20-21 Season - Big Buck Contest Essays (Feb 22 Deadline)

Discuss deer hunting tactics, Deer behavior. Post your Hunting Stories, Pictures, and Questions/Answers.
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isitseasonyet?
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Re: 20-21 Season - Big Buck Contest Essays (Feb 22 Deadline)

Unread postby isitseasonyet? » Sun Feb 21, 2021 4:54 pm

"A Buck for Grandpa"

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A few years ago, Grandpa was a few years retired from hunting and decided it was time to pass on his main hunting rifle. A Marlin 30-30 that to many is nothing special. But to me is the most valuable firearm in the world. It had been my Grandpa's faithful companion for over 50 years and had helped him take 86 deer in that time frame. For him to tell me that he knew that I would "know what to do with it" was a great honor. With every ounce of my being I wanted to get a big buck for him with his rifle. He is 90 now.

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For those who want a short version: Grandpa tells me about big buck, I hunt him down and shoot him with Grandpa's rifle. For those who want more, the following is the long version. As hard as I tried to catch up with this buck with my bow. Im glad it happened the way it did.

Sunday 9/27

9AM ish? Got some scouting in on Grandpas Woods, got some good intel. A big buck had been through, I followed him back to a known bedding area. I believe he only beds there as an “opportunity” rather than often. It is adjacent to a bedding area. I’m gonna hit this spot right before the guns come out. He bedded under a large blowdown, in an area where I have bumped big bucks before. Never really decided to go in and investigate until now.

Quite frankly I didn’t give a rip if he was home. I wanted to know what was happening...

Here is the track...

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Thursday 10/8

Thursday evening Grandpa called me VERY excited and told me that a big one has shown up, and that it might be the one leaving the big tracks! (Grandpa was right) I got him on camera!! (From this point on, every move in the chess game with this buck was called in before and after to keep Grandpa in the loop. He knows this woods like the back of his hand, and loves to hear the adventures!)

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10/17

Passed on a 100" 8pt, told grandpa, he told me I was CRAZY, maybe crazy enough to get the big one, maybe crazy enough to get nothing. Cross off bedding area #1

10/18

Crossed off bedding area #2, Passed two spikes.

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Saturday 10/24

I got my eyes on the buck grandpa had seen from the stand. Great chasing and fighting/ pre-rut action out in the small field. Narrowed it down to bedding area #3 or #4.

11/1

Big Buck sighted in the ditch near where I parked, time for a new approach! Cross off bedding area #3 did not see him from stand.

Saturday 11/7

Rifle Opener. It was my girlfriend's first year hunting with my family, and she told me she would be happy with ANY deer, so she was up to bat! We snuck into a great bedding area and got situated, she has been scouting with me and practicing her shot. Girlfriend scored on her first deer! I was very proud!

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Sunday 11/8

The wind shifted, and we had a HUGE temperature drop!! What a great way for the deer hunting gods to show me kindness, time to hit the final bedding area for Grandpa's Buck! Everything was right, the wind, the rut, gun pressure. I kept this card in my sleeve all season and it was time to play it!

We snuck in to the bedding area, and set up on the ground tucked into a deadfall.

Shortly after getting set-up, I hear my Dad shoot. (Turns out he missed)

About 30-40 minutes later I hear a grunt and then some leaves crunching behind me. I knew in my bones to get turned around and ready to party. I see the buck's antlers coming into the back side of the bedding area on his "J Hook" route. As soon as he hit the trail I had an open shot and sent one into his chest, he took a few steps and I got another opening and put one into his shoulder. He keeps heading for the bed, but he did not make it. I heard him crash.

I got up and RAN over there. Shaking like a leaf. As I walked up on him, I hit my knees, thanked GOD, and gave Grandpa a call. I did not even say hello, just "I got him."

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I gutted him, loaded him up and drove him over to Grandpa's. I backed him right up to the window for Grandpa to confirm it was the one.

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As soon as I got in the house he said. "It's not bigger than mine." He was right, its not.

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Grandpa was very proud and really got a kick out of his recliner in the woods!

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This was a TANK of a deer, and weighed 280 dressed!! Definately my biggest buck (SO FAR) and extremely special, for me to use Grandpa's 30-30, in his woods, and hunt him down. This buck tought me SO much about big bucks. I had just enough luck as well.


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Re: 20-21 Season - Big Buck Contest Essays (Feb 22 Deadline)

Unread postby Lockdown » Mon Feb 22, 2021 4:43 am

I started the year chasing my dream buck. A nice ten point with a drop tine. After shining him multiple times, several uneventful observations, some invasive in season scouting, and a hopeful trail camera deployment, I finally put the pieces together on this deer. My third hunt for him wound up being an incredible hunt, resulting in a heartbreaking end. I got an arrow in him and hit him too high. Fortunately, the buck survived. I now know he made it through the season, so that story isn’t over.

Shotgun season rolled around and my Dad and I had the pleasure of taking my nephews out. They are 15 & 12 and flew in from Washington. Maddox and I had some tough luck and let multiple bucks slip through our fingers. His first buck would have to wait. Parker had better luck and Dad helped him get a shot at his first whitetail ever, a beautiful 11 point two year old buck. My by permission “old faithful” 10 acre rut grove paid off yet again. 8-)
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The very next weekend I headed for western SD for my first rifle hunt out there since 2012. I drew an area that I have bowhunted quite a bit. I knew I was heading WAY back in there. It held some giants, but I would have to work for one. I told myself “mounter or nothing.” As it was just too much work to pack one that far through rough terrain unless it was a special deer.

