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Dan's 2012 Alberta Journal
Topic Started: Sep 4 2012, 11:43 AM (2,522 Views)
Posted Image Cervus_stalker


August 30-31st, 2012:

Well the hunting season has finally arrived here in Alberta, and it wasn't a minute too soon. After doing two days of scouting on Thursday and Friday, I discovered a bachelor group of 6 bucks. My sightings on these bucks were either from a huge distance (2km or so) or short lived. With a sighting at about 70 yards on running deer, I was able to roughly judge their size on Friday morning. My Steiner NighHunter binos revealed 3 bucks in the 3 year age category. These three sported decent 4x4 racks (in proper Western fashion, we're not counting brows) with moderate length on their splits. One of them carried solid length on the main beam. Unfortunately, I didn't get a frontal or rear view of them, so width was left up to my imagination. This year, I'd be setting a lower limit of 160" gross during my mule deer hunts. The one buck seemed like he might make this threshold, but with the width being a mystery I wasn't confident in it.

September 1st, 2012:

I hit the field early Saturday morning (4:30AM). With a full moon and a southerly wind, I stalked towards an isolated alfalfa field with the hopes of spotting some bucks and intercepting a shooter. I bumped 4 flat-head mule deer on the hike in, but with plenty of hiking left to go I was confident that it wouldn't disrupt things too much. After making it to within 100 yards of the field, I settled in on the edge of a canola field to begin spotting. Unfortunately things clouded over, so I had to wait almost until legal shoot light to be able to see anything. After an hour of glassing I hadn't seen a deer so I decided to stalk the edge of the field using a shallow coulee as my cover. After making it halfway along the edge, I noticed a truck parked on the road to the south of me. I'd seen these hunters there the day before and knew they were doing some preseason scouting. Now, with the hunting season under way, I was bothered by the thought that they may be planning a stalk on the property I have permission on. With access 8,000 acres of land and exclusive bowhunting privileges, I was not going to let a group of hunters spoil my spot. I packed up quickly and jogged back to my truck. On the jog back I managed to spot the bachelor group of 6 bucks bedding in the middle of a swathed canola field. My plan was to approach the hunters and then return for a stalk. In hopped in the car and off I went.

Fortunately, the hunters were still parked where I had seen them. After a brief chat, I was informed that they did have permission across the road. I mentioned the bucks I was hunting and asked if they were after the same ones. As it turned out, these bucks were not overly interesting for them. They'd been following a 200" monster for the past week, and they now had him bedded in the field across from me. I left them my number and mentioned that I'd be interested to see him if they successfully stalked him. I hauled a*s to get back to 'my' bucks.

I stopped and put the glass on them. To my disappointment none of them were out past their ears. They were now on my don't shoot list. Reluctantly, I left the excitement of watching bucks to do some further glassing at the alfalfa field. After spotting for a half hour, I managed to put glass on a young buck bedded in the coulee I had stalked earlier. Knowing that he'd probably have companions, I began a slow stalk in his direction. The stalk took me straight through the open alfalfa, but given the gentle hills, I was able to stay concealed. Once I arrived in the general area the buck had been bedded in, I noticed that he was no longer there. A little more forward motion and glassing put me in a position to spot him. He'd moved into the edge of the canola field. All I could see were his antlers and a weak but symmetrical 4x4 rack. At 50 yards I couldn't see any other bucks, so I backed out quietly hoping not to disturb him. No crashing followed, so I assume it all went well.

After arriving back at my vehicle my cell phone rang. The hunters I had met previously were calling, and they asked if I was up for seeing a 'big boy'. After hurrying back to the truck, I was able to get back to them just as they finishing hauling the deer out. There they stood with an incredible mule deer buck. With a 4x5 main frame, multiple long stickers and a heavy right-side brow tine, he was a real sight to behold. My heart obviously sank, as I knew that this could have been a buck for me to hunt. In the end, they did their homework though, and they were rewarded for it. After chatting a bit longer, I wash informed that they were both guides at Lazy-H Outfitters. Cam (the co-owner of the outfit) asked if I could help them with some field photos. I did, and thanked them for giving me a call.

Feeling a little blue, I decided not to hunt the evening. Instead, I'd be waiting until Monday for another chance at good deer.

/* For those interested, here is the web-page of the outfitter: http://www.lazyhoutfitters.com/booking-information.asp
They seem to really know their stuff, and they have access to lots of the Calgary bow-zone for mule deer hunting. As with any outfitter, it's pricey, but it could be worth the trip and $ */









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And here is the photo I took of the buck. I cropped them out since I don't feel comfortable adding pictures of others without permission.

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Great first entry! TFS and keep us posted on your season :cheers:
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September 3rd, 2012:

The morning hunt..

