Today we’ve got an incredible reader success story from Brett Joy, who unbelievably killed three bucks in three sits, across three different states! What an incredible season Brett is having, huge congrats! Enjoy his story, and please join me in congratulating this happy hunter – MK
By Brett Joy
The 2013 season was a tough one for myself and my filming partner Ross Roberge. We spent more time preparing for and more hours logged in the tree stand than any other year, but the result just didn’t reflect our level of effort. Sure we were lucky enough to harvest a few does to put some high quality food in the freezer, something I’m always grateful for, but no mature bucks hit the ground. We only had two opportunities all year at mature deer and both shots were passed because of subpar camera light. This ended a streak of several years where I was able to kill a mature buck.
Finally, New Years came and went and 2014 was upon us. The planning and hard work started, and as our level of commitment rose, so did our expectations for the upcoming deer season. Our spring and summer was filled with running trail cameras, doing habitat work, food plots, shooting bows, and planning logistics of our out of state hunt adventures.
I had planned a public land whitetail hunt to western Montana for early September. I made the trip in 2012 and while I saw some good deer and had a great time, I just didn’t connect. I did however learn a lot about hunting western whitetails in open country. My dream has always been to shoot a western whitetail in velvet and naturally this drew me to the early bow openers that most western states have.
This year would be tough with the Montana opener being September 6th. Most bucks would shed their velvet before the season even opened. Ross and I flew out a couple days before the season to glass some of the bottoms we would be hunting and try to locate some solid whitetails. Ross was able to locate a bachelor group the first night, and then the next night, from a rock faced mountain side, I glassed the same group coming out of the riparian corridor along the river into the hayfields that lined the river bottom. Unfortunately the large hayfield they were moving to in the evenings was private land, however the cover along the river was not. I knew our only chance was to use the river to access the back side of their bedding area well before dark. The next morning we waded the river with a bow, pack, 2 muddy bloodsports, muddy sticks, and all our camera gear. It was a much more intense undertaking than we had anticipated to say the least! Fortunately we were able to find a great tree and hang our sets without making any noise or alerting any deer. At first light we spotted the bachelor group headed our way from the hayfield. They made their way down a bank into the ponderosa pine and cottonwood choked timber that we were set up on the edge of. After almost an hour one of the 4 bucks in the group made it within bow range, and he was the only one left in velvet! Ross gave me the green light and I sent a rocket broadhead through his heart at 37 yards. I had my Montana velvet buck! The key to success on this hunt was for sure spending time behind our Nikon glass from a distance and determining an early season pattern and also thinking outside of the box and using the river to access a small piece of public timber adjacent to private food sources.
Montana is a place with a type of beauty that words cannot describe and the whole experience of our trip will be one that I’ll never forget however it was time to focus on New Hampshire whitetails. We arrived home on the 13th and the New Hampshire opener was the 15th. The next morning after arriving home I hustled to check my cameras in the NH timber that had been sitting for two weeks. The #1 buck I was after continued to show his face but wasn’t moving close enough to daylight nor was he on a consistent enough pattern to hunt. I did however capture another buck, one I was familiar with, moving very consistently during daylight to a stand of red oaks that were producing copious amounts of acorns. He was a great 8 pointer that I hunted lightly last year and I believe this year he would be 5 years old. He had grown a bit from 2013 and added some stickers around his bases and a mini droptine off his left beam. Mature bucks with character are what I live for and he fit the bill perfectly. I decided to not waste any time and to hunt him opening night of New Hampshire’s season. The weather and wind was right to do a hang and hunt along the edge of the hardwood ridge finger and the dense hemlock stand he was bedding in.
Unfortunately the trip to Montana had taken its toll on Ross. He must have picked something up while traveling back from Montana because he was very ill and wouldn’t be able to film that afternoon. I made the decision to go after this buck anyway. It is very rare that we get a 5 yr old buck moving during daylight on anything close to a consistent pattern. Our thousands and thousands of acres of big timber just doesn’t funnel or concentrate deer movement thr way it might in more open landscapes or farm land. I got out of work and hurried home, grabbed my gear, and headed to the spot which I figured would afford me the best opportunity to get on this buck. I quickly and silently hung my muddy bloodsport and settled in. To my surprise just an hour into my hunt I heard a deer coming from my east and looked over and immediately identified it as the 5 yr old 8 I was after. He was the first deer that I saw. Although the trail camera data showed him moving this early in the day I was still shocked to see a NH 5 year old on his feet this early. He must have been bedding just off the finger in the hemlocks. Like he had read the scripted he worked into 18 yards eating acorns and presented me with a perfect shot. I capitalized with a double lung shot and he didn’t make it far. Two bucks in two opening day sits in two states! The key to this hunt was finding an area with a good stand of mast producing red oaks that were dropping early and that were also located tight to bedding cover. Capitalizing on the early season pattern right away and not allowing a pattern to change as they do so quickly this time of year.
