I thought we’d try something new this year that will hopefully help us all better understand how a hunting scenario can come together. We’ll take a look at our succesful hunts (or almost in this case) and analyze what went right, what went wrong and what we can learn from the experience.  So today lets take a look at my buddy Josh’s hunt from this past weekend. He had a great encounter with a 9 pointer on my farm and got a shot at him. It was his first deer he has ever shot and he handled everything just about perfectly. Unfortunately his shot was a little off and we were not able to recover the buck. Lets dive into this hunt a little deeper and see what we can take away from this…

Lets first lay out the scenario in detail. Josh and I hiked in to the stand location (marked by the blue pin) at 1:30 in the afternoon. We wanted to get in early to set up his stand and I also had to drive a long ways to another property after dropping him off. When accessing this stand we took a much longer route by parking my truck at the far South end of the property and walking up the fencerow you see leading to the stand. We did this to avoid hiking through or near major bedding areas.

Once we arrived we checked the trailcam I had placed there two weeks prior and then began to set up the treestand. We had brought in climbing sticks and a hang on stand to put in this tree. A month or so earlier I had come into this pocket of timber and cleared out this tree and shooting lanes around it. It allowed us to move in here quickly and place the stand in a matter of minutes. We positioned this stand in a tree that lacked a lot of cover, but we were able to place the hang on right in between two large branches that would help break up the outline of a hunter. Shooting lanes were cut in the front which opens up to a big swale that pokes into a corn field and to the right, which covers the timber where several trails cross and a rub lines runs.

Josh was up in the tree and ready to hunt by 2:00 PM, the wind was blowing briskly from the North and rain was falling sporadically. Three and a half hours later he noticed movement in front of him and he saw a buck walking his way down the middle of the swale. If you look at the map, you can see that this deer must have been bedded in that swampy penninsula in the middle of the picture and then walked West to East across the corn and into the swale, eventually heading into that timber that Josh sat in. My theory had been that bucks were moving into this swale and pocket of timber and staging there before entering the field to the East at dark. Luckily my theory proved true and this buck came in nice and early. The buck approached head on, walked to within 10 yards of Josh and then looked straight up at him.

Luckily Josh blended right in and after several seconds the buck put his head down and continued meandering towards the stand. As the buck moved to within only a few yards, Josh drew back, but as only a straight down shot presented itself he let down and decided to wait for a better opportunity. The buck now moved straight under his stand and started moving behind him. At this point Josh had to slowly stand up, turn around, maneuver his bow over a large limb and get into a shooting position facing east.  As the buck began to munch on acorns he turned broadside and offered Josh a clear shot. At this point Josh knew he had a good shot at 20 yards and he released. The shot didn’t get much penetration and looked a little high, but it connected. The buck bolted and Josh had just shot his first deer. But as you know, in the end we didn’t end up finding it. So what went right here and what went wrong?

What Went Right?

  • We prepared the tree and shooting lanes a long time before hunting and didn’t bother this stand location for at least 2 weeks.
  • We were set up in a natural staging area between a bedding and feeding zone, we also knew this area was getting consistent buck action from our trail camera.
  • We approached the stand via a round about route, but it avoided bedding areas and we didn’t spook deer.
  • The wind was steady from the North, pushing Josh’s scent due South back the way we came and towards the road. The buck eventually approached him from the West and then crossed North of him, so it never smelled a thing.
  • The Optifade camo pattern Josh wore seemed to completely fool the deer, as the buck looked right at Josh several times but never got spooked.
  • Josh waited for the right shot opportunity, rather than forcing a straight down shot that he wasn’t comfortable with.

What Went Wrong?

  • It was raining! Although Josh did the right thing and waited for a high percentage shot, the rain unfortunately washed away almost 100% of the blood trail
  • Josh’s shot was a little high and forward, resulting in what we believe was a shoulder blade hit. The arrow didn’t penetrate far and we are thinking it was nothing more than a flesh wound.

So there it is. I honestly think Josh handled his first encounter with a buck like a champ.  He did almost everything right and was able to get into position for a great shot opportunity. But as we all know, in the end it was a few inches that kept him from getting his hands on the horns. All the preparation in the world can get you the opportunity, but in the end you have to close the deal. Good luck hunting and hopefully next time we share a story from Josh, it will be with a hero photo!