I?m almost embarrassed to write this blog posting, but if I?m going to keep it real then I must. This past Sunday evening I went hunting. WeHuntSC.com team member, Will List also went with me. I dropped him off at his ground blind and continued deeper into woods back to my stand. I went back to the same stand where I?d been seeing deer. I got in the stand about 5:30.
On the way in, Will and I both had talked about the Solunar Forecast and discussed how we hoped that it was a positive sign for the evening hunt. It was a bit cooler today, but still not cool enough to keep mosquitoes away. I sat down and put my mask on. Even though it was cool, I got warm on the way in. I was sweating a little bit and didn?t want to put the mask on, but when you don?t, your face looks like a light bulb to a deer?s eyes. So I put the mask on and having my head covered only made me hotter. It?s a battle that many hunters (especially the ones who wear snake chaps) face early in the season. When you?re hot, the mosquitoes can find you more easily. Thus, I was fighting off mosquitoes for about an hour until I cooled down. This was not fun and is an aggravating aspect to early season hunting.
Usually it's tough to hear deer when they walk, but today was different. I was sitting in my stand around 6:20 when I heard some leaves ruffling behind me to left. I turned slowly and looked and saw movement. I knew it was a deer when I saw brown move into the scene of the green leaves. Here again, the heavy cover offered by the trees made it difficult to see a good distance from my stand. 1?2?3?4?5 does were traveling together coming up the hill. They were in the oaks heading towards the pines that I was sitting in. They were muzzling their noses in the ground eating acorns and they were in no hurry at all. I could hear them as they moved slowly through the trees. One of them was headed straight for the corn pile.
When I saw all the does my heart started pounding. The crazy part is that I had time to get nervous and calm down before I actually pulled the trigger. I watched them for about 10 minutes before one got close enough to shoot. One deer was way ahead of the pack and came straight to the corn pile. The corn pile is only about 25 ? 30 yards away from my stand. As the deer was heading to me, I adjusted my position and took the safety off. It was the perfect setup and I was waiting with my gun up, looking through the scope when the leading doe got to the corn pile. I waited for the perfect shot. The deer looked up at me and froze and I pulled the trigger quickly. The deer jumped immediately and then bounded off. The shot was so loud that it jarred the other deer, but they were unsure of where the shot came from.
I figured I hit the doe and I chambered another shell and waited again. Immediately Will started texting me. The other does still moseyed around as if nothing had really happened, but I think their senses were heightened as the loudness of the shot had them on edge. Though, after 20 more minutes they were heading in the other direction. They may have headed the other way as they heard my phone vibrating every 5 minutes as Will continued to text message me.
Eventually I put my orange on and got out of my stand to go and start tracking the doe. I went to the corn pile and didn?t find any drops of blood. I knew this was not a good sign. Since I shot at the deer farily early, some day light remained and I could see pretty well. I then began fanning out and walked in circles towards the direction the deer headed. I was looking for blood or slides where a deer would ?fall-step? while running injured. I didn?t find anything but a hill that had been completely scavenged for acorns by the deer. My dad came to help us look for the deer and he picked Will up on his way. We managed all this via text message and as time went on, hope grew smaller. Dad and Will arrived and we covered more ground and still no sign of a doe. It was getting dark and after 20 more minutes of looking we called the search off.
Long story short, I missed a doe broad-sided at 25 yards. The only explanation I have to offer for how or why is that I must have flinched right as I pulled the trigger and shot under the deer. I think the images and feeling from this happening will haunt me for some time to come. And I call myself a hunter?
What if the deer would've come out 10 yards further down the plot? What if I would've just had my gun already propped on the shooting rail? What if the deer would've kept walking toward the decoy? What if my gun barrel didn't get caught in the burlap? These were the questions running through my mind moments after blowing a perfect chance to harvest a nice 9 pt. Let's rewind?
This past weekend, I had the privilege to sit in the deer stand a few times. Saturday morning didn't offer any luck even though I felt like I was in the perfect setup. I called Clint to see if he wanted to film me hunting over the Tecomate Seed Food Plot on the power line Saturday afternoon. We decided were going to setup a buck decoy and use a rut smoking stick by Tink's. I placed the decoy and smoke stick about 60 yards down the plot. About halfway between the decoy and the stand, there was a fresh scrape on the edge of the food plot. The wind was blowing in our face at an angle, which was good considering the deer should be coming out in front of us. The deer we have been seeing have been coming out close to the scrape or at the very bottom of the plot. It was around 3:30 pm when we finally got situated in the tower stand. Clint and I were whispering what we hoped would happen and just texting people on our phones, trying to kill time until the ?golden hour? arrived.
Since there hasn?t been much rain, the squirrels were making a ridiculous amount of noise in the leaves to our left and right. Around 4:40 pm, the sporadic scampering from the squirrels had ceased and a rhythmic pattern of steps started resonating from the hardwoods to our right. I instantly looked at Clint and said ?That?s a deer!? Adrenaline suddenly rushed through my body and heightened my senses. I could hear every twig snap and every leaf crackle as the deer approached. He was walking right towards our stand! As the deer approached the food plot, he was so close that we couldn?t even see him. At this point, Clint and I were so excited that we literally felt like puking. Finally, Clint saw some antlers moving below us. Since I was in the right corner of the stand, I didn?t see the deer until he was a step away from entering the food plot. First thing I spotted was antlers. So I started taping Clint on the leg for him to let me know if it was a shooter. Clint gave me a thumbs up!!! It was game time! The deer was so close we had to be extremely quiet in our movements. I gently sat my binoculars on the floor and started to get my gun raised. By this time, the deer had spotted the decoy and had taken a few steps toward it. Perfect! I was thinking the deer was going to head straight for the decoy and Clint was going to capture the magic. The deer suddenly got spooked. He paused, turning his ears in every direction trying to pick up the slightest noise. I was frozen! I still hadn?t gotten my gun raised. The deer started walking toward the woods instead of the decoy. It?s was now or never! I quietly, but frantically tried to get my gun positioned on the shooting rail. The deer was just a few steps from disappearing into the woods when my gun barrel got tangled in the burlap on the top railing. As I untangled the barrel and clicked the safety off, the deer darted for the woods. BANG!!! ?Did you get him!?!? Clint whispers. My heart sank. I just had the greatest opportunity to take a nice buck and failed. I?m pretty sure in my rushed state of mind; I shot over the deer?s back at 15yds! We sat until dark and then got down to make sure I didn?t hit the deer. We didn?t find any sign of the deer being hit. This was the greatest hunt, with the worst outcome, in my life.