On day one I hunted with the rest of the crew. The wind was blowing 25+ and I wanted to be mentally prepared for the remote area. Day 1 I logged 13 miles. I woke very early day 2 and made the trek back to the nasty area. I was on the mulies right off the bat and even stalked to within bow range of a smaller 3x3. Here he is dogging a doe (pic through the spotting scope).
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I cleared a couple ridges and headed toward the next when behind me a nice buck came running in. I panicked not knowing if the he was worthy of the effort. I reluctantly held off but felt good about it. As soon as he disappeared a 2nd, SLIGHTLY larger buck ran through on the same path. I yelled at him to stop him and he swung his head my way. He was pretty wide and had real nice 4’s. I ended up dropping the hammer! :dance:

I did experience a little bit of ground shrinkage, but am still very happy with him. Although he wasn’t the mega giant I had set out for, he was a beautiful public land buck no doubt.
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And now the work began. Somehow my out of shape 38 year old self was able to pack the entire deer out 4.02 miles in one trip. I later weighed the meat, pack, and all my gear and found it was 88 pounds. As they say, slow and steady wins the race! I took breaks often, and was never more glad to see the truck!! From the time the pack was loaded to reaching the truck it was 6 hours.

Later in the trip I brought one of my friends to a spot I scouted the evening of day 1. It was remote and looked REALLY good. I saw several potential shooters there. 1st time in we made a move on a buck but he disappeared on us. However, we were able to make it happen the next day! Another public land dandy.
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Back to MN...


With a buck and a doe tag still burning a hole in my pocket, muzzleloader season was upon us. I’d finally put a Leupold on top of my CVA Optima. Time to do some killing with it! I’d only ever killed one doe with a muzzleloader prior to this season. Luckily, I put the pieces together on some overlooked bedding near home. Sign looked good... plenty of fresh tracks. After work one day I caught two does and a fawn exiting one of the public cattail bedding areas. It is just 200 yards off the road. I had a nice easy 60-70 yard shot and put her down. I had my Dad bring my girls out to help get her out 8-) start them young!
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Trying to fill my buck tag, I gave a good effort on my public lands. There was lots of hunter sign that wasn’t there during bow season. Pressure was 5x what I’ve seen in the past and it was obvious most areas were ghost towns. I was on a few does and small bucks, but it was tough sledding. I knew my chances for a 3.5+ weren’t very good without being able to scout a bunch.

I decided to hit up some private ground I had access to. It’s a CRP field with very little structure. Rather than sit in our heated box blind, I bundled up and sat on a hillside that overlooks a fence line that sees somewhat consistent movement. I felt it was the right move, but it certainly wasn’t the more comfortable of the two options.

It was a very eventful morning, and the last day of muzzleloader season. I had eyes on a pretty good buck that looked to be a 110-120ish three year old. SHOOTER. I had just about put him to bed (I could tell he was very close to laying down) and had a game plan for that night to ambush him when a group of does came in behind me with a “smaller” buck. They came right down the pipe on my fence line trails. “He’s just a six pointer.” But he had a decent body and some width. Upon closer inspection I felt he was a pretty darn good buck, he just had terrible antler genetics. The outside of his rack was past his ears.

I’ve always wanted to shoot those inferior genetic bucks in the past, but usually happen upon them too early in the year and don’t want to burn my lone MN buck tag on them. With the lack of snow I didn’t have a lot of faith for late season archery. I decided to let the bigger buck have a pass to next year, and I settled the cross hairs on the 6 pointer.

I cracked off a shot and he took off with an obviously broken front leg. I was a little worried I pulled my 100 yard shot too far forward and low. I saw the buck disappear near some shrubs and I approached as if he were still alive. Sure enough he blew and took off as fast as he could on 3 legs. :shock:

“You’ve got one chance at him Ryan, don’t blow it!!”

He was running mostly away with a slight quarter. BOOM!! I ended up dropping him. :dance:
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He was bigger bodied than I thought and thick necked. With a post rut dressed weight of 173 lbs and no fat on him, I’m pretty certain he’s a 3 year old buck. His inside spread is 17”.

It was a great season. I brought 106 lbs of trim to the locker plant, had them grind up a bunch into burger, make snack sticks and brats. Along with that the freezer is full of backstraps and roasts. Life is good.
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Re: 20-21 Season - Big Buck Contest Essays (Feb 22 Deadline)

Unread postby VilasCo » Mon Feb 22, 2021 1:53 pm

June's Buck

This buck story is about the best gift I have ever received. In August I lost my daughter, June, to a congenital heart defect. She was a beautiful 6 month old and fought so hard everyday of her life. June had a big impact on a lot of people and she inspires me everyday to work harder. I spent a lot of time in the woods this past fall praying and reflecting. During every outing I would speak to the sky in hopes June could hear me. On the last day of Wisconsin's muzzleloader season I took to the woods to try to fill my buck tag. The recent cold weather froze a beaver pond which allowed me to access a remote ridge system surrounded by a cedar swamp. Once I reached the target area I found lots of buck sign, but no indication a buck was there recently. I carried on towards a known doe bedding area and cut a fresh doe track with two fawns. Not interested in trailing them, I continued along the spine of the ridge to the steep point dumping down into the cedars. At the top of the point there was an opening in the trees that gave me a good view of the sky. I was standing in an old crusty deer bed and thought it would be a good time to talk to Junebug. I looked up into that opening and started my talk with my baby girl. I thanked her for keeping me safe on my adventures and asked her if it would be too much trouble to send a deer my way. In that moment a deer snorted behind me. I peaked over the spine of the ridge to see the doe and her two fawns 30 yards away. They never saw me but got my wind and moved down into swamp. I watched them circle through the cedars below for a few minutes. When they were out of view I made a few bleats to try to coax them back. I looked back up at the sky and thanked June for such a cool encounter. I knew I was pushing my luck but I asked her if there were any bucks around. My guardian angel delivered again. Instantly I heard footsteps coming down the opposite ridge. A beautiful buck was making his way right to me. I put the crosshairs on his chest and when he presented a shot at 60 yards I squeezed off the shot. When the smoke cleared I saw him laboring up the ridge from which he came and heard him crash at the top. I looked up at the sky with watery eyes and thanked June for her gift. After I composed myself I took up the easy track to my buck. He was a big boy and made for an interesting drag back to the truck. The route back took me up and down two big ridges with blow downs and thick brush before getting to the flat swap. When a little ways through the swamp I heard a howl. I howled back, It was my brother. It was a great relief to hear his howl after a half mile dragging a heavy buck. He help drag the buck the remaining quarter mile. I doubt I will ever have a hunt as good as this one; I was able to share a very powerful moment with my late daughter and I had my brother there to help celebrate the life of a great Northwoods buck.

