The horny eight-pointer had one thing on his mind. But the object of his rut-driven lust — a skittish, tail-tucked doe — was playing hard to get, and certainly wanted no part of her antlered Romeo’s romantic advances.
Every time the grunting buck closed in, she whirled and darted away, bounding in wide circles through the creekbottom brush not 50 yards from exactly where I stood watching with an arrow nocked and ready.
I voice-grunted to cease this rutty, 130-class eight-pointer as he trailed a hot doe previous me in the course of the November 2015 rut. Considering that he was at 50-plus yards, I opted to take a rapid photo rather than release an arrow. He later presented me the very same shot at half that distance. Large error!
Really, I’d heard the whitetails prior to I spotted them ghosting by means of the early morning light like noisy gray shadows.
Not very half an hour had passed since I stepped from our southern Indiana farmhouse, scaled the steep hardwood ridge that rises from our backyard, and then dropped down via towering white oaks and hickories into a shallow, leaf-filled, dry creekbed reduce by deer trails and lined with fresh rubs and scrapes.
For the previous several early November days, I’d nevertheless-hunted and photographed primetime rutting buck action in this same familiar region. Located only a handful of hundred yards from the cozy bedroom exactly where my wife, Janet, nonetheless slept, it’s considerably less difficult to attain than the Illinois acreage exactly where every single fall I match wits with whopper bucks on my excellent pal Craig Halbig’s farm.
Incidentally, Craig’s Prairie State house is in the northern part of the exact same rural county exactly where my wife and I were born, grew up, met, and sooner or later married. But back in the 1950s, Illinois deer sightings have been a rarity there. Ditto for southwestern Hoosierland.
Fortunately, that is no longer the case. Now I seldom bowhunt either whitetail-friendly house without seeing multiple deer. Unfortunately, the rutting Hoosier eight-pointer I spotted November 12 didn’t provide a clear shot. And brief moments later, the coy doe led him out of sight beyond the creek.
I could only stand rooted in place, disappointed and listening to their noisy departure fade into the cool autumn stillness. But rather than move on, gradually nevertheless-hunting my way toward some lush food plots stretching below a timbered ridge on our farm’s Back 40, I elected to keep put for a even though.
Perhaps the doe would lead her rutty suitor back my way. Or probably yet another buck would show himself. Only yesterday I’d passed up a 20-yard shot at a good nine-pointer, settling as an alternative on snapping a few images as he nosed about checking for receptive does.
In the past week alone, I’d glimpsed practically a dozen diverse mature bucks, and several times that numerous does and fawns. Is it any wonder why I adore bowhunting the November rut?
Years of challenging perform have created numerous food plots of different sizes and shapes that attract and hold deer on our farm. Corn, soybeans, clover, millet, turnips, brassica, winter peas and wheat, and other tasty treats are regularly planted for the resident deer.
If half a century-plus of successfully pursuing deer across North America has taught me something, it is getting patient, spending as considerably time as possible in the deer woods, and playing my hunches. I’ve concluded the only point predictable about rutting deer is their unpredictability. And lengthy expertise told me this was the time to play a waiting game.
Practically a complete decade ago, Janet and I discovered and purchased the secluded Perry County farm that’s nestled in the scenic hardwood hills where we now live. Composed of 150+ acres of brush-lined fields and adjoining woodland tracts, it is bordered on two sides by largely landlocked state forest timberland, plus two neighboring farms — a single raising hay and beef cattle, the other corn and soybeans.
Like me, their landowners and relatives deer hunt every single fall, tagging mainly older bucks, but also taking a couple of does for the family freezers. Such comparatively unpressured private properties, exactly where harvests are restricted and coyote handle is practiced, have supplied a bright future for our Cattail Valley’s resident whitetails.
Some Bowhunter readers with great memories may well recall my October 2009 feature, “No Place Like Residence.” That story detailed my 2008 hunt for the very first buck I tagged on our Cedar Ridge Farm, as properly as my “sweat-equity” efforts to transform this promising property into a haven for whitetails and wild turkeys.
Right after a devastating EHD outbreak in 2007, does on our farm have been placed off-limits and the local herd has bounced back nicely. Supplemental winter feeding of grain and minerals helped with the recovery. This photo was taken in early 2016.
Starting in 2007, I started planting meals plots, establishing mineral licks, and strategically locating wintertime feeders that supplied a variety of grains and antler-boosting mineral supplements. These cumulative efforts have attracted and held increasing numbers of deer.
Regrettably, ’07 also saw a lingering drought and devastating outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic illness (EHD) in southern Indiana. The EHD carnage and summer season heat filled our autumn woods with the stench of decay, littering the hardwood hills and grassy fields with the gray-white hair and scattered bones of dead whitetails.
Regardless of that rocky starting, the good ten-pointer I tagged in 2008 marked the official starting of one particular modest farm’s deer herd recovery project that continues to this day.
The keys to the comeback had been putting all does off limits, and tagging only mature bucks until the herd recovered. My concentrate was on improving and maintaining adequate habitat, like browse and bedding cover.
This involved mowing and widening existing farm trails, clearing and establishing food plots, generating off-season feeding stations, planting apple trees, sustaining current water sources, and setting up specific “deer security zones” — accurate sanctuaries that are strictly off limits to me and anybody else hunting our farm.
Such arranging, self-imposed restrictions, and sweaty function have paid large dividends as our post-EHD herd thrived. It is no surprise to me that deer hunting on our farm has only gotten better with every single successive bow season.
Excellent pal and neighbor Kenny Schum, whose John Deere farm equipment is used for mowing and planting my property’s food plots, has permission to bowhunt our farm in return for the perform he and his college-age son Colton do on our side of the fence.
