2012 Deer Season...What did you learn?
When an individual engages in an activity for many years and achieves a certain level of experience it becomes easier to fall into complacency. Once good becomes good enough and the thirst for knowledge has been quenched growth in that activity all but ceases. Hunters with years of experience, especially those who have achieved some success, often times miss opportunities to grow as a hunter because they are not as keen of an observer as they once were. Every year, as we enter the woods, Mother Nature will provide valuable lessons for the studious souls who are paying attention. As the 2012 deer season draws to a close I have reflected back on some of the valuable lessons that I learned from this season.
#1- Strike while the iron is hot. When it comes to pursuing mature whitetail bucks I am very patient; in this case, too patient. While checking my trail cameras around Oct. 20 I discovered a giant non-typical buck standing in one of my mock scrapes. When I got to the other side of the farm and checked another camera, guess who? Well, instead of formulating an immediate game plan I elected to be patient and see how the following week played out on the cameras. The evening of Oct. 26th rolled around and I found myself a ½ mile from the area where the non-typical was hanging out. Guess who showed up in my mock scrape with 20 minutes of daylight left? You got it. Was this enough to plant my rear in the stand that weekend? Nope. I decided to wait for the cold front that was on the way. My logic was he was more likely to be on his feet and I would stay on stand all day in an effort to get him. Well the cold front finally arrived, it was early November and I was ready to make my move. The day before my big hunt for the non-typical I received a photo via text message from the neighbor. The 192” drop tined beast laid dead on the next ridge over from a well placed arrow. Lesson learned…If you have a very active mature buck in your area you better put a game plan together. Your window of opportunity may not be open for very long. Salt in the wound…The next camera check revealed that the buck was 40 yards from my stand 2 hours before his fate was sealed.
#2- Don’t put TOO much stock in trail camera scouting. Coming into the 2012 season I had one buck at the top of my list. It was a buck that I had pursued for 3 years and narrowly missed with my bow in 2010. He was an 8 ½ year old brute that had robbed me of many nights of sleep over the years. Given our history I had a very comfortable grasp on this bucks routine and was continually getting trail camera pictures of him. Although most of his movements were nocturnal I still felt confident that once the rut arrived we would share an exciting moment. That moment arrived on Nov. 4th. Thirty minutes before dark the battle worn bruiser came within 10 yards of my effective bow range. I watched as he crossed a cut corn field towards a gravel road. As he disappeared over the rise I saw a rusted out old Blazer pull up and take 3 shots at this beautiful buck with a rifle. My heart sank into my boots as I thought the buck of my dreams was shot by a poacher. Several weeks of monitoring my trail cameras did nothing to change my mind. The cameras that he had walked by hundreds of times were now empty of his presence. Towards the end of November I was on stand for a frosty morning hunt. As I glanced over my shoulder to the south I saw a very familiar silhouette on the horizon. It turns out he had survived his encounter with the poachers after all. The chase was on once again! A few weeks later I was set up on the ground with my muzzleloader with hopes of an opportunity. Well into my afternoon vigil a lone deer stepped into the field. A quick glance through my binoculars was all I needed to confirm his identity. I settled into a solid shooting position, clicked the range finder, and sent the bullet on its way. After a short wait and the arrival of my family and a close friend I had my hands the buck I had waited so long for another chance at. The kicker of this story is that I killed this buck 30 yards from one of my trail cameras and I still had no pictures of him since the poacher incident. Lesson learned…Trail cameras are a great tool but far from a perfect scouting method. Always know that you are only getting part of the story from your cameras.
#3- Capitalize on every chance you get to be in the woods. While on the road for work I found myself within an hour drive of one of my best friends hunting property in Wisconsin. He was there and convinced me that I should run up for a quick afternoon muzzleloader hunt. I told him that I had no hunting clothes or gear with me and was completely unprepared. He told me to just buy a tag and I could just use his clothes and gear. So I scrambled up to his farm, climbed into his clothes that didn’t fit, grabbed his muzzleloader, and we headed to the woods. With no more than 30 minutes on stand the deer started to move. One of the first deer to start working our way was a gorgeous 10 pt. The buck came into the open at 137 yards and started browsing on the field edge. Realizing that he wasn’t going to come any closer I settled the scope on his shoulder. As I squeezed the trigger white smoke filled the air. The buck ran about 50 yards and slowly tipped over into the grass. When I purchased the tag that afternoon I would have never dreamed that a few hours later I would be holding a B&C class whitetail buck. Lesson learned…Always keep your eyes open for opportunities to get into the woods. Sometimes you may have to be creative but luck can find you anytime you are out there.
These are just three of the lessons that I took away from the 2012 season. I have several others that will be the inspiration of future articles as I didn’t want this one to be too long. Reflect back on your season and see what lessons you learned. Those little bits of knowledge that we take away every year eventually help make us the hunter we become. For those who paid attention in the outdoors classroom this fall, you will be a better hunter next season. Hope you had a great year! Looking forward to see what 2013 brings us. Take care!
Corey J. Wilkinson