In part two, I will talk about some of the things I learned my first season hunting on the 80-acre farm in Wisconsin, in which I received permission to hunt.
One of the things I did wrong was I hunted it too often. The reality is that no matter how careful you are going to and from your stand, when you only have 80 acres to work with, there is a good chance that some deer are going to see or hear you coming or going each trip you make. Then add in the times that you get picked off on stand by deer and pretty soon every deer on the property has your number.
During my second season on the 80-acre farm I hunted the farm exactly half as many days as I did the first season. But guess what? I saw nearly twice as many deer. There are two big reasons for this dramatic increase in sightings. One reason was since I was not spooking deer as often and tipping my hand to them with all of my comings and goings as I had done the previous year, the deer were more inclined to move naturally. The second reason was I was real fussy about when I hunted.
The first year, I hunted the farm whenever I had a chance. The second year, I only hunted the farm when conditions were in my favor. To be more specific, I concentrated my efforts during these three key periods. Actually I would have hunted the farm the first day or two of the archery season, but I was off chasing elk in the Gila’s of New Mexico. When I got back from that trip in early October, it was tempting to dash right over and hunt the farm, but I resisted the urge.
Activity Picks Up In Mid-October
Early October is a tough time to find a good buck. The late summer/early autumn pattern, which is pretty dependable, is over and bucks tend to spend most of the night pigging out and the days just lying around being lazy.
But over the years, I’ve noticed, as have other students of buck behavior, that there is a three-day to four-day burst of activity towards the end of the second week in October, specifically October 11-14 here in the upper Midwest. Mature bucks will do a lot of rubbing and scraping during this brief stretch.
Although I have never seen any scientific data to back it up, I believe, as do many others, that some of the oldest does come into estrous during this brief period. Maybe it’s nature’s way of ensuring that the best mother’s get bred, but that’s just a hunch. All I know is that there will be a flurry of buck activity on these dates. I hunted three of the four days on the little farm during that period and saw 11 bucks.
After that short stint I held off until early November. Actually, I would have hunted the farm some during the last week of October when the bucks were scraping good, but I was busy trying to find a good one out in Montana. When I got home I hunted the farm every day between November 6-11 and saw bucks each day. My best day was November 7 when I had five bucks into my decoy; the fifth buck was the largest buck at which I have ever flung an arrow, and the same buck that I had seen three times the previous season.
A Shot At A Giant Buck
Unfortunately, as the giant buck was coming into my decoy a little buck ran a doe out of the timber right below my stand and out into the field where my decoy and the big buck both stood. The big buck decided that spending a little time with the obviously hot doe was more important than whipping my buck decoy and walked off to take care of the business for which he had been created. Instead of a 12-yard gimme, I now had what I judged to be a 40-yard shot. Actually it was closer to 45 yards and my arrow sliced harmlessly under the big bucks chest.
My last hunts on the farm were during the week of Christmas, when we had a brief dose of a good old-fashioned winter. There was enough snow and cold temperatures to make the alfalfa fields attractive and I spent several days hunting near the fields. I saw a lot of deer and a number of bucks, but not the buck I was looking for. But as I trudged back to my truck on that last evening, I realized that the little farm, the same little piece of ground, which I had nearly given up on only a year earlier had become one of my favorite places in all the world to hunt whitetail deer.
As a side note, I must add, that as I was working on this article, my friend Tom called to inform me that a neighboring farmer had found the sheds from the big buck I missed last November. It’s good to know that a re-match might be on my card when I return to hunt that little 80-acre farm.
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Gary Clancy has been writing about whitetail hunting for many years and is the author or co-author of six hunting books — four on whitetail hunting.