Who doesn’t believe that some of the best hunting lies at the end of an arduous journey?
I did for years, but as I matured and began sneaking hunts in between work near my home, I concluded some of the best hunting might be right down the road. Dropping yourself into unknown hunting grounds, having limited time to scout and hunt, and relying on others for up-to-date deer information limits your success. If you have access to high quality deer hunting property, it may be time to pay closer attention to it and quit dreaming about distant whitetail destinations. Here’s why.
Hunting close to home allows you to keep tabs on deer throughout the seasons. Secondly, hunting close to home allows you to hunt more. Finally, hunting close to home allows you more time with your family. Even when squeezing hunts in before and after work you still get to kiss your kids and spouse goodnight at the end of the day.
A few seasons back I felt good about my homeland hunting locations in south-central South Dakota. I felt so good in fact; I invited Realtree to hunt at one location with me. Realtree cameraman Nick Mundt and I finally coordinated our schedules and on our first morning we had a close encounter with a 150-inch whitetail. The next morning we had a similar encounter with a 140-inch buck, but each encounter ended in video, but no kill.
Nick’s schedule called for him to hit the road early. Our fourth day would be the last. We adjusted stands and tried again the next morning. An hour into the sit and a monster buck arrived. He was on a perfect course for a one-on-one meeting with my arrow.
At 25 yards the buck paused to watch a doe now easing up to our decoy. As the buck watched the curious doe, he looked over the scenario more carefully than a cat sneaking by the dog pound. Suddenly, the doe spooked unexpectedly from the decoy and instead of trying to authenticate the danger, the buck raced away leaving me in a state of depression.
Right before we climbed out of the stand, a buck with an impressive spread did appear, but his course angled away toward a bedding area. My spirits lifted one notch knowing two super bucks now bedded in the confines of the timber. At least we knew what stand to occupy for the evening.
After a short break, we again planted ourselves in a tree, hopefully in the area where the two bruisers now bedded. Not 20 minutes into the sit, deer began stirring in typical prerut fashion. Scanning with my binocular, I spotted the wide-racked deer heading our way.
“Big buck,” I motioned to Nick as he swung the camera into position and began rolling footage. Trying to keep my composure, I kept my thoughts on my shooting checklist, never again looking at the buck’s rack. I knew he was big, probably better than 150-inches, but I didn’t want to dwell on the antlers driving myself into a quivering bowl of camouflage Jell-O. After working over a licking branch and a scrape, the wide buck coursed straight toward us.
Before offering me a shot, the buck hit a junction in the trail and turned, positioning himself perfectly broadside to our tree. After taking several steps he paused with his head directly behind a large cottonwood allowing me to draw my Mathews undetected. As he stepped out from behind the tree, I released and the arrow hit in the front quarter and then snapped off landing on the ground. At first, I thought the arrow merely bounced off the shoulder since my shot hit him slightly forward of my aim point. In actuality the arrow had pushed through the shoulder, piercing the heart and puncturing the opposite shoulder.
I visually followed his retreat and began to calm as the buck stopped and then teetered, finally falling over. Of course Nick was all business after the shot and made me recount the events leading up to the bowkill. After the Hollywood wrap-up, I quickly dropped from the stand rushing over to the buck. I couldn’t believe what I held in my hands as the antlers actually grew in proportions. Nick and I both guessed him at more than 170 inches and before the evening ended, we green scored him at 173 gross inches. It had taken me 20 long years for this trophy and I didn’t even leave my home state on an arduous journey.
Dakota Ranch Outfitting; www.dakotaranchoutfitters.com