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Re: 20-21 Season - Big Buck Contest Essays (Feb 22 Deadline)

Unread postby jporcello » Mon Feb 22, 2021 3:54 pm

First of all, thank you for taking the time to read my story of my 2020 kansas buck.

This story actually started in 2019 when my buddy and I had our hearts set on hunting bucks in Kansas. We did our do diligence and started e-scouting and calling the biologists in the areas we wanted to hunt. So we applied but we did not get drawn that year. However, 2020 was the year we were drawn and able to hunt this great state.

Now the work begins, and back to the drawing boards of where and when we wanted to hunt in Kansas. Again, we put in the e-work and made multiple phone calls to see how the deer numbers were affected by the 2019 season and CWD. My buddy and I have been travelling out of state to hunt for a couple years now and we learned real quick the importance of plans A, B, C, D, E and F and even G.

We make the 16 hour drive straight to the spot we want to start scouting and potentially hunt. We arrive around 0300 and decide to take a nap in the truck instead of going in blind and hunting. We wait for the sun to come up and set out scouting. Spot 1 had some sign but not what we were looking for so we pushed on to spot 2. Spot 2 was a little more promising but we have really gotten better at speed scouting and knowing what we are looking for and know when we see it. Spot 3 did not pay off at all, so we decided to make a late evening hunt at spot 2 with the success of only having a deer blow at one of us at the final minutes of hunting light. Day 2 am we hunted the same spot 2 but with a few minor adjustments. No deer were seen, so back to boots on the ground.

Day 2 around 1000 we drive around to our other spots of interest and probably walk 6-7 miles and find what we are looking for. The terrain in this area has multiple draws with open crp some with standing corn still but mostly empty fields that had been harvested in the past couple weeks. We found multiple beds, scrapes and rubs. This was the kind of sign that makes your heart start to beat really fast. I mean trees with rubs above the waist and bark on the ground with green showing on the freshly rubbed trees. Now, only to figure out how we are gong to hunt this area. The only problem is access to the spot we want to hunt, because of a deep creek we have to cross and there is only one of 2 options to cross it, swim or climb.

We make a plan for the evening hunt and set up. Multiple deer are seen, but nothing mature. We decide to hunt the same trees the next am. Just for clarification we buddy hunt a lot of the spots trying to maximize any opportunity in any area we hunt. My buddy was set up about 150 yds west of me closer to one of the draws and I chose to hunt along the creek hoping to catch a buck checking the bedding area to my south along the creek. Day 3 am the wind is blowing 25mph+ and we are walking to our stand in the dark and we are about to cross the creek and we hear splashing in the creek. I quickly turn on my headlamp and see a huge racked buck with double drop tines. We both freeze with our mouths wide open in shock. He trots off but not like he was spooked and in the direction of my buddies stand, needless to say we were both super excited and praying for a bump and dump.
Day 3 am sit we see multiple deer but not the new target buck or anything else mature so we get down and scout midday but choose to come back to our am sets. During the evening sit the wind changes directions and I tell my buddy he has to move his stand if he is going to hunt there in the am. We hunt till dark and I go help him move his stand and we get ready for what tomorrow brings. Day 4 and we get in our stands and it is cold and windy. Around 0700 I hear whack, I text my buddy hey are you ok then a second after I send the text it hits me, he shot a buck. He calls me and tells me “the good news is the big boy is still alive” of course I say did you miss him, he laughs no I shot a different buck. He said but im not sure about my shot, it looked like I hit him further back. I tell him well let’s give him a couple hours that way I can still hunt this am and give the buck time to die if it’s a liver shot.

About 0900 my buddy cant take it anymore and texts me im climbing down to go look at my arrow. I respond ok and let me know what you find. A couple min later I get a pic of his arrow and I see bubbles and text back thats a lung shot and he is dead in my opinion. So he sets out looking for his buck I can faintly see him walking through the draw and then I look up and I see a shooter skirting the edge of the draw in the crp. I text my buddy please stop looking I have a shooter at 100yds. I start to grunt and even snort wheeze multiple times but the wind is blowing well over 25mph. The buck eventually hears me but chooses to jump the fence and go into the private land next to me. After about an hour I get a pic of the buck my buddy shot, so I climb down and we get to work on quartering the deer. We quarter him and transfer the quarters through the creek to the other side because there was no way we were dragging him out.

Day 4 evening I have and off wind in the same tree so I choose to hunt because there is a known shooter in the area. Honestly, I struggle with do I leave deer to find deer as my buddy takes the evening and continues to scout for more buck sign in plans C, D and E. He finds some sign and sits that evening, seeing multiple bucks chasing does. I on the other hand see a few young bucks but neither of the shooter bucks from before. Day 5 I return to the same tree with wind blowing straight into the doe bedding along the creek and my thought process was hopefully I will have a shot before he winds me, I say this because of how I had seen the deer move through this area the days before. I am texting my buddy off an on this morning and not a seeing a single deer. He tells me he didn’t see anything either but another hunter 100yds from him. I text him at 1001 hey do you mind going to check this area for me, and he responds ill head there now. I look up from my phone and 50 yds to my east heading straight to me is what I think is the buck I saw the day before that went onto the private. I grab my bow and I had already ranged everything around me and new the distances should he give me an opportunity. The buck gets to 40 yds and is about to walk broadside straight behind me and I feel it and my heart drops, yes the wind switched and a gust blows right to him. He stops dead in his tracks and then I feel it again as the wind switches back to what it had been all morning long.

