It was a cold, frosty late October morning in the last weekend of bow/crossbow season. I was in a mass of mixed emotions over missing opportunities at two different bucks in previous weekends. As I drove that morning I kept a constant review in mind of how I de-scented. Am I completely odor free? What was I doing wrong, or was it something else? I arrived, got all my gear in order and headed into the trail leading to my treestand.
When I got to the stand I realized I needed to avoid my stand. I continued on the trail and took a position on the ground by a big poplar tree about 200 yards from my stand, but out of sight of it as well. As daylight broke I could see the picked cornfield’s edge and dense brush between me and the field.
I settled in a good stance, leaning against the tree. The woods were really dry and noisy. In all my desperation I decided I would grunt a couple times and stomp my feet in the dry leaves to see what response I received.
A moment later, in a far corner of the field, was a deep grunt. As I stood in anticipation, watching for any movements, I could see the silhouette of a deer approaching in a lope. My adrenaline immediately started pumping. When he stopped and grunted again he was in range but not visible.
Where Is He?
As I strained to hear every leaf crumble I knew he was looking for me. I strained my eyes to keep focus of any and all movements as I raised my Wicked Ridge Invader crossbow. I knew I only had one chance. At 30 yards he stepped into an opening long enough for me to see he was a nice buck. As he cautiously moved through the brush and briars my heart raced as I thought, will he stop an give me a shot?
I watched him disappear on a bank bluff, and in my panic I softly grunted and made my feet again crinkle the leaves. In my amazement he responded and I could hear him coming back. I got ready and he appeared at 30 yards, closing coming directly at me.
The buck stopped at 25 yards, raised his head and began raking his antlers in an overhanging tree branch. When I saw the white of his jaw and neck line I knew it was now or never. I placed the crosshairs left of the center breast and squeezed off the shot. In an instant from the smack sound I knew I hit him as he made three good bounces before disappearing in the brush.
As I stood catching my breath I knew this was another dream-come-true moment.
I waited the routine 15 minutes after the shot to give the animal a chance to die I worked my way over to where I shot. I saw a scene I have seen before: ground all tore up from him bolting and a really heavy blood trail. In my anxiousness I started tracking and 40 yards later found a nice 9-point buck lay with arrow buried deep inside from a spot-on kill shot. My 35 years of hunting whitetails has truly been blessed and coming from a family of 100-plus years of deer hunting experience this has taught me that you never stop learning.
This buck was smart enough to stay under cover of brush, eluding me two weekends before at 40 yards. He followed four does in and the does were all over me, but he kept himself tucked in the brush. I watched him for 20 minutes and then he vanished like a ghost. Every hunter develops his own tactics on taking a nice buck. For me this was just a reminder that ground hunting can be just as effective as hunting in the stand. Over the past five years this spot has been proven to be the ultimate tree stand for producing deer; with the stand-off oaks and abundant acorn crops it is a natural feeding area.
My thought on avoiding my treestand was because all the leaves had fallen and the deer got wise enough to see me. As for my scent I am pretty confident that with the dry conditions and moving to a fresh spot, being able to pull a buck into 25 yards without any lures and just a grunt call he didn’t smell me. This is one of those sweet memories you hang onto and cherish and laugh about, as I am sure luck was there. If you really enjoyed this story you will agree that you’ve had Buck Fever yourself.
— Brian Stout of Indiana wrote this in memory of his brother, Bob.