The image of the buck spotting the decoy & getting all stiff-legged
Even though I missed the deer, I had to show my family this awesome hunt. So when I got home, I played the footage for my dad, mom, sisters, and brother-in-law. As soon as the buck came into the screen, my sister was like I can?t believe you missed that nice buck. Great! Here we go, time for the clowning to commence. Then my dad chimes in, ?That deer about licked your barrel!? Now I?m trying to defend myself by describing what is happening behind the camera. My dad said he was going to get in that same stand in the morning. I said that was cool because I could just film him. He said that I wouldn?t have to worry about that deer again if he came out on him because he would ?put him to sleep?. So Sunday morning we headed back out to the tower stand. After getting in the stand, my dad couldn?t be still. His back was bothering him and he was on a bucket seat that didn?t have any back support. He kept squirming around and occasionally stood up. By this point I thought there was no way we are going to see a deer. So I just started playing on my phone and started texting people. Suddenly dad whispered ?Don?t move! A doe just stepped out.? By the time I get the camera turned on and zoomed down the plot, two more does stepped out. None of these does where on high alert like a buck was with them, so I immediately tell dad to pick one out and shoot. Before he can put the binoculars down and grab his gun, there were six does in the food plot. Three of these does are at least 120 lbs. Dad got his gun on the shooting rail and we pick out which doe he is going to shoot. ?Ready?? he whispered. BANG!!! ?Haha? I chuckled. The deer bounded off. Dad asks ?Did I hit her?? Then you hear me kind of laugh and say ?I don?t know?. I started picking on him because that is the first deer I?ve ever seen or heard of my dad missing. For some reason, he placed the cross hairs on top of the does back and shot over the top of her. I was like why would you do that, she was only 140 yards out. Then I realized that was the first deer my dad had ever attempted to shoot with a rifle. We decided to get down and check for blood just to make sure. As I waited for my turn to climb down the stand, I glanced back down the food plot and another deer had just walked out after all the commotion. I started whispering to dad to hand me the gun, but obviously he didn?t hear me. By the time he finally handed me the gun, the deer had run off. Now it was time for dad to get clowned by the family. Luckily for him, it was only mom there. So all he got was, ?I can?t believe ya?ll missed those deer.?
Even though pops and I were 0 for 2, those were two of the best hunts I?ve experienced in my life. I have to give special thanks to Mckenzie Scent Fan Duffle Bag, Atsko Scent Elimination Products, True Timber Camo and Tecomate Seed. Without the Mckenzie Scent Fan Duffle Bag and Atsko?s Scent elimination products, I don?t think Clint and I would?ve ever been able to get that close to the 9 pt. To be in a stand that is about 12 feet high and get within 5 yards of a buck like that speaks volumes for these two products. True Timber has great camo patterns for our area and the material is quiet. I will be purchasing more from them soon! Tecomate Seed just keeps bringing these deer in. We haven?t hunted that stand much, but now we have seen 3 or 4 bucks on it and a lot of does. So I highly recommend you guys try these products.
Below is the video of my first hunt
Below is the video of my dad?s hunt
These are 2 hunts I'll never forget!
We were recently approached for assistance by a South Carolina farmer with hog problems. He’d heard we had a night vision setup and that we could potentially help him with hog control. It took us a while to get a hog on the ground and this blog is the lead up to accomplishing the goal.
Hunting Coyotes Leads to Hunting Hogs
If you’ve been keeping up with the blog here then you’ll know that we recently upgraded to a night vision setup to better hunt coyotes. One of the locations where we hunt coyotes is near a farm and recently the farmer told us that hogs were really giving him problems. They were rooting up his land so much that he’s also hired a guy to trap the hogs. Nobody on our team is a hog expert but we wanted to do our best to help and we were up for learning!
The trapper was regularly catching hogs in the pen and we figured we’d put out a game camera to get a feel for what was going on. In 3 days we had 600 pictures and there was a large pack of hogs that were coming in all throughout the night starting shortly after sundown. It was hard to tell exactly how many, but we guessed 10-15. We got a pattern for when they were coming and we threw out a little corn and planned a date to try out first hog hunt.
The First Hunt
Gavin and I were excited to try and get a hog. Neither of us had shot a hog before because we don’t have them around our hunting leases. It would be a first for us and that helped make it a good challenge. I guess I should also add here that our first hog hunt also occurred during the same time frame where we were having issues sighting in the thermal scope!
On our way to the farm we talked about waiting until the whole group got there so we could have better chances for multiple hogs and we could pick out the biggest one. They were coming out in groups, per the recon from the game camera. We had a plan and were ready to rock.
We arrived to the farm around 9 and got setup. We’d been there about 35 minutes when we started to see some heat signatures coming through the woods. At first it was one big hog, walking solo and I was whispering to Gavin “Shoot that big rascal!” but Gavin held off. I was all excited and Gavin was actually doing what we’d discussed on the way over there… and I was glad he did. Just a few minutes later the woods lit up. It was a sight to see. 12 hogs all came from the same direction and headed out to the corn. Having never seen a hog before I didn’t really know what to expect. The first thing I noticed was how quickly they moved around. I figured they’d be slow, sluggish, and hold still for long periods of time, but that was not the case. They can move pretty quickly. Once the whole group got out there Gavin picked one out and shot. The whole group scattered and he shot again. We went down and walked and looked for blood… nothing anywhere to be found. We’d missed. Another trip to the shooting range was to come.
