One of my greatest influences as a deer hunter, and Wired To Hunt Podcast #62 guest, John Eberhart has once again shown us why he’s one of the best out there. On October 18th, John arrowed an absolute beautiful Michigan buck and he was kind enough to share the story with us. Enjoy this great story and then be sure to listen to his full podcast interview! – MK
By John Eberhart
For hunting in heavily hunted areas I write a lot about leaving your best rut phase locations totally alone during the October Lull which is typically the middle 20 days of October. I also always mention that if you see daytime mature buck activity during the Lull in the form of them actually chasing does that you should immediately go for it and hunt your rut locations in that vicinity for a day or two as there may be an early estrous doe in the area.
Well, that exact scenario just happened to me last weekend and on Sunday evening (October 18th) I capitalized on the October Lull mishap. This event took place on a knock-on-doors for free permission property in central Michigan.
At a secondary location on Saturday morning (17th) I saw a wide racked buck chasing a doe and her twin female fawns through open timber which is rare in itself. He chased them for several minutes and although quite a distance away, it looked as if their chasing routes would have passed by one of my rut-phase scrape area set-ups a couple times.
Cold weather always spurs activity and likely had a lot to do with this earlier than the norm activity (in hchp areas anyway) as later that week it turned cold and the exterior temperature in my mini-van read 28 degrees while driving to go hunting early Saturday morning.
Back to the chase; during the chase it was obvious the doe was not in heat because her fawns were still with her, the testosterone driven buck however was more than ready and was being extremely vulnerable because of it. After several minutes of chasing, the buck just stopped in the timber and then casually walked back into a tall marshy area as if on a morning stroll.
This secondary location is located along a timber tree-line of red oaks (no white oaks in the area) that are dropping acorns. There’s a 15 yard wide buffer of tall weeds that separate the timber line from a 40 acre standing cornfield in front of me. About 60 yards behind me is approximately 4 acres of low mucky ground with dense head-height stick-tight weeds and a narrow creek running through it. The foliage canopy of the mature timber that totally surrounds the low ground doesn’t allow much sun to pass through and therefore has minimal to no security cover understudy.
Running along the outstretched branches of the tree-line and through the weed buffer dividing it from the corn is a well-traveled runway and every branch that hung low enough to be utilized as a licking branch, had an active scrape below it on Saturday morning.
This location is a perfect example of a secondary location for hunting during the October Lull because whether morning or evening hunting, it is easily accessed and exited without fear of spooking deer and it in no way interferes with my rut phase locations deeper in the timber that border the marshy area of stick-tights.
I so wanted to hunt Saturday evening but my employer’s son was getting married in Cadillac and unfortunately on this particular occasion, there are other more important and pressing obligations in life than hunting. At least that’s what I kept telling myself.
My wife and I got home Sunday around noon and I did a few honey-do chores and headed out around 3 pm. While walking through the weed buffer it was obvious that none of the scrapes had been worked the previous evening, night, or that morning because the leaves were rapidly falling due to the hard frost and there were many leaves in every scrape.
Initially I was mildly depressed because 4 of the scrapes were within shooting distance of my tree and had become inactive. But I also know that when a mature buck is in chasing mode, he will temporarily abandon working his scrapes as he is pre-occupied.
Once comfortably perched in my sling I put on a Rivers West-Cold Canyon vest as a layer garment beneath my Scent Lok Vortex jacket (I can’t say enough good things about the Scent Lok’s windproof Vortex suit).
Most stories give a wind direction because most hunters play the wind, but as I’ve stated hundreds of times over the past 15 or so years, I have 100% total confidence in my scent control regiment since learning how to properly care for and use Scent Lok clothing along with clean rubber boots and a scent free backpack. I pay absolutely no attention to wind direction so in short I have no clue which way the wind was blowing but can guarantee at some point the doe and or buck was downwind of me.
A couple fawns followed by their mother came out of the corn and into the timber and ate acorns for a while before moving off to the east. About 15 minutes later the buck from the morning before came out of the stick-tight weed marsh and headed through the open timber in the same direction. I was shocked that a buck of this size residing in a heavy consequential hunting pressure area would be moving during broad daylight through such open timber, but he did so the previous morning and this evening.
