Monday, November 23, 2015

Harvesting Some Nice Bucks

Let me start with an apology. It has been quite some time since I updated this blog, but I am now back on track. No excuses, life just sometimes gets in the way.

With that said, I can honestly admit that it hasn't gotten in the way of my hunting lol. The season has been great and we have harvested some nice trophy bucks. In addition to some good harvesting, a close friend of mine has joined us on our little 30 acre plot, helping us to study the deer movements and try and master their patterns. To date, he (Ken Brown) has harvested a really nice, chocolate rack 8 pointer with his bow and I have harvested 2 nice 8 pointers. Other harvest totals are at 7 deer. Our total harvest is currently at 10 deer. Though they aren't all trophies, they all put that meat on the table for us and our families and that is the true reason that we hunt. We don't eat the horns, but we do love it when we get lucky enough to bag a nice trophy buck.

Ken Browns Bow Harvest:

My Two 8 Pointers:

This deer here was harvested by another friend, Stephen - His first ever deer:


And here are some of the other harvest's of the season so far. These are all small bucks, most with some sort of deformity in their racks. Either not even, cow horn, no brow tines, etc. Though we did not harvest them as part of a deer management program, their abnormalities in our opinions still needed to be removed prior to them reproducing. Besides, with all the larger bucks we have on the property, these little guys didn't stand a chance anyways.