We had done a lot of work over the summer preparing our Ohio lease for the 2014 season. We had went in and planted two new food plots in ideal locations. Both plots were planted in Frigid Forage Big & Beasty which I have found to grow great in a variety of soils and be attractive throughout the season, something not all brassica blends can say. We had some great bucks that had made it through the season and were showing up over trophy rocks. One of those bucks was a deer I called “Tippie”. Tippie wasn’t a giant deer for our part of Ohio but he was a deer that we had hundreds of pictures of in 2013 as well as two pretty cool encounters. There was no doubt that our farm was Tippie’s core area. Just as expected, Tippie showed up on the Trophy Rock over the summer but one thing was concerning, Tippie was living on the northern end of our farm. In 2013 the southern end of our farm that we lease was planted in beans and these beans drew all the deer in the area. This year the farm is in corn and it has the deer much more spread out over the 150 acres. The northern end of the farm is far tougher to hunt than the southern end largely due to our limited and poor access. My hope was that after Tippie shed his velvet he would make his way back to the southern end of the farm where he had been in 2013 and he would find our strategically placed food plot.
We had planned to hunt our farm on Ohio’s opening weekend on Sept 27th, but both Ross and I decided that with forecasted temperatures in the high 70’s and low 80’s our opportunitys at mature deer would be low and we would probably do more harm than good. We decided that we would hold off until late October when the time was right, that was until I looked at the extended forecast. A major cold front was forecasted to hit the Midwest pushing the temps in the mid 40’s after over a week of highs in the high 70’s. If a mature buck was ever to move to one of our food plots during daylight outside of the rut, this would be it. We knew that a major drop in temperature the first week in October coupled with a solid early season food source would afford us a high percentage opportunity. We took a day off from work and made the drive west to our farms. When I checked our time lapse trail camera on our Big and Beasty plot I was elated to see that Tippie had indeed made his way back to the southern end of the farm and had just started showing up on our food plot over the last week. Not only that, he was on the plot during shooting hours 3 times in the last 5 days. To say we had high expectations for our hunt on the night of the 5th was an understatement.
Even though we have higher scoring deer on our leases Tippie was my #1 target buck headed into this year because of the history we had with him in 2013. For me, history and following a deer from year to year and trying to figure out how I’m going to get him within bow range is the ultimate challenge. It didn’t hurt that Tippie had some killer brows and some really neat trash around his bases. As a 5 year old deer his body was starting to show signs of a bull even in early October. I was very excited to hunt this deer.
I don’t think the temps got much over 50 degrees on the 5th and we slipped into an elevated blind on the eastern edge of our food plot that evening. This food plot sets up perfect for any westerly wind because we planted this plot on the eastern tip of a flat on the top of steep crp/brushy ridge, because it is high up on a top the wind is generally very consistent. Behind the plot is a steep drop off and all our scent is blown out off the ridge and disperses over the bottom below. In 3 years we have never been busted in this spot. Our access is also from the east up a mowed trail through the crp. It’s basically a bullet proof setup. We got settled in the blind seamlessly and didn’t have to wait terribly long before we had action. Just after 6 o’clock, with almost an hour and half of shooting light left Ross spotted a rack coming towards us just above the CRP. We immediately knew it was Tippie. He stood at the edge of the plot and surveyed the area for several tense minutes before deciding the coast was clear and moving into the plot. You could cut the tension in the blind with a knife as he fed anywhere from 63 to 70 yards from the blind. After about 5 minutes Tippie’s head whipped up looking back to the northwest and he marched off the plot back into the CRP and disappeared. We were very disappointed and couldn’t figure out why he left so abruptly. Our only hope is that he would return with still an hour or so of shooting light left.
Just a few minutes later I spotted a white rack at the edge of the plot, this was however, not Tippie but another mature buck was call Switchback. We readied ourselves and then another bigger rack appeared behind Switch back and it was once again Tippie headed back. We figured that Tippie, who was clearly the more dominate buck, had spotted Switchback in the CRP and he had left the plot to confront him. As both bucks made their way into the plot it was clear that Switchback was intimidated by Tippie. At one point Tippie turned his attention to Switchback and glared at him with a cocked head out of the corner of his eye, and Switchback ran off a few yards. After several minutes Tippie closed the distance to 50 yards or so. I had been shooting out to 90 yards all summer in preparation for my hunt out west and felt very comfortable shoot at deer out to 60, although of course I much prefer closer shots. I had also shot earlier in the year at longer ranges in preparation for this exact situation. Both bucks seemed to get increasingly nervous the longer they stayed on the plot and I feared that they would go back the way they came and they weren’t getting any closer. I told Ross that I was going to kill Tippie right there. I drew back settled my pin on the perfectly broadside target, low on the chest and released what felt like a perfect shot. I had accounted for the fact that Tippie would jump the string to some degree and I was right. The arrow struck and I knew I had just killed my #1 Ohio target. We gave Tippie some time and then tracked a good blood trail to the steep creek bank. I trained the headlamp beam down into the creek bottom and there Tippie lay. The key to success on this hunt was taking advantage of a drastic drop in temperature and situating ourselves on a quality early season food source that our cameras told us had been getting a good amount of daylight action.
I feel very lucky to have killed 3 great bucks in my first three sits in each state. After a very trying 2013 it’s a good feeling to experience immediate success this season. Ross was also able to kill a nice buck in New Hampshire our 2nd night hunting on September the 16th with me behind the camera. I don’t see how the season could get any better for us but we still have the rut ahead of us and tags left in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Ohio. Hopefully we can finish as strong as we started!
– Brett Joy
To catch the video of these three hunts, check out the episodes of Midwest Whitetail that featured Brett Joy, linked below!