Last week was a whirlwind of glassing fields, setting treestands, trapping mice and, of course, little sleep. I was in western South Dakota hunting a drought-stricken ranch and trying to place myself within striking range to put my new Mathews Heli-M to good use. I lost count of how many treestands I hung, adjusted and moved, but suffice to say I could have outfitted a small camp with my efforts.
Although I knew the property intimately, I have to admit I had some help. Several of my friends also hunt the property and their fresh insight and willingness to share what they had been seeing speeded me to success. Green fields were few and far between, but the few that blossomed attracted deer like a Costco store attracts shoppers looking for food samples.
Because the rut was still a few weeks away, I had to rely on travel routines, crossings and dawn/dusk windows for whitetail meetings. Lonnie Garland, North American Hunter’s TV producer, captured the hunt on video and helped me trap mice in the barely habitable 1960s-era trailer house we called home. No heat, no warm water, mice everywhere and TV dinners greeted us every evening, but that’s another story.
The first morning appeared to be a Cinderella story until I missed. A mature buck eased into range, but took an off ramp early and I made a quick shot. After reviewing the footage in slow motion, it appears my miss was accentuated by him jumping the string. It made me feel a bit better about the miss, but I still hadn’t used my tag.
A few days and the swapping of a handful of stands later, I settled into a setup that focused on a river crossing. On day No. 4 a group of bucks gathered across the river and started my way. The first of the group walked to within 15 yards and suddenly began staring up at me followed by severe snorts of alarm. Fortunately, the two shooter bucks were too engrossed in rubbing saplings and setting the pecking order to notice. Minutes later, another young buck started around the backside of the tree so I prepared for that shot, thinking the mature bucks would follow. Not!
The two bigger bucks followed another young buck in the opposite direction. I quickly rotated 180 degrees and sat quietly for a shot opportunity when, for no reason, my binocular dropped from the tree and landed noisily on my treestand seat. Although the young buck looked, the two larger bucks ignored the ruckus and continued walking. I whispered to Lonnie to get ready and noticed he was on the wrong buck just as I was about to draw.
“No, it’s the lead buck. Get on him,” I hoarsely whispered. Lonnie found the buck in his viewfinder and I punched the trigger on my Mathews a second later to put an ending on a great show filled with chaotic moments. Watch for it next season and, in the meantime, have a great hunting season.
Stay tuned for some more October whitetail hunting tips in an upcoming video blog post.
Have you killed an October whitetail yet? Share your stories below.