my car, sped to the farm, and jogged out to the same area I had been hunting. This is where the wind became my ally. Finding a tree along the edge of the hay field where I thought the buck had been walking I began ripping branches and grape vines off the tree to prepare it to climb. The wind gusts masked all the noise I was making. As I climbed the tree I was sweating and hoping all this effort was going to pay off.
Long story short, only one deer came down the trail October 8th. I was peering directly where I expected the buck to emerge and to my amazement he showed himself exactly as he had previously. I was so ready that evening that I had my release already attached to my loop so all I had to do was ready myself and draw. A few seconds later he presented himself in the open broadside and walking at a slow pace. As I was about to stop him with a grunt he turned directly towards me. I realized that he was about to attempt to walk right under me and slightly freaked out that I would only get a straight down shot at his back if he continued walking. Just then he stopped and lifted his head to present his neck and chest to me. I have never taken this shot with a bow before but wasn’t about to over think it. I released and it was instantly apparent the shot was a good one. He staggered and ran into the hay field where I sent another 40 yard shot just for good measure which went through his back.
As I fumbled with my cell phone in the chaotic moments that followed I first tried calling my dad…no answer. Then called my mom’s phone…no answer. Finally, as my phone let me know that it had only 1% battery left, I called my sister’s phone and simply yelled to her, “Tell dad I just shot that buck…twice!!!” Dad would know what I was talking about and would likely have tears of joy as he called the others in our hunting group to get ready to help retrieve a deer.
We weigh every deer that goes through our chop shop in my dad’s garage and this was the second largest we’ve weighed in over 15 years. The big bodied eight point weighed in at 195 pounds field dressed and it was a really good thing that dragging him was not necessary.
So here it was, October 8th, five weeks left until gun season opener, and I had tagged out. It was time to start thinking about the next buck.
– Seth Davis