Up and out the door early, I hit the road to get out of Calgary. An hour later and I was 'setup' for first light in my car. This time I was overlooking another alfalfa field situated above a major river. The Friday before I had seen 22 mule deer does and fawns feed there at last light, so my hopes were high that I'd see some good bucks there as well. I was wrong. By 6:15 I had not seen a single deer in the field. Even worse, I did the 2 mile drive down the farm lane and didn't see any other deer out there either. My guess is that they headed to the river valley early to have first dibs on a shady spot to sleep for the day. All of the canola has been swathed in that area, and the spring wheat isn't offering much concealment. By 7:00 I was heading over to where the buck was shot two days prior. On the way 34 elk crossed in front of me. 8 bulls, and the balance in cows and calves. The herd bull (a big 6x5 with an awesome drop tine) had his 'horns' full with a pile of over-eager 4x4s. All will be awesome elk next fall. Too bad there is no elk season there!!
Soon after that sighting, I was parked overlooking the hundreds of acres of canola on the other section of land. Across the road where the big buck was shot on Saturday I watched two 3-year-olds and a yearling mulie saunter through a wheat field like they owned the place. Nothing shootable, but the biggest of the three was in the 150s - a mainframe symmetrical 4x4 with stickers at the base of his forks and sweeping tines. Just about past his ears, but not yet. This guy has massive potential, and I hope to see him get through to next fall and maybe even find his sheds. Some more flat-heads out in the canola, and two members of the group of 6 bachelor group were out feeding alongside two 5x5 bulls. I decided to hike in to a high spot in the canola to see where they went to bed.

After hiking in to my vantage point, I could see a large bodied buck. Turned out to be one of the 4x4s with poorly developed mainbeams that was out in the alfalfa earlier. At first I was very excited as I could see what seemed to be two massive drop tines. On closer inspection I could see his velvet was hanging and revealing his beautiful blood covered antlers. You might wonder: How do deer rub velvet in the prairies?? Well, lodged canola works pretty damn well! I watched him for over an hour as he vigorously rubbed and ate his fresh peels. In the meantime, the remainder of his troop arrived to bed in the 2 acre slough in the middle of the canola. I would later discover one bull elk bedded in the slough to the left, another in the canola to the right, and three whitetail bucks in the slough on the far end of the mulie bedding area. I remember thinking: Damn I love the prairies!

The rest of the day was spent glassing more of the canola. The three bucks from the morning crossed out of the wheat and into the canola and picked a bedding area on a knoll above a grassy slough.

That day I discovered a valuable behaviour of deer in standing canola. It is never too hot or too late in the morning to spot bedded bucks. All deer need a stretch now and again, and wandering deer provoke the attention of other deer. A passer through (usually a doe) makes an awful lot of noise in the standing crop. It seems that most deer within earshot (that morning with the still air it must have been over 100 meters) were off their bed and looking around for the source of the noise. It seems that a wandering non-trophy deer can be a hunters best friend for finding a bedded buck. I'll be doing a lot more midday spotting from now on.

I finished off the midday with a stalk into a mulie bedding area. The shallow but steep coulee offered a good entry point. The hour-and-half still hunt eventually brought me to where the bucks like to bed. To my dismay I stalked in to discover a big 5x5 bull had claimed a bed there. At 80 yards and downwind of him, I felt proud to have come so close and remained undetected. Had there been a season in place, a quick skirt around the top of the coulee would have given me a 15 yard shot... I hope a season will come to this area in a few years!

The afternoon..
A lot of glassing followed that day and no shooters were spotted. By 5PM I was off to another friend's place to try for a buck there. This is the same place that I shot both my rutting mulies in 2010 and 2011 so I was expecting some movement. Summer scouting revealed two B&C bucks just across the river from there. I have permission for that piece as well, but my friend's place offers a good vantage point to view the steep river valley where one of the bucks seems to like to bed. After glassing the other side, I decided to stalk into a coulee to sit for the evening. Big mistake.. mosquitoes were unbearable. I left in a hurry. As an alternative I hiked the top of a big bowl to look for game. Swirling and inconsistent winds had be constantly second guessing my approaches. In the end, my only good vantage point had the wind blowing from me into the bowl. I made my best effort to keep the wind blowing beside a known bedding area (source of my 2011 buck). I walked and then bum scootched into position. Moments later I heard movement and then caught velvet cover antlers in front of me... at 20 yards! Up stood a respectable 3 year old whitetail. With no cover around me I sat as still as I could. The buck did some stretches and then wandered out of sight. A few minutes later his 2-year-old 6 pointer buddy did the same.
In the valley below I watched a 2x2 mulie and the flat-heads pile out of the silver willow thickets. I was excited for a big buck to show. A short while later I heard snorting above and behind me (upwind). If you are going to get busted, you can always count on a whitetail doe. She had crossed my path of entry. Scent control is no option when still-hunting the heat of September, so this wasn't a surprise. Fortunately the other deer paid little attention to her. Just as movement was picking up again, two fourwheelers pulled up to the top of the bowl. My evening hunt was disrupted after I had a chat with the folks. I packed things up and finished with some more glassing of the B&C bucks bedding area. One doe and her two fawns came out, but the big boy didn't show... Maybe next time.
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brokenarrow
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Love the play by play Dan. I feel like I'm right there beside you. On our trip out west, we passed thru the Turner Valley/Okitoks area and we saw the same amazing types of habitat. I'm jealous. i hope to hunt there 1 day. Keep us up to date. By the way we saw a couple huge Muley Bucks just east of Three Point Creek south of Millarville. You never know, they might be still there. LOL
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brokenarrow
Sep 4 2012, 07:10 PM
Love the play by play Dan. I feel like I'm right there beside you. On our trip out west, we passed thru the Turner Valley/Okitoks area and we saw the same amazing types of habitat. I'm jealous. i hope to hunt there 1 day. Keep us up to date. By the way we saw a couple huge Muley Bucks just east of Three Point Creek south of Millarville. You never know, they might be still there. LOL

Thanks broken arrow. I'm actually hunting grazing land on the upper stretches of Threepoint Creek. Mostly whitetails and elk there, but I won't complain if a trophy mule deer comes by! Fingers crossed because I am in on a private draw system to hunt elk out by Millerville this fall. Results should be in soon!
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September 4th, 2012:

8:00AM to 4:30PM - spent the day running statistics wishing I was deer hunting instead...

