My summers are dominated by time on the water fishing, mostly guiding others. I certainly enjoy that time. By fall, however, I am ready for a change of pace and the solitude of being alone in a tree.
I took up bowhunting several years ago and I’ve learned (made mistakes) far more than I have experienced success, particularly when it comes to trying to arrow big whitetail bucks.
I was confident coming into the 2017 season, however. In 2016, my biggest buck to date hit the ground, and 2017 was jump-started in August by a successful South Dakota antelope hunt. Also, trail camera pictures revealed four “shooter” bucks, deer deemed to be at least 3.5-years old with good-sized antlers.
However, the best of plans doesn’t always work. Last year offered lots of great experiences in the woods but, as I write this in January, those four big boys are still alive! I enjoyed every minute I spent in stand and certainly learned more lessons. Here are a few I took away from the season.
Big bucks are wary, and sometimes lucky!
A shooter buck my hunting partner and I had on camera bedded along a heavy cattail slough and made his way in evenings along a ridge to adjacent crop fields. We placed a stand in a pinch point along the trail he sometimes took to his dinners. Pinch points are narrows along trails that funnel deer movement, a necessity because of a bow’s limited shooting range.
One evening in mid-October, the big 10-pointer made his way down the trail toward the stand I occupied. With bow in hand, I was ready. He stopped to browse at 32-yards, just needing to take a couple steps to be in the shooting lane at 28-yards. My plan was to draw my bow when he resumed walking.
As luck (his, not mine!) would have it, a spike buck came charging down the trail from the other direction. The big buck snapped his head up and quickly retreated up the trail. The spike ended up right below my tree and I never saw the 10-point in person again!
One evening in late November, a coyote came bounding through a very small food plot I was hunting, before cutting into the woods, crossing one of the entering deer trails.
A shooter buck materialized a few moments later coming up the same trail the coyote had just crossed. Maybe this was my chance! However, as (deer) luck would have it, he hit the spot the coyote crossed, his head snapped up to high alert, and he wheeled and bounded off. Since the wind was in my favor, I surmised he probably smelled the coyote and spooked.
Scent control still rules in the whitetail woods
The whitetail deer’s biggest defense is his or her nose.
We hunters have been trying to fool it for years. This past year, on the recommendation of a couple expert bowhunters and hunting outfitters, I purchased an Ozonics scent eliminator. This device blankets your scent zone with scent-destroying ozone.
Skeptical at first, but after having several deer come from downwind without spooking this season, I am now sold. I still wear scent-minimizing clothes and do everything possible to keep my stand entrance/exit as scent free as possible, but believe that this device will help me kill bucks in the future.
The 2017 archery deer season is in the books. I never killed a big buck, but I learned a bunch again. Any time spent in the outdoors is time well spent. I can’t wait to get back out there!
As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!
Mike Frisch is co-host of Fishing of the Midwest TV and a multi-species Minnesota fishing guide, view the website: wwwfishingthemidwest.com for more information.