More Trips to the Farm
After missing the hog we were again frustrated. We re-sighted the gun in and waited until the next weekend. All the while we’re putting out corn and the farmer is filling us in on when the hogs are back. On the next weekend that we could line things up we headed back. This time as we approached the field we saw the hogs entering the field from a different location. It was about to be the quickest hunt ever. Just when we started looking in the scope we heard coyotes howling very close to us. We stood there trying to figure out what to do. As we watched the hogs in the monocular the coyotes continued to howl and to our amazement the hogs turned around and exited the field. Looking back on it we think the hogs left to protect their young ones. They had 3 little hogs with them and leaving was probably the best bet for them with the coyotes howling like crazy on the edge of the field. After this happened we stayed there for a while and waited. We felt sure the hogs would return. They didn’t. So, we broke out the coyote call and stared calling coyotes. That’s the night I shot 2 coyotes on video as seen in this video.
Shooting the coyotes proved that the scope was indeed zero’d in and we had more confidence. The next weekend came around and we returned yet again. This time the hogs were there when we arrived! We got into position and it was Gavin’s turn on the gun again. He put the dot on the hog and let the hammer drop. We both could see in the monocular and scope that when he shot the hog he was aiming at jumped up in the air. We knew he’d hit it! We went down and found blood. We trailed blood for 2 hours through some very thick briars and ultimately the blood trail stopped and we never found the hog. Frustrating again, but we were inching closer.
Going From 223 to 300 Black Out
We reviewed the footage and it was evident that Gavin made a good shot. With this we discussed and researched and decided to make some changes. We worked with the team at Reel Determined Outdoors to change out the upper on the Anderson Rifles AR=15 from a 223 to a 300 black out. This is a unique capability of the AR that gives hunters flexibility. In this scenario, it allowed us to shoot a bigger bullet, one that most hog hunters use.
The next weekend we went back and stayed out there for 3 hours and never saw a hog, but did hear a bunch of coyotes and I missed a coyote! This time we knew the scope was dialed in, I’d just made a bad shot.
Interested in our setup?
We shoot an Anderson Arms AR-15 with RF-85 technology. (You never have to oil the gun). On top of the gun we have a Pulsar Thermal Scope + video recorder. Any Anderson gun and any Pulsar Thermal Scope will be great setup for you too!
We upgraded! Since the blog entry we've upgraded to the Anderson Arms AM-10 308 ( a bigger bullet). You can read about the new setup here.
The Hunt We Finally Got It Done
You may be reading and wondering “How many weekends is it going to take for things to line up for these guys?” … and that’s exactly what we were wondering too. Our luck would be changing soon though.
The farmer reached out to us about mid-week and said “The hogs are back big time”. He’d seen more and more evidence of the hogs rooting and they had wiped out all the corn that we had out. (Side note: trying to keep a pack of hogs fed with corn gets expensive quickly!) So we planned our hunt.
Again this time the hogs were out in the field as soon as we got to the field. Gavin and I quietly got into position. The whole time we could hear the hogs grunting and snorting down near the pen. From the look of the monocular it seemed like one hog was actually trapped in the pen, but we’d later see that it wasn’t.
It was Gavin’s “redemption hog” turn on the gun. I’ve got him trained not to be shooting anything until I’ve got video rolling too 😉 Anyways, we were in position, gun was sighted in very nicely, video was rolling and I gave Gavin the greenlight. We were whispering to each other about which one he was going to shoot. I was watching in the monocular while Gavin was in the scope. Gavin asked me if I was ready and I said yes… then there was a long pause. Gavin giggled… he said “I didn’t take the safety off!” Yes it sounds crazy, but we were so worked up and ready to get it done that our hearts were beating and we were both breathing heavy! Then he said “Aight, I’m shooting the big one” and moments later the first shot rang out. As they ran off Gavin continued to unload on the big boy, which we’d also discussed on the way to the farm. At the shot there was no sign of hitting the hog. It did not jump, flinch, or move awkwardly. With the 223 we tried for head shots, but with the 300 black out we put it on the shoulder. Gavin and I talked as we tried to calm down. He said he felt he made a good shot.
Minutes later we went down to the area where the hogs were. No blood. What! He made a good shoot, the gun was sighted in, we’d upgraded to a bigger bullet… why did it not work out! We were already making plans to go back, yet again, to the shooting range. We decided to walk over in the direction where the hogs ran. There was no blood anywhere to be found. We scanned in the thermal looking for heat signatures in the field and didn’t see anything. The only thing we saw were a few wet spots that looked like slobber or something in the dirt, but it definitely wasn’t blood. We were growing frustrated as you can imagine.
This farm is in an area with lots of hills. As you can see in the video the hogs were just behind a small hill when we shot. As we talked and walked the edge of the field you could just tell there was a vibe of frustration, an energy of we-didn’t-get-it-done-yet-again going on. Then Gavin said “What is that?” And I said “What?” He pulled out the thermal scope and said “That’s the freaking hog right there!” and I looked and man it was huge laying right there on the edge of the field. What happened was the hog did not bleed at all and ran about 60 yards around a corner and laid down on the edge of the woods just behind a hill of dirt. This is why we could not see it in the thermal. Instantly we got all excited and the vibe changed from one of dejection and frustration to one of celebration and excitement! We’d finally accomplished the goal and got a hog on the ground. And yes the 300 blackout really put it on the hog. We high-fived and drug the hog out to take some pics. When we grabbed the hog to drag it and take pics we had to re-grip the legs because it was so big. I’ve drug a lot of deer in my life and this thing was heavier than any deer I’ve ever drug. I’m guessing it went around 220 lbs. It was a healthy female hog and yes it stunk!
After multiple attempts at getting a hog we finally succeeded and it felt good to get in the end zone for once! We finally had proof to the farmer that we could help him out. We’ve finally got things dialed in and set up and guess what… the farmer has already let us know that the hogs are back again so we will be heading back out sooner than later.
Do you have problems with hogs or know a farmer who does?
We are now ready to help! Just reach out to us here on the website via the Contact Us form or contact Gavin Jackson at 843.517.9920.
