(Gear list at the bottom)
On the evening of September 29, 2022, I headed to a spot along a standing corn field just off of a thick bedding area I knew several bucks had been using. I approached my set up cautiously, noting the large scrapes just off the field edge in front of me. the Evening comes and goes with a few does passing by but none of the mature deer I was after. Light fades and I start to pack up my things when I hear the rustle of leaves to my left in the bedding. The sound comes closer and closer and just off the edge of the cedars 25 yards away steps out a big bodied silhouette. I freeze in motion and watch as the dark figure moves closer and closer…. “That’s him…” I whispered to myself. The buck is now just 10 yards away making a scrape in front of me. I can see the outline of his tall antlers in the faded light as he lays his head back to lick the branch above. it is just minutes past legal light so all I can do is watch and listen. He finished working the scrape and moved off into the tree line and eventually the field behind me where I had my E-bike laying just off to the east of the field edge. I called my brother and asked him to pick me up at the next 1/4 mile to the south as I finished gathering my things to climb down. I knew I couldn't go back to my E-bike for fear of jumping that buck. I had the plan to kill him already brewing in my head…. I know where he beds now. I hiked back out to the south and met my brother on the gravel road. I jumped in his truck and told him “I am going to kill that buck tomorrow morning coming back to bed”.
Once I got home, I instantly went to my OnX maps and started looking at every possible route the buck might use coming back to bed based on wind, topography, known scrapes in the area as well as the path he took out to the field that evening. It wasn't a guarantee the buck would use the same bed the following morning, but it was worth a shot! I picked my spot on the maps finished up some work and headed to bed. (September 30, 2022) The following morning I beat my Alarm waking up… I couldn't shake the feeling that it was going to happen. I packed up my gear and headed out. The spot on the maps that I had picked out was just 50 yards off where I thought the bucks' bed may be. I arrived at the property an hour earlier than usual allowing myself time to set up and make sure I would be in my tree well before the buck was going to come back to bed.
I approached the new set up by walking through a narrow fence row and looping wide through the timber directly in to the bedding area. I skirted just 50 yards off to the North East of his assumed bed found my tree and got set up. Daylight broke and the woods came alive. Squirrels and birds making so much noise it was hard to focus on where I thought the buck would approach from! Eventually around 8:00am I see tines coming through the thick undergrowth vegetation… It’s him. He was slowly approaching his bed and about to step into my only shooting lane. I drew back, judged him at 25 yards, buried my pin.… “Meh”….. THWACK! I had dealt him an 11-ring, top of the heart and double-lung shot. The buck crashes off just inside the cedar thicket and I hear the commotion come to a stop. Check mate.
The blood trail was walkable and short. I approached my buck and realized he had died just feet away from a large bed with some rubs around it. The plan worked to perfection… It doesn't always go that way, but I have found that when you have a gut feeling and intuition that you know where a buck is bedding… I mean be able to drop a pin on that bed, you have a very good chance of killing him. Let me break it down for you.
THINGS TO NOTE
Over the years I have been fortune enough to spend quite a bit of time in the whitetail woods. Here are some observations:
1 - Mature bucks like to bed in areas where they have easy access to the things like food, water and have certain “leg up” factors on their predators such as topographical advantage and wind advantage.
2 - Deer are typically “edge” animals. They like to follow edges of fields, and break ups in vegetation which may create an edge such as, thickets of undergrowth to a hardwood transition… Cedar thicket to open CRP fields etc.
3 - Mature bucks will ALMOST ALWAYS bed with the wind blowing over their back and keep an eye out in front of them. They can smell/hear danger approaching from behind, and they can see/hear danger approaching from the front.
With knowing these tendencies, you begin to plug and play into the strategy behind getting a mature buck on the ground.
MY STRATEGY: PLAY BY PLAY
- With having heard the buck rustling around in the thick cover the evening before and eventually stepping out on the field edge to work a scrape… That immediately solidified to me that the buck was not bedding far off that field edge. Mature bucks often hold to a pattern of not leaving their beds until after dark (even more so in the early season such as September). This tells me that the buck hadn't traveled far from his bed to reach the field edge, as it was a few minutes past shooting light, and the buck was now on his feet.
- This prompted me to leave the area in a fashion that would not spook the buck (i.e.: having my brother pick me up at the next 1/4 mile in the opposite direction the buck was headed)
- I studied the Topographical lay of the land and found that just 80 yards inside the timber there was a hard transition from thick cedars to a thick overgrowth of messy hardwoods and briars halfway up a ridge line.
- knowing that I had a SSE wind, I figured the buck was bedding halfway up that ridge line just inside the cedars. This would allow him to have a topographical advantage to see into the hardwoods below, as well as catch a wind coming over his back with the SSE direction it was blowing BOTH that evening and the next morning.
- I accessed the property from the South and looped wide through the timber as to not have my wind go to the field I figured he would be feeding in all night. I also accessed EARLY to make sure I wasn't setting up too close to the time the buck would start his transition back to bed.
- I picked out my set up on the maps which placed me within 50 yards of where I thought (and now know) the buck was bedding. I placed myself just North and East of the bed and just far enough off the transition of vegetation (hard edge, remember whitetail are edge animals) that it gave me a wind that was ALMOST wrong but just right… This gave the buck a false sense of advantage coming back to bed.
- The buck came back to bed in the morning EXACTLY how I thought he would, nose into the wind, following the edge of vegetation, right through my shooting lane.
Whitetail hunting is often a game of chess. They have strategies to stay alive and have the advantage on predators in most situations. We have the advantage of complex thought process and intuition based off of historical truths and or commonalities of a given subject.
The more you study whitetail, the more you can put certain strategies in play. they don't always come together, but every now and then, a dog gets a bone.
King's Gear List
These are my "go to" items when it comes to comfort, durability and performance. No matter which hunt I am on, these pieces of gear listed here will be with me!