By Daniel Born
It was supposed to be a doe hunt.
I hunt a 300 acre farm in southern Minnesota, in a zone that only allocates doe tags by lottery during the nine day shotgun season. If you want less does on the property, the only guaranteed way to hunt them is to do so during the four month long archery season, which allows for one deer of either sex. The plan was to take a doe or two out during early archery season and then join in on the family shotgun hunt during the rut to hopefully bag one of the mature bucks on the property.
Like usual, opening morning found me walking along the edge of a CRP field to a stand located in the woods 100 yards of the CRP field and near a man-made pond. I got into the stand a bit late that morning, arriving after daylight in the hope that any deer feeding in the CRP would have moved back into the woods and I wouldn’t spook them in my approach. 7 AM found me in the stand, the wind in my face and scanning the woods in the direction of a bedding area some 150 yards off.
In the 25 years I have been hunting, the vast majority of the deer I have killed have been from this location. It is near as guaranteed spot to see deer at first and last light, entering or exiting the bedding area. In planning this sit, I had taken a few tips into account.
Jeff Sturgis on his Whitetail Habitat Solutions webpage pointed out a substantial cold front moving through the Midwest that weekend and was adamant in encouraging getting in the field for what looked like some prime deer hunting weather. A quick consult with the Deer Hunters Moon Guide confirmed a sit outside of a bedding area. To practice scent control (for the first time), I washed all my hunting cloths in baking soda, hung dry them in my back yard and finally stored the clothes in a sealed container with added pine boughs for a covering scent. I was ready.
At 7:30 in the morning, everything I thought was going to happen went out the window. Instead of seeing a group of does that I hoped to intercept heading back into the bedding area, a loose knit group of three bucks were heading right for me! First a spike walked by not 10 yards from my stand. Then I saw a HUGE 8 off in the distance crossing over from my property to the neighbors. Only a few minutes later, another 8 came by walking downwind, right in the direction of my stand. Here was a deer I had been watching for the last year.
He had first shown up last season, and was easily identifiable with a rectangular notch in one of his ears and front tines that hooked straight to the sky. At 40 yards he stopped to nibble on some forbs and to stare down a grey squirrel that was chattering at him from a nearby stump. After what seemed like an eternity, he continued to walk slowly toward me, browsing as he came along. At 30 yards I grunted at him, which lifted his head and stopped him in his tracks, quartering ever so slightly away. The arrow entered the liver and exited his right lung. I found him 70 yards away in the CRP, looking as if he had collapsed during a full speed run into the tall grass.
I couldn’t be happier about getting this buck, even if it means my season was basically over on day 1. Although he is no monster, he is the first buck I have shot with a bow, and a deer I had followed for a year through trail camera and field observations. Harvesting that buck was the culmination of the habitat improvements we have made on the property as well as tactical advice gleaned from many sources featured on the Wired to Hunt Podcast. Sharing the experience with my dad was fantastic, I think he was even more excited when we found the buck in the grass than I was, as it was the first time he had laid eyes on the buck. I guess I’ll have to try harder for does next year.
– Daniel Born