Rut Report Nov. 16

Day No. 16 of a Midwest whitetail rut hunt is in the books. Discover what North American Hunter Senior Managing Editor Dave Maas learned during his day in South Dakota.

You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” Well, today, I could’ve used either of those objects to kill the best buck living in our river-bottom . . . twice! And yet I never released an arrow.

In order to keep this post to something less than a novel, I’ll try to keep in short and bitter sweet. The treestand I climbed into this morning (November 15) is only 7 feet high. Why so low you say? The stand is on the middle of a steep hillside, and typically, it covers trails 10-25 yards below the stand. Occasionally, however, deer appear higher on the hillside than the treestand, and this makes for trouble because it positions you below the deer and they can easily see and smell you.

I said I’ll keep this short, so here goes: I drew on the giant 5x4 at 16 yards, but he was uphill from me, and due to the low stand height, he was already suspicious. And when the snow and ice on my bow limbs, cam, string, cables and arrow rest squeaked loudly as I drew, he freaked and ran up the hill and out of sight.

I thought it was “game over,” but 2 hours later the hot doe he was tending came by me again (from above unfortunately) and this time at only 15 yards I drew as he slowly walked at me down the hill. I was betting on him spotting me move, but I had no choice but to gamble that he’d turn broadside and give me a second or two to get him in my sights and shoot. Instead, he snorted and turned instantaneously and loped uphill and out of sight. Damn!

In total, he was within 35 yards of my treestand for about 45 minutes when you combine close-calls No. 1 and 2, and during much of this time the doe he was tending, or her two female companions, were stomping their front feet and giving me the evil eye from 10-20 yards (above me). I’m not ashamed to admit that it was almost more than I could take.

I took the photo above so you have some idea of what it looks like when facing uphill from this treestand. Mr. 5x4 was standing in the bathtub-size white snow spot in the exact center of this pic. As you can see, there were little more than thigh-high weeds and briars between the buck and me. Not good.

In addition to my run-ins with the big 5x4, I almost got a shot at a massive 4x4 (super old deer with huge body). I called him off a doe by using a snort-wheeze vocalization, but I passed on the only shot he gave me—35 yards. I limit my shot distance on deer-size game to 25 yards; I’d shoot at an elk at 35 yards.

My afternoon hunt was uneventful; I sat on the edge of the standing cornfield in a box blind, but only does and fawns appeared before dark. I assume more deer, including the big bucks, will visit the cornfield during the night, and hopefully I can get a crack at one of them tomorrow morning in the river-bottom on the final day of my whitetail vacation. Stay tuned!

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