This past weekend I did a lot of work in the woods and it felt good. I’m just now getting around to doing the work that I wished I could have done in the summer so yes I’m a little behind. After making a lot of noise in the woods I hunt in and spreading my scent everywhere I figured it wouldn't be a good idea to hunt there and since Derrick & JD Outen helped me do the work I told JD that I’d come video him hunting in the evening. JD’s still after his first buck of the season for this year so we hoped to get one on camera. We had a good time sitting it the stand, but luck just wasn't in our favor tonight. Though, while we were sitting in the stand we heard a loud boom not too far away. This meant that JD’s dad, Derrick had made a shot. Derrick took a shot right at dark and he text messaged us and said he was on the way. And so it began.
Derrick picked us up and told us that he shot a deer at about 235 yards out in one of his shooting lanes. We went to the lane and starting walking. You have to kind of know Derrick to be able to fully appreciate the mode he gets in during situations like this. This was serious business and Derrick was like a CSI detective on a crime scene. Derrick showed us the spot where he said the deer was standing when he shot. I know Derrick is getting old and his eyes probably weren't working up to par right at dark so I went beyond where the said he shot the deer. Derrick, JD, & I searched for blood for nearly 15-20 minutes. I kept telling him that he missed to his response of “Outen’s don’t miss”. I was just about at the point of telling him that we should give up when I looked down and low and behold I saw a drop of blood. I was nearly 30 yards ahead of where Derrick & JD were by then. I yelled out “I've got blood” and I could tell Derrick’s hairs on the back of his neck were starting to stand up. The CSI deer detective had upped the tracker mode one notch because he knew there was a challenge at hand. From that point on Derrick was methodical in how he proceeded.
The drop of blood I found was in the shooting lane and we were trying to figure out which way the deer took off in, but the problem was that we couldn't find any more blood. Derrick told us to not be straying off into the brush because if a deer had traveled down a specific path we needed to be able to see it and if we went into the brush we would create a path and make it more difficult to keep up with. I told the guys that I was going to drop my hat on top of the blood so we would know where our origination marker was. We searched and searched through the edge of the lane on both sides and couldn't find anything. We even got desperate enough to start walking through the brush looking for anything that would give us hope. We had strayed the course and broken our own rules. We were about 30 minutes in at this point and yes my sweat was attracting mosquitoes which made it “fun”.
Derrick pulled us back to the drop of blood and said “Let’s get side by side and walk down this lane one more time” and to my surprise JD found another drop of blood about 20 yards from the first one. This small drop of blood was a glimmer of hope that reignited the troops. We moved the hat to mark the new, most recent drop of blood. And we continued stalking, crouching, slow-walking down the lane looking for more sign. I think Derrick may have put a new dip in to denote the new level of seriousness now that drop of blood number two had been found.
The blood drops continued about every 10 yards and were slightly leaning toward the left hand side of the lane. Derrick saw a drop of blood enter the brush and you would have thought somebody gave him $20 as pumped up as he got. He proceeded step by step through the brush finding random drops of blood smaller than a penny to trail this deer. It was indeed impressive to watch is controlled focus through the brush. We were about 40 minutes in at this point.
The deer cut across some thick brush and then into some open hard woods. Derrick commented “See if we don’t pay attention this is where we’ll lose this deer right now. Ya’ll don’t be in a hurry and look with every step you take to make sure you’re not stepping on blood”. We were getting deeper in the woods toward the creek. We got found more broken brush and some larger drops of blood which was a good sign. We were getting pumped up and gaining energy and then all of a sudden the trail completely stopped. I couldn't believe it. We searched in every direction and couldn't find anything. Derrick was even picking up on the existence of spider webs crossing trails and letting them still crossing the path denote that the deer didn't go in that direction. I got so frustrated I walked ahead another 30 yards to the trail by the creek just hoping to find a white belly somewhere, but nothing. I was swatting mosquitoes when I heard Derrick say “I don’t see any blood, but it looks like something ran through here… see how these limbs are broken.” Derrick keyed in on some brush lying over oddly and some broken twigs and kept following them. By the time he worked his way to the end of the trail he and JD were arriving to the road I was standing on. Derrick told me to look for blood and sure enough I saw a small drop about the size of a pencil eraser on a leaf. I couldn't believe it. I was standing right next to the creek and Derrick again got in the zone and proceeded toward the creek. We all stood on the edge of the creek (and it was a sizable creek) and saw blood on the edge. The deer had crossed the creek. I knew Derrick was going to tell us to go swimming when I looked to the right and saw the deer lying dead in the creek. We were about an hour in at this point.
We all couldn't believe what had just occurred. We literally went from thinking Derrick completely missed to having moments of hope to being let down to be back up then back down again to ultimately finding this deer in the creek. It was definitely a challenging process in which many would have abandoned a couple of times along the way. JD and I pulled the deer out of the creek and hauled it back up the road while Derrick went to get the truck. It was a gnarly antlered spike… what some would call a “cull buck”.
It was a hunt and night of tracking that I’ll never forget. I, like many of you, don’t like giving Derrick too much credit, but the boy can flat track a deer… I will give him that. Using a computer is a whole different ball game, but I don’t know if a blood hound would have done us much better than Derrick tonight. I guess here would be the best place to also say that if he wouldn't have gut-shot the deer all this tracking wouldn't have been necessary :-)
Ultimately the hunt was successful and from tonight’s experience I've learned some more about tracking a deer. I wanted to share some pieces of info that I've learned about tracking a deer and I welcome you to add more in the comments field.
So while sweating through briars and tracking a deer for an hour may not seem too fun, it’s definitely rewarding when you find the deer. The story doesn't always end that way, but tracking is challenging and that challenge is what makes it rewarding. What’s your toughest tracking story?
The 2017 deer season has been a long one for me and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Rather, I mean that I’ve hunted harder and more this year than any in the past. As I mentioned in the Black Friday Buck blog, I’ve been getting after it this season. I’ve watched a lot of deer and have been chasing a few specific bucks throughout the season.
Chasing the Big Boys
I specifically focused on 2 big deer at the start and middle of the season. I couldn’t get the job done with them and they stopped appearing on camera. I believe someone got them. As the season progressed, I had to monitor and adjust.
In late November, after the Black Friday Buck, I moved some cameras around and scouted for sign in different areas of our lease. One location I set up in was in some planted pines not far from a creek. I hoped I could see what was traveling the creek, but was unsure as I hadn’t been hunting that area.