Now super alert, he licks the skin off his nose trying to smell me again. I am thinking the entire time he is about to bolt, but favor isn’t fair as my Pastor would tell us, this buck takes a step but moving north and about to give me a 25yd chip shot broadside. I draw my bow but, his senses on overload he very cautiously takes a few steps and then stops behind a tree with only a little bit of his shoulder exposed. I can hear Dan in my head take the first shot given to you. I choose to wait for the half step more with my heart pounding out of my chest, knowing if I don’t shoot I will be kicking myself for not listening to Dans words of wisdom. In the moment of what seems to be minutes I see his tail flicker and I get that instant sigh of relief and think nope your dead. He takes that half step and I let the arrow go.

The arrow hits about an inch or two back from where I was aiming, but the deer turns and walks off like he didn’t even know he had been shot. He is walking now about 40 yds away from me returning back to the way he came in and starts to do what I call the drunk wobble and I see him go down about 50yds from me. Immediately I start to do the gooch leg shake and text my buddy back hey never mind, instead do you mind going to grab the deer cart and meeting so we can get this buck. My buddy immediately calls me and starts to celebrate my success.

Thank you Lord for this opportunity for my enjoyment, but not for my fulfillment

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“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” Albert Einstein
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Re: 20-21 Season - Big Buck Contest Essays (Feb 22 Deadline)

