The Season is Over…What did You Learn?

A wise deer hunter is a deer hunter that continues to seek wisdom.  The best opportunities to find that wisdom occurs each deer season; and the whitetail deer themselves, are the best teachers. The curriculum only costs you your time, and if you paid attention, you should be better prepared to go to school during the next fall semester.Trail Camera Picture

So, what did I learn this fall?  The first lesson that I learned is one that I seem to get reminded of every few years but still have a tendency to fail the test.

I had trail camera pictures of tremendous buck that I quickly put at the top of list to pursue last fall. I began getting pictures of him in late July and he appeared frequently, so I pulled the cameras in mid-August.  As late September approached, I reset the cameras to some strategic mock scrape sites close to my stand locations.  I had intended to wait until the last two weeks of October to make a move on this buck but only if the weather cooperated.  The second weekend of October there was a substantial cool front that moved through dipping the daytime temps into the 40’s.  I contemplated making an evening hunt for the buck, but ultimately elected to back off and wait for a window a little later in the pre-rut.

A few weeks later I did get the small window of opportunity that I was seeking.  The week started in the 70’s but there was a predicted cold front that was going to drop the temp to the low 30’s during the course of an afternoon.  THIS IS IT! I thought.  I took the afternoon off of work and was in the stand plenty early in the afternoon.  As the temps fell throughout the afternoon my anticipation was high that I was going to get a crack at this Boone & Crockett caliber buck. At about 4:30 I heard a vehicle approaching on the neighboring property.  My heart sank as the two young men got out and began setting up a coyote trap.  They did a very nice job with their set up and appeared to be skilled trappers, but the damage was done to my hunt. I had anticipated that I was within a couple hundred yards of my buck’s bedding area and these young trappers were right in his wheelhouse.  My heart sank further when I realized that as long as that trap was there, these guys would be checking it every day.   I certainly cannot fault them as they were well within their rights as sportsmen, but it did spoil my hopes for this particular buck.  As I walked out with my head held low, I pulled the card on my trail camera. The camera that had been there for over a month, vigilantly watching the mock scrape 20 yards from my stand.

Whitetail Buck Checking a Scrape in October As I scrolled through the pictures; my buck showed up frequently, but almost exclusively at night.  That is until Oct. 8th.  The day I decided not to hunt this buck. In that beautiful 40-degree evening; there he stood, 20 minutes before dark, in my mock scrape, reminding me that having too much patience is not always a virtue.  I never saw him the rest of the fall.  You don’t get many windows to kill giant bucks.  When you get one, no matter how good you think your plan is, make your move.

The next two lessons I learned (or re-enforced) on the same hunt. It was late November just before Thanksgiving.  The weather forecast was extremely windy and very cold.  I make it a habit of sitting all day during that time of year, so this prediction was slightly unwelcomed, but to the stand I climbed, nonetheless. The wind reached sustained velocities of 30 mph with gusts over 40mph throughout the day.  To say that I took some punishment that day is an understatement.  However, on this particular farm I was looking for a wide, tall brow tined, 160 class 10 pointer that was 5 ½ years old. He had been very active according to trail camera photos and I was right in his core area.  30 minutes after daylight this buck walked within 20 yards of my stand and once again at 2:30 in the afternoon.  What did both of these encounters have in common?  He was well within bow range, calm and easy to stop, he looked big and beautiful, and was completely untouchable with a bow, (probably even a gun) due to the lack of shooting lanes. I cannot describe the frustration of having your target buck within easy bow range, twice in the same day, and not be able to shoot him.

So, what were the two lessons??? Even in really high winds big bucks can be killed, but ONLY if you can shoot them.

Take some time to reflect on your season last fall and recall the lessons that you have learned.  If possible, make corrections to your stand locations, hunting strategy, wind direction strategy, equipment, or anything else that may increase your odds for success in the 2022 season.  As next deer season begins, remember to study hard so that you may pass those future tests.  The teachers are tough.

Corey J. Wilkinson

Last Updated: January 17th, 2024

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