Whitetails In The ‘Real World’: Part 4

Part 4 of 6

Sunup of the morning after my wife Peg shot at that monster buck found us trailing a clearly non-fatally wounded animal. 

After exiting the area of the shot, the buck had jumped a fence, then slowly made his way directly back down the trail that he’d probably followed to get to Peg’s location originally. Crossing the creek, the buck had climbed a steep trail up the opposite creek bank, then began to simply walk casually back into a thick area of sanctuary. An occasional drop of blood defined the retreat, though it was clear to me that we were following an animal that was certainly not suffering from a life threatening injury. Sadly, I had to inform my bowhunting partner that she’d probably missed out on another golden opportunity — it broke my heart to see her disappointment.  

Long hours on stand often equate in boredom and frustration. However, the diligent bowhunter will stay on stand a long time when the rut hits.

Eventually faced with nothing more than a random search on our hands, both Peg and I knew that we were involved in a hopeless pursuit — nevertheless, we forged forward, giving due diligence. By noon, a large area had been grid searched, leading to no other clues as to the buck’s whereabouts.

As we sat under the shade of a big oak tree, we both knew that it was time to call it quits. Though I wanted so much to retrieve this animal for my girl, there were some things that were out of my control — this was one of them. At the end of the day, bowhunting could be boiled down to a game of decisions, actions and consequences — it was a brutal learning curve that everyone went through; one that never ended.

Heading back to camp, faces were long amongst the Claypool clan. I had desperately wanted Peg to harvest an exceptional buck one day, and one such rare opportunity had finally came and gone — and on public land, to top it off! Not wanting to add salt to an open wound, I kept my mouth shut, which was really hard for me to do. After all, I’d been fantasizing about what this big buck would look like, and now, after the fact, Peg couldn’t tell me a single fact about the buck’s antlers except for the fact that they were huge — funny how the effects of “buck fever” can permanently scramble a person’s brain.

Oh well, it wasn’t like I couldn’t say that I hadn’t blown it plenty of times in the past. As a matter of fact, I clearly remembered an incident where buck fever had cost me a slam-dunk opportunity on a certain B&C-class buck. Ooh, the pain! 

Back at our camping trailer, Peg and I tried our best to get in better spirits. We both knew that there would be more big-buck encounters in the future. Sometimes they would go our way, and most of the time, they wouldn’t — after all, this wasn’t the Outdoor Channel that we were living! Serving ourselves up some lunch in our humble camping trailer, we prepared to move forward with our hunt — there was no use in crying over spilled milk forever.

As Peg prepared to head back to her hunting spot for an evening outing, I found myself itching for some big-buck action of my own. Grabbing my gear, I decided to try one of my best treestand locations for an evening hunt. After all, Peg had just proven that the big guys were starting to move about looking for females. Maybe I could blunder into something myself?

Often, trolling bucks will be spotted at a distance during the rut — be prepared to call your buck close for a killing shot.

Climbing into my treestand in the early-evening, I settled in for what I expected to be a rather boring vigil — as uneventful hours passed, nothing was happening to prove my assumption wrong.

As the sun neared the western horizon, far off on the prairie, a deer caught my attention. Raising my Brunton binoculars, I soon realized that I was looking at a mature buck. Clearly on the prowl, the buck looked like a prime candidate for some calling action — grabbing my rattling antlers, I let out a sound. Snapping to attention, the buck quickly stepped into high gear, headed directly for my location!

Please read more in Part 5.

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Eddie Claypool provides tips on bowhunting, with an emphasis on whitetails. Claypool has harvested 63 Pope & Young-class recordbook animals including 35 whitetails (Coues included), 16 elk and eight mule deer. All the animals were taken on do-it-yourself hunts.

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