I haven’t had a chance to post in awhile due to personal circumstances, but I thought I’d give a quick update on my progress for the season.
My main goal this season has been to harvest my first archery deer, as well as spend the majority of my time hunting public land. So far, I have only accomplished the later.
I did a minimal amount of habitat management and hung new stands on my home property before the beginning of the season. I hinge cut a few trees in specific locations to provide cover as well as funnel deer movement. Additionally, I did a fair amount of trail maintenance and creation to make my entry/exits more efficient. I also purchased my first trail camera and have had a lot of fun getting to know the locals. From mid-August to the present I have captured images of a small group of does (4-6), as well as 4-5 itinerant bucks of various age groups. One buck appears to be reaching maturity, although the pictures are hard to interpret (my guess is a 3.5 year old 10 point). I also have a healthy flock of turkeys roosting around the property, and more squirrels than I have bullets for. For the first 3 weeks of the season my trail camera looked like a petting zoo, but the deer never showed themselves on the days I sat in the stand.
This year has seen the highest coyote activity I have personally every experienced. I have multiple photos of coyotes walking around both day and night, and I even missed a shot at one in mid-October. We also lost our first sheep to coyotes about a week ago.
A buddy and I were hunting his uncles property recently, and we found ourselves surrounded by coyotes as we climbed down from the stand. The night before I had made a poor shot on a doe at last light. We tracked relentlessly that night and the following morning to no avail. As horrible as I felt about my poor performance and the needless suffering of the animal, I felt even worse giving the coyotes a free meal.
The same buddy and I had a small hunt-cation for the third week of October. We loaded up my dying Subaru and bopped around between state land and family properties for the better part of the week. On the last day before my buddy had to leave, we decided to go back to a small piece of public land right on the periphery of a city that we had high hopes for. We spent hours scoring various mapping websites and programs and followed the weather religiously. The area we wanted to hunt was at the bottom of a very steep embankment with deep gorges running parallel to the slope. Before sunrise, we climbed all the way to the bottom and positioned ourselves in the small transition area between the slope and a small river. Five minutes after shooting light began, I heard a bow go off and a crash several seconds later. “Doe down!” read the text message.
We sat for another hour or so, and reconnoitered to come up with a plan to get out of there. On closer examination the doe was actually a button buck. We were ecstatic regardless. We had come up with a plan, positioned ourselves in the right spot, and taken our first public land whitetail. It was immensely rewarding for the both of us.
We came up with a plan to split up. I would lug as much gear as possible to the car at the top of the hill, and my buddy would use the river to carry the deer closer to a parking area. That hill was brutal, but I pulled the car to the other side of the park and we loaded up our hard earned trophy. What an adventure! The whole week had been an emotional roller coaster, but it was all worth it in the end.
Since then I have primarily been hunting my family’s property due to the failing health of my vehicle. Despite my better judgement I hung a new stand today (Nov 5). While its probably not the best idea to pressure the deer with the rut about to heat up, I felt compelled to try an area I hadn’t previously hunted. I’m feeling optimistic about this setup, and it will also be a great spot for gun season!
Now is crunch time. The next few weeks are what we whitetail hunters prepare for and obsess over all year. As much as I applaud an intellectual and restrained approach to deer/habitat management, the first deer that gives me a good opportunity is getting an arrow. My freezer is empty, and I desperately need the confidence boost of successfully harvesting my first archery deer.