Despite having an invitation to hunt a large, premium property, December 13th did not appear to have much going for it in terms of presenting an ‘incredible” day in the deer woods. It is is post rut (breeding period), though intermittent rutting action can still be found in this region. It was particularly warm, which is seldom productive for late season Whitetail hunting. I settled in to a well concealed spot on the side of a overgrown ravine. The deer seem to love this location: It is plenty thick for bedding, full of food and serves as a transitional zone between a crop field and a CRP field (Whitetails are creatures of “edges” meaning they love the “edges of fields, treelines, golf courses etc). The fence line between the CRP has a hole in it where a tree has fallen down and deer go out of their way to use that funnel as a fence crossing. They also have a tendency to cruise the fence line (as do a rather large pack of coyotes that work the area).
Over the last 2-3 seasons, it has become a dedicated habit of mine to hunt from the ground exclusively once rifle season opens up. Doing so seems to make hunting more enjoyable for me as I can carry less gear and hunt anywhere I wish at any given time. Often times, being elevated and committed to a treestand, I find myself wishing I were 20 yards over here or 30 yards over there. Hunting on the ground, I simply up and move if I don’t feel like I am exactly in position. In some cases, it adds a degree of challenge, though I do not feel that hunting from the ground has had any real consequences in terms of getting picked off by nervous Whitetails.
I settled in well before first light, catching a catnap until the birds let me know it was almost time to be alert. I had a doe hanging around at 70 yards at first light and, even though I still needed a couple of more deer for the freezer (especially with the season quickly winding down), I had no urge to take the deer, rather just enjoy the morning. An hour later, I heard movement in the thick weeds and peered over to observe a group of five does passing through. They stopped to feed under some oak trees at 80 yards. As I was analyzing whether or not I had a shot unobstructed by any undergrowth and limbs of significance, I noticed a head, a pair of eyes and a big chunk of white mass standing there next to the does. It is always amazing how mature deer have a way of just appearing like that. Of course my attention turned towards this buck. I caught a couple of more glimpses of him as the does began to move away down the fence line. Then I noticed antlers passing through the chest tall weeds. Thinking that he was about to cross right in front of me at ~40 yards, I readied myself for a shot. Upon reaching a tiny clearing, I realized that I was looking at a different buck, a tank of a 4 point and a heck of a 2.5 year old deer. I am no trophy hunter, though I do have a tendency to allow younger bucks to walk. While this particular property is not managed for bigger/older per say, the landowner also tends to allow younger bucks and does for that matter, to grow into maturity. I, of course, obliged and cracked a smile as this buck flopped down for a nap 38 yards in front of me.
For the next 2.5 hours, I enjoyed watching this buck as he slept, observed and even stayed locked down tight as a coyote stalked by a mere 20 yards upwind of him. At some point, he finally noticed me as he was suddenly on his feet staring me down. This went on for 5 minutes or so, before he hiked a leg and took a piss with an aggressive stance and then, still staring at me as if he were annoyed that there was an intruder into his bedroom, he moseyed on along the fence line feeding his way out of sight.
And THAT, is a fine day of Whitetail hunting.