Everyone has a severe case of “whitetails on the brain” this time of year, and it affects me to such a degree that I use a large percentage of my annual vacation to hit the woods during the whitetail rut. Join me over the next 13 days as I sit in treestands and ground blinds in western Wisconsin and eastern South Dakota in pursuit of rutting whitetails.
First a bit of background: I’m not traveling from fancy hunting lodge to fancy hunting lodge, where some wet-behind-the-ears young guide named Colt picks me up in a Lexus SUV and tells me where to sit to kill such-and-such superbuck. Instead, my hunting takes place on family-owned private land (not big parcels) and public land. I also have permission on some land owned by neighboring farmers, and I had to open up my checkbook to obtain that access. Yes, I pay to play if necessary.
The land in my area of western Wisconsin is heavily hunted, and bucks are usually killed by gun hunters (lengthy gun season; over-the-counter tags for residents and nonresidents) at a young age. My plan is to bowhunt WI from November 1-4, and although I’d love to get a chance at a Pope and Young-caliber buck, I know from experience (I’ve been hunting this land for 35-plus years) that a decent deer for the area is any buck scoring 110 or more. The photo bellows shows my best WI buck; he was 3.5 or 4.5 years old and scored about 115.
The best part of my WI bowhunt is I share deer camp (my parent’s house) with family and friends who will also be hunting. And bonus antlerless deer tags are readily available, so I hope to shoot at least one doe during the next few days. I’ll keep you posted.
One more thing regarding the WI property: My dad and I (with help from friends) have about 10 food plots (largest is 1 acre) dotted throughout our WI private land, and depending on the availability of acorns (there have been a lot of them this year), I’ll be hunting afternoons over green fields. I plan to hunt mornings and midday on oak ridges, especially those near doe bedding areas.
After my morning hunt on November 4, I plan to leave WI and head home to Minnesota to wash some clothes and check in with my wife and kids, then I’ll head to eastern South Dakota. I won’t get there in time for the evening hunt on November 4, but hey, I can’t grow wings.
I’ll be bowhunting private land only in South Dakota; it’s a half-mile-long river-bottom surrounded by agriculture and CRP fields. As a nonresident, I have one deer tag (buck or doe) and can’t buy bonus tags with my license, so I’ll be looking for a buck with good-size antlers and a mature body, which generally means a deer that’s at least 3.5 years old.
My wife will join me bowhunting this property (relationship tip: fall in love with a beautiful woman whose father owns hunting land), and together we should see numerous bucks that tempt us. The trick is getting one into shooting range. The truth is, neither of us is a long-range archer, so a buck needs to be broadside and within 25 yards (20 is better) before we even begin thinking about shooting.
During the previous decade bowhunting this property, I’ve tagged some good-size bucks, including the one shown in the photo below. He approached a doe decoy, and this year I plan to spend a lot of time in the same area looking over the same decoy. I can’t wait!
Finally, I’ll be sending in my reports from the treestand and after hours from my truck via my smartphone, so don’t expect feature-length articles illustrated with dozens of beautiful photos in gallery form. Instead, you’ll get a tally of what I spotted in the field (in addition to a photo or two) matched with my comments regarding what’s happening with the rut. Think down and dirty.
Enough words. I have to go pack my truck. The rut is on!