Unread postby bigbuckhunter88 » Mon Feb 22, 2021 3:57 pm

2020: Best Season Yet
2020 was a wild year in our house with a 4 year old, 3 year old and 18 month old. Alongside that my wife works in healthcare and that had its own craziness this year and she also hunts. I wasn't exactly sure how much time i would be able to dedicate to the woods.
This year started off with a dilemma just like most years.
The last few years I have found one buck that stood out from the rest and dedicated my entire season to hunting that buck. They weren't the same buck from year to year and weren't always on the same property. The last few years those chess matches have taken the entire bow season and ended with me in defeat. This year the same thing happened. I started my summer scouting, hung trail cameras and started spending some time behind glass trying to find some good deer to hunt. It ended up being one of the best years I can remember and I had many good bucks but one that stood out from the rest. This year however I decided I was going to just hunt and take the first deer that got the ticker beating hard.
Our opener is always October 1st but I couldn't hunt until the 2nd. That day I took my 4 year old to a double ladder stand with me. I knew it would be an experience, and we almost sealed the deal on a big old doe. He was very fidgety but he loved watching the deer. I can't wait for the days when he is the one behind the bow and gun.
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I spent the following day(Saturday)with the family as my wife had been working insane hours and we hadn't had been able to see each other much. On Sunday she gave me the green light to head out on a solo mission. It was hot, no wind, and I was just kind of enjoying the evening when a nice buck caught me by surprise. He came in silent from a direction I wasn't expecting and I blew my opportunity. That was the last day I bowhunted until Halloween.
In the meantime I took my wife out 2 weekends in mid October for early muzzleloader season. She passed some small bucks and does, but just never had a good opportunity at a buck she wanted and season ended. The following weekend was Halloween/November 1st. I hunted Halloween morning with very little action and opted to take the kids Trick or Treating in the evening in 35 MPH winds instead of hunting.
November 1st 2020 was a day I will be trying to top in the whitetail woods for the rest of my life. The morning hunt was windy and mainly uneventful. Checked a card and realized I was a day late as a big buck was there the day before. That evening I was supposed to take the wife hunting but she bowed out due to wind and switched the babysitter to next weekend so I had the green light to go solo. I chose a different location where I thought I wasn't in the game, but at least in the stadium. It was a funnel between the river and an open field, I had a camera nearby but didn't have any shooters on it. I had taken the stand out of the giant, 3 trunked maple tree because it was too reclined and opted to just stand in the crotch of the tree about 12 feet up and could lean against any of the trunks. I was in and set up by 2. Half hour after settling in I caught a hind end moving through the brush across the river. I rattled, and 15 seconds later a small 2 year old was heading right to the base of the tree. I took a video with it ending with him at the tree, but took note that a deer in that path would be tough to draw on due to no cover.
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Shortly thereafter I had another small buck come right in, and then I got to watch and listen to a pair of otters doing their thing swimming up and down the river, efficiently hunting for themselves. As the sun started setting I noticed 5 does and fawns in a field a few hundred yards aways. Eventually I saw a nice young 9 pointer enter the field and start chasing a doe. He wasn't a buck I was interested in, but it was still fun to watch the show. He had her going all over and eventually I lost sight of them heading my way. A few minutes later I heard the unmistakable crunching of a deer walking on a mission. I assumed it was the 9 pointer but I got ready anyway. When the deer cleared the thicket at 30 yards heading right to me I knew what deer it was. I wasn't expecting him but there he was. He kept steady walking on the same path that the first buck took. That trail took him directly to the base of the tree. He ended up getting to the base of the tree and behind one of the trunks of the tree I was in and I drew. I held for what seemed like forever and couldn't see the deer at all. No idea if he was alerted to me drawing or relaxed. Eventually I could hear him chewing. And then heard him take a step. And then another. A wall of tines entered into view of my sight housing and the heartrate and breathing increased. I had to look away until he took another step. Now I could see only his head and neck, but my arms were about at their max. I decided to slowly lean forward until my pin cleared his shoulder and I squeezed off the shot. It sounded and felt good but at 3 yards there was no chance of seeing anything. The deer took off with me looking for a hole and blood. He stopped at 30 yards and just stood there. After a few seconds of scanning I realized I should be reloading and getting another arrow in him. I had just nocked my 2nd arrow and looked up just in time to see him start to wobble, and down he went 30 yards from stand.
Hes my dream buck. Hes got everything I could want and symmetrical to boot. The way it all happened was perfect. My phone had died sometime during the hunt so I didn't even go up to him. I went to get the family and my brother to help drag and load him. The wife was both happy and relieved that she would get her husband during November. The kids were excited for the adventure but especially the "blood, guts, and poop". Their curious little minds and imaginations were turning at full speed during the field dressing and anatomy lesson. It couldn't have gotten any better, and then I got the alert on my phone. The camera I set up there a month prior had caught that buck coming in, and in the background, in the crotch of the tree you can see an oversized squirrel. 
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I had originally planned to have the week off to hunt but since I was tagged out I went back to work until Thursday, November 5th. That day happens to be my wedding anniversary and both me and my wife take that day off every year to spend together in a treestand. Since I was already tagged out we skipped the AM hunt, got the kids off to daycare, went out to do some shopping and got an early lunch, and were back in a stand around noon. That sit was one of the most intense sits I've ever been apart of. We had nonstop action from the moment we got in stand. Ranging from does and fawns, to about an hour before dark we had 2 great bucks pushing each other around, posturing, and scraping all over. Neither of the bucks came into range but it was a successful sit.