It only took about a week of the game camera being up when I saw a nice buck with a split brown tine that I had not seen anywhere else. He was very wide, not too tall, and looked heavy. As it was late November I figured this buck was “cruising” as they call it when bucks roam around areas they don’t normally go to looking for does to breed.
Needless to say, I was intrigued and kept paying attention in this area. I continued hauling corn and checking game cameras and noticed this buck was coming in every now and then. After he appeared multiple times I thought I might have a chance to get him, but knew I’d have to be lucky for that to happen.
Cat & Mousing Me
Over time it seemed like this deer knew when I hunted! I would hunt and check my game camera a week later and find that the deer was coming in either before or after I hunted… sometimes in the dark, sometimes in the daylight. It was frustrating. I’d hunt on a Sunday morning and leave in time to get to early service and the deer would come out 30 minutes after I left. Surely God wanted me in church instead of in the woods, but I won’t lie I was tempted ;-)
It became almost like a chess match with nature and I continuously lost. I then tried changing things up. I’d park my truck in various locations, I’d drive in with my lights off, I’d walk in extremely quietly, etc. Regardless of what I tried, nothing seemed to work.
Adding to the frustration was the fact that this deer was impossible to pattern, likely a reason he got so big. He never came in on a schedule. The days in between his visits weren’t consistent. He’d not come at all for 7 days then show up 3 times in 2 days. Then he’d take a few days off and come 2 days in a row. And yes, he always came when I wasn’t there
Getting this deer would be a test of skill yes, but mostly of determination and persistence.
I moved around and hunted different stands because I didn’t want to put too much pressure on that one deer and in that one area. Though, like any hunter, it’s hard to get the big buck off your mind. As I spent day after day and week after week trying to figure out a solid game plan, hauling corn, and checking game cameras I started to think I was crazy because this mission was nearly an impossible one.
The obsession may be hard to explain if you’re not a hunter, but I’m sure many of you understand where I’m coming from. This deer was in my head and was seemingly always a step ahead of me. When you try to hunt specific deer, it starts to eat at you after a while when you can’t line things up. As the season was winding down getting this deer became a border line obsession.
Week after week I failed to the point of wondering why I even kept trying.
The Lead Up
Christmas came, and the cold weather had set in. It was unusually cold by South Carolina standards. A big cold front made its way in and temperatures were in the low 20’s to 30’s the week after Christmas. The season was drawing to an end, food sources were low, and the temperature was supposed to drop over 10 degrees on New Year’s Eve.
I hoped that the deer would feel the temperature/pressure change coming and be on their feet, but as you most likely know, late in the season a lot of deer go nocturnal. I was optimistic, but not holding my breath. On top of this the moon had been getting brighter and fuller during this time period so deer would mostly likely be walking all night long. The saving grace on this day was the cloud cover. It was overcast, and the clouds blocked the sun. It was a cold, winter day - the perfect kind of day to hunt and the type of day you dream about when you’re sitting in 90-degree humidity getting eaten alive by mosquitos in the early season.
Interesting Note – He Didn’t Travel Far
One interesting thing I should mention was that this deer only showed up on this one specific camera. A normal practice of hunting, I do a little recon with a few game cameras that I move around to see what deer are in various areas. With several cameras nearby I was surprised that this deer only showed up on this one specific camera. I’ve not seen him anywhere else all year long. I believe he was either bedding very close by and not traveling far or either he was traveling a very restricted path to wherever he was going.
In the past I’ve seen deer tighten down the geographic areas of travel as the season progresses. I think they sense hunting pressure and react accordingly. However, this deer did not roam too far. He was disciplined in his movements and I would have also have to be disciplined and persistent, beyond the point of obsession to succeed.
It was New Year’s Eve and it was a Sunday. I’d gone to church and eaten lunch. I headed out around 3:45. It was cold and the wind made it colder. I had on nearly every layer I could find plus a Thermacare back wrap with heat pockets and 2 hot hands inside my gloves. I walked in (it was more like a waddle in due to the numerous layers I had on) and got in the stand as quietly as I could.
Several of my friends were also hunting and we were all texting on a group chat. Around 4:35 I had a small deer enter the narrow shooting lane. It was either a button buck or yearling doe, definitely too small to shoot.
I texted the crew and told them I already had a deer in the lane. Seeing a deer this early seemed positive to me. I was hopeful that they were moving. I watched this deer for a few minutes and occasionally looked down at my phone while the guys were talking. After the deer had been there for a few minutes it looked to its right very quickly, then to its left as if it was alarmed by something. I could tell the deer heard something, I just wasn’t sure what. I took the above pic around 4:42 and sent it to the group chat. As soon as I did the young deer just bolted off the corn pile and out of the lane. His abrupt exit got my attention because I knew that could potentially mean he saw another deer.
One of the guys responded to our group text and I momentarily looked down at the phone and read the message. When I looked back up I saw a big deer already in the lane, facing me, and with his head down eating corn. Within seconds this deer had entered the lane and started eating. He wasn’t wasting any time, and neither was I.
I slowly raised my gun and looked through the scope. I could see the crown of his head, the top of his neck, and his back. I dialed in the scope a little to zoom in closer. The first thing I saw was the split brow tine that I’d seen in game cam pics before. In that moment I knew exactly which deer it was and that I would indeed be pulling the trigger.
I’ve always thought it’s not the best shooting position when a deer is facing you or basically in any scenario where you weren’t going through vital organs (a broadsided or quartering shot). However, in this scenario I had good light, knew the deer was moving quickly, and any wrong move would result in the deer leaving the shooting lane. I couldn’t wait or give him a chance.
I put the crosshairs at the base of his neck as if to shoot down through his neck aiming for critical mass. I was also worried that at any moment he would quickly raise his head up. The deer was about 45 yards from me and all I could think about was a smooth trigger pull. I reminded myself to squeeze off slowly and not flinch. I pulled the trigger as smoothly as I could. The gun went off and the deer dropped on the spot! Talk about excited, I was pumped up!