5:45 - Headed out to one of my whitetail spots in the Calgary bowzone to get my buddy on his first archery deer. The spot doesn't seem like anything special: it's a mix of pastureland, alfalfa, and crop fields (canola this year). The adjacent properties are something special though. Over 300 acres of no hunting land. All forested, and full of whitetails. Iíve pulled a number of good sheds out of the area, including one from a 170 class deer (one that I thankfully beat whitetailweasel to!).

I made sure to tell my buddy to pack his waders. We'd be doing our sit in a tall grass swale. Well, it was supposed to be tall grass... When we got there I found out that the recent hail we got flattened nearly all of it out. No big deal. We werenít there to target mature bucks, just any ordinary deer (except does with fawns). I'm usually a huge advocate of passing on yearling bucks, but I won't tell a new archery hunter that he has to pass on his first opportunity at an archery buck. The ghost blind I set up was enough to conceal us and not drive the average whitetail off before a shot. We settled into the swale with a perfect Southerly wind pushing our scent away from the small strip of poplars that jut up against the fenceline.

After settling, we had the misfortune of whisper-chatting about archery opportunities in the Med Hat area. Needless to say, I wasn't a fully focused hunter. My eye caught movement... at 15 yards. A very nice yearling buck had met the fence and caught our movement. I whispered for my buddy to hold still. He did.. kind of. Anyways, it was enough to convince the buck that he was okay crossing. After crossing my friend got a little excited with his opportunity and the movement was enough to tip the buck off. He started circling trying to get downwind. I whispered for my buddy to focus on the second whitetail that was now across the fence as well. Unfortunately by the time I said that, it was too late. My friend came to full draw with his bow pointing between the two bucks with no opportunity to settle his sights. Some foot stomping followed and off they went. Their retreat seemed more out of discomfort than complete fear. Later that evening we had a doe and two runt fawns come in from behind. Knowing she'd wind us eventually, I stood up to push her away without her stomping and snorting for a half hour. Let me just say, bowzone deer can be a different type of animal. She just stood there stomping as I waved my hands gesturing for her to leave. A few snorts later, and I packed us up with her still standing there. We took a long route around, and she didn't leave the field until we were halfway back to my car.

I've successfully pulled many deer into this spot and gone unnoticed. That said, hunting field edges like this can be difficult. Despite my best efforts there are always deer somewhere in the field that notice us on the way out. The trick seems to be getting a deer before this happens too many times.. We'll see if my buddy can pull it off next week!
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September 6, 2011:

Spent the whole day fumbling around with statistics again. My mind was wandering to other places. Places that hold trophy bull elk eager to respond to my calls...

I had organized to head out for bulls with my buddy Rick. We'd be hitting a spot that produced a pile of good elk sheds this spring. While shed hunting we couldn't avoid but run into a pile of rut sign from fall 2011. This non-traditional elk range, composed almost entirely of willow and alder thickets, seemed like the place to go for an above average bull.

Rick met me at my place at 5:10PM and we quickly hurried ourselves out to the spot. We'd be arriving pretty late, but this was more of a scouting mission than anything. After arriving and getting our gear together, we began the 40 minute trek into the spot. We ran into big tracks right from the start. Some old stuff, but it was promising. Cracking branches in this cover was unavoidable, so we opted to try and fool anything within earshot with some cow calls. A slow and steady hike got us into a bedding area (spring scouting revealed this to be a bull area, but things could be much different during the rut). LOTS of fresh sign around, but we had yet to run into some fresh rubs and wallows. I sat down and had my buddy move ahead 50 yards. After screwing up on a bull he called in last fall, it was my turn to try and get him on a bull. Some calling followed, but no response - all was quiet. By then it was 7:30PM. Having a hunch that we were out of the core area used by these elk, we decided to stalk further into the cover. After moving 50 more yards we came across a fresh wallow. A little further on, we found a fresh rub. As we penetrated even deeper into the thicket the sign kept getting hotter. Some areas looked like a bulldozer had been at work. We were losing light and still not hearing any bugles. Rick and I both had the same thought - the elk aren't here, but they will be back! Not wanting to screw up the spot, we made the decision to leave early (by that time 8:30). We made our hike out with plans of returning. Just like the elk, we will be back soon as well. Our fingers are tightly crossed that the two coincide.
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September 7th, 2012:


