by Daniel E. Schmidt
Readers of this Whitetail Wisdom blog may remember it was just a month ago that I posted an entry on what I thought was going to be a top-notch fall food plot hunting plan.
I’m proud to announce today that the Whitetail Institute seeds my buddy Cory Johnson planted in late August not only grew to expectations, they produced beyond our wildest dreams.
It was Friday afternoon, and Cory invited me over for a hunt. This was the first I had seen of the plots in about 3 weeks. They had grown substantially, thanks to a couple of much-needed early September rains. Our bowhunting plan for the afternoon was to hunt opposite ends of the property. Cory and Deer & Deer Hunting Television freelance videographer Michael Solberg headed for the east end of the property where he had planted a long row of Winter Peas Plus® and some forage soybeans. I headed for a stand overlooking a lush strip of Tall Tine Tubers®.
It was nearly perfect weather conditions for an early season bowhunt. The temperatures were hovering in the high 60s, and it was slightly overcast. The only thing that wasn’t perfect was the wind. As I climbed the ladder afixed to a sprawling red oak, I noticed the wind was blowing mostly out of the west/southwest. That would carry my scent stream right across the food plot in front of me. I wasn’t too jazzed about that, so I attached my Ozonics ozone generator to the tree and turned it on “high.” I then grabbed my bottle of Scent Killer Gold® out of my backpack and doused everything — my hat, jacket, boots, gloves and stand. Can never be too safe with scent control; that’s my motto, anyway.
I had been sitting in in the stand for about an hour when a small 8-pointer appeared. He stepped into the plot directly downwind of me and started feeding. He had no clue I was there. That was a good sign.
Within minutes, more deer showed up, including a big, mature doe with two fawns. She stepped within 20 yards of the stand at one point, then went on medium-high alert. What I found interesting is that my wind was blowing straight to her, yet she didn’t spook. After a few hoof stamps and jinky behavior, she eventually settled down and fed on Tall Tine Tubers® along with her fawns. If you know me at all, you know it took every fiber of my being not to shoot that doe. She was a cow, and would have netted at least 50 pounds of boneless venison for the Schmidt Family Venison Coffers. This day was different, though, as Cory politely asked me not to shoot a doe quite yet. Being this early in the season, he preferred that we hunt for bucks and not risk spooking them by whacking does from his prime stands.
That was totally understandable, and may I add a smart game plan. And, lo and behold, the plan worked to perfection before too long.
As the sun inched toward the horizon, deer poured out of the woods around us. Two bucks here. Three bucks there. A few more does and fawns. It was like someone had flipped on a neon sign that said, “Hey deer, lots of good food over here.”
At one point, I noticed two bucks working the edge of a distant plot where Cory had planted Oats Plus®. Almost in synchronicity, they would eat a few bites, pick their heads up and walk a few yards. It didn’t take long for me to realize they were on a mission to work their way down toward the plot of Tall Tine Tubers. At one point, I had 11 deer feeding within bow range of my stand. I’ve always thought of turnips as a late-season forage for whitetails — probably because in the past those are the only times I had hunted over them. That changed a few years ago during a September hunt with my buddy Pat Gaffney over at RAM Outfitters in Minnesota (Phone: 952-492-5540). Pat had told me then that turnips were an excellent choice for early season whitetails, because the deer love to eat the tops when the plants are young.
Watching all of these deer moving about in a calm, relaxed fashion is something that I don’t get to see much in my home county here in central Wisconsin. Most of my hunting over the past 20 years has been on public land and highly pressured small parcels. Seeing this unfold on this day was further testament to the power of food plots, but also an endorsement of taking a low-pressure approach to your hunting land. Johnson figured that out years ago, and now is reaping the benefits.
Back to the action: The bigger of the two bucks I had been watching eventually faded off to the north and disappeared in a small patch of woods. That left his buddy, a mighty fine 5-by-3 in the field with a few smaller bucks and a wad of does and fawns. The buck soon approached my stand, and I stood up slowly in anticipation of a shot.
There was one problem. Instead of turning broadside when he was 20 yards away, the buck faced my tree and approached head-on. Eventually he was just 2 yards from the stand. That’s when he stopped, lifted his head and began chewing on an overhanging branch in the field! That’s right … the buck was about to make a scrape!
I was left mouth agape. Why now? Why here? Ugh! (I later learned that Cory had doctored that branch with a Wildlife Research Center Magnum scrape dripper a few weeks earlier.
Not wanting to miss this chance of lifetime — to kill a buck while he was making a scrape — I brought my Mathews Creed to full draw. I was expecting the buck to at least turn broadside at some point. When he did, albeit just slightly, I hastily centered the pin and touched the trigger. THUNK!
My Carbon Express Maxima Red arrow sailed right between the buck’s legs and “killed” the dirt. I had missed!
The buck kicked and bounded farther into the food plot, then headed into a strip of woods and stopped. I was heartbroken. I just messed up a perfectly good opportunity.
Or so I thought. Instead of disappearing into the woods, the buck stayed in that little corner of the woods for another 20 minutes. He obviously didn’t know what had just happened, because he proceeded to lower his antlers and rip apart a small honeysuckle bush. Then, eventually, he turned around and re-entered the food plot and began feeding.
After another 10 tense minutes, the buck was nearing shooting range once again. Darkness was settling in around me. This had better happen fast, I thought. It did. When the buck stepped within 27 yards of my stand, I again came to full draw, bent at the waist, centered the TruGlo pin on his lung area, and released the arrow.
This time the shot was true, and the Rage X-treme broadhead found its mark. The buck ran 50 yards before piling up in a thicket filled with stick-tights.
Cory and Michael soon joined me, and the celebration was on. Fresh venison was the order for the day … all thanks to a friend’s sweat equity, generosity … and some alluringly powerful food plot seeds.
If Jack had been a bowhunter, he wouldn’t have needed a beanstalk … he could have gotten by just nicely with some cold-tolerant turnips.
— Dan Schmidt is the content director for F+W Outdoors, and editor-in-chief of Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine.
DAN’S PRODUCT PICKS OF THE WEEK:
1. Ozonics ozone generator. The Ozonics HR-200 gives you two modes: a boost mode for treestand hunting (the entire human profile is presented to the wind and requires more ozone) and a blind or standard mode. It also comes with mounting systems for both versions.
2. Scent Killer Gold spray. This new product features Hunt Dry® Technology – formulated for maximum performance after it dries, so you don’t have to hunt with wet clothing. You can spray it onto your clothing – hours, days, or weeks before you hunt.
3. Whitetail Institute’s Tall Tine Tubers. It took six years to develop the new turnip variety. The result is the most attractive turnip variety the Whitetail Institute could develop or has ever tested.