At 4:44 I texted the group chat “BBD!” which means “Big Buck Down!”, an abbreviation often used by deer hunters. Since I had just sent a pic of a small deer 2 minutes earlier the guys responded with “What?”, “Are you serious?”, “For real?”. BBD is not a message sent often or in a joking manner!
I started shaking and started getting down out of the stand. I couldn’t believe it. It was the eve of the last day of hunting season and this huge buck showed up in perfect shooting light. I went down to the buck and started snapping pics. I got more excited as I approached and was still in disbelief, it all happened so fast.
I sent the crew the following pictures so they knew I wasn’t joking!
I then called for assistance with loading the deer and help was on the way. Since it was early I hoped we could get some decent pics before dark. I texted my wife and mother and then made a call to my hunting partner Coach Sam Mungo! Sam and I had sat in this stand numerous times trying to get this big deer. From the group chats, texts, & phone calls we were all excited.
It had finally happened. The specific deer I was hunting made a mistake and I was finally in the right place at the right time.
As I tried to calm down and waited on help to come there wasn’t much to do other than wait. I just laid down in the shooting lane still not believing what had just happened. I flashed back to all the time and energy I’d spent hunting this season, all the work done, unsuccessful hunts, early mornings waking up heading out into the freezing cold, and drive that led to the moment I was in and I just laid there. It was a relieving moment. I could finally relax. I took a few pics in that moment.
Once help arrived I was able to get some pics holding the deer.
Reflection and Thank You’s
I guess when you put a lot of time and effort into something, whenever it finally happens, at some point, you look back on things. As I laid there in the pine trees and throughout the rest of the weekend I thought about the journey leading up to that moment. It has indeed been a long ride, but one that I was fortunate enough to end on a positive note.
In the end I was glad that the hunt happened so quickly because I didn’t have time to get nervous and get all worked up. If I would have seen that deer walking across a field I would have probably been so nervous by the time he got close enough to shoot that I would have missed him.
I do need to thank a few people here as well. Thanks to Jason Fararooei for letting me use his 308 which was a significant part of the deer dropping on the spot. I need to thank Gavin Jackson (and family) for helping me do a lot of work in the deer woods, stand assembly, hauling/cutting/trimming and just work in general this season. Without their help that stand and set up wouldn’t have come together like it did.
I also need to say a big thank you to my wife! As mentioned in the Black Friday Buck blog, we are expecting our first child in February and as such I’ve been hunting hard in the last season before the baby arrives. Holly has put up with me hunting at all possible chances this season when many times my hunting inconvenienced her in some way. She has been very gracious and understanding while I frequently messed up her scheduling, planning, and social activities! I told her that I can now close the chapter on the season and am ready to focus on putting as much time and energy into figuring out how to be a dad as I did hunting… at least until turkey season comes around in April! (just joking)
2017 was a good season…
Brace yourself, long winded blog ahead
Setting the Stage… Last Christmas
Last year I had been seeing a few nice bucks on camera and when Christmas day came around I figured I better sleep in and not get in trouble with the family for potentially shooting, tracking, and handling a deer on Christmas morning. I slept in and a few days later I checked the game camera and one of the biggest bucks I had been seeing came in during shooting light. The one day I didn’t hunt I missed my chance. I didn’t forget that that this year.
A Roller Coaster Season
This year I’ve hunted pretty hard. If I had a chance to go hunting, I went. Even though I’ve hunted hard it’s been a difficult season. This season has been unlike any others for me in that it’s been full of curveballs and change. I mainly hunt two tracks of land and both tracks have portions of them that have been getting logged for what seems like forever.
Logging started at the end of last season and the management continues throughout this season. By that I mean that the timber crews started cutting wood during the middle of last season and worked throughout the summer. They stopped logging a little bit before deer season and when they moved out my game-planning, strategizing, and stand relocating moved in. I was able to put out some game cams and was even getting nice bucks on a decent pattern. I looked forward to the opening of the season.
As the season approached I got word that the forestry management team was fixing to spray the new cutover to kill everything in preparation for a burn that would be followed up by re-planting. Two weeks before the season started the area where I was getting good game-cam pics went from all green to brown and dry after being sprayed. Needless to say, this affected things and the big bucks seemed to vacate the area. I had to drop back and punt with my previous strategy and adjust accordingly.
After a while big bucks slowly started appearing back on camera and the rut was approaching. I was excited to see deer back in the area and was hopeful to catch one coming through chasing does during the peak of the rut. As rut sign increased so did my anticipation… until I learned that the area that had been sprayed was going to then be burned! Burning during the rut, just my luck. Here again burning the area really changed the deer’s pattern and consequently my hunting strategy. Big bucks fled the immediate area again and adapted.
My whole season this year has been “on the move”…
Hunting a Specific Deer
I’ve hunted deer since I was 12, but I have never really hunted specific deer until this year. I told my friends that hunting deer is one thing, hunting big deer is another thing, and hunting a specific deer is a completely different ball game. To me, it is more fun because it’s more challenging and as imagined the rewards are less frequent. It’s like a chess match with nature. I realize I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here, but big bucks think, behave, act, & react differently than younger bucks and does do and that takes a little getting used to when planning. They don’t get big by being dumb. Learning how to target and go after specific deer has been my quest this season… and I don’t have it figured out and am still learning.
In my case I’ve been hunting 2 specific deer all season. Sometimes I thought these deer were ghosts of my imagination that merely taunt me on game camera every so often just to keep me interested. They have been running me in circles so much it has been frustrating. My wife even once told me this season “I’ll be glad when you kill that deer because he’s driving me crazy and I don’t even hunt!” As you can see, in the moments of frustration I tried to turn the quest into a family journey in hopes of getting more input or some type of perceived edge. If showing game cam pics and pleading my case to my buddies and wife would help kill deer I’d have both of the big ones on the wall already. Unfortunately talking about it doesn’t help too much. If you’ve hunted a big deer before I’m sure you feel my pain.
The Big Boys
All season long I’ve been focusing in on these specific deer that I would randomly get on camera. When you hunt specific deer you tend to give them names. My 2 are named “Big Dook” and “Big Dook’s Brother” as we affectionately refer to them. As I closed down on their territories this season something would always happen (as mentioned above) to mess my strategy up.
