Excitement from the Ground
Just like most archers, especially in the Midwest, I do the majority of my bowhunting from a treestand. I know that ground blinds have become fairly popular in recent years, but treestands are still the norm. The fact that you are hunting above the eyesight from an elevated position is by far, in my opinion, the best way to get a chance at a trophy whitetail.
Now if I do hunt from the ground, it is usually still hunting my way either from the stand after a morning hunt or going to the stand on an evening hunt. But by far the best way to get your blood pumping is through stalking. Most of my experience of stalking has been through bedding areas during the late morning hours. The best time is after a morning rain or during windy conditions as it helps to quiet the footfalls amongst the leaves.
This year has been slow, especially on two pieces of private property that I hunt. Both have experienced reductions due to farmers utilizing crop damage permits, but they are in exceptionally good trophy areas of Ohio. On one, a 35 acre piece of mixed timbered ridges and open land that I own I did get a glimpse of a decent 8 point one evening. It was being chased by the neighbor’s dog, which is another sore subject in itself. This was my first sighting of this deer and I judged him to be around 140 plus inches. This deer was new to my area because he was never captured on any of the five trail cameras I have setup around the perimeter of the property.
A week later, with the rut coming into full swing and a favorable wind, I returned to my 35 acres well before dawn. After a few rattling sequences and no sightings of any deer, except for a distant yearling, I decided to try my luck on the east part of the bowl shaped ridge. My strategy was to slip down and hunt the back side of the ridge, putting the west southwest wind in my favor.
I got down and only had gone about 80 yards when I spied a nice 2 year old eight point headed my way. I decided to crouch down and see just how close he would come to my position. Well it didn’t take long as within a minute he passed within 15 yards of me as I was tucked up next to the weeds on the field edge. He paused a couple seconds to give me the once over and then continued on his way.
I was rounding the field edge and getting ready to enter an old logging road that ran 30 yards down from the top of the ridge. Sixty yards from me was a good stand that faced northwest on this curved southwest ridge. I closed the distance very slowly wondering if I would have seen any deer from this position when a doe and two yearlings stood up and bolted from their beds which were just below the stand. I cursed myself for not setting in this stand as I watched the big mature doe run out the ridge crossing the old road about 120 yards down from me.
I was about 150 yards from the stand that I was hoping to get into for the rest of the morning’s hunt. It was a little after 8 and the stand I was heading for was in a great pinch point where deer funneled through on their way to the top of the ridge.
I was sneaking along at a snails pace with my attention centered ahead of me as well as looking down into the wooded valley. It was then that I caught movement at approximately where the doe had earlier crossed the old logging road. It was a big bodied deer but his head was hidden by a couple trees. I eased out a little toward the center of the road and immediately saw antlers. Within seconds I recognized the buck as the one I had seen a week earlier being chased by the dog. A couple glances with my binoculars confirmed his 140 plus eight point rack and I decided if I could pull off a stalk within bow range that I would be happy to take this buck.
I spied a big maple tree about 10 yards in front of me and hoped to make it there before making my next move. The bucks head was still hidden behind a couple trees so I calmly started toward the tree. After what seemed like eternity I finally made it to the tree and this is where things started to get interesting.
The buck began making a scrape and at this point I judged the distance to be around 100 yards. I was located on the left side of the old logging road behind the tree with just part of my face and right shoulder exposed. Off the left side of the road the ridge continued down into the wooded valley. The buck was also on the left side of the road and looked like he was going to go off the side down into the valley.
I lost sight of him for two or three minutes and with my left side pressed against the tree I decided to peer around the right side of the tree. This would be easier, leaning against the tree, to see down into the valley where I thought the buck was headed. As I started to peer around the tree the buck reappeared on the road and caught me off guard. He was now probably 80 yards and stopped immediately and at that instance I thought the gig was up. I pressed against the tree revealing part of my right shoulder and right eye.
