Between me starting my business and guiding in the fall and him starting his nursing job, it was hard to get together to go on a hunt together. After I stopped guiding, we both were starting to have kids. Shortly after he went back to school, giving us less time to try to plan a hunt together, though we talked about it often. Finally, this year I didn’t have any out of state hunts planned and he, being done with school, had more time too.
We had originally planned to hunt mule deer in South Dakota. However, when that time arrived, inclement weather was rolling in with high winds and rain. The whitetail rut was starting to ramp up around home, so we decided to not make this trip. We both agreed that we would head to the Black Hills in November to hunt. Brady had a rifle tag and I my West River archery tag.
As we headed west on Black Friday, anticipation was high, yet we were just happy to be finally heading west on a hunt together. We would stay in Brady’s uncle John’s cabin, and hunt from there. The plan was to do a run a gun style hunt. Walk ridges and benches, when we saw sign or a deer, we would sit down, rattle and grunt for anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on responses.
As we arrived Friday afternoon, we went a picked out a spot, as we had about an hour and a half of daylight left. We found plenty of good sign. Rubs, scrapes, tracks and scat was not hard to come by. Our first three sits did not yield any responses. However, on the 4th, I had barely stopped rattling when I could see a deer running through the timber. Brady got his gun up as the deer stopped about 30 yards away. It was a spike coming in to check out the commotion.
I jokingly told Brady to shoot it. He responded with “You think so?” As I looked at him, he had the scope on the deer and had flipped the safety off. He decided not to shoot, but was thinking hey we are very limited on time maybe I should consider it. Luckily, he didn’t for it paid off for him the next morning. We went and made one more stand and then headed back to the truck and to the cabin for the evening.
The heater was not working properly in the cabin, so we spent some time working on that. What was done nobody really knows, but after Brady did some tapping on this and that with a screw driver, the heater kicked on and worked the rest of the weekend. The rest of the evening was spent eating good food, and sitting around visiting and telling hunting stories of the past. Just like hunting camp should be.
The following morning, Brady had a plan to check out some new area he hasn’t hunted in the past. As we started our trek in, it was hard to miss all the elk and deer sign. The road had tracks and scat all over it. We made our way to a nice vantage point, where we would sit as shooting light came and the sun would rise. We rattled and grunted with no luck. As the sun hit the horizon, we decided to keep moving to the next spot.
We got into an area with rubs and scrapes all around. We decided to give this spot a try. The first round of calling yielded nothing, but the area looked too good not to try again. The second round of calling a doe and a fawn made their way through about 75 yards away. We waited about 5 minutes hoping a buck would be on their trail. Again, we did another calling sequence on rattling and grunting. This time with much more exciting results.
Shortly after the antlers were laid down, I looked off in the distance and could see antlers cresting the hill. At first, I thought it was a mule deer with the dark, tall antlers in the shadows. As the buck crested the hill, I could tell it was a whitetail and told Brady to get ready. The buck was around 75 yards out, and I had a clear shot for a rifle, but from Brady’s point of view, he could not see the buck. The buck stood there looking around for who was doing to fighting. He knew where the sounds had come from, now he was looking for who had made the commotion.
Immediately, we both saw the impact and blood coming out. As the deer ran off, you could see the blood spray out. We celebrated with some loud yipping and hollering, high fives and a hug! I had done a lot of this style of hunting as a guide, but this was the most exciting calling sequence I had ever experienced. We gathered our stuff and began to take up the blood trail knowing he had to be down.
It quickly became evident that the shot was as we expected. There was no searching for blood, we could just walk the path. As we found the deer, it was everything I expected it to be, and he was larger than Brady had anticipated. We admired the buck, took photos, gutted and tagged him. We discussed what our next move was from there. Do we take him back to the truck or leave him there? We decided to prop him open in the shade so he could continue to cool, while we continued the morning hunt, for it was only 8:30AM.
We moved about 200 yards down the ridge to the North. Set up and made a few rattling sequences with some grunting. These yielded no results, so after fifteen minutes, we gathered our gear and took a look at the map. We looked for a good area with thick cover nearby. We found our spot and headed towards it, just another 200 yards down the ridge.
As we arrived to the spot, we found the perfect place to tuck in to try and get a shot with the bow. A group of 4-6ft pines with an opening in the center and small clearings all around for shooting lanes. We got settled in and the bow ready. I ranged a few spots to know some ranges before we started calling. Brady started out with a few grunts followed by a snort wheeze.
As he began rattling, I immediately saw antlers cresting the hill through the pines to the Northwest. I told Brady to get ready one was coming! I clipped on my release as the buck jumped the fence. He immediately bristled up and laid his ears back ready for a fight. He was walking right towards my first opening at 18 yards. I drew back as he approached, grunted to try to stop him, but he stopped one step outside of the small shooting lane.
The buck looked through the pines in our direction, but they were thick enough that he could not pick anything out. Brady actually still had not seen the buck to this point. Now his aggressive behavior was down and now he was more curious and on alert. I stayed drawn back waiting for him to continue walking. As he began again, I could no longer see him but Brady was now able to see him, as he coached me to stay drawn back. I do not know how long it had been but I finally had to let down for a bit.
I was certain the arrow connected on his hind quarter. As he ran away, I could see I only had 6 inches of penetration and it looked to me as if his left rear leg was broken. He ran around 100 yards, slowed to a walk and went into a small patch of thick, young pines. We observed the area of about 20 minutes while we devised a plan on what to do.
Deciding to head back and take care of Brady’s deer, we looked for blood and the arrow on the way out, while keeping an eye on that patch of pines. We found neither, so we headed out. Brady went to the truck and I to his deer to drag down to the road, so I could keep an eye out for the buck I had shot.
After we got Brady’s buck back to camp, skinned out and hung up, we grabbed some lunch and headed back out to look for my deer. We had the patch of trees marked on OnX, so we hunted our way in, just as if hunting a bedded buck. The wind was in our favor and we tip toed in. As we arrived to where we could see the small stand of trees, we would take 3 steps and scan with our binoculars. We were within 30 yards, when Brady signaled me over to him.
He thought maybe he could see some hair. I looked and thought yeah it could be, but we were not confident. We took three more steps and glassed again. It was then we could see the white hair of the belly too! We knew it was him but weren’t quite sure he was expired. A few more steps showed his head lying flat on the ground and the was no sign of breathing!
Upon recovering the buck, we admired him while knowing we just had one of the best mornings of hunting, either of us had ever had! We could not have been more excited! Two bucks, rattled in from the ground and both within an hour of each other! This is certainly a hunt that neither of us will forget anytime soon!