By Mark Kenyon

Last night almost didn’t seem real. After arriving at the piece of public land I’m hunting, post-23-hour drive, I just stood for five or ten minutes looking around dumbfounded. Was I actually doing this? A handful of hours later, as a stunning sun-set shook me out of “hunt mode”, I realized, yes I really was. And it is awesome.

In between those two moments, lots happened. As mentioned in my first journal, my goal last night was to get into an area that I could access without spooking deer and have a good opportunity to observe a large area. In the map below, you can see my eventual stand site marked with the orange circle. My hope here was simply to confirm whether or not this area had promise, and hopefully through observation figure out how I needed to adjust my set-up.

My hypothesis, based on my two nights of summer scouting and my map studying, was that most of the deer in the area were bedded in the river-bottom cover on the public land I was hunting, and then were heading east into the neighboring alfalfa fields to feed in the evening. With the tree I’d picked, I’d be able to watch a large swath of the public land cover to my west, while also being able to see into the fields to my east.

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It wasn’t long after getting situated there that the first deer of the night appeared and headed towards me and the crop fields behind, it was a doe and fawn. Then, soon after, two 1.5 year old bucks came cruising through. Then a few more does, then a hard horned 1.5 old emerged in the distance, then another doe. And then, a hunter.

While I know seeing other hunters on public land is no surprise, based on everything my Montana friends had told me this summer, I was hoping/expecting that I might be the only crazy whitetail hunter in this area. Unfortunately, I was wrong. So it goes. This hunter was still-hunting on the ground, bumping deer all ahead of him (and me), but eventually when he got to within about 50 yards he saw me waving at him and turned to go the other way.

Things from there were pretty quiet for about an hour, but finally with about 30 minutes of light left, the action turned back on. I saw another four bucks come off the public and 6-10 does as well. But it was when I turned around to scan the field behind me that I got excited. There, a couple hundred yards out in the private land alfalfa field, were a couple big old bucks. Mission accomplished.

I snuck out that night, and this morning with a wind direction switch, I decided to scout from the road and hopefully figure out where I could set-up this afternoon with the new wind. While driving this AM I saw a ton of deer, including several potential shooters around/on the public land. Based on this intel, the wind direction, and where I’m hypothesizing those bucks came out of last night – I’m planning on sneaking in this afternoon and hanging a new stand on the southern portion of this property (blue circle on the map above).

It’s pouring rain now and it’s supposed to continue through the evening, so I’m not particularly looking forward to the soaking I’m sure to get , but hopefully, it will get me one step closer to filling my tag. Fingers crossed.