I arrived to the ranch around 1:30 the afternoon of the 20th. My plan was to go tuck my ground blind into the corner of an alfalfa field, where both Chris and Nick had seen deer crossing to enter the field. We knew we had a few shooter bucks in the area, but one exceptionally good Whitetail buck. As I drove the road above the river bottoms two things stood out. First, was that the amazing fall colors were simply amazing, I could not wait to get to hunt and observe God’s creation, with such a beautiful backdrop. Second, was that there were already about 30 deer in the field I had planned to go set up in.
I decided to just walk in and set up as I had planned, even though I would push the deer off the field. I didn’t think it would bother them too much this early in the afternoon, and they would likely come back. As I walked to them, the deer did move off, but they were not overly alarmed. I got the blind set up in the corner, positioning myself where I could shoot to both fence crossings that led to the alfalfa fields.
About 45 minutes after being set up, a few does and small buck started making their way back into the field. As the shadows crept in, more and more deer came through, however, instead of coming through my corner, they went past the banks blind set up about 150 yards away. That was the story of the entire night, aside from one doe and one nice young buck that worked past the blind. Although the deer did not come through, the turkeys provided good entertainment for the last few hours of the day. As the day came to a close, I started game planning for the next morning. My plan was to go hunt a Banks Stump 4 positioned near a fence crossing that led to a river crossing.
I was sure to get into the blind an hour before legal shooting light, to give adequate time to allow the area to settle down and hopefully not disturb any deer. As the sun began to rise, it was evident that I was about to have a really exciting sit. I could see deer scattered throughout the entire field, and the first ones were heading towards my direction. As the does started past me, they funneled on the other side of the river and instead of using the crossing past the blind, they used another crossing down the river.
Unfortunately, that was the path all 42 deer I saw leave the field also took. This was not all bad though. I saw two solid bucks I would be happy to harvest, especially with my bow. As I observed, I knew I had to go check out that crossing and look for a tree stand location on the other side of the river after the morning hunt. About an hour after the deer cleared the field, I noticed a small group of does and fawns working through the bedding area. I figured what the heck, I have a doe tag that needs to be filled, let’s go get it done!
I climbed down out of the blind and used the massive cottonwoods and tall grass to my advantage as I began to make a stalk. I slowly eased closer and closer finally reaching the first big cottonwood. I looked around and found the group, still about 70 yards away. I began to plan my next moves, when an itchy throat came on and a cough was inevitable. After I coughed, I looked around the tree again, and all of a sudden there was a doe standing there at 40 yards looking my direction. To my surprise, she began walk towards me.
I nocked an arrow and clipped on my release, observing and planning where my shot would be. I quickly ranged a gap where I thought she would go, 30 yards. As she went behind the tree, I drew the bow back in anticipation of the shot. As she cleared the tree she turned and faced me head on, motionless. She eventually turned and started walking giving me a quartering to shot. I focused on where I wanted that arrow to hit, with my pin floating over it as I followed her step by step, when the bow finally went off! A perfect surprise release just as I practiced all summer! The red nock disappeared right on the mark and she turned to run. She disappeared behind a massive cottonwood and I never saw her again.
I figured she had to of fallen over not far away. I went to the site of the shot to try to find my arrow, which I never did. Quickly finding blood, I followed it right to her about 20 yards away, a perfect double lung shot. I thanked God for the opportunity and for the quick clean kill I was able to provide, followed by a few pictures and dragging her to the fence so I could quarter her out and carry her back to the truck to get on ice. Once in the cooler, I scouted that river crossing and looked for trees to hang a stand in before I headed to town.
I got into the blind about 2:30 that afternoon, and I immediately started seeing does on their feet. The entire afternoon I saw deer filtering through the bedding area before they eventually started making their way back to the fields. With about an hour of daylight left, I saw a good buck step out of the bedding making his way towards the blind. He slowly fed through the river bottom, but as the does moved through it looked as if they were going to cross a little too far from the blind. This is what they did, they crossed about 80 yards away. Again, that evening I saw around 40 deer, but only that one buck was a shooter.
