Today’s guest blog from Dan L. who has been reading the BIG DEER blog for many years. Love these stories of guys hunting hard till the bitter end:
Hey Mike: In the area of western Wisconsin where I hunt there is a metro zone that stays open to bowhunting until the 31st of January to give us cold-weather lovers an extra crack at a good deer.
We set up a stand in a cluster of 10 mature pines nestled at the base of a wooded bluff. In the pines we typically have a late-season food source. Deer bed up the ridge a bit and move toward the feed. We had 12 bucks on camera in that stand of pines, and had some close calls with bucks throughout the late season. But on January 13th it all came together.
At about 3:30 in the afternoon, with a good hour and a half of light left, 4 bucks fed off the ridge about 400 yards to my north, and walked right under another stand we had set over there! It was a south/southwest wind that day, so I knew they would browse in my direction before getting to the stand of pines.
After about 40 minutes the deer had only moved 50 yards, and I didn’t think they would make it to my setup in time. I lost sight of them through the thick part of the woods. Then, with some 20 minutes of light left, I decided to pick up my bow (as frozen as it was) and have it ready just in case.
Minutes later all 4 bucks crested the saddle to my northwest—three 8-pointers and a 3-year-old 10. This is where it gets interesting. In the metro zone the deer are no strangers to commotion. The deer cautiously worked their way closer when all of the sudden there was a loud yell from a neighboring property; someone was calling their kids in for dinner! All the deer were on red alert, and I thought my hunt was over.
They stood for what seemed like forever before proceeding down the bluff. The lead 8-point was staring down in my direction while the others browsed behind him. At this point he was about 40 yards through thick brush.
As my bad luck would have it, a farmer entered the field road in his truck, crunching the frozen snow a mere 300 yards behind me. It was incredibly loud and once again, I thought the hunt was over. The 3-year-old 10 tucked his tail and trotted back to where the deer had come from, so now I was down to 3 bucks.
The remaining 8-points began feeding across the bluff above me, moving to a trail they usually take to come down into the pines. But with all the commotion, they continued to feed to the south out of bow range, and again I thought the hunt was over. But suddenly my luck changed. Instead of following his two friends, one of the 8-point bucks started down the trail to the pines and came within 25 yards, but still no shot.
I had some good cover to draw my bow, and did so when the buck stopped behind two tall pines. I held as long as I could but had to let down. It was so cold (minus 2), calm and quiet in the woods that you could hear a mouse fart, and I thought there was no way I could get drawn again.
The buck flicked his tail and took another step, and I drew. Once again he stopped and I had to let down! Just then a coyote howled on top of the bluff. I thought the deer would bolt, but he didn’t.
I was running out of light when the buck moved toward me for a third time. I drew my bow and decided that I would have to take a quartering shot, down into the deer’s chest and just to the inside of his right armpit. I shot him at 12 yards; he whirled around, broke the arrow off on a tree and ran out of sight.
Fifteen seconds later I heard what I thought was a crash, but because I saw the arrow and thought I got only average penetration, I decided to back out. I knew I ran the risk of coyotes getting the deer, but then in the metro zone I didn’t want to push him.
I had to work later that night, and couldn’t go back until 8 am the next morning. As soon as I got back out there, I saw crows right where I thought I had heard him crash. The snow helped with the blood trail, but it had snowed another inch that night. It was a sparse trail and I worried when I saw coyote tracks in the snow.
Sure enough, 60 yards from where I had shot him and right where I had heard the crash lay my buck. Unfortunately, the coyotes had ripped him to shreds over the course of the night. That’s the problem with the metro zone–it is full of predators as well as deer. It was an easy drag out, but unfortunately all I could salvage a neck roast, some meat and the heart.
Hopefully this will serve as motivation for people get out there and hunt late in the season. If you have a good food source and run trail cameras, deer are as easy to pattern in January as they are in the summer. And I hope, too, this serves as motivation for people to get out and hunt coyotes. Those dirty dogs get a lot of our deer!
Thanks for the great blog, Mike. Now I can’t wait till September!—Dan