After about 20 minutes of watching squirrels bury acorns, the doe and fawns that had earlier passed through were running hard towards me through the open timber. They looked as if they were going into the tall stick-weeds which were slightly out of my capable shooting range, but just before entering them the doe turned 90 degrees and ran right under me and into the standing corn and the fawns came partway with her but stopped in the open timber.
As she ran by I heard grunting and turned to see the buck, with nose to ground, about 80 yards behind and following her same course. Within several seconds he swung by the marsh, turned my direction, paid no attention to the fawns and stopped in the tree-line a mere 6 yards from the base of my tree. As he was rapidly approaching his width and tall brow tines were hard to take my eyes off.
He was standing motionless directly to my right and I’m right handed. I didn’t have time to move around the tree in my sling so I lifted my bow over the lead strap in front of me and twisted hard to my right for the shot. I practice this awkward shot just for these very rare occasions. He was quartering hard away from me staring through the weed buffer and into the corn, but seemingly not wanting to go into it.
I settled the pin on my Mathews Conquest bow well behind his shoulder and a bit high to hopefully angle the arrow down and forward into his vitals. My Maxima Red arrow flew true (didn’t have far to go) and entered where I aimed. I didn’t get a pass-through and with it sticking up out of his side, he wheeled and ran back to the east through the open timber and out of sight. Strangely, both fawns ran and followed closely behind him which is something I’d never seen before.
As usual I questioned myself on a couple things the buck did. Why did the buck stop at the tree-line instead of following the female into the corn and why after he was shot didn’t he run into the marsh which is where he had been bedded all day?
He knew the doe wasn’t in heat and with the width of his rack didn’t want to chase her as she went perpendicular to the corn rows. No doubt he would have to work extra hard to plow through the tight corn rows as his rack would’ve caught up in the standing corn. Had she been in estrous, no question he’d have plowed down the entire field if necessary.
The only reason I could think of him staying in the open timber was he didn’t want to run through the deep muck in the tall stick-tights marsh. There are areas in the marsh where when I step, my foot sinks beyond the height of my knee high rubber boots.
Anyway, after several minutes the fawns came back and one of them kept looking back into the timber towards a specific location as if she left something behind or kept expecting to see something happen there. I took that as a positive sign of where he may be lying.
Probably the best lesson I’ve ever taught myself after shooting a deer is that if I think I may have only hit one lung or the liver, or anything questionable, is that I wait at least 4 hours before blood trailing the deer. With the arrow entering so high and without an exit wound, I knew there wouldn’t be much if any blood as the body cavity would have to nearly fill up with blood before exiting out the high wound channel. I decided to take my chances of coyotes finding him, and waited until the next morning to search.
Not knowing if anyone else was hunting on the property, I waited until 10 am, picked up the property owner and took up the search. I had watched the buck run until out of sight so knew the direction to look. We never found a drop of blood while searching towards where I last saw him but when we got to where I last saw him we could see him all sprawled out in the open timber about 50 yards in front of us. He had only traveled about 150 yards and upon inspection had 10 points, very tall brow tines, very short G-2′ and 3’s, long main beams, and at least a 20 inch inside spread.
This was my 27th 10 point buck and that’s something I’m really proud of. While gutting him I discovered the arrow had cut the top of his stomach and passed through his liver and one lung before stopping against his brisket.
While rare in hchp areas, sometimes during the lull a mature buck will mess up and move during daylight hours and this was one of those rare occasions.
Last year I got a fabulous recipe from a farmer’s wife on how to make corned venison and made it twice last fall. It was so awesome that other than the loins I cut the entire deer up into large chunks to corn. It’s better than the corned beef you get in the store.
– John Eberhart
Editors note: John Eberhart is an accomplished hunter that specializes in bow hunting in heavy consequential hunting pressure areas and this was not only his 27th 10 point, it was also his 27th CBM record-book buck and they have come from 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