Lessons Learned: Public Land Bucks

I would like to thank Steve for sharing this great story with us. As with many of our hunters who share their stories through the site, we met via social media and look forward to following him through future seasons. This is a great story about how we are always learning every time we set foot in the field. Thanks again for sharing and I hope everyone is experiencing a great 2014 season.

– James

As hunters, we try to be prepared for any situation that may arise in the woods. We can try as hard as we want but there are always lessons to be learned from the time we spend in the woods. My 2014 archery season has been full of lessons thus far.

Hunting public land can be difficult and frustrating to say the least. I have been hunting public land in North Central Wisconsin for the last nine years. I continue to scout new areas but also remember the areas that have been successful in the past. This year I came across a cluster of white oak trees with great trails crossing through. I set up my trail camera to see what might be in the area. I was able to get videos on my trail camera of two different 8-point bucks in velvet. I knew I had to hunt this spot.

Scouting can pay off! Nice 8pt on the trail camera
Scouting can pay off! Nice 8pt on the trail camera

Opening day rolled around and I was only able to hunt the evening. About an hour before dark I heard a twig snap to my right. I stood, clipped on my release and looked for the deer. With the tree’s full of leaves, I didn’t see the deer until it was 25 yards away and coming straight at me. It was one of the 8-pointers that I had pictured in velvet. He stopped right below my tree. I thought I could get pulled back and get a shot off. I was wrong. The buck heard something as I came to full draw and looked up at me. He took off without me being able to release an arrow. Lesson here, I should have waited until a better opportunity to draw my bow presented itself.

After a few more unsuccessful weekend hunts, I had a Friday off of work and was set to hunt both the morning and evening. The kids had other plans! My son woke early and needed to be rocked back to sleep, leaving his room my daughter woke up and wanted to crawl into our bed. I was set to get her tucked in and leave when she says she wants me to stay and cuddle. How can you say no to a cute little 3-year old? After a “Daddy” morning with the kids, I headed out for an afternoon hunt. Thinking to myself on the way of how thankful I am for every minute I get to spend in the woods.

I arrived in my hunting area, dressed and set out to the stand site that I had the encounter with the 8-pointer on opening day. I had just replaced the batteries in my trail camera and decided to make a mock scrape near my stand to set the camera up on. I hung the camera and went up the tree with my climber. About forty-five minutes before dark I heard something coming through the brush. I caught movement and watched the 8-pointer I saw on opening day work towards me. I clipped my release and came to full draw. Watching as the buck came right into the mock scrape that I had just made. He stopped, quartering towards me a little. He looked up towards me as I settled the pin behind his front shoulder. I released, heard the arrow hit him and he took off. I waited in my stand a little while before looking for blood.

I followed the blood for a little ways until I came to spot where the blood stopped and I couldn’t tell which way he went. It was dark and concerned with the angle of the shot I decided to pull out and come back in the morning. I had the camera on video mode and knew that I possibly had the arrow impact on video. I got home, put the memory card into my computer, and sure enough I caught the arrow impact on my trail camera video. After reviewing the footage over and over, the angle of the shot was not ideal and I was happy with my decision to pull out and go back in the morning. I was thankful my mother-in-law was able to come over in the morning and I set out to look for the buck.

I went to the last blood I found the night before and still could not tell which direction the deer went. My heart began to sink. I started making bigger circles around the area looking for blood or a deer. I was sure from my video that the hit was going to be fatal. I pushed myself to keep searching. I went through some thick brush along the side of a clearing. I heard something moving in the brush to my right. I made my way around the brush and saw the buck unable to get up and I was able to finish him off. Definitely learned to wait for a better shot opportunity, I was so thankful to find this deer.

Great public land whitetail!
Great public land whitetail!

I have learned many lessons this year while hunting, as I have in the past and as I will on future hunts. These lessons are some of the things I like to think about as I am sitting in the woods so that I can be as prepared as I can be when the next opportunity arrises.

Always remember those things we are most thankful for.
Always remember those things we are most thankful for.


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  1. Well done, I’m glad you found him, and didn’t push him the night before. Next year you can go back for that other 8 pt.

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