Tenacity, stubbornness—whatever you want to call it—sticking to a plan can pay off big time for deer hunters. That lesson was sent home twice to me twice this season and I hope I never forget it.
Wisconsin Leaning Experience
The first ah-ha took place in Wisconsin. Kevin Gilbertson knows his big deer and has a heavy trophy wall to prove it. So when he sent me into a particular corner I knew it was with good reason. Returning the next morning I saw more deer and knew for sure bucks used the area.
The next afternoon I returned to the same area and had a close encounter with a super 8 pointer. The second morning it was decision time. Change spots or give it one more go. With plenty of great places to hunt I can’t say I wasn’t tempted but had been careful with my scent and just didn’t think the area had been burned. Two hours into the hunt and no deer had me second-guessing that choice. Determination would pay off as shortly a small 6 pointer cruised by and then the buck I came to Wisconsin for appeared. After several long minutes he headed my way and offered me a sweet 10-yard bowshot. All from the very same stand I started the hunt in!
I think staying with an area where you’re seeing deer will work more often than not. Assuming you are not burning it out with human scent or poorly thought out entrance and exit lanes.
Switching Gears and Locations
In a totally different part of the country later in the season the same plan came to my rescue. In South Dakota where Pat West of Dakota Ranch Outfitters hunts, the deer are a lot more visible than Wisconsin. But visible doesn’t mean easy. With only two days to hunt it was real tempting to cover as much ground as possible. Lucky for me, Wisconsin was still fresh on my mind.
After Pat’s dad Mike shared a great vantage point with me I felt like we would eventually find the buck we wanted. The first day and half found us putting lots of time behind our binos but the one big buck we saw, busted out of the bottom when came too close. Still I felt like the area would produce and the amount of ground we could cover from that point was amazing. Mike agreed and the last morning found us there at daylight. The rut was on and the cold, still morning had our hopes sky high.
Finding the Buck is the First Step
After only 20 minutes on the point we spotted a buck that even from 1,000 yards was a keeper. We cut all the distance we could in the truck and I set out walking. After reaching the top of a draw I found a flat butte about the size of a hotel room and started sliding out, glassing as I went. Once I got to the edge I quickly found the buck and doe right where we bedded them.
After glassing the surrounding area I wanted to try a small saddle above the buck and hopefully get a closer, open shot. Key to my plan was to find a position where I could still see the butte. Then I could range it and know when I was parallel with the deer. I slowly slid off the back of the butte and began phase two.
A Little Luck Doesn’t Hurt
At a point I felt to be right above them I took a range on the butte only to discover I hadn’t gone far enough. Finally getting into the right saddle, I slowly began to slip over. Cover was sparse so I stayed belly-dragging low. Mule deer across the draw slowed me even more and that saved my hunt as a sharp glance to the right found me looking at a bedded buck. A more careful look through my bino confirmed it as “my” buck.
They had slipped into shade and only the extra caution the mule deer necessitated saved me. A few more yards and many cactus spines later I found a clear shot, got my elbows locked and the safety off. At 150-inches, he’s one of my best bucks and one I never would have seen had I not kept the faith in what I thought was a hot spot.
Stay or Go
There are times to try new places and cover as much ground as possible but if you’re seeing deer and haven’t spooked them stick with the area. Also, if you don’t have much ground to hunt you can quickly burn it all up. Better to be patience and methodical like a chess game.