A quick update.
Hit one of my bowzone spots for mule deer. 40 acres of canola and one small coulee that rarely draws deer are on the property. Arrived to find out the canola had just been cut (not good...) and the combine was at work across the road at my whitetail spot. Oh well, I decided to head in anyways. No need to glass much... all the deer would have pushed out of the canola and into the deep coulees on the neighboring property... Ooops. I was wrong. Halfway to the opposite side of the field I spotted a doe. Wait, no, it was a buck. The little yearling gazed intently in my direction. I held still and waited for him to settle. I glass to the left of him, and there I see a big high 160-170 buck bedded in the canola. There were too many swathed rows between me and them for me to get in to range quietly, so I decided to stalk in the direction I anticipated them to feed. I didn't make it far and the bucks busted up and ran ahead of me. The young buck looked in my direction, and the big guy looked in a completely other direction. Was it me that spooked them, or a coyote? I'll never know. They left slowly and made their way into the deep coulee system on the neighbouring place. With an odd east wind, I made my way to the east end of the field. Not an ideal way to do it, but I felt confident nothing was ahead of me. I got into position at the border of the canola field and a hay field (neighbouring place). Popped up the ground blind and settled for my evening sit.

As I settled and the shadows started to lengthen in the coulees I could feel the air currents shift. The straight east wind was now being pulled downhill and changing to a northeast wind. My scent was now pulling into the lower part of the hay field. About a half hour went by before I decided to stand up and glass for approaching deer. As I stood, I caught the shape of a big bodied deer to my left. He was standing in the hayfield at 80 yards and he was BIG. A definite mature buck with deep chest and sagging belly. This 3x3 would easily make 160. Well past his ears and the lack of splits made his tines grow to massive proportions. I watched him move further east and downwind of me. He stopped and lifted his head. He could smell me, but maybe it was faint enough to put him at ease again. A yearling buck emerged behind him and they moved further to the east and into a neighbouring field. Ten or so minutes later there was more movement. Three bucks emerged from the same spot as the last two. All 4x4s and all easily making the high 160s. Their behaviour matched the two bucks before them. They moved out of sight and my excitement faded. One of the bucks appears to be carrying antlers that match a beauty shed I picked up from the winter before. I'm hoping I can put his antlers in my hands this fall and confirm the match. Some does filter through. They all follow the same path as the bucks.

At some point (sequence of events are getting mixed) 2 mule does come by at 15 yards as they paralleled the canola swaths... Too bad the bucks didn't do the same...

After the sun sets another deer appears. He is bigger than the ones before - much bigger! I have never seen a mule deer like this before. He looks to be an almost perfectly symmetrical typical. His antlers sweep well nicely outside his ears and his 4x4 rack is full of mass and the tines exceptionally long. Would I have a chance at him? It doesn't look promising. He walks to the gate leading to the hayfield and lifts his nose in my direction. After 5 or so minutes of standing there, he does the unexpected. He crosses the fence and begins feeding in the hay field. Unfortunately that is the last I see of him. He disappears into a low spot in the hay field, presumably working his way to a neighbouring crop field. Another opportunity lost, but some valuable information gained on the local buck movements and quality of deer in the area. I move out as quietly as I can and head for the truck.

At the truck I meet with the cash cropper that rents the field. He too had seen the bucks while swathing. 4 of them. And they had all been bedding in a small corral near a old cattle hut in the middle of the canola field. In fact, one of them was bedded inside the hut and he stayed there long enough for the farmer to snap some photos of him. I knew this was a favoured bedding area, but it was near impossible to hunt with the canola still standing. It later dawned on me that I should have been set up to intercept the bucks on their way to the hayfield from the shed. I suppose two years from now, when the field is planted in canola, that strategy might work. Perhaps next year with the wheat in it might also be a possible set up. I'm guessing for now, and next year will bring the answers.
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September 8th, 2012:

Morning hunt. My girlfriend and I arrive at my mule deer spot on the major river way. We pick up on some does and two bulls while glassing. We move onwards and find two members of the 'group of 6' bachelor herd working their way through a swathed canola field. Deb has the camera, so we plan to do a stalk for some photos. We stalk through a sparsely shrubbed pasture and not soon after bump a whitetail do and her fawn. We spot a respectable 2 year old whitetail feeding in the pasture. We stalk onwards. Soon we get to the general area where the whitetail was. His feeding spot is between us and the deer. We opt to move on and see if we can spot the whitetail and move around him. We quietly stalk in towards a small clump of shrubs where we last saw him. We stop. I glass from a seated position. No mule deer, no whitetails. I stand up and glass. No mule deer, WOWA, a whitetail! All I see is a big head and antlers in my binos. Deb and I had stalked to 15 yards from this whitetail. He doesn't know what we are yet, so he just stands and stares. I whisper, "don't move." My whispers were too quiet. Deb fishes in her pocket for the camera and the deer becomes very uncomfortable. He starts to circle, and about a minute later I see another big head and antlers in my binos. Another 2 year old was bedded right next to him, and now he's standing too. The first whitetail trots slowly away from us, and the other buck follows soon after. More stalking follows and we discover a canola field empty of deer. A short walk around reveals a coyote mousing. I'd like to believe he was the cause of the lack of deer, but I'm rather convinced that Deb and I indirectly spooked the mulie bucks when we bumped the whitetails (doe, fawn, bucks). Again, I'll never know the cause. More spotting and still hunting followed but no more deer were encountered. We left for home after a short swim in the freezing cold river.
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September 11, 2012:

5:30PM - Arrived at my bowzone mule deer spot with hopes that this time would be different from the last. A few days ago I hit this swathed canola field to try and catch one of 5 big bucks. Long story short, I passed on 2 yearling does and didn't see anything come through afterwards. BUT, I did have at least two animals come into the field just over the rise. They made a ruckus crossing the barbed wire and I could hear them feeding in the canola field. I was just about to get a glimpse of one of them when a coyote entered the field 20 yards from us. I didn't hear a sound afterwards. I was quite sure that at least one of these was a big guy. Typical to have them come in like that at last light. Hopefully they hadn't been sensing the hunting pressure.