We had the following day off as well so we returned to that same stand. It was completely dead. We had been sitting for 4ish hours without any action at all when we both heard a deer making a scrape but couldn't pinpoint the location. Finally we had it narrowed down and I knew it was about to happen. He finished that scrape and headed right to us. There is another scrape at around 22 yards and he was making a beeline there. He stopped at freshened that scrape quartering towards us, and as soon as he left he started walking in front of us. Without any guidance my wife drew when he was around 18 yards, walking and behind cover. He popped out at 16 yards and she stopped him perfect. Luckily I was filming the whole ordeal as the shot looked back. The deer took off like he was hit hard and never stopped until he was out of sight and earshot. I replayed the video and confirmed the shot was a touch back, but knew the deer would be dead.
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My wife immediately thought the worst. She has only killed deer with a firearm before and had wounded a deer 2 years prior with her bow. We got down and went over to her arrow that blew right through despite her low poundage, and there was blood everywhere. I told my wife that the deer was already dead and she had to have hit an artery. We backed out and went and told everyone else and lined up a sitter for a midnight track job. We returned 6 hours later and followed a walking blood trail around 200 yards to find her buck stiffened up. He had died on a run and was probably expired before I even replayed the shot on my phone.
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For the first time ever my wife and I were both tagged out, and rut hadn't even gotten good yet. I spent the rest of November trying to help my brothers get on bucks (one missed at 25, and a week later the other missed the same buck) but I introduced my kids into trapping. Usually I'm trying to kill a buck so that takes a backseat but this year we put some steel out and my kids loved it.
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Fast forward to 1st gun season. I always buy doe tags for all the counties we hunt and implement Iowas party hunting rule for 1st shotgun. Its a small group of mostly family and a few friends. I usually spend the week walking every push trying to get younger cousins and my dad and uncle deer. This year was no different. The first day my 13 year old cousin knocked down 2 bucks and then his brother knocked one down on the next push. My brother got a nice 10 the following day. We ended up filling all but 1 tag with 2 hours to spare on the last day. We were down to a 5 man crew and 1 guy hadn't gotten any shooting so he wanted to walk a small slough where he though the walker would have the best shots. I let everyone else pick their spots and chose to sit next to the highway where a waterway ran down. I was 20 yards into the field, knelt down in some chest high grass with the sun at my back. Not long after being set up I saw our walker coming my way. Soon he kicked up 4 does and they ran right down the waterway to me. I quick a took video as they ran by at 10 yards and said "now if only the big boy would do that."
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A few minutes later I heard our walker yell something but couldn't comprehend with the wind. 3 seconds later I watch as this big wide bruiser appears from the switch grass midstride heading right for me. The entire time he was in range but my walker was somewhere behind him. I let him get to 15 when I had to stand up, wave my arms and yell. He quickly turned on a dime and ran parallel to me. Once I knew everyone was clear I made my shot and he folded midstride. He had 1 tine that wasn't busted and a few that were broke off clean, and a super fresh broadhead hole in his shoulder(we dug the rage out when cutting him up). We were tagged out as a group for the first time in as long as I remember.
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After first gun season I had a short break and just hung out with the family, got everything at work caught up on and got ready for the next season. Late season the name of the game is find where they are feeding and then make your move. I spent 3 times the amount of hours behind glass late season than I do sitting usually. Late season is also a time when I tend to be more picky than normal. The bucks have survived the majority of pressure and their likelihood of survival is higher. I happened to find a good buck coming out of a woodlot into a rye field. It was a good buck but I was more interested in getting my younger brother on him. It was one of the big bucks me and my wife had an encounter with. The following night the wind was wrong so me and my brother both watched him from afar. To our surprise he showed up but had a bigger buck with him. We slipped out trying not to spook them and also not draw attention to ourselves and gain more hunting pressure. The following night my brother went in for the kill and I went to observe the opposite side of the farm. With over an hour of daylight left I was startled with the echo of a gunshot. A few moments late my brother called and said he had gotten him. He told me he would head for the truck and we would get him out of there so hopefully the other deer wouldn't spook too bad. He looked even more impressive in person. We got some pics and then hung him up in a cooler while he had family holiday obligation.
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The next evening I went to the exact same stand he had killed from to hopefully observe the other buck fully expecting him to have changed his pattern. Soon enough I had does filing out at all ranges from 4 yards to 200.
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There became alot of eyes in the field and and smaller bucks were starting to show up. Soon I caught a glimpse of a rack in the timber heading for the field. One quick glance with the binos confirmed I had to try to get the gun that was hung up off the hook without clearing 20 deer in the field. Finally after about 3 minutes of stop-and-go movements I had the gun shouldered and the buck was quartered away at about 90 yards. I wanted to take my time, but some does must've caught more movement than I thought as there was one that started to stomp. I settled the crosshairs on the last rib just as he picked his head up to look my way. The shot felt great and the deer looked hit hard, but I lost him in all the commotion of the rest of the deer running through the timber. I made the phone call to my brother and then my wife and kids telling them to head out to the farm. I waited for my brother and directed him to the spot of the shot and then went to join him. I could follow his tracks for the first 10 yards without bloods and then they were lost in a maze of other hoof prints. I went to the fenceline as there was about 4 feet of snow he had to cross thinking id find blood. 1 quick pass on both sides yielded nothing and my hopes were sinking. I called my wife back and told her not to pack up the kids quite yet as it wasn't looking good. I decided to just head into the timber where he was headed. 10 yards into the timber I looked up to see the sight every hunter dreams of.
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There was not 1 speck of blood from impact to where he expired that I could find. He was another great buck and capped off a season I dont know that I will top until my kids start dropping deer of their own. The late season bucks from the same stand, 1 day apart was something that will always be special. My brother hadn't caped his buck yet due to family priorities so we drug his deer out for some shots of the bucks together. What a year!
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Luke Carpenter
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Re: 20-21 Season - Big Buck Contest Essays (Feb 22 Deadline)

