Today’s reader success story comes from the great state of South Dakota, as Sam Kezar details his first deer hunting season while living in SD. Enjoy his great story, check out his GoPro video of his shot, and join me in giving him a big congrats! – MK

By Sam Kezar

My family and I moved to South Dakota a little over a year ago. After going through the wait and changes to become a resident I didn’t waste any time in taking full advantage of all the opportunities that SD has.

I shot my first turkey last spring with my bow and did it on the ground without a blind to boot! That was an awesome experience and very gratifying since I had been chasing turkeys with a bow only for 5 years. This fall brought four deer tags and plenty of anticipation. I bought an East river and west river archery tag, a doe-only muzzleloader tag, and was drawn for an east river rifle tag. I wasn’t able to start archery hunting (East-river) till late October, but had a great stand spot on some public land.

Halloween morning I had an encounter with a 140″ 5×5 and almost every hunt afterwards had an encounter with a different shooter buck, just nothing within range. Starting November 4th, I hunted that spot a total of nine times throughout November without filling that tag (still haven’t). It’s not because I didn’t have an opportunity though. On November 7th at about 9:30 in the morning, without having seen a deer yet, a stud 5×5 (150″+) comes cruising down the tree edge and runs by me out at about 75 yards. It was breezy so he didn’t hear my grunts. He got about 150 yards down wind and stopped to destroy a small tree. I rattled hard and short and he walked right in to 25 yards, but only presented a shot through a small gap in the trees. At the time it looked clear so I took the shot and the arrow must have been deflected by a small twig and the arrow went just under his chest, barely grazing him. After looking around in the field to see what happened, he put his nose to the ground and continued on his search. I never had another shot opportunity the rest of the sits in that stand.
On the first day of rifle season, I wasn’t going to be too picky. Mostly because I didn’t have a whole lot of time to hunt and the county I drew was 1.5 hour drive away from home. A friend let me walk a slough of his the first afternoon and I shot a wide 4×4 at 50 yards. It was a neat story. We got to the end of the slough and only busted out two does. But just as we were to be done a doe comes running over the rise in front of us, then a small spike buck, then this buck. They had no idea we were there. The doe must have been in heat and the bucks in pursuit. The buck got to about 50 yards and I dropped him right there. Its not the biggest deer in the area, but the situation was kind of perfect, so I shot him. Meat for the freezer.

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This last week, I was able to head out to south central South Dakota to try and fill my West river archery tag and my muzzleloader doe tag. It was a long and testing week that ended great. I was trying to hunt public land, but it was only a week after rifle season had closed. The land was bare of deer, all the deer were on this private chunk of land and feeding in an alfalfa field in the evenings. On top of that the weather was warm with high temps almost every day around 50 degrees. I was lucky enough to get permission from that farmer who owned the alfalfa filed. At first he only wanted me to shoot does because he gets $3400 a week per hunter during rifle to shoot at a minimum a 150″ 5×5. I was fine with that because I just wanted to fill my tags and get meat for the freezer. The first night was a bust with only a small 3×3 within range. The second night, after moving the ground blind, I counted 42 deer that came into the field from just about all directions. Some bucks and a few does skirted just out of range into the field. It was almost like they knew I was there, even though they were up wind. Then, right at last shooting light a very tall and nice 4×4 buck walks right in from of my ground blind at 10 yards. I was in awe of all the deer and getting to see them and that buck too, but was also a bit frustrated because of the situation. All I wanted was a few does to be in range, but then all I could see in range were bucks I normally dream to shoot. That night I talked with the farmer (he wanted to know how I was doing). I told him what happened and how cool it was. I also mentioned that it would likely have been the largest whitetail that I’ve ever shot. After hearing that, he said I could shoot whatever I wanted the next day since it was my last day and it would be my biggest whitetail (to him a 140″ is a baby… where I came from in NW Minnesota that’s a mature deer).

The next night it was already 15 minutes after sunset and only 4 deer were in the field. It had also been the warmest day. When finally, out 10 yards in front of my blind again, walks this 4×4. It’s not like I was waiting for anything bigger, but with the back light of the sunset and him being slightly up hill, he looked like a giant. So I drew and shot. I was so nervous from the anticipation that I rushed the shot terribly and shot him low and in the guts. I felt terrible and was very disappointed and mad at myself. Not more than two minutes later a doe walks by at 10 yards to my left. So I shot her with my muzzleloader. She didn’t go but 20 yards and tipped over. (I shoot a Hawken percussion cap with a .50 cal round ball and cotton patches). I packed up my stuff, quartered and packed up my doe, and left the area as quickly and quietly as possible. My plan was to come back and search for my buck in the morning. I figured all hope was lost, but needed to look because it’s the right thing to do. I did get the shot on GoPro.

The next morning, I started downwind and about 500 yards from where I shot the deer. It was at a fence line at the bottom of a draw, so I figured that if he made it that far and jumped the fence, then he was long gone and going to live. I nocked an arrow and slowly started to move along the draw bottom stopping and glassing fully expecting this buck to be alive and bedded on the hill side. I made it about 200 yards or so when I spotted the buck dead in the bottom of the draw. He had tipped over that night I shot him.

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I got completely lucky and must have hit an artery. There was no trackable blood until that last 20 yards he walked. It turns out I made the right decision to wait, because otherwise in the dark I may not have found him and because of the shot, wasn’t sure he would have died. Thank God for a bit of luck and the cutting diameter of Shwacker broad-heads I guess.
It ended up being a great hunt in the end. I killed my first deer with a muzzleloader, my first deer with that Hawken muzzleloader, and my first two deer from the ground.

– Sam Kezar