Charles is a great hunter whom I have come to know through the blog. He is a regular contributor and seems to harvest a mature buck every year despite hunting difficult conditions on public ground. Another handsome looking buck this year Charles. Congrats! – james
In the past 2 hunting seasons I have seen few mature bucks. The difficult winters and a burgeoning coyote population seem to have taken their toll on the older mature animals. The 2 taxidermists I know have had fewer mounts to do and most hunters seem to agree that they’re seeing fewer deer….whatever the reason may be.
The 2015 season arrived with me believing I would have my most successful season ever. I have about 25 trees with steps in them ready to be hunted from 9 properties located in Oxford, Perth, North Dumfries and Waterloo Wellington (all in Southern Ontario). I’m well covered from early through late season for spots I believe to be attractive to mature bucks. Places with optimum early season food ( acorns and early apples), primary scrapes for the pre rut, funnels and areas with a lot of does for the rut, and heavy cover with great browse as I get into the cold late season. However, much like 2014 when I finally arrowed a mature buck on December 31st in the last 20 minutes of the season, my best intentions seemed to fall well short of being productive through October. Most of my early season food sources had the acorns eaten by early October and the heavy apple crop made the trees I selected less than optimum as the deer could locate apples more easily elsewhere than usual. The warm weather moving into November also impacted negatively in limiting day time movement. During the Pre Rut I did see and get pictures of some 5 to 7 point 2 and a half year old deer while on stand but I didn’t arrow any of them knowing that would be it for those areas if I did. My best spots had a lot of other hunters with trail cameras. Their scent, intrusions and the warm weather were making for a lot of nocturnal movement by older deer.
It all changed on November 10th. I went to a spot which was being pounded by another hunter but I was hoping a mature animal from another bush unaware of his intrusions would move through the area looking for does as the spot has a large bedding area in it. I saw about 3 does by 4 p.m. so I was getting more hopeful that I might actually see a mature buck. They moved carefully through heavy cover and through a shooting lane. Seeing and photographing them was enough to make this outing a success. About 15 minutes before dark 2 does moving quickly passed directly under my tree pursued by a very large mature buck. I snorted a number of times to stop the buck but by the time he ended the chase he was about 35 yards away. He was looking back trying to discern where the grunts had come from and moved fully broadside. It was easy to see he was going to take up the chase again as his attention shifted from what he had heard to where the does had exited. Almost all of the deer I have arrowed were about 20 yards away so he was out of my comfort zone but I had to decide immediately on my course of action. I leveled my crossbow quickly knowing it was now or never.
The decision was made in part by the lack of sightings and opportunities, and because of the size of the stag. Arrow released…no resounding thwack or any other indication of a hit. I did not feel good about my chances. When I climbed down after dark I went to the where the buck had stood. There was no blood or any indication of a successful shot. I could see branches above where the deer had been in the clearing which had not been visible in the dim light when the shot was taken. It was more than possible the arrow had hit one of them and missed the animal or worse wounded him. Finding no arrow and feeling sick knowing that at best I had completely missed the buck, I decided to go to my vehicle for a better flashlight. A number of older pine trees and branches were lying prone in the bush and due to moisture and rotting were partially covered with a coat of white lichens and fungus. About 50 feet from where I exited the clearing and went into the bush there was an unusually large patch of white. Getting closer I was shocked to see that it was the underside of the buck. I couldn’t hardly believe it…the buck was down and dead. Upon inspection it was easy to determine why I hadn’t heard the typical “thwack” which indicates to me a good lethal chest shot. The arrow had entered the ham of the animal’s rump and passed through his other leg just down from the ham severing the femoral artery on route…causing a very quick bleed out and death. A rash and poor decision had ultimately yielded the “desired result”. I’ll always contend that I would rather be good than lucky but I haven’t the words to express how glad I was there was not a crippled or wounded animal trying to survive in the forest.
He was a magnificent animal with an inside spread of over 21 inches. Both main beams stretch up 22 inches but 2 decent points were broken off so he has only 7 scoreable points. All said he has a very impressive rack. Later in the season I arrowed another buck with a less impressive rack but the shot (25 yards) was dead on and helped me feel better about the awful shot that had resulted in my trophy. Like I said better good than lucky. Moving forward, I have some trepidation about being presented with a similar situation. It would be easy to repeat the same errors in judgement. All the effort and all the work can come down to seconds in any bow hunter’s season. But, given the same situation I am determined to be sure of a clear route for the arrow and not force the shot. So often it’s not the success or failure that really counts but the way the result is achieved……