Earlier in the 2015 season, Kenny arrowed a husky, white-faced 10-pointer that walked past his stand. Even though no record-book monster whitetail, it was a single of the nicest bucks taken locally in recent years — a lot more proof good that our recovery program was functioning as intended. In earlier seasons, teenage friend Cody Van Winkle killed his 1st whitetail doe and buck on our farm.
Cody’s a nephew of however another neighboring landowner, and a single of numerous youngsters I’ve helped get started in bowhunting. In turn, Cody, Kenny, and Colton have pitched in to help with ongoing efforts to bring the neighborhood herd back from the brink.
For those readers who may possibly not know, Indiana is not really a deer-friendly state. In fact, it’s only a single of nine states not using deer population estimates to “effectively manage” its deer herd. Instead, Indiana relies on “trends” reported more than a period of time.
And while wildlife biologists in surrounding Midwestern states are operating to either sustain or expand their resident deer populations, the announced objective of Hoosierland wildlife managers is to actively decrease the statewide deer herd. This policy is continued in spite of growing complaints by worried deer hunters who are seeing few if any whitetails in their one-time favorite hunting regions every single successive fall and winter.
To its credit, Indiana did adopt a one particular-buck-per-season limit statewide, regardless of weapon, and also closed the late-season antlerless hunt — or decreased offered tags — in locations where deer numbers are notably down.
Concerned critics continue pointing fingers of blame at overly liberal firearms seasons that offer you gun hunters much more than 40 days to legally take several deer (up to eight in some places). In addition to sporadic outbreaks of EHD and blue tongue, there are expanding numbers of available crop predation/deer nuisance permits, which along with road kills take an annual toll on the declining herd.
Also, continued political stress from influential insurance organization and agriculture industry lobbyists has pushed lawmakers to endorse obtaining rid of pesky deer and the monetary threat they pose. Finally, a significant bone of contention for a lot of is the special late antlerless deer season open in numerous counties.
A number of bonus tags are created readily accessible at a time of the season (December and January) when most does are pregnant, and winterkills consist of button bucks and mature bucks that have dropped their antlers. Indiana’s intentional deer-reduction effort — combined with habitat loss, predation issues, poaching, adverse climate that takes a toll on fawns, and basic mismanagement practices — quite naturally adversely impacts Hoosier whitetail populations.
That’s why it’s understandable to me that lots of Indiana sportsmen and girls are growing increasingly restless and impatient with the perceived overharvesting of their state’s declining deer numbers.
Although it’s true that pockets with healthier deer populations and satisfied hunters exist, as in my personal case, Hoosierland’s continuing downward spiral in statewide deer numbers is all too actual.
On a significantly more positive note, every single serious deer hunter I know has fond memories of preferred locations where deer and hunters match wits season following season. Honestly, it tends to make tiny distinction where a bowhunter’s individual deer-hunting memories are born and blossom.
Whether a favourite hunting location is property you own, lease, or merely have permission to hunt, it is “yours,” and you can get to know it as intimately as your personal bedroom. Ditto for some public, state, and Federal lands, despite the fact that these regions can be crowded, overhunted, and lack any semblance of the privacy that most hunters prefer.
Regardless, familiarity with any hunting terrain offers a definite home field benefit that aids tip the odds in your favor. But you have to realize the deer you are hunting are even far more familiar with the lay of the land than you will ever be. Their survival depends on it.
Hunting back to my 1st deer hunts in the early 1960s, I can name my private all-time favorite spots.
These contain a rocky ridgetop crossing in the Shawnee National Forest exactly where I arrowed my first Illinois whitetails ten overgrown Indiana acres of blackberry and multiflora rose thickets, flanked by a stand of white pines and hardwoods I owned near Fort Wayne that produced my largest Indiana whitetail the northwestern Montana ranch we owned along the Flathead River where I killed quite a few rutting bucks only a short hike from our blufftop property two good friends’ cropland farms in Illinois that produced many close encounters with large grain-fed bucks and our current Hoosier home.
The common denominator to accomplishment? Acquiring to know each area intimately, and employing that expertise to fill tags and create lasting memories. For me, nothing beats filling a tag on familiar land that’s your residence turf.
Self-self-assurance is built on previous knowledge, whitetail savvy, and a workable game program for the land getting hunted. When combined, these elements can yield annual shot opportunities and make consistent accomplishment.
And that individual conclusion brings us complete circle to the November morning final season when I stood beside the dry, leaf-littered creekbed in the middle of our farm, hoping the rutting whitetails I’d noticed would reappear. 5 minutes passed. I glimpsed several does and fawns feeding below white oaks on the ridge behind me. One more 10 minutes passed.
A smallish six-pointer crossed the creekbed 50 yards away, briefly nosing about a freshly pawed scrape just before disappearing into the thick brush. Far more minutes ticked by.
I’d just decided to give it a few far more minutes just before moving on when I saw a lone doe approaching along the identical game trail exactly where the eight-pointer had made his exit. She walked by me at possibly 30 yards, mouth open and breathing difficult.
And seconds later, I caught the flash of antlers in the morning sunlight slanting by way of bare limbs of the tulip trees increasing along the creekbottom.
The husky eight-pointer’s full consideration was still on tracking the uncooperative doe. So I drew when his head passed behind a tree trunk, settling my second pin on the crease behind his muscular shoulder when he stepped clear.
I voice-grunted, and then released the immediate he paused broadside just short of the creek crossing. My arrow flew correct, zipping via his chest specifically where I was aiming. The buck spun and trotted maybe 30 yards, stopped, staggered, and toppled over sideways, his tall tines digging deep into the leaves and mud.
Chalk up another win for the house team.
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