After last season ended, I started out scouting immediately. I had a plan. Scout as much as I could before summer. Set cameras and find out if big bucks existed on this piece of state land. Set stands as early as possible. Kill a big buck! These woods are so thick and dense I knew there had to be big bucks back there.
As expected, the scouting went nicely. I found some bedding and the snow lead me to some funnels. At the end of May, I started to set trail cameras because I didn’t know if I would get back up north for a while. Luckily, I was able to get up north a few times to check the cameras. Last year I bought 8 trail cameras to learn this properly quickly.
On my first pull, I had this buck that I took interest to. It was a 10-point with lots of potentials.
A couple weeks later I was able to check my cameras again and could not believe the potential this state land had. Again we had the 10-point on several cameras.
This 8-point also caught my attention
Stands were then placed on the edge of bedding areas hoping to catch a swamp donkey come rut time. The last field camera picture really got my attention and I set this stand specifically for this big 8-point that I called “Crooked Clinton.” Where we caught the 10-point on camera during the summer time we set a ladder stand for my dad. Hopefully, he would get a crack at it for his first buck.
Fast forward to the morning of November 7th. Up until this week, we had no bucks on camera. Where did they all go? I had been hunting a lot and feeling a little burnt out. Maybe it was because I wasn’t in the great of shape this summer from not biking a lot. Or, possibly I hadn’t seen one shooter buck this fall other than one my dad shot at. Plus, one of my favorite stands in the state was stolen from another piece of state land. The weather was ok. It was 37 degrees with a southwest wind. It was very still! I didn’t like the forecast of it only being 37 but when I am up north I sometimes don’t get to pick the weather. I snuck into my stand as quietly as possible 40 minutes before light.
I was sitting on the edge of a swamp and in between a pinch point/ funnel area. I call this the skinny stand because my farthest shot is only 10 yards. I had two areas I knew the deer wouldn’t walk through and a thick wall of a swamp in front of me. This creates 3 amazing funnels, which would bring most of the deer right to me. The deer also decided to create three scrapes around my stands. I had high hopes but didn’t know what would happen because I could only get a stand 10 feet up.
Around 8:10 I had a doe and a fawn come through. This was my first test to see if I would be able to get a shot off. The deer never even flinched, perfect!
8:53 crash bang, crash bang. I quickly grabbed my bow. I knew what the sound meant and knew something was chasing. Out of the thickness of trees, a 120’s buck shows up. For a split second my mind went nuts. Just as quickly my mind went nuts, the deer b-lined away into the swamp. I was so disappointed but what do you do?
Around 10:20 I started to get that overwhelming feeling of disappointment of another hunt with no shot. I knew lock down was right around the corner and super long hours of hunting was coming. I have always hunted hard the first few weeks of November but I have never shot or seen a shooter buck after the 5th on state land. As quickly as I was thinking this, the noise from earlier happened. Crash bang, crash bang. I quickly grabbed my bow and prepared myself. Then I heard a deer crashing through the swamp. I thought “oh no, he is going to follow that doe into the swamp” like what had happened all season last year and now this year. Then I caught him 13 yards away in the thick stuff. There he was, a really nice buck. I saw points everywhere and wanted to take this buck. All I needed was 5 yards. He goes to walk and I go to pull back. He stops. Luckily, I was only quarter way drawn so I let off. Then he starts again and I pull back. As I pulled back my mind went through the process. Pull back when deer isn’t looking. Make sure my finger isn’t anywhere near the trigger. Craps don’t forget to look through the peep site. Start at the bottom of the leg like Ray Howell taught me. Once you get to the armpit, aim just a touch right. Ok, do I have anything that will block my arrow? It’s clear, pull trigger. Whack, the deer bucks and takes off out of site. I hit the deer right in the vitals. I heard the deer crashing through the thick stuff and then nothing. Not really sure what had happen I decided to give it an hour just in case.
I jump and start throwing my arms around. I can’t believe that just happened. So pumped I text my parents and set up the plans for the next hour. My dad was only 400 yards away and I wanted him to be part of the tracking job.
Around 12:00 Pm we started the track job. At first, I didn’t have any blood. Then the drops started to be more consistent. I quickly glanced up and seen a body through the thicket. At first, it looked like a log but I ran around the brush to get a better look. However, that was no log. It was my buck and it was a 10-point. The excitement hit and I could not believe it all came together.
After the excitement had rubbed off and I was heading home back to SE Michigan, I got thinking about the summer pictures I had. We had no buck movement from the middle of August to the first week of November. I had no idea where the bucks were that I got all summer long. I started to wonder if maybe that 10 point had relocated to my woods and I had shot him. I thought he was much bigger. Right, when I got home I checked the field camera pics. I noticed the 10-point had a little bit of a twist to his brow tines. My buck had the same twist. I couldn’t believe I shot my #1 target buck on the other side of the pond where I least expected him. Then I looked at some other pictures and my buck had shown up in front of my dads stands on the other side of the pond 5 days before. Then he showed up a couple hundred yards away from my stand two days before. He had been gone for months. It was so cool to tract this buck around the swamp and finally put an arrow through him.
Having the prior knowledge made this buck that extra special to me. The fact that I had seen him on camera before I even set a stand. Then I picked out an area that I thought a nice buck might show up to. The strategies I implemented on actually targeting the bucks I had on camera finally worked. I have killed bucks in the past but I feel like I just got lucky because I had little hours into the scouting. It was truly an incredible experience shooting this buck. I am already excited for next season and scouting the months ahead.
Thank you for reading my 2016 buck story.
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