One Uninvited Guest (Me!)

Slipping into the buck’s bedroom is risky: Bump him out and he might never come back. But if you can pull it off, the rewards can be huge—literally.

Sunday was one of those days where everything felt right. During the previous 2 days I’d witnessed some deer activity, but not a lot of rut action. Nonetheless, after filling my doe tag on Saturday afternoon near a food plot, I decided to head to a rut stand.

This spot isn’t a classic bedding area in terms of cover, but it’s great by location. It's a ridge away from crop fields in two directions. There is no easy way for anyone with permission to get there. For me, it's down a steep hill, up a steeper, higher hill, and then around a little side gully. I get in real early to beat the deer retreating from the cornfields.

The morning weather was perfect for my plan. It was cool, the ground damp and a light breeze from the west. I needed all of those things for an undetected approach, and I left the cabin almost 2 hours before legal hunting time. I got set up without too much trouble, but I did mistakenly set my stand on a dead tree that was like a totem pole. It had no branches and was snapped off about 30 feet up. I realized my mistake before I got off the ground with my treestand and quickly switched to a nearby tree. After I got settled in to a live tree, I spent several moments star gazing as the clouds passed over the big moon, enjoying the predawn darkness.

I don't hunt this spot often, preferring to leave it as an unofficial sanctuary for most of the deer season. I like to save it for the rut. As the sky began to brighten around me, I recognized I did a good job of locating my treestand; I was almost exactly where I wanted to be. Slowly at first, the sounds of yelping turkeys filled the air. I’d managed to climb into the middle of a flock of roosted turkeys. I took a little video with my phone of a hen yelping constantly from a tree 35 yards away.

As the turkeys began to fly down around me, I noticed movement below my treestand. A mature 10-point buck was angling up the hill toward me. At about 50 yards, he started to turn a bit, so I hit the grunt call. The sound got his attention, but didn’t bring him much closer. He eventually walked back down the hill in the direction from which he’d come. He wasn’t gone long when I began to hear the sounds of a chase in the valley below. Back and forth the chase went. I was certain the buck had found a hot doe.

Finally, I saw the doe, rushing up the hill toward me, mouth open. When she passed me at 25 yards, I was ready. The buck came next, but it wasn't the 10-pointer; this was a 2.5-year-old 8-pointer. I took a little more video as he grunted on her trail. He stopped about 25 yards from the stand, and I heard the sounds of another deer approaching. Again, it wasn't the 10. A smaller buck was lagging behind. The two bucks harassed the doe until she disappeared to the west.

The woods weren't quiet for long when I heard a deer running toward me from behind. I saw the doe hopping through the brush toward me. Behind her were another doe and a set of tall tines. The object of his affection ran hers right up to a blowdown 30 yards from my tree. She stood there, gasping for breath for a few seconds. In my mind, I urged the doe to jump over the blowdown. She didn't, and when the tall-tined buck—the fourth buck of the morning—got to within 20 yards of her, she wheeled around and headed back to where she had come. The buck never got closer. In something less than an hour, my bedroom stand put four bucks in front of me, including two shooters.

Over the next hour I saw a doe or two, here and there. Compared to the intense action of the early morning, it was slow. Suddenly, a good-sized buck appeared from my right, head down and trotting, as if he were trailing a doe, although there hadn't been a deer in that spot all morning. He was 50 yards away and not getting closer. I pulled out my call and grunted loudly. On the second grunt, he stopped. He was behind some brush, so I grunted again. I saw him bound and thought he was going the other way. You're running away? I wondered. When he bounded again, I realized he was coming right for me.

He stopped at 25 yards. I could hear him frantically sniffing the ground. He was behind a sassafras tree, and I made up my mind to shoot as soon as he stepped out. He came out trotting, and I had to mouth grunt to stop him. He locked up and I fired. I was almost certain I saw the fletching disappear about 3 inches above the point of his "elbow." He crashed off over the hill and was gone.

After a long and challenging bloodtrail, my buddies and finally found my buck. "Woo hoo!" I heard echo down the valley, and I quickly made me way to the guys. The buck was dead in his bed, less than 30 yards from where we last saw him during our earlier bloodtrailing mission. He was still quite warm and not yet stiff. My arrow had entered just where I thought it did (see photo below), but deflected badly and exited too far back. He was broadside when I shot, but the exit was like he was quartering-toward. The near-side lung was badly damaged, but the far-side lung was untouched. Almost 9 hours after my shot, we were finally taking pictures.

My trip into the bedroom paid off on a beautiful buck and a splendid morning in the woods.

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