Where’d He Go?
It was surreal. It seemed like it was straight out of a hunting program on television. The buck sauntered out a bedding thicket on a 40 acre tract I had permission to hunt and presented me with a 15 yard broadside shot. The buck dropped within eyesight. He missed Pope and young by 1/8th of an inch and weighed over 200 lbs. While it is one of my most fond hunting memories, there was much more work that went into the hunt than most realize.
I first got photos of the buck when he was beginning to grow his antlers. He and two other old bucks had their own little bachelor group. I kept tabs on them and knew their every move it seemed. I had the aforementioned buck patterned down to the minute on some occasions. Between trail cameras and scouting him from across a large agriculture field with binoculars, I knew how to harvest this buck.
Of course, nothing is ever as simple as initially thought to be. As most bucks do, he lost his velvet and the bachelor group disbanded. I saw the breakdown coming a week or so ahead of time. He seemed incredibly intolerant of the other bucks and I knew once the velvet was gone he would be too. I also knew that despite being a mature buck, he was still a creature of habit and with a little luck and a ton of planning, I would have my chance to harvest him.
I always made sure the wind was in my favor and hunted him hard when I could. It took three weeks before he finally scaled a somewhat dry creek bed and annihilated a holly tree at 20 yards. He then walked behind a muscadine grape vine allowing me to draw my bow, just as planned. He stopped at 15 yards and I threaded an arrow through two tulip poplars. That was the end of the line for the massive 8 point buck.
There are many reasons bucks do the things they do this time of the year. The problem is, it is tough to pattern them. While they are out establishing their dominance and surveying their home ranges, you can only hunt your setups and hope for the best. The buck survived predators, poachers, and vehicles. That was all luck. Hunting my stands properly only when the wind was right, the stand placement, lane trimming, archery practice, and the composure it took to harvest my largest buck with a bow, was a result of practice. I’ve always heard that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I believe that and that’s how an awesome buck wound up in my trophy room.
This year, stick to your gut feelings. If the buck you are after disappears, don’t fret. He may be back sooner than you think. On the other hand, bucks from your neighboring properties may wander over to your neck of the woods. It is a two-way street. Don’t hunt hard, hunt smart. Sooner or later you’ll get your chance at a buck.