So, again, I had hopes that today would work out more favourably for me. After arriving, I quickly ventured into the field. I made it to the end of the field close to where I intended to sit. Fortunately, I glassed the whole way and discovered a yearling buck feeding on a dense fencerow. He didn't see me, and I recognized this buck. He had been hanging out with a nice 160 class deer. Perhaps the big guy was around too... I decided to put a stalk on him/ (them?). I failed. I got to 50 yards and lost sight of him. As I was peering around to find him again I suddenly realized that he had wandered in to 25 yards to the right of me. Curiousity could have killed this one. He circled downwind of me, bouncing over the canola swaths as he came. At 40 yards he got to my row. Well, he decided it was a good idea to sniff at my trail I made while belly crawling over. Some head bobbing followed and he was gone. I stood up and saw him run off without his buddy. What a relief!
With him out of the way, I B-lined it to my spot. The thick fencerow (and barnyard) had been funnelling some mule deer does into the canola field, around the fencerow, and into an alfalfa field. My plan was to set up 30 yards from the fencerow. The canola swaths ran parallel, so it was perfect traveling for the deer. Would a nice buck do the same? I was set to find out. I made a small 'nest' in the canola row and propped up some stalks to conceal me. The wind howled (as it had been doing all day) right until sunset. It wasn't until then that the wind died down to a reasonable speed. No deer sighted. I was freezing as the temperatures were dropping quickly. With the wind and last light on its way, I decided to get up and leave. I flattened the canola down so that the wind wouldn't catch it and just as I was about to leave I caught movement about 400 yards away. I bachelor group of bucks were trotting right towards me and they were covering ground fast. A quick peak through my Steiner binos revealed each one to be a shooter, and one in particular to be huge! I waited for them to enter the coulee and get out of sight before I repositioned, knocked an arrow, and prepared for an encounter. This time the concealment would have to be minimal. All I had was a swath of 2 foot tall canola to hide behind. I hunkered down, knocked an arrow and waited. I heard the fence sound off as they crossed. Last light was approaching fast, so I was hoping they'd keep their rushed pace up. Fortunately I was sheltered from the wind, and I had a hunch that they would want the same shelter afforded by the fencerow funnel.
A couple of minutes passed (which felt like hours!) and finally I could see antlers come over the rise. I peaked through my binos. At 80 yards I could see he was the biggest of the bunch. Binos down in the canola beside me, bow in hand. Damn, he was closing ground fast. Now he was at 40 yards and gazing through me. I hadn't even had the chance to put my release onto my string. I did so very slowly and without the use of my eyes (harder than you think!). I could feel the loop in my release now, but the buck was B-lining it for me and closed the distance to 20 yards now. His sixth sense could tell something was off, but he continued. Now at 15 yards he stopped and stared at me. My floating head and shoulders didn't belong, and he knew it. He did the classic stiff-legged crossover step with his front feet and quartered away, and before I knew it spun 180 degrees. OFF HE WENT stotting away and a fast pace. He didn't make distance between him and I fast because he angled away from me. I was at full draw and following him in my sights. Once I could tell his stotting was slowing down I give him the BUUURRP. He stopped. I roughly judged the distance as 40 yards but I couldn't see my red 40 yard pin. The red sky was behind me, and only the green pins had a good glow. What to do now, I thought. I knew the approximate difference in impact of my 30 yard pin line of sight and the impact at 40 yards, so I settled the 30 yard pin just below the top of his back.

Release

THWACK!

He bolted without a stot and ran hard over the rise. I stood up but couldn't see him taking off. The hollow coulee was too far and too dark for me to see if he was coming over the other side. I waited only a short time before heading back to the car. I waited for an hour and a half and then my buddy and I returned with flashlights. Not long after arriving, Rick found blood but it wasn't bright and frothy. The buck had crossed onto a neighbours place.It was too late to ask for permission to go, and I didn't want to push a deer that was potentially still able to move. We left and returned home. My incredible girlfriend was able to calm me down. Off to bed to try and gain some sleep. I didn't think my chances were good for sleep. Shot replays and worries about the welfare of the deer were running through my mind. I fell asleep, but there was no relief: I dreamt of blood trailing a mule deer buck, and the deer wasn't found. In and out of sleep, 6AM finally arrived. I hopped out of bed and headed for my hunting grounds. Would I find him? If so, would his meat be spared from the coyotes?