As Bucky and I met up to compare notes, I could immediately tell that he was pretty pumped up so I could not wait to hear what he had seen! I could hear and see his excitement, partly due to the number of deer he had seen, but also a few really good quality bucks. In the field near the blind I was hunting, he saw a giant buck! He saw a few others throughout the property as well, but this one was close to the blind, he just somehow got to the field without me seeing him. We decided we would hunt the same blind in the morning, even with a wind that was not from the ideal direction. We just figured we would keep the blind windows closed to contain our scent.
Anticipation was high on our way to the blind that morning! Bucky is sitting with me to observe the hunt and help in any way that he could. Again, we snuck into that blind to be in early to not disturb any deer and to let it settle down. However, as we got to the blind, I realized I was missing a vital piece of my gear. I had left my bino harness in my truck which had my binoculars, rangefinder, knives, scent checker and tags!
As I got back to the blind, I was not cutting it close to shooting light. It was not 10 minutes and our surroundings started lighting up and I could already see deer coming. I few does started working off the fields, coming past us. All I could think was, all right here we go this is where the entire herd is coming through back to bed this morning. I know more than thought that and I was scanning the field edge with my binoculars, when boom! My heart jumped out of my chest! There he was the biggest buck on the ranch, to our knowledge, 120 yards away and coming our direction right behind the does!
That time of waiting was intense! We had does underneath the blind, the biggest buck of my life was standing there motionless, when suddenly, he flicked his tail. Alright I thought, he’s relaxed and is on his way. At that he turned and walked straight away back to the field edge, and the air went right out of the both of us. “It is over” I said. He’s gone and going back out to take another route to the bed. All I could think was, rifle season is about 3 weeks away and I will be back in this blind to hunt only that buck!
We sat there and discussed the deer and glassed for more deer coming off the fields. We couldn’t believe he had just walked out of our lives. When suddenly, after about 15 minutes, Bucky says “There he is!” My heart immediately began racing! I looked out and saw that wide tall frame walking down to the river crossing, following three does. As they got to the river I told Bucky, “This is the moment of truth. If those does turn right, they’re coming to us. Turn left and the hunt is over and they’ll head to the down river crossing.”
The lead doe turned right…. Working her way down the river to the tractor crossing that led to the gate, the others followed! I vividly remember that buck appearing from around the corner walking the riverbank towards the blind. That Giant Frame appeared from around the corner and it was go time! I got my release on the bow and ranged the does in the lead. I hit 3 spots with the range finder and put it away. Bucky could not see great out his side, but I had a perfect view of everything. I remember telling him, “Don’t move just don’t move this is going to happen!”
Those does worked up the river bank at about 40 yards. The buck again stopped behind tree limbs, being cautious, as mature bucks are, calculating every move. As he started to walk, I drew back, found my 40-yard pin and floated in in the crease of his shoulder. I grunted a bit to stop him, but my body took control and the perfect surprise shot went off again and I watched that green nock arch through the air and disappear right in the crease of the shoulder! As the buck bolted, I lost it! “I smoked him! I smoked him Bucky! He’s going down!” After that bow went off Bucky jumped out of his seat to look out the window at what had happened. We watched him run about 40 yards and tip over!
It is always a great feeling harvesting an animal knowing you will remember the story for your whole life and get to consume the meat for the rest of the year. This one though was a little more special given it was the biggest deer I had every taken and I got to do it with a good friend at my side, who I don’t get to see often. To top that off, it was on my favorite property to hunt, on the first year that we decided to lease it so there was no more outfitter on the property.
The bright yellow fall colors, made for a great setting and awesome photos! We got the buck back to the truck and hung him up at the ranch, so I could skin, cape for mounting and get the meat cooled and into the coolers. We then headed to town for more ice and to grab some lunch before heading back out to the ranch. That evening was just about fun. We were going to sit in the other Banks blind to just scout and take photos of wildlife. To our surprise, we saw 30 head of elk that evening as well!
That was the end of the hunt and we spent the evening reliving the day’s events at Bucky’s house. Hunting is not all about killing, though killing is part of hunting. Seeing all of God’s creation is one of the most rewarding aspects. You never know what you will witness. Spending that time with a good friend is even better. Little did I know, a few short weeks later, I would again be sharing a great hunt with another great friend during the rifle season.
Remember to hunt hard, hunt safe, and enjoy the journey!