It’s our first reader success story of the year, and we’ve got to give a big congrats to Wired To Hunt reader Travis Lange on arrowing a great North Dakota buck earlier this season. Check out his story below and the tactics that led to his success! – MK
By Travis Lange
The 2015 hunting season started off with our annual trip to North Dakota to chase velvet whitetails. The North Dakota archery season always opens the Friday before Labor Day, which happened to be September 4th this year. So myself and two of my good friends started the trek across Minnesota early the morning of the fourth. We would arrive with plenty of time to unpack, shoot our bows, and figure out where we all would be hunting that evening. With plenty of options, we picked the sets that the wind would allow us to hunt, put them in a hat, and each hunter drew their spot for the evening.
Nights 1 & 2
The anticipation was overwhelming that evening as we all ventured out for the very first sit of the season. We had numerous quality bucks on camera and all of us knew the chances of arrowing a good buck were good. That being said, the first night was really uneventful for myself…I didn’t see a single deer. The next night, the temps were a bit cooler and my anticipation was still very high. I drew a blind in an area we had pictures of multiple shooter bucks. To say I was excited was a bit of an understatement. If just one of those bucks showed up, it would be an awesome night. In a repeat of the first night, the second sit of the season was the same…I didn’t see a single deer. Right as I was packing up to head for the truck, I received a text message that my friend and fellow hunter shot a nice 8 point buck. I let him know I was on my way to help track and forgot all about not seeing any deer that night. After a short tracking mission in the fog, we recovered his buck, took some great photos, and got him all cleaned up.
Night #3 had me sitting in a blind in the same area I was the previous evening, but with cooler temperatures yet. The weather was perfect, the wind died down just at the right time, and the temperature dropped. I knew the conditions were ideal! Just as the sun dipped below the horizon, I could hear footsteps in the corn field beside me, heading in my direction. I got ready for what I was hoping was going to be an eventful close to the evening, only to listen as those footsteps turned and walked back the same direction they came from. With the windows on the blind closed on that side, I had no idea what was walking around beside me, but whatever it was, it was really close! The light slowly faded and night number three came to a close with yet again, not seeing a single deer. As I packed up and crawled out of the blind, I bumped a couple deer that were making their way through the corn behind me. I was reassured that the deer were there, just not showing up during shooting light. When I got back to the hunting shack, I learned another friend had arrowed a nice buck that evening. The shot was a bit back so we decided to wait until morning to get on his trail.
The next morning (day #4) we headed out to search for my friend’s buck. After an exhaustive search of the entire area, and finding very little blood, we determined the shot wasn’t fatal. We headed back to the shack to make our game plan for the evening’s hunt. Since I had yet to see a deer on stand, I was allowed to pick which spot I would hunt that evening. The wind was out of the southeast which worked really well for a set we had with photos of a buck we called “Big 9.” I decided I would head to that blind and see if Big 9 would show up in daylight.
My friend who tagged out on day two accompanied me to run the camera. The two of us snuck into the ground blind about 5:30 pm and set up for our evening sit. Shortly after we arrived, we had a small fawn come out and feed in front of us. I thought to myself, “at least I finally saw a deer.” After the fawn moved on, the local farmer decided to stack some hay bales in the field right next to our set. We both thought our evening was done, but it was still early, so we held out hope we may still see some deer. After a half hour or so, the farmer finally moved on left the field. Around 8:00 pm, I was scanning the alfalfa field to see if any deer were feeding and noticed a nice buck at the edge of the tree line approximately 300 yards out. When the buck stopped and turned his head, I immediately recognized him from the trail camera photos we had. It was Big 9 and he was heading in our direction!
The Final Encounter
My camera man got the camera on him and filmed the entire sequence. It took about ten minutes for Big 9 to get to us as he worked his way down the edge of the field. The whole time, I was trying not to watch him so I could calm my nerves and prepare for a shot. He paused approximately 35 yards out and that’s when I determined as soon as he jumped the fence, I would draw my bow. Big 9 jumped the fence, and I came to full draw! He walked right out in front of us and proceed to feed in the alfalfa at 15 yards, facing directly at us. I didn’t have a shot at his vitals, so I continued to stay at full draw, hoping he would turn. I used my leg to help support the bottom of my bow and continued to hold at full draw. This lasted over five minutes, and I couldn’t hold it anymore…I had to let down.
Those of you that bow hunt, know how difficult it is to let down slowly and quietly, especially after holding at full draw for that long. I tried my hardest to do it slowly and silent, but that didn’t happen. Big 9 looked right in the blind and I thought it was all over. Myself and my cameraman both tried not to even blink, held our breath, and stared back at that bruiser. He turned his head, looked around, looked back at us, and then proceeded to feed in the hay. I couldn’t believe it, somehow, he didn’t run away! We still had a problem, he was still facing directly at us. Now, I as I am trying to get feeling back in my hand and arm, I am hoping he doesn’t decide to turn just yet because I don’t know if I can pull my bow back. Luckily, he waited plenty of time, he just continued to feed, picking his head up and looking around, but never turning his body. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, a fawn entered the field, walked directly behind Big 9, and forced him to turn. As he turned broadside, I drew back. This time, he saw me do it!
He locked eyes on me and I knew I had to punch my release in a hurry, because this buck was not sticking around much longer. I settled my pin in the center of his chest and squeezed the trigger. At the release, Big 9 dropped his back and turned to run. At only 15 yards away, he still managed to drop about eight inches and the arrow went in high on his body. I couldn’t believe what just happened…I had the buck we were after, standing broadside at 15 yards and I shot high! I was devastated! I sat with my head in my hands as I replayed the sequence of events. Then, I grabbed the camera and replayed the footage in slow motion. This is one great benefit of filming your hunts, you can replay the shot to determine if you should pursue that animal or give it more time. After reviewing the footage, I felt confident that the shot wasn’t too high. We decided we would look for blood where he jumped the fence. If we found good blood, we would wait an hour and trail him. If we did not, we would wait until morning. When we crossed the fence, there was good blood and a lot of it! We backed out and waited for the search party to arrive.
After an hour, we went back in and picked up the trail. The trail was not hard to follow at all. I found my arrow, which was broke off about eight inches up from the broad head, about 50 yards from the shot. A few steps further, I scanned my light to my left and there he was, Big 9 was down! What we thought was a high shot, actually caught both lungs. He didn’t go more than 70 yards from the shot! I couldn’t believe it, we went in that night hoping to get a shot at Big 9 and now I had my hands on him! What an awesome night! I had an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. It was one of those rare evenings where the plan all played out…just as we hoped. As a bonus, we got the whole hunt on film!
Keys To Success
There were two major factors that made this hunt possible. The first was patience. After not seeing a deer for the first three nights, I was feeling a bit skeptical and wondering if I was going home with my tag in my pocket this year. Each night, as I would apply my camo face paint, I would tell myself, “tonight is the night, make the shot count.” I definitely made the shot count on night number four.
The second factor and probably the most important was the wind. We were critical with the wind this year. We would not hunt a spot, regardless of the trail camera photos of the bucks in that area, if the wind was not in our favor. I really wanted to hunt a different blind that evening, but the wind was wrong, so I decided we would hunt this blind instead. I’m glad we stuck to our guns and only hunted the areas the wind would allow. These two factors and having a core group of friends to share the hunt and the experience with were what made this hunt one of my most memorable hunts ever!