I arrived, hiked to my point of shooting and listened. A coyote sounded off. It was an unfamiliar call, unlike anything I had heard before. Not barking, but not drawing out any howls either. It was faint, but I knew the coyote wasn't far. The sun began to rise and I went to the spot where he crossed the fence. He wasn't on that neighbour's place, since I couldn't see him in the open hayfield. I crossed onto the other neighbouring property where I could legally go. Several magpies were making roundtrips between the coulee and the other side of a rise. I slowly stalked my way up. Two magpies then flew into the tall grass, and my eyes finally picked up on tines. As I gained a better vantage I could see more of the grim scene. The coyotes had benefitted from my hunting prowess. Nearly all of him was gone. My heart sank, but in a way I felt relief. The deer had gone 300 yards but I saw no signs that he bedded anywhere. The post-mortem revealed a shot through the thoracic cavity but behind the lungs. It was a liver hit that killed him and not a stomach shot. Not the way I wanted things to end, but it is what it is. An overly eager blood-trailer may have pushed this deer into the deep coulee system where finding him would have been tougher. Let me just say too - I don't blame the coyotes. They take advantage of opportunities, just like me. We aren't that different. Indeed, I have stolen their trophies before and killed deer and other game which would have likely fed their families. I have an understanding here that doesn't lead me to resent them.

I had fine-tuned my skills to take this animals life. I had removed him from the herd. My tag was used. I claimed what little meat wasn't spoiled by digestive tract contents.

After letting my many thoughts drift away from the bad situation, I finally allowed myself to admire and respect this buck. He is beautiful, and also happens to be known to me. I have his shed antler that he dropped sometime in late February to March of last year. It's amazing what just a year can do for gains in mass on a maturing deer. I rough green scored him at 189 gross. We'll let the experts decide later this winter. Regardless, I am thrilled to have been able to successfully hunt a deer as mature as him. Passing on smaller bucks proved itself as a good strategy, and my expectations for myself will continue to evolve.

I have to thank my girlfriend for coming out this morning to snap these great photos. She is not only one heck of a partner, but also a great photographer!

I'm now putting away the broadheads and they won't see my arrows again until the whitetail rut. It's now time to relax, enjoy the early autumn with my girlfriend, and have fun!
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The buck with his left-side 2011 shed. Not much gains on tine length, but his mass increased greatly.

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The skull cleaned and ready for display. My buddy did most of the work on this. I was amazed how quickly he got it this clean! Just a 1/4 day in a pot on an open fire.

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Awesome!

Congrats, Dan, what a great couple of weeks! Thanks for taking us along for the ride and the detailed descriptions you gave us of your hunts.

This is is everything that this site should be about, in my opinion.

Great mature mulie and you clearly worked for it. Way to go, man, and I look forward to reading about your next hunts.
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Congrats Dan! That is a magnificent buck! And you already have it euro mounted! :cheers: Great journal entries. I wish I was as dedicated to documentation as you are. Very well written and it was a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing. notwor
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notwor Congrats on a great mulie buck Dan! It's too bad about the recovery and the coyotes but that's hunting and it happens. Thanks you for taking us all along on your remarkable season so far :cheers:
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Man i as pumped your last entry!! Beautiful animal, amazing story, and great photos. Felt like we were along for the ride. Congrats man.
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D_Andres
Sep 10 2012, 10:55 AM
September 7th, 2012:

All 4x4s and all easily making the high 160s. Their behaviour matched the two bucks before them. They moved out of sight and my excitement faded. One of the bucks appears to be carrying antlers that match a beauty shed I picked up from the winter before. I'm hoping I can put his antlers in my hands this fall and confirm the match.

Sometimes a little hope can go a long ways. I still can't believe that I actually got to put my hands on his shed!

Here is his shed as it lay in March of this year.

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Excellent play by play... You had me on the edge of my seat. Congrats on harvesting Real NICE mature deer... thoose damn dogs....
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September 19th, 2012:

Went to my favourite whitetail spot today to help a friend trim his stand.

We did a loop past my trail cam and retrieved the pictures. I had already had a peak at them when I did my stand trimming on Saturday, so I knew there was a buck that showed up that without a doubt would be a shooter. Getting the picture on my camera revealed this to be an underestimate. For the first shooter to show up this summer/fall, he sure is one heck of a deer. With the width and non-typicals I think he will easily push past the mid-170s. Experts, feel free to chime in here. He has some awesome brows, and it's promising to have had him under my stand during daylight hours. So, now the question is: should I hunt him in a week or so, or wait until late October/November? Again, please feel free to give your opinion.

Also included are a few bucks that get the pass this fall. They have been regulars at the camera all summer long. ~75% daytime movement.