Unread postby Luke Carpenter » Mon Feb 22, 2021 5:14 pm

Last year and moving into this year have been the busiest times of my life. And I'm incredibly grateful for the amazing hunting season I was able to experience in 2020! Every year I set some goals to try and achieve and This year I wanted to be more adaptable and really try to kill a mature Michigan buck. Prior to the bow opener I had 3 sets on different public land pieces I'd planned to hunt before human pressure changed the deer activity. These were highly used travel corridors between secluded feeding areas (Apple and pear trees) and really close to thick bedding and I was stoked to hunt any of these spots. But then things changed. I was turkey hunting on September 26th at a spot I'd never deer hunted before and an hour after light I had the biggest Michigan buck I've ever seen come by me and feed on white oaks for over 30 minutes! He came from the direction of a large crop field a quarter of a mile away on private and went down into minimul bedding in a creek bottom below me. The spot I was hunting was just a sliver (4-5 acre piece) of public land. And it's seperated from the bigger chunk (Thousands of acres) a little ways away. This setup was ridiculously perfect and I knew right away I had to try to kill this deer. He didn't know I was there, I was fairly certain that he used this pattern often, and this sliver of woods (I suspected) could remain untouched. So plans change, sometimes for the better. For the next week I would be thinking through every scenario that could play out and what my best move going forward would be to kill him. A few of you may remember me asking for input about this and between my experience on the lay of the land from five years of turkey hunting this spot and what I was told here, I wanted to hunt this deer early before other hunters might mess up his pattern. I figured the first weekend before major hunting pressure would be my highest chance. But opening morning was the wrong wind for that spot, so I hunted one of my presets a half hours drive away. The morning started off with rain that continued through out the entire day. That morning I had two nice bucks come by within ten yards and a bobcat in the evening. But the big buck was on my mind and they got an easy pass. That was hunt number one for the year and the kill switch was really turned on. Two days later on Friday morning there was a perfect wind for my big buck spot. So I snuck down to where I'd seen the big buck the week prior and hung a stand in the dark. There was a light drizzle that morning and the wind stayed perfect, but I never saw a deer. Knowing the way the ridges to the creek bottom lied, I slipped along the Ridge a few hundred yards to the other end of this sliver of woods and I set my stand up on a lightly used, but fresh trail (big tracks in the sand) that came up through thick cedars that I suspected he might come up on to head out to the ag fields that night. I came back and hunted it that evening and 20 minutes before closing I heard deer coming. I caught a glimpse of two silhouettes cross down in the creek bottom 60 yards below me in the shadows. And a few minutes later I heard one start walking up the hill. But it wasn't coming up the suspected trail... he was coming up 15 yards behind me on the wide open side of the ridge. :doh: But I was tucked in the cedars and had no clear shot. It was a great buck and all I could do is watch him make a scrape and walk out of my life. I was super excited though! I now had two dandy bucks that were definitely vulnerable and using this extremely small bedding area. They were just using different trails each day. I just needed to hunt them right. So I moved my stand that night 40 yds over to the open side of the ravine and slipped out and left it for another day. That was hunt number two. The next Friday (October 9th) my dad and I went out for a morning hunt as it was the first time we could hunt the right wind again. I opted to hunt on the ground closer to where I'd seen the buck before season, and my dad went to my stand. I started my walk in and spent an hour walking only 150 yds. (Yup. This honey hole is less than 200 yds from a main road.) I found a huge oak tree 40 yards above the creek bottom and overlooking the trails into the bedding at the bottom. I slid down against the tree and nocked an arrow. Fifteen minutes after light my dad texted me and told me he'd seen the "HUGE" buck. But he never got a shot. About an hour later I had a game plan in my mind for that evening and where I thought the buck might come up from and which trail he would use. I was sure of where he must have went to bed that morning since he never made it to me... But while I was strategizing I was caught by a pleasant surprise when all of the sudden a buck crested the ridge 70 yards away coming straight below me! He was on a fast pace walk and was messing with branches every few yards along the way. When he got directly below me I drew my bow and as he quartered away at 30 yards I took the shot as he stepped into a clearing. The arrow hit perfectly for the angle he was at (around the last rib) And he immediately disappeared into the cattails. I was left in awe of how fast everything had just went! I was so excited! I knew it was a "nice" buck, but I didn't know for sure exactly how big. So It would definitely be a fun surprise walking up to him. But before I could even nock another arrow or better figure out the situation. I looked down below me and there stood the giant! Right on the same trail as my buck. And as if he was to haunt me, he looked the other way before he shook his head and took two bounds into the cattails to dissappear. Well, now I'm thinking "shoot, the one I just shot could've been a six point." I didn't care one bit if it was, But now I'm really curious!!! Haha. The big buck DWARFED the one I just shot!! Now I'm really replaying the encounter. But because of the angle of the shot and how small the propery was, I wanted to give my buck until after school to look for him. I knew it wouldn't hurt anything by giving him extra time, So thats what we did. My dad went to work and I went and finished my school. We met back up at 5 o'clock with two of my younger brothers and started tracking. My brothers are like bloodhounds! I love it. They're fantastic!! They pick up the smallest drops of blood and work super fast!!! We found first blood (and there wasn't much at all) but they followed the scarce trail in minutes and 100 yards from the shot layed my buck! We were all so pumped when we found him! He was a lot bigger than we thought and that made it even more fun. This was our first big buck in a few years and it was such a great memory spent together. That night several family members came over to see the buck and we all shared the story!
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Three hunts and I had my biggest bow buck to date! And three encounters with big bucks. But the hunt for the big one wasn't over. And knowing the big one was still around and unaware of my presence when I'd shot my buck, my dad and I made an extra effort when we retrieved my buck to remain as quiet and undetected as possible. The next week we had cold front and another perfect wind on Wednesday and I decided to test my luck one last time. I got up an hour earlier than the last time and made it to my spot with over an hour before shooting light left to spare. I was on the ground again and decided I would doze off until closer to legal shooting light, as I was exhausted from the week. Ten minutes before legal, I was refreshed, and in kill mode. I opened my eyes and clipped my release on the string. I was ready. It was five minutes after legal shooting light, when I heard leaves crunching really CLOSE! But I was in a cedar thicket and the only way to see a deer this early was watching their silhouette against the light colored cattails at the bottom. Almost Immediately after hearing the leaves crunching, the first deer crested the ridge 30 yards away and I could tell it was a big buck. As he made his way in front of me and I caught glimpses of antler I could tell it was a tall racked buck! Certainly as big as the one I'd shot. I came to full draw and was waiting for a clear shot on this big buck's silhouette only 20 yards away, when I heard a second deer coming. My mind Immediately thought of the huge buck and my eyes shifted to the second deer. This buck DWARFED the first tall racked buck and had what looked like huge bases! The first one was still directly in front of me but I decided to wait for the second one. I watched the huge bodied buck moniter the first bucks behavior and After holding back for almost two minutes he finally stepped into the opening at 20 yards and I took the shot. I heard a loud crack and the buck fell on his but and started sliding down the hill! But!!! I didn't see the huge rack I expected to see!! I slid to the bottom of the hill right behind the buck to put another arrow in him and finish the job. It was done in mere seconds and I was in shock again. Why is this spike buck look SO huge?! I figured I must be crazy. But either way this buck was cool! I called my dad to tell him I was tagged out and an hour later he met me to go look at my buck. He was blown away! It really was a huge bodied weird racked buck. He didn't have much for antlers just a huge body.
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I couldn't be any happier now or looking back. I found a great hunting spot, hunted it right and was blessed with four phenomenal hunts! And by October 14th I was tagged out and had achieved my goals. It was surreal. It still is. And to top it all off my entire family shared a wonderful deer season together with MANY MORE great first and memories made together. I say it every year, but every year seems like it gets better. This will go down as my favorite season because of how many memories were made and how fun it was to share every hunt with family.
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Galatians 2:20
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
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Bigburner
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Re: 20-21 Season - Big Buck Contest Essays (Feb 22 Deadline)