As the season continued I started losing hope. Then in early December Big Dook and Big Dook’s Brother started showing back up on game camera, but in different areas. Their reappearance on game camera was most likely due to their food sources getting lower as the season progresses
I noticed that on one of my stands Big Dook’s Brother was coming in every other day or so. The frequency of his appearances was exciting, but the unexciting part was that he only showed up in the dark. For that matter, Big Dook and his brother only show up at night. However, Big Dook’s Brother was starting to show up closer and closer to shooting light. For example… if you can see around 6:45am he was coming in around 6:15 or so… and he did the same thing in the evening.
As time passed he started cutting it closer and closer to shooting light. Of course he would also be there in the middle of the night too, but the times when he did come in at dawn and dusk made it seem like he was starting to getting risky with his movements. Maybe he was hungry or maybe he hadn’t heard any guns go off all season in his area and was relaxing a bit. And to that point, I’ve let a lot of deer walk this season waiting on these 2 specific deer.
With the Big Dook’s Brother coming in frequently and starting to take risks with his timing I really was looking forward to the Christmas/New Year’s holiday time frame because I felt like I may be able to catch him slipping. I was sure to keep the stand “corned” up and made note of the timing of his movements based on game camera data.
As I mentioned above, last year on Christmas morning I slept in… and regretted it because the big buck showed up in shooting light. With this buck coming in frequently I wasn’t going to sleep in this year, I had learned my lesson. To answer the question some of you may be thinking right now… I don’t have any kids that would be getting up early to open presents and we didn’t have anything scheduled for early Christmas morning so I was free to hunt.
I climbed into the stand and sat in the dark waiting on the sun to rise. It was a little cool, but not as cold as it usually is in late December. I anticipated the direction that he would come from as well as anticipating that it would happen as soon as I could barely see. After all, that’s what the game camera footage indicated.
I sat and waited and the sun started rising. Nothing but squirrels were running around everywhere. The “prime time” as I envisioned it had passed and I could see clearly through the woods. I thought to myself that it simply wasn’t the day that it was meant to be because the big boy never showed up when once visibility was good. As it was Christmas day I was upbeat so not all was lost. Then I saw a flicker.
You know how you sit in a stand and see a flicker and it catches your eye, that’s what happened to me. Usually the flickers are leaves falling, squirrels moving, but sometimes they are the flicker of a deer’s tail. And that’s exactly what this was. However, the deer wasn’t coming in from the direction I anticipated. I was wrong on both my time and directional anticipations.
I was hunting in some oak woods that deer pass through on the way to their bedding areas. I was up on a hill overlooking a valley with a dried up creek that only fills when it rains hard. I had corn down in the valley near the dried up creek bed. When deer come through that “holler”, as they say, they usually pause at the corn pile as they are naturally funneled toward it by the lay of the land.
The flicker I saw was directly in front of me on top of the hill across the valley and it was about 90 yards out. When I saw the flicker I didn’t instantly know what it was. I raised my scope up and could tell it was a deer. Though, I only saw the deer’s body as his head was behind some brush. I continued watching. Then he stepped forward and I could tell that it was a buck because I saw antlers, but I couldn’t see exactly how many points or denote the size of the deer because he was walking and going behind several trees and tree limbs. When I saw antlers I bumped the safety off on my gun.
The good part was that the deer was heading directly towards me. He was walking through the valley and I believed / hoped he was heading toward the corn pile. As he made his way through the woods he would walk 5 or 10 yards then pause and look around. He wasn’t in a hurry and he was being cautious. He started getting closer to me. At 60 yards I could tell he was a good buck. At 50 yards I zoomed in the scope and saw a specific “crab claw” point on one side which indicated to me that he was indeed Big Dook’s Brother. Our showdown was upon us, the chess match was hopefully coming to an end if I could execute.
When I saw that unique point on the right side of his rack my heart started pounding. I was staring at a deer through my scope in broad daylight at 50 yards that I’d been hunting for a long time. He looked up in my direction from behind a bunch of limbs. I could see him, but taking a shot through all that brush was too risky. If he would have run off I would have beat myself up for not shooting, but I felt he would eventually head to the corn and give me a clearer shot and even though it tore my nerves up, I held off on forcing the shot.
Check out the screenshot of my heart rate from my FitBit as the deer approached
While my heart was in my throat and the knot was in my stomach I tried to take deep breaths to calm myself down. I was shaking and trying to maintain steadiness. When I took those deep breaths, they fogged up my scope. Even worse I thought the fog from my deep breaths would be visible to the deer I feared. I could easily see the cloud of fog that I just exhaled so I’m sure he could have. I thought to myself that the deer was going to see my cloud of air and run off. I stopped the deep breaths and the deer held still for what seemed like forever. I wondered if he saw me because he was moving his head around from right to left.
I was in mid-freak out when he started moving again. He jumped the dried creek bed and got into a clearer view for me. When his feet landed on this side of the creek bed I could “hear” how heavy he was. It was a deep thud when his back legs hit. I knew he was a big one. As he stepped through the brush I again saw the unique point on the right side of his rack which re-confirmed that he was the deer I was chasing.
I had him in the scope and knew I was going to shoot. He was 15 yards from the corn pile and I had another opportunity to shoot through some brush. Again, I held off hoping for an open shot. I didn’t want to force the shot while he was heading in the direction I wanted him to. It was tearing me up on the inside. He progressed ahead a few more yards and paused just 5 yards from the corn. Why would he stop before the corn? I was wigging out. When he stopped, his head was behind a big oak tree and the back end of his body was behind a smaller tree. I had a clear shot on the base of his neck and I couldn’t wait any longer. He held still observing his surroundings and I was focused on not flinching on my trigger pull, a mistake I made years back that still haunts me. I focused on making a smooth trigger pull…well as smooth as you can get with your heart racing and whole body shaking. I pulled on the trigger as steady as I could and at 7:17am on Christmas morning the hammer dropped!