The eight point now took an interest in my position but this is where my luck took the first turn for the better. A small buck appeared directly up the hill from me entering the edge of the woods. The big eight point’s attention immediately swung to the two year old six point. After a brief two minute stare the buck’s attention shifted back to me. He started angling toward the small buck, but still with his attention on me. I had my bow in front of me and I was hoping the buck would briefly look toward the smaller buck or pause as he went behind a tree, but it wasn’t happening.
The buck continued angling up the hill from me and no matter what, still had the drop on me as he continued to shrink the distance. At a mere 15 yards he stopped, staring directly at me. This is when I noticed a string of drool hanging out of both sides of his mouth. He was so close now that I could actually see the drool streaming all the way to the ground in addition to bark shreds entangled in his rack. His neck was flared understandably as the rut was in full swing.
I had already filed this as a great hunt, waiting for the mature buck to figure this scenario had played out and it was just a matter of time before he sprinted from the picture. The buck then abruptly stopped and stomped the ground with such authority that a small twig somersaulted up from the ground and over his back. At a second thunderous stomp I still held my motionless position with the bow positioned in front of me. My mind was frantically looking for a solution but as long as he was fixed on me there was nothing I could do.
As he turned to leave this is where my luck took a second fateful turn. When whirling about he went behind a large tree allowing me to come to full draw which caught the small bucks attention directly above me. As the small buck wheeled to run out of the top of the ridge the mature 8 swung in his direction putting him broadside at a distance I estimated at 30 yards. As the buck hesitated I settled the pin and released. The flight of the arrow seemed to go into slow motion as it approached the 8 point. I witnessed it enter behind the front shoulder midway up his body causing the buck to bolt up the hill, out of the woods and into a cornfield. He immediately made a ninety degree left turn and ran down the field edge where after about sixty yards I lost sight of him.
I replayed the scenario in my head several times, still not believing the important role the small six point had played. I forgot all about him and the whole time he must of been aware of my position thanks to the big boys attention fixed on me. I immediately focused my attention on finding the arrow which was stuck in the forest floor with the shaft and white fletching soaked in bubbly bright red blood.
I decided to walk up the hill to the edge of the woods where the buck had exited to glass the immediate area. It didn’t take long to see him lying at the other end of the corn field piled up under a mature oak tree.
He may not be my biggest buck (194 5/8”) but his 142 3/8 inch rack and the memorable ground level hunt puts this as one of my most exciting that I have ever experienced. I figured when he had closed the distance to within 25 yards the hunt was over and I just put myself into observation mode. My only thought was to see just how close he got before he bolted.
The fact that I stayed motionless with my bow ready gave me the split second I needed to draw and settle the pin once his attention was diverted to the small buck. I also attribute my practicing and estimating range helped immensely on calculating the distance. A couple days later I returned to the scene and was truly blessed with this hunt and the way everything unfolded. Not more that 10 feet from where I shot him I found a smooth barked beech tree tore up making me wonder if this was his handy work.
Since the conclusion of this hunt not more than two weeks ago I began scouring topographic maps of my hunting areas for next years possible stalks. I am now looking forward to future heart pounding, ground level experiences.
Bow - Bowtech Destroyer 350 - My all time favorite bow combining speed and smoothness
Rest - QAD Ultra HD - In my opinion the best drop away in the industry. A never fail design that combines quality and improved marksmanship.
Sight - Axcel Armortech HD - Precision engineered design and built like a tank.
Arrow/Vanes - Easton ACC 360/Vantec - Longtime favorite arrow that combines the straightness of aluminum with the toughness of carbon guided by quality Vantec Vanes.
Broadhead - Grim Reaper Razor Cut SS - Grim Reaper Mechanicals have been a staple in my quiver for the past 8 seasons
Release - Carter Two Shot - I have shot a lot of releases but always come back to the Carter family of releases.
Binoculars - Vortex 8x42 - Always deliver crisp, clean images and no fatigue even after a full day of scanning.
Camouflage - Predator Fall Brown - One of the many patterns that I trust to break up my outline in a variety of hunting situations.
Rangefinder - Nikon - I have trusted Nikon in the field for reliability as well as toughness.