If you enjoyed Episodes #62 and #159 of the Wired To Hunt Podcast with John Eberhart, you’re in for a treat. Over recent weeks, we’ve been sharing a number of John’s successful kill stories here on Wired To Hunt and we’re back with more today. Here we’ve got John’s story of his 2006 election day mid-hunt plan change which led to a big buck killed in Michigan. – MK
By John Eberhart
My Michigan season hadn’t been going very well, as during the first five weeks I had only seen one 3 ½ year old buck that would exceed 100 inches. But there’s one thing about deer hunting, things can change at a moment’s notice.
November 7th, 2006 was the mid-term Election Day and my plans were to hunt near home in the morning, go vote, and then drive a couple hours to another location and hunt the midday/evening shift.
After being perched in my sling for an hour and a half prior to first light, I caught sight of a doe running into a nearby weed field with a cute young 6-point buck closely in pursuit. Even though the doe wanted nothing to do with him, he kept up the chase until it seemed they covered every inch of the small field.
He didn’t seem to care that she was unwilling to stop, he was just a subordinate buck doing what they do best, chase every doe that wanders within sight. After several minutes another doe came into view and the little guy gave up on the first doe and took off after her. It must be nice to have so much energy.
By 8:00 AM I was questioning my original plan of hunting until 9:00 AM and decided to leave, go vote, and head downstate. Like most other hunters, while on stand I am constantly contemplating all my options of what I could do to capitalize on a good buck.
Every tree I have prepared for the rut phases runs through my mind, where should I hunt next, what tactics might I use, what might I have done wrong so far this season, the thoughts just never end. The odds of taking a larger antlered buck in southern Michigan are much greater than in northern Michigan and that was the clincher that made me get down early.
The downstate location was a 40-acre parcel with the property owner’s home and yard squarely located in the center. Besides myself, there were three other bowhunters on this parcel, but they all hunted strictly mornings or evenings, never midday, and mostly on weekends.
A unique feature on this small parcel was the dense transition cover that lay between the paved road and owner’s home. Earlier that spring when scouting the property I found that transition zone, found a primary scrape area in its tightest pinch point, and prepared a location at it.
The transition cover closely paralleled the road and ran the full length of the property frontage, and beyond, in both directions. The front edge of the travel corridor was a mere 15-yards from the road and was likely the reason the other hunters never even considered checking it out. In fact, one of the other hunters later told me that he never even considered scouting that close to the road, and he had been hunting there for years.
I arrived at the property shortly after noon and on my way to the tree I drug a real buck tarsal gland which I had cut off a mature buck I had taken the year before. I lifted the tarsal and went past the tree for quite a distance and then drug the tarsal along the runway on my way back to the tree. I figured that if a dominant mature buck were scent checking and crossed either route that he would follow the scent of this new intruder mature buck that he had never smelled before.
By the time I ascended my tree to my 28-foot perch, attached the lead strap of my hybrid sling harness around the tree and began my get-ready process, it was pushing 1:15 pm. My get-ready process typically takes about 15 minutes, but due to the light rain that was falling, it was taking a bit longer.
No sooner had I put on my Rivers West jacket over my layering garments and Scent Lok jacket I noticed a nice buck moving directly towards me with nose to the ground following the scent trail I had just laid. My scent control regiment is such that I never pay attention to wind direction, nor am I concerned about a deer spooking from cutting or following my entry route.
The buck was moving at a rapid rate as bucks most often do when moving during midday and as he approached I hurried to put on my armguard and slide my middle finger into my calf hide tab. I was barely ready before he was within range.
The buck was following my entry drag route perfectly and because that runway passed directly under the tree which would have created a poor shot angle, at a distance of 12 yards from the tree I turned and drug the tarsal gland perpendicular to the runway and hung it on a branch.
When he hit where the turnoff was, he stopped immediately, and started to sniff the ground to locate which direction the intruder went. It took about 5 seconds before he figured it out and turned broadside. As soon as his head had turned to the side I had come to full draw and as soon as his body turned broadside I released the Carbon Express arrow from my Mathews bow.
The shot was a mere 12 yards and true and I watched as he ran about 50 yards, stopped, and tipped over.
He was a beautiful 10 point and thinking back, had I hunted near home until 9:00 AM as originally planned, I would have been too late to kill this buck during his midday movement pattern in search of estrous does.
Decision alterations are interesting because a couple years later, on a weekday morning hunt, I had planned on hunting until 10:00 AM and was sitting in the tree thinking of all the work I had to do. I got down early at 9:30 AM and while untying my bow from my bow rope at the base of the tree, I heard a twig snap over a little hill behind me. Yep, before I could knock an arrow the buck I was after briskly went by me at 7 yards and just kept going down into a swamp.
Altering a hunting plan is something I rarely ever do but hunting during midday and in the rain are at the top of my agenda during the rut phases when in the right types of locations. This location and the weather were perfect for the adjustment.
Editors note: John Eberhart is an accomplished bow-hunter that specializes in heavily pressured areas with 29 bucks listed in CBM’s record book from 19 different properties in 10 different counties. John produced a 3 volume instructional DVD series titled “Bowhunting Pressured Whitetails” and co-authored the books, “Bowhunting Pressured Whitetails”, “Precision Bowhunting”, and “Bowhunting Whitetails the Eberhart Way”. They are available at www.deer-john.net, where you’ll also find information about his new whitetail workshops.