When the gun went off I thought I saw the deer fall down on the spot, but in the commotion of things I wasn’t sure. Suddenly I saw a deer take off running to the right. I didn’t even put another shell in, but I raised my gun up and looked at the deer that was running. I didn’t see any antlers and all that math wasn’t adding up to me in that moment as I was somewhat flustered. I thought I saw the deer fall, but what was running away? Turns out that there was another with the deer I shot, but I was so focused in on the big boy that I didn’t even see the other deer. I wondered to myself what had happened. I was sure I saw the deer fall, but I couldn’t see him on the ground anywhere, which made me a little nervous. Then I heard the sound of a deer thrashing and when I heard that I knew that I’d made a good shot and that he had indeed fallen on the spot.
I sat in the stand shaking and tried to calm myself down at what had just taken place. I literally couldn’t believe it. I ensured my gun was on safe and got out of the stand and headed down the hill. When I got there, I could not believe I actually saw the deer and how big he was! He fell on the spot and he was definitely the shooter I’d been chasing. I started taking pics and texting everybody who would be interested. I texted my mom and told her I needed her help taking pictures. I was pumped up, excited, thankful, emotional, and still not believing that this deer came through in good shooting light on Christmas morning. It was a story too good to be true, but it happened!
The below pics are pics my mother took right before she helped me drag the deer! Yes, she loves me (and it’s not her first time dragging a deer with me either) :-)
Being able to get this deer on the ground was a great Christmas present for me! I still can’t believe it happened, how it happened, and how the hunt unfolded was just as any hunter would script a hunt. I’d put in hours and hours of scouting, moving cameras, carrying corn through woods, cutting shooting lanes, and numerous hunts sitting in the stand waiting for that very deer to come through. It was a great reward for the time and energy invested and made it all worth it. In my case it was persistence that paid off more than anything.
Also, many of you know I lost my dad this past year to Alzheimer’s disease and sitting in the woods has been somewhat of a therapy for me throughout the season. When I got my mom to help me take some pictures of the deer she was sending out text messages telling people that “Clint got a Christmas present from Frank today”. In that moment, I hadn’t thought about it from that perspective, but it did make me think. I can imagine my dad up there in heaven saying “Come on God, let’s send the boy a big deer, he’s been hunting hard this year” lol. Hey, whatever it was that caused the deer to move I am not mad about it one bit! I am thankful and praise God for it regardless! With this Christmas being somewhat of a potentially somber one being able to get this big deer did bring about an unexpected excitement for us and a lingering thought of a higher power making everything line up like it did. I think my dad would have been proud, I know that I am. It was a hunt that I will never forget
Now, we still have a few more days to hunt in this season and Big Dook is still out there and I’m hoping he will make a similar mistake like his brother did. It only takes a matter of seconds to turn your whole season around…
It’s been relatively warm in our area of South Carolina thus far this year, but this past weekend we had the first cold snap of the season. And that’s all our family needed to get pumped up to go deer hunting!
I guess I should back up a little though… We live in Chesterfield County tucked just inside the SC line right along highway #9. Just across the NC line a new outdoor store called Reel Determined Outdoors has opened and people from our town have slowly been checking it out. Last Friday I went up to the store and learned that they were hosting deer competitions so I signed me and my son up! I signed myself up in the adult division and I signed my oldest son up in the youth division!
Reel Determined was giving away cash for the biggest buck and biggest doe in the adult division and a crossbow for the biggest buck and biggest doe in the youth division! Needless to say this had us pumped up even more to go hunting and to harvest a great deer!
Saturday morning finally arrived we all got up early and put enough clothes on to keep us warm with the freezing temperatures. Caiden, my oldest son who is 8 years old, wanted to hunt a tripod stand where he had killed some does earlier in the year. Yes, he hunts by himself with a 308 rifle! Over the past few years we have worked hard with him to learn about hunting and firearm safety and the right and wrong of a firearms.
His papaw Tim took him to his stand and got him situated. His Uncle Cody, his Papaw, and myself went and got in our stands that pretty much surrounded him. We specifically told Caiden not to shoot anything unless its body was bigger than the deer he shot earlier this year. We told Caiden that the bucks should be moving and to try to hold off on a doe if he could stand it.
In the stand it was cold and I just knew one of us was going to be successful. I got in my stand and had been sitting there for about 20 minutes and I decided to hit the grunt call! It worked just like it was supposed to. A nice buck with a one side of his horns broke off came running in like clockwork. I froze up and didn’t know what to do!! I pulled up on him and clicked the safety off but just couldn't bring myself to shoot the deer because I couldn't see exactly how big he was! Oh what a mistake after the fact. Yea I so wish I would have pulled the trigger but hey the good Lord has bigger plans for me!
My morning didn’t go so well. The rest of the morning I didn’t see or hear much until about 7:30am when I heard Caiden shoot! I was so happy and thought sure he had killed a monster! So I took off towards him and I find his Uncle Cody there also wanting to go see why he had killed. We got to him and asked what did he get and he tells us “I don't know but it’s a lot of meat for the freezer!” Oh Jesus not what I wanted to hear!
We went down to where he shot and we find a 112 pound doe! Yep he couldn’t stand it long enough to hold off for a buck, but I’m sure we all remember those days. And in retrospect I’m so glad he took the deer.
We got the deer loaded up and took it up to Reel Determined Outdoors to be weighed in for the competition. They weighed it and put his name on the board and at that time he was in first! We were going back Saturday afternoon to try and get on the board again but it didn’t work out for us! After our afternoon hunt, Caiden's papaw and his uncle took him up to Reel Determined to see if he had won.
They called me at 8 pm and told me that Caiden had won and he got a Carbon Express Covert Crossbow! Wow what a setup! They told him to come back and get it sighted in and instructed on how to use it. Of course on Monday we were on our way right back up there to get it all taken care of so he could shoot it. The guys at Reel Determined Outdoors were so professional and patient with us. They gave us a Crossbow 101 and I am very pleased with everything. If you get a chance you should really stop by and see them. Not only do they have a nice store, but they are willing to help you with any of your hunting and fishing needs.
And we sure do have one happy young crossbow hunter in our house now. Thanks Reel Determined Outdoors!