Unread postby Bigburner » Tue Feb 23, 2021 8:48 am

A little luck? It never hurts.
This past season was filled with high expectations. After coming off a rough year last year from a personal standpoint I was ready to get after it as for the 20-21 season. Early season plans fell through. I had plans to have another beast member (PK) up my way the first week in September to try and get him a velvet buck and to try to top the one I picked off last year, but I ended up having an extended stay in Arizona and southern California on a fire detail that went from the beginning of August until the 18th of September. I was chomping to get out in the field and had a few goals this season. I hadn’t run any cams, all the bucks I had riding around in the evenings checking out in the bean fields where way off those previous patterns. I wanted to hunt some public tracts that I hadn’t concentrated any time on for the most part and I wanted to stick with the trad gear again this year. I felt like I was starting at square one and only thing I knew to do was to start hammering on the in season scouting, getting back to my shooting routine, and dialing in a different approach this year with doing a lot of scout hunting. I’ve been using a saddle in the tool box for the past 10 years and I really enjoy watching THP and was looking at how they have been giving themselves the built in flexibility of setting up on the ground or hanging and keeping it loose and a little more out of the box. So I rolled around with a badlands monster fanny pack with three hawk mini sticks with aiders strapped to the bottom a ridge runner platform strapped to the top and leafy jacket. Hardly noticeable walking around with it and just really focused on trying to find the hottest sign I could and set up in these new places. Some afternoons I would spend the whole time still hunting and glassing with the hopes of find a place lit up enough with sign that I had to give it a go. Sometimes it would end up with me on my knees, crouched down covered up by a blow down at a well-used crossing with 15 minutes of shooting light hoping to see some movement. One evening almost resulted in an albino doe at 12 yards and couldn’t get the shoot because of angles and brush. Another evening ended up with me at the exit trail of a bedding area with a nice three yro buck hung up waiting for last light to make a move. I had to let him walk right past me at 5 yards 2 minutes past shooting light.
This year was weird because it seemed like it took forever for scrapes to open up. I was struggling to find hot sign until it got clear into mid-October. I was constantly adjusting. One big adjustment was equipment. I shoot everyday in my basement and it has a low ceiling so most times I sit in an old office chair to clear it but if I stand just right in between the floor joists I’m clear for upright shooting. Well one evening I miscalculated and smacked the top limb tip of my recurve on the joist and delammed it and it was toast. I was so bent and sad at the same time because I didn’t have a backup other than my compound that I was comfortable hunting with and I put a bucket list buck down with that 40 some year old recurve the year before. It took the fun out of it until I realized that bowhunting is bowhunting and I’m so stupid confident with modern equipment it just seems too easy and slam dunk confidence is almost a guarantee. Until its not.
On October 13th I scouted in the early afternoon and found a solid rub line coming out of a really good point transitioning from a young pine stand into open hardwoods there was a scrape right in front of me on the exit trail and I managed to sneak about 60 yards from the beds and hung a set later that evening after getting my gear. Well, 5 minutes of shooting light left and a great horned owl lands in the tree above me and I’m geeking out looking at this thing thinking the evening is winding down and I avert my eyes from the owl and look down and there is a 130’’+ 8 pointer almost broad side 17 yards coming down the trail right toward me. So I had to rush and take my bow off the hanger, hook up and draw and get him in my sight picture in about 2 seconds. This is all before he disappears into a holly thicket behind me and also gets my wind. Well I never stopped him put the pin on his heart quick and shot and watched the arrow brush right under his chest behind his front leg. He leapt straight up and bounded off 30 yards away with his back facing me trying to figure out what happened. I had no shot and he casually waked back off to his bed. He was clueless but I was so bummed. You work all season for that moment and I’m thinking about all the rookie mistakes I made and what I should have done different. Sucked bad. I’ve lost giant bucks before due to bad shots and had them duck and arrow when they where already wired up but that miss was pretty pathetic. Especially with how the day came together. But you must put it in perspective and realize you have the ability to get on that one, so why not another. After some moping around the reset button was hit and I just kept grinding. It was getting into prime time and on October 29th we had a solid day of rain and I headed over to a tract that I new had some good potential and absolutely tore it apart scouting. Every scrape and every rub was tucked away in my head and a bunch of trees were picked out for different winds and thermal influences. This place was a big flooded bottom with some islands with some topography which is super hard to find those features in my flat country. It was so warm this year going into the rut that there were few days that I wasn’t drenched in sweat on just about every hunt and it was really hampering the deer movement. The rain broke the next day and I headed out to that spot but came in to it way off from how I planned and still hunted my in because of the wind direction wasn’t quite the way it needed to be from what I had planned. I just cover as much ground as I could not making it anywhere near where I had planned and it ended up in me sitting on the ground and just bumping a few does and almost a shot at the previously mentioned albino doe. The next morning I was re organizing my gear and realized my high dollar surefire flashlight wasn’t in my bag and I was pretty torqued up about that but I figured the most likely spot for it to be was on the ground where I was sitting the night before while I was rooting through my bag for my range finder and grunt tube. I was looking at the future weather and Monday November 2nd had a cold front with huge drop in temps coming through and the right wind with high pressure and it was time to get back into that spot where I had scouted and put one down.
I took the week off with the intent of being out from morning to night until the end. Good bad or indifferent. Monday morning, November 2nd I was making my way in and decided to detour and swing by the ground set spot to look for my light. It was pretty far out of the way and it yielded negative results so I booked it pretty quick over to a spot I marked off an interior road that hooked up with a worn deer trail in the flooded bottom. I was making my way to the downwind side of a bedding area that was littered with sign on one of the small islands. I immediately saw a fork horn and a doe and it was a super clear and sunny morning and you could tell the cork popped off that morning. Just felt right. the wind was gusting cold and I stopped and observed what was going on in the direction I was headed. I figured I would sit tight let them move on and get my set hung. Suddenly I see movement and them I see half a rack and knew it was a shooter walking right down the trail toward me closing fast. I was wide open but just pulled and arrow from the quiver and got it nocked and hooked up and drew as quick as I could, and that buck acted like I wasn’t even there. He closed to 10 yards and I settled the pin on his chest as he approached frontal and picked a spot laser focused and let it rip. The arrow buried all the way in his chest, center punched his heart and arterial blood just started gushing out of the entrance hole. He ran off with a huge blood trail following and crashed 30 yards away. 8:13 am, 13 minutes into my rut-cation. I was so pumped. I had tagged him after taking in the moment. I called my cousin and we faced timed during the recovery. it was kinda classic having him follow the blood trail with me. I had a pretty good haul back to the truck. As I popped out of the woods onto the logging road I saw another hunter heading into the bottom to scout so I quick tracked him down just to let him know my buck was there. He was cool enough to drop everything he was doing and walked back to my truck with me and then helped me drag. He had been hunting that area for about 25 years and was showing me some dandies he had killed there. He was stoked for me and I was pretty thankful for his willingness to help me. It was really cool.
I was super proud of the fact that I still made room to adapt this year. Dare I say I’ve been getting really consistent the past few years getting on and killing good bucks and not staying static. Having best laid plans but in most cases going for the audible and having it work out and not being so self-righteous that I’m not willing to learn. If you’re not growing you’re dying the way I see it. Post season scouting has always been a thing but hard in season scouting killed this buck and got me on the other in an otherwise tough season. Its all comes down to what you put into it. Luck had a huge hand it my circumstances as far as right place right time but I don’t really feel it was random. He dressed at 187# and looked to be around 4 yro. Ill take that all day long. The rest of the season was spent having the opportunity to mentor a new hunter. My gf’s 14 son wanted to deer hunt and we made it happen on her family farm. He killed a button buck and a really big doe in two consecutive nights at he beginning of the November shotgun season and since has been on terror with crop damage tags so its been fun seeing him all stoked on it and the next mission will be getting a bow in his hand. Congrats to everyone this season that had the opportunity to make some memories and get out there and enjoy there time getting after it.
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