Today’s reader success story comes from my friend, Pennsylvania hunter Wade James. Wade’s been having an incredible 2016 hunting season, and his story today is clear evidence that sometimes you just need to trust your gut and/or your children, and then let the chips fall where they may. Congrats Wade on an incredible Pennsylvania buck! – MK
By Wade James
“Whitetail season is always an open session to learn how much you really do not know and understand about the animal you long to chase every year. With my moose hunt ending a week before our archery opener in Western PA, I spent most of my year planning for my trip to Alberta with the PA whitetails on the back burner. After coming off the high of taking my first moose, I was worried that coming back home would be anticlimactic. But I was wrong.
I landed back in PA on September 24th, and after being home and getting back into the swing of things for a day or two, I decided I should take a stroll out to my lease to pull camera cards and check stand locations before our opener on October 1st. To my amazement, I found multiple scrapes on a main game trail between two stand locations I have in the thickest bottom on the property, and by multiple I mean 12 scrapes in a 250 yard line. I was jacked. I drove home and inspected the cards from the six cameras I was running and found that every one of my hit-list bucks were frequenting these scrapes during daylight hours! I couldn’t figure out why or how this was happening based on my experience in previous years. In the past, these mature bucks were super nocturnal by now and I wouldn’t see them in daylight until the last week of October. I wasn’t complaining though.
Fast forward to the first week. I hunted Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and opted to stay out of my favorite set that I hung early in the year as much as I could. This stand was dubbed the “Pee Pee Tree” by my four year old, Liv. While I was hanging the stand in the tree she picked, she attempted to climb up the bottom two screw-in steps and slipped off and caught her pants in the crotch region and scared the heck out of her. Upon inspection, she was 100% fine, but she was just worried that she hurt her “Pee Pee”. When I asked her what we should name that stand, she told me, “Dat Pee Pee Tree, Daddy!” I laughed out loud and agreed that it was fitting. The Pee Pee Tree was the main funnel from the creek bottom on the opposite lease to the fields with the food on my side of the lease. I knew of this spot from last season when we tracked my Dad’s buck across this area. The first night I hunted this set, I had 26 does funnel up through at seven yards on a string under my stand. I knew I needed a SW wind to hunt this set, and after hunting it once with the wrong wind, knew the next chance to hunt it was the 11th when we were scheduled for our first frost of the year paired with the SW wind.
The night of the 11th, I asked my wife to let me switch my hunting night to Tuesday instead of Wednesday to allow me to take the girls to gymnastics and not lose a night of hunting. She agreed, and after picking up Liv from Pre-K and asking her what tree to hunt, I headed to the Pee Pee Tree about an hour later than usual.
I scrambled to get out to the lease and settled into my stand. I always like to be in the stand way early, and even though I had an hour before the deer usually start showing up, I was worried that I would bump some deer on the way in. As luck would have it, I slipped in and got situated by 4:45pm.
6:00 I was caught off guard by a blast of grunts across the creek. I thought I was hearing things. These deer never grunt this early, they never scrape this early, and they sure as heck are never on their feet this early. I stumbled around for my grunt call that was buried in the bottom of the pack since I figured it would be weeks until I needed it. I let out two short blasts and it was immediately responded to by the sound of deer splashing across the creek. I stood up, grabbed my bow, pulled up my Fanatic Hoody face mask and quietly let two more soft grunts fly, then placed my grunt tube in my pocket and clipped my release on. Within a minute, I saw the bobbing heads of two mature does followed by two small button bucks. They made their way up the main game trail that leads seven yards in front of my stand and up towards the field edges. After they passed, I saw another silhouette moving in the brush below me, and low and behold, I saw two nice sparkling white G2’s pop up out of the thicket.
This was a great PA deer, and he was following the same path laid forth by his running mates that he was bumping around already. The buck cautiously looked around when he stepped into the open, and proceeded up the game trail towards me. I drew back and waited for my moment. He stalked up lightly grunting and when he hit the 20 yard mark and presented a broadside shot, I stopped him and released an arrow, watching my 3” vanes sink about 4” off of his shoulder, center mast of his chest cavity. He was done, and I watched him prance off into the timber, wildly flicking his tail. I knew he would expire within minutes, and it was crazy to realize that this deer was my trophy for the 2016 season and I would be tagged out before rut even hit.
Chasing these creatures will make your head hurt. You can plan and plan until you are blue in the face, and every time, you will realize that you will never figure them out. October 11, 2016 I learned a few things. Deer will do what they do without you knowing. They can scrape early, start chasing does weeks before they did last year, completely miss the nocturnal stage when they normally would, or grunt early. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned with this buck?
You can be the biggest, baddest whitetail hunter in the country, but sometimes it just takes the tree selection of a 4 year old with potty humor to land you the nicest deer you’ll ever take.”
– Wade James