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Wow. Great buck. Your journal is the most enjoyable rides I have had in a long time. Keep it coming. I know there will be different opinions on the timing of your whitetail hunt but I think you should try for this buck at the earliest opportunity. Some bucks will make a shift in their core areas just before the rut and you seem to have this buck patterned. Many great bucks are taken in early season. Good luck and yes he would be 170+ in my opinion. Looking foward to seeing him in your hands.
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Nice deer Dan. For me it would depend on pressure, weather, and his bed to feed pattern. If you got him figured out, which I would assume you do, he may stick to that pattern till 1st week of October. Some are homebodies, some are wanderers. i hope for your sake he sticks around.
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My hunting buddy that has been hunting the neighbour's place for years says that he has photos of this guy from three years ago. The pictures were during the late pre-rut, and he was working a scrape. I'm waiting on him to get the photos to me so I can compare their features. If they match, I hope that this means that he is still spending some time rutting on this place. I only have one picture of him (thinking that the camera may have spooked him... one picture and he was gone). I possibly saw him on another neighbouring property in late July with two other bucks. They were all deer that I would go after in a heart-beat and their bedding area is only about 200 yards from this stand. Unfortunately, they know that no hunter sets foot on the neighbouring property, so it might be tough to catch them making a mistake. Every buck I saw last fall came from this neighbouring place in the evening and went to it in the morning. I'd say about 80% of the deer I see there are bucks, and across the fence where I hunt it's the converse (~80% antlerless sightings). Originally I thought that a hay field bordering my hunting grounds would draw in deer to feed, but it seems like the deer don't use it much. Instead, two other fields seem to generally pull deer AWAY from the property I hunt. This is terrible for early season, but during the rut I am on a big inside corner (50 acres) that pulls bucks through on their way to check the doe groups. I put another cam out (high on a tree looking down) to see if I can capture this buck at another one of my stands. I think if I get another picture of him in the next two weeks, then I will move in. Dates are wrong on the camera. That buck came through on September 6th and hasn't been in front of the cam since. He may be there and just avoiding the cameras, but for now it doesn't look too promising for the early season. Thanks for the input guys!
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Wow. Those are some impressive racks. Congrats.
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Oh - forgot to mention. Most of the land (the surrounding 1,150 acres to the south and east) is off limits to hunting. I have 200 acres (mostly alfalfa and sloughs) on the far south-east end of this no hunting land, and 50 acres (all bush) on the far north-west end. To the north is a 620 acre area with limited hunting pressure (4 guys that only take 170"+ bucks). Their food plots pull a lot of deer over there in the evenings, but a lot of bucks vacate before first light and bed on the no-hunting land. So, in the big picture, hunting pressure is very low. Good and bad, since any disturbance on the 50 acres can easily push deer to favour the neighbouring no-hunting areas. The 50 acre parcel lies between the 1,150 acre and 620 acre low hunting pressure land.
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September 20th, 2012:

Off to the alfalfa field with multiple sloughs to try and get my friend his first archery deer.

It was a clear and sunny day with temps pushing into the high 20s ©. We did some target shooting until around 4:30 and then moved in to an area that I'd been glassing for over a week. In the past week I was seeing lots of deer movement, and the majority of deer were bucks. I told my friend that I thought that he should hold out for a buck. He didn't seem too convinced, but I would leave that decision up to him. Does with fawns were kept off limits.

After settling in to a rough blind I set up last fall, we quickly began seeing deer filter into the field. Two does appeared at a fence crossing where I typically hunt. The Northeast wind ruled out that spot, but it put us in a perfect position to hunt the spot we were in. My hopes were to intercept bucks that usually were moving from a finger of aspens towards a cut canola field. Sure enough, around 6:30 we had a doe come out at about 80 yards. A doe and fawn later crossed about 150 yards from us. A few minutes later the first doe at 80 yards was joined by a burly 3 year-old buck with heavy but small 4x4 head gear. Soon after he was met by a 2x2 yearling. They fed for about 20 minutes out of range. I had good reason to believe that they would move over a hill and use an alternate route to the canola. I had to convince my friend to temporarily ignore them and focus on the spot where the aspen strip met with the fence-line. We didn't have to wait long. A doe and fawn crossed at 40 yards and began making their way towards us. A second or two later, a very wide 2 year-old 4x4 crossed, followed by a yearling buck. I attempted to coach my buddy into calming down. I was convinced we'd get a shot, so I told him to prepare himself. "Don't worry if you don't get this one," I said. "There will be others." My hope was to let him focus on a good shot and pass on the opportunity if it wasn't feeling good.
The buck began feeding soon after he got over the fence. I let my friend know that we were now visible to the doe + fawn, and that he would have to manoeuvre his bow into position only once the buck and does were not looking in our direction. Oblivious to us, the buck paralleled our blind at 20 yards and was feeding. He was a moment away from coming into a position that allowed for a shot.
Seeing that the does and fawn were no longer visible, I indicated to my friend that he should come to full draw. The noise of him drawing was a little excessive, and the buck picked up on the noise and movement. My friend took the shot, but the arrow missed its mark. I saw the fletchings disappear into the alfalfa in front of the deer. The buck bolted over the fence and stared in our direction. The other deer eventually did the same. Apparently, we didn't spook them badly enough, and they soon came over the fence again and joined the other deer that were feeding at 80 yards. It came as no surprise that we didn't have any more movement passed us that night.

Unfortunately, my friend didn't get his deer. I don't think I will be hosting any more friends on this place this season. I hate to sound selfish, but I will be keeping this spot to myself in hopes that the deer will continue to move without the sense that they are being hunted. I know of several good bucks in the area, so hopefully I will luck out and pull one into range in the next few weeks.
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Very generous of you to offer to help your friend harvest his first archery deer. Too bad about the outcome of the hunt but I am sure much was learned by your friend. :cheers:
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Date: Late September, 2012

I've been slacking on my entries for a while now. Four hunts have past since my last entry. I will summarize briefly.

