The rut is on. Finally.
Recent trail cam images have shown most activity happening late in the day and under my single seat tree stand on the southeastern side of the alfalfa field. Earlier today I left the bunker at noon thirty for a two pm start time.
It was the type of day made for comfortable tree stand hunting. There was hardly a breeze out of the southwest making my eastern stand a choice spot. After taking a Jeep tour of the property perimeter to examine fresh markings I parked behind the hill where we shoot at during Gunstock. All my hunting garb is stored in a plastic tub after having been washed in spacial no-odor laundry detergent and dried with a no-odor sheet in the dryer. Good to go.
I am very freaky about scent. Over time many whitetails have busted me due to careless preparation concerning human aroma. The deer appears and is coming into range, cautious as ever. Then it happens. It will catch a slight whiff of the trail I walked and suddenly bolt away. This season would be different in that regard. I have spent way too much time, effort and money to neglect something as simple as odor control.
Before leaving I shower with no-odor soap. The Jeep tank is full so handling fuel will be avoided. On the drive down to the farm all I wear is my under armor long johns, a jacket and comfortable shoes. Once on location I open the tub and begin adding layers depending on the weather. After my camo coveralls and neoprene rubber boots are on and before heading to the stand I rub the bottom and sides of the boots with a product called Ever Calm. This is a new concealment product that is made from a private deer heard bedding area. Applied in the form of an under arm stick deodorant it is a waxy substance that has the aroma similar to a stable. This should mask my trail. More than one successful deer hunter I know swears by it. It's said to make deer relax. We'l see.
Settling into my stand it seemed to be a perfect mid autumn day to hunt. There was a very slight breeze from the south if at all. An overcast sky made it dim. It was unusually quiet. Once up in the stand I settled in and cocked the crossbow before inserting a 300 grain carbon fiber bolt tipped with stainless steel razor sharp 100 grain three blade solid stainless steel broad head from G5. I don't trust those mechanicals to either open up or open up too early.
For the first two hours in the stand I watched some big fat fox squirrels in the ground nibbling on nuts and making the only sounds other than a the faint humm of a passing grain truck passing on the highway or the grind of a combine in the distance. It was pleasantly peaceful and serene. This was my fifth time out this season and each of my past hunt days were windy and chilly. On my first day I was interrupted when harvesting equipment came in to make the final alfalfa cut of the season not long after daybreak. That killed the day. Many weeks remain in my new elongated season since I am now able to hunt the early archery segment with my crossbow.
Once comfortable up in the stand discipline is important. This is what many beginners who hunt deer have a hard time doing. Little movement. No noise. If I played this out properly my scent is covered. All that remains is my concealment. Eyes and ears play tricks after a few hours. A distant object looks like a deer. Squirrel sounds like a deer.
Deer are like ghosts, they suddenly appear many times without any warning especially during low light hours. They just manage to show up usually taking me by surprise and today would be no different. My watch claimed it was about 3:30 and there was another 2 1/2 hours of shooting light left when something caught my attention to the right.
A very large doe bounded out of the woods and into the alfalfa about 100 yards to my left, then stopped. She slowly surveyed the field. I wasted no time slowly getting in position, one eye in the scope and the other free to switch into a full view. Damn it was a large doe. I wanted this one. She passed over my estrus scent trail and showed no interest since it is intended to interest the bucks. This big doe headed into the center of the field and slowly turned east toward my stand. I switched the safety to off and kept a steady bead on this one. As she slowly grazed while continuing east another deer was to my rear in the woods. The crunching of leaves was way too loud and fast to be a smaller critter but I could not/would not dare make any attempt to turn my head to investigate. I wanted this doe so badly and any movement would give away my position even sitting 18' high in a tree.
Earlier this year I placed small utility flag markers in the field at twenty and forty yards away in three different directions. These serve as my Polish range finders. She took about ten minutes to walk and graze the fifty yards or so close but not quite to my forty yard marker in the center of the field. I trust my crossbow because the scope is dialed in so tight I can hit a forty yard group of three in two inches easily. As she appeared to be coming right to me she stopped. She hunched down and looked right at me.
I've seen this routine before. This deer sensed me and I don't know how. They just do. I may have moved ever so slightly because it wasn't my scent and my camo is insanely great. We stared each other down - her at me and me at her but I was looking through my scope zeroing in her center mass using my third mil-dot reticle, the forty yard point. She was a good five to ten yards farther than my forty. Was I busted? Seemed so but I have ultimate confidence in my crossbow and my abilities in training to his a forty yard shot.
As she made a slow right turn I took a bead on her left side directly behind the leg. She gave me a clear broadside opening. I squeezed the trigger before she could bound. A split second after the crossbow released I saw and heard the bolt smack that doe exactly where I wanted it and it sounded as if I had hit a pumpkin. As she bounded away in high leaps I could see the arrow sticking out so it didn't pass through as I hoped it would but it hit the high lung area and that was as good as it gets.
About a hundred yards away she bounded into the woods near where she came out. I like that spot so much I placed a two man stand in the woods right there to serve as my second option tree stand. I sat in the tree for a moment and said a prayer of thanks. My heavy breathing had yet to stop.
I climbed down and went to the point of impact to look for the beginning of a blood trail There was no blood but I did see her tracks. They were deep from the hoof pressure and the dirt was scattered sue to her strength and speed. As I took a WAG measurement I had indeed taken a 45-50 yard shot. That is about the limit of my crossbow's effectiveness. Could be the reason my bolt didn't pass through the body is because the velocity at that point had slowed and losing trajectory. After zig zagging through the field I could not find one drop of blood, this is not good. I passed the point where she bounded into the woods and headed for the Jeep. I was sweaty and wanted to peel off some layers. Then I drove the Jeep to where I believe she bounded into the woods. The thought of a long night of searching or possibly not finding it at all depressed me momentarily.
It was about 4:30pm and with sunset at 5:45 not a lot of time was left to track my deer. The first thing I did was zig zag looking for blood covering small patches of woods at a time. It wasn't too long before I spotted a good size spot of blood. And then another. Looking up, there she was. Dead doe down.
She dropped thirty yards into the woods. What a relief after anticipating a long stroll through some thick briars and potentially losing a nice doe with what I first thought to be a poor shot without enough penetration to do the job. In hindsight it was a textbook deer hunt and it all went perfect taking only three hours.
I took photos and sent them via text message to the bro, my buddy Doug, the wife, my son and my neighbor Wayne, the well seasoned deer hunter and mentor of the whitetail woods. The bro called and asked if I needed help. I did. And for good measure he brought his buddy Don who guts and butchers a lot of deer.
Before they arrived I dragged the doe out of the woods in five yard increments and then over a barbed wire fence to the open field for easier field dressing. The Jeep was positioned such that the headlights would be available if necessary for the task at hand. Did I mention this was a very big doe? And I dragged it thirty yards before field dressing.
Once dressed I guess she goes 130-140 lbs. andWe hoisted it onto the hitch rack on back of the Jeep and tied her down. I filled out the DNR transport tag to be 100% legal. Heading north on I-65 passing trucks and cars honked in approval.
After I arrived home the wife refused to come out and take a look. I flopped the doe onto the driveway to hose out the cavity of excess blood. One neighbor walking his dog came by to examine the beast. When Wayne came over he confirmed this was probably a four year old doe judging by her size and length of the nose and confirmed my 140lb best guess once dressed.
For now she is on a tarp on the garage floor since the night will be cold as will tomorrow when snow is predicted. I'll decide the next steps tomorrow.
Right now I am heading for bed and dreaming about the next two deer I am allowed to take between now and January. It's getting late so I'll hit the publish button in the morning.