By Mark Kenyon
It usually doesn’t happen this way for me. But somehow, the stars aligned last week and I was able to punch an early season tag in Michigan.
A week ago today, I spotted three potential shooter bucks and numerous other deer feeding in a Whitetail Institute Oats and Winter Greens plot that I had planted earlier this year, well before dark – and immediately I knew that the upcoming opener could be an exciting one. Conditions were looking prime for the October 1st opening day hunt (more on that below) and with this sighting now confirming some daylight use, I knew the stand I had hung over this plot could provide a dynamite opportunity that first night. Of those three bucks in the plot, one of them was a deer I’d been capturing photos of all summer. It was a buck that an Instagram follower of mine had suggested we call “Turd Ferguson” (after the Celebrity Jeopardy character) and the name stuck. This buck was a nice wide 9 pointer and based on the summer photos I’d captured of him, I believed him to be 3.5 years old. My goal in Michigan this year was to simply kill any 3.5 year old buck with my bow, so Turd was definitely on the hit-list.
Fast forward to Thursday, October 1st and I excitedly snuck into the stand on this food plot with high hopes.
After watching numerous deer feeding in another distant food plot and several bucks moving back in some thick cover, two does fed into the oats and immediately began looking behind me. This of course triggered me to turn back and see what they were looking at, and there right behind me was a young buck – but it was one of the young bucks I’d seen earlier that night with another larger deer. Immediately, I knew that it was likely that this bigger buck was probably somewhere nearby. And right at he moment I saw him, right underneath me.
Take note, it was very windy that night, so you basically couldn’t hear deer at all – it was purely a visual game. So at this point the buck, a solid eight pointer, is beneath me and starting to move fast, directly away from me, further into the food plot. I looked at his neck, shoulders and belly and determined that he was at least three years old and then got to reaching for my bow on the other side of the tree. By the time I could get my bow and turned back his way, he was getting out to about 30 yards and I figured I better get a shot ASAP before he widened the gap any further. So I drew, bleated to stop him and touched off my release.
The arrow sailed right underneath his belly. Scroll down to the “What Went Wrong” section to see why I missed.
So at this point I was, of course, very upset with myself. I checked the footage and arrow and confirmed that I had not hit the deer, and then settled back in for the final hour or so of daylight. Unbelievably, more deer started piling back into the food plot, and before I know it, he comes a buck out of the standing corn that I immediately recognized. Turd Ferguson.
At this point, I knew it was Turd and I immediately went into kill mode. This was my chance for redemption and I didn’t think twice about the shoot/don’t shoot decision from that point on.
For the next 10-15 minutes, Turd slowly fed my way, and I patiently waited for him to close the distance, as I didn’t want to take a long shot after having already missed once that night.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, several does behind me got spooky, and I worried that TF might be nervous and leave too. It was now or never. He was at around 36-37 yards now and broadside, so I drew back, settled in again and let the second arrow of the night fly.
This one was more or less on target, hitting right where I wanted up/down, but a few inches further back. Nonetheless, I felt good about the shot and watched him run off about 50 yards, walk a few more, and then bed on the edge of the tall grass adjacent to he food plot. Soon I saw his antlers drop, his legs kick and then he was done.
I’d just killed my first opening night buck in Michigan!
What Went Right:
– The aspect of this hunt I was the most excited about was that I had correctly used recent sighting/photo info and analysis of external factors to determine that this night should be a high percentage sit, and so I went in, hunted one of my better stands, and saw it all pay off. I believed this night would be so good because I had ideal temperatures (well below average and nearly 20 degrees below the highs from just a few days earlier), I had relatively high barometric pressure, and I had the moon overhead during the last two hours of daylight (a supposed trigger for increased movement). I also had seen those bucks feeding there several nights before and had captured numerous daylight pictures of potential shooters nearby. In the end, my prediction was accurate, movement was strong, and the pattern of use on this food plot that I’d discovered while scouting continued as I expected.
– After messing up on the first buck, I was able to regain composure, be patient with my second opportunity and place a killing shot on that buck.
What Went Wrong:
– Obviously, missing that first eight pointer was a big mistake. Here’s what happened. In the rush to get a shot before he walked out of range, I made a serious mental error. I’d pre-ranged the food plot, so I knew that this buck was somewhere around my 30 yard marker. That said, in the mental chaos before the shot somehow my head and trigger finger had a miscommunication – and when my 20 yard pin locked on his vitals – I released. #Fail. As any of you who follow Wired To Hunt closely know, I am a very imperfect hunter.
– The second mistake, I might have made, is in my age estimation of the buck that I shot. Summer deer are notoriously difficult to age, as the body characteristics that make estimating age possible are not always fully developed. That said, based on the photos I was seeing of TF in the summer, I made the assumption that he was most likely a three year old and assumed that later fall pictures would confirm this – I never did get a chance to see later pictures though. On opening night, after missing the eight pointer, I was so excited to see TF come in that I didn’t even think for one second about his age again. I just instantly saw it was him and worked on the assumption that he was in fact 3.5, like I thought earlier that summer. Now, after shooting him, seeing him up close and watching the footage of him, I’m not 100% sure if he was in fact 3.5 years old. At this point there’s no point stressing over it, as the deed is done, but in hindsight it probably would have been wise to take a little more time to analyze the situation, rather than jumping to assumptions.
Regardless of all that, I’m very proud of this deer and excited that I was able to kick off the season om a (mostly) positive note. As always, lots of lessons were learned and there are plenty of areas for me to improve. But that’s what keeps me at it. On to Iowa and Ohio!
Tune in later this week for our first video episode of the 2015 season, documenting this whole hunt!