Now let's discuss some of the tactics and strategies used to harvest these deer.
The first of the big bucks that was harvested this year was that of Ken Browns big chocolate eight. Though this wasn't the first deer, it was the first trophy and probably the one you all want to know the most about. Ken let a lot of deer walk while patiently waiting on this deer to come in. However, this was not the deer he was hunting.
It was "Pre-Rut" and Ken had located a couple of really fresh scrapes that he decided to hunt. Over the course of about 4 or 5 days hunting the same stand, over the same scrapes, Ken had seen a serious monster buck hanging close to the does. He had hung a drip over the scrapes and had several small 4's and 6's coming in and checking it out, but never would the big boy come in. He always stayed out about 80 yards, much out of bow range. On the morning that he harvested his 8 pointer, he was sitting in his tree, once again watching the big boy out there with the does when he all of a sudden heard a grunt behind him. Slowly turning his head to the right, he saw his deer standing almost directly under him moving toward the drip. 
 Let me explain how the drip was set up. Knowing that until the rut truly kicks off, and the bucks lose their sense of safety, they can have a tendency to be nocturnal. Ken had the drip programmed to only drip fresh urine during the daylight hours in an effort to make the bucks believe that whoever was visiting his scrape was not coming in at night. If he wanted to score with this deer, he would have to come check on her in the daylight hours. Well, his drip paid off! Though it wasn't the deer he had his eyes on, it certainly was still a nice deer and well worth the harvest. Oh, and he will look amazing hanging on the wall.
As for my deer, well the hunts weren't quite a well planned out. My first one was merely being in the right stand at the right time. Keep in mind though; our stands are strategically placed and in areas where we have studied the deer movement. You see, we don't hunt the bucks in most cases but instead we hunt the does. As I believe I mentioned in an earlier writing, a buck will travel up to 10 miles per day during the rut whereas a doe will stay local. The doe acts a lot like an ole housecat. You know, you say "Here kitty, kitty", "Here kitty, kitty" and the cat just lays there as if to say "You want to pet me.......then come over here and pet me", and in most cases we do just that. So, when you have high concentrations of doe on your property, you are almost guaranteed to have the big ole bruisers show up for at least a couple of weeks each year. A lot of people say "shoot the does" (and we do shoot some of them) but we prefer to leave them in abundance. They are magnets! We typically don't start harvesting does until the first week of December when the rut is over and the bucks are rarely seen. It's all part of our plan!
Anyways, the first buck (the one with me holding his head and cape up in the kitchen floor) came in early one morning on a doe. I was sitting there watching a couple of does graze and all of a sudden, he just showed up out of nowhere. I really feel like I missed the flirting that I am sure took place at some point because within about 3 minutes of seeing this guy, he was already breeding the doe. My experience has shown that she would play hard to get for a while, maybe draw an audience, possibly he would have to fight another buck to win her and so on. Nope, she grazed by me for a few minutes, he showed up, and like rabbits they were going at it.
The second 8 pointer was a bit different. I was hunting a ground stand of mine and it was the first morning of the season that the temperature got below freezing. Additionally, it was peak rut. There was a slight wind blowing to my left, maybe 5 mph and the deer were moving. Within 10 minutes of first light, I had a small spike come out from my left (walking upwind) and he crossed about 15 feet in front of me. He never even looked in my direction so I felt good about my cover scent. I was trying a new product out that morning (Wind-it by HuntinFX which I will write about in a later story) and I wasn't sure how it would work. I was asked to field test it for Luthi's Outfitters, so I did. About an hour after sunrise, Ken texted me to tell me that the big boy was coming in from my right chasing a doe, to be alert. I figured okay, I will spray this new product in the air to mask my scent and hope he shows.
About 15 minutes after spraying it, and of course it blew to my left and not right, I heard a grunt down to my left. Two short grunts (erp, errrrp) and that was it. This was nice but kind of put me in a pickle. A great pickle to be in by all means, but now I am watching for the grunting buck on my left and the one chasing the doe on my right. I must have looked like a bobble head sitting there with my head going back and forth. Well, that didn't last long!
I heard the brush moving to my left where the grunt came from and also where the wind-it blew and out he stepped. He appeared to be on a mission as he walked with his neck stretched out and his nose just a sniffing. I knew he wasn't chasing a doe because I had been sitting there for going on 2 hours and I knew for a fact that no doe had passed. I realize then that it was me that had his attention. He walked about 20 yards out in front of me and stopped with a perfect broad side shot. I already had the crosshairs of the old 30.06 on him and I dropped the hammer. He didn't even flinch!
In all my years of hunting and all the successful harvests I have had, I thought for certain that I had somehow missed. When I shot, he didn't jump, kick, duck, rock, run or anything else that deer do when you shoot them. Instead he snapped his head around and looked straight at me. He started to huff and puff and steam was pouring out of his nostrils. He then turned and charged straight at me. Remember that I told you I was ground hunting. There was no chance of getting a second shot off so I prepared myself to dive out of his way and possibly get my tail kicked by a deer. All of a sudden I could see myself being the next Discovery Channel story of "When Animals Attack".
Lucky for me, the cypress tree I was using for cover was more than he wanted to tackle so he ran about 3 feet to the left of me, back about 15 feet behind me and turned to face me again. Now I am thinking that I may have time to shoot him again, but then he hesitates. My heart is racing a mile a minute and I am still trying to figure out how I missed him at almost point blank range. I'm looking him dead in the eyes and all of a sudden he just turns his head and looks away. Standing there panting like a mad bull with steam still pumping out of his nose, he starts to rock front to back. After two or three rocks, he just drops! It turns out that it wasn't a miss after all, just a tough ole buck.
This will be a lasting memory of a hunt for me that I will remember for the rest of my life. Yes, he too will go on my wall and every time I pass him in the living room, I will hunt him again. Every deer on my wall is a trophy to me. The trophy is in the memory - the hunt! The antlers aren't the trophy, they are the symbol of a memory that can only be built in the great outdoors, in God's world, in the land of the Whitetail.
This deer season has brought another new venture for myself, my wife and my friends. We have built a walk-in cooler at the house and provided a place to hang our deer at 38 degrees to allow the acids to release and age the meat a bit. This was a fun project, built from the ground up and using some pretty neat technology to cool it. My next article will be about that project from start to finish and details on how you could do the same thing at your property. With the Thanksgiving week upon us, it may be a week or so before I get that article written and published but if you hang in there with me, you won't regret the ideas that I am going to share with you.
Happy Thanksgiving All!

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