Hunt A:
Climbed my new stand in my favourite whitetail spot. This is the place I arrowed my whitetail last year, and it is the place that I hope to drop a 150"+ deer this year. Winds were expected from the southeast. After arriving, it seemed closer to a south than a southeast wind. Anyways, either wind would have my scent pushing away from the bedding area on the interior of the property. My hopes were to have deer funnel from the east and move west passed my stand on their way to feed on the neighbour's food plots. After getting up there, the wind settled and later began moving inconsistently from almost every direction. Not ideal, but I sat it out. Hopefully a steady breeze would begin blowing again. After a while it did, and I finally got a decent south-southeast wind. Last light approached and I hadn't seen a deer. Sounds of footsteps came and went to my east, but nothing revealed itself. I got out of stand early because I didn't have my linesman's harness with me and didn't want to risk a fall on my way down. Halfway out I came to 60 yards from a young bull moose. I waited him out - despite seeing me, he wasn't moving away. I casually approached until he was uncomfortable enough to leave. My first hunt of the year without any deer sighted. I was feeling discouraged but hopeful for my next outing.

Hunt B: Went out to the field with multiple sloughs and alfalfa. The wind predictions from the local airport were calling for a south-southeast wind. Again, after settling in to a grassy slough, the wind shifted and blew my scent to the fence crossing I expected deer to come out from. I have never watched this field without having deer cross there. Well, this hunt would surprise me. I stayed put convinced that the weather predictions would hold. They did, but not until an hour before last light. No deer crossed, and I was kicking myself for sitting the spot when the wind wasn't in my favour. Live and learn, I suppose.... Anyways, I did have a very nice yearling buck come to approximately 80 yards to the east of me and on the walk out had two yearling bucks walk passed me at about 30 yards. Wish I would have tried to range them for kicks, because it turns out that since that hunt I haven't been able to find my range-finder!! Did I leave it there, or did I bring it home with me... Deb and I searched today and didn't come up with anything except a very nice shed belonging to a ~150 inch buck.

Hunt C (Wednesday, October 3rd): I hit my favourite whitetail spot again. Weather predictions called for snowfall and cold temps. I was hopeful to get some action, and very much hoping that the 170 class buck (trail-cam photo in this journal) would show up under the stand where he was photographed. I got out the door nice and early and was pleased to see 4 inches of snow on the ground outside. In to my stand I went with about 30 minutes to spare before first light. Hours passed by me, but no deer would do the same. I couldn't believe it. Upon returning to my jeep at 9:45AM (yes, I couldn't sit out the cold any longer), I took a quick walk through my friend's driveway to see where the deer had crossed. Found doe and fawn tracks leading away from my stand but they evidently took another trail to get to where they crossed the road. Several adult deer tracks crossed in a group at the far north end of the property - most likely bucks. At the far northeast corner, I discovered more buck tracks leading from a large block of timbered slough and into my friend's property. The alfalfa about 300 yards north of there looked pretty good through my binos. The tracks were barely covered by snow (some snow had fallen since I got into stand). I surmise that the deer were feeding their and then used the corned of the two large blocks of cover on their way back to bed - this would have happened after first light. My ground-blind will work well here on a south to southeast wind. I will be back the next time the weather and wind predictions make hunting this spot in the morning worthwhile.

Hunt D (Thursday October 4th, 2012):
I acquired permission last weekend to hunt on a new bowzone spot. It's a half-section (320 acres). Mostly alfalfa, but about 10 acres of poplar and willow thickets border the field. It adjoins about a hundred acres of thick aspen and willows interspersed with small openings. That 100 acres of bush is off-limits to hunting. A quick glassing of the field 1.5 hours before last light revealed two doe groups (total of about 11 deer) feeding in the alfalfa). Things looked promising. When looking for permission, the small acreage next door was the first door I wanted to knock on. Between a barking dog and irate acreage owner, I wasn't even able to make it to the door. She interrupted me promptly on my, "Hello, my name is.... I'm an avid archery hunter..." speech, and told me to get off of her property. After repeatedly asking her if she owned the place next door, and after getting the response, "We don't want hunters around here," I finally came to the conclusion that they didn't own any of the land next-door. Thank goodness I sucked up the bad experience and persevered to ask the next house for directions to the landowner. After finally talking to those in charge, the permission came rather quickly. After my Thursday sit, I was sure glad I kept knocking on doors!

I arrived at around 3:30PM. I shot a few arrows to make sure that my new Nockturnal lighted nocks were shooting where I wanted them to. On my walk in, I bumped a runt fawn. Wind was from the west, but after arriving at a good looking spot it shifted to southeast! Gotta love living next to the mountains..... I settled with the wind blowing into a cattail marsh that was too wet for deer to bed. Some old rubs from last year and lots of fresh tracks and droppings revealed this to be a cracker spot. I settled in a clump of willows behind a 10-yard wide willow thicket that bordered the field to the south. Sure enough, 20 minutes later I had a group of 3 does come by. Unfortunately, I had to cross the trail I intended to hunt because of my quick pre-hunt scouting. The deer hit the trail and got nervous. The matriarch walked back out into the alfalfa and they fed leisurely. 5 more antlerless deer came through the field about 30 yards to my right. A short while later a lone doe approached from downwind (wind shifted to east) and approached nervously before snorting a few times and bounding off. Minutes later I could see two bucks feeding in the alfalfa to the east - one yearling, and another 4x4 2 year-old. Somehow, the 2-year old buck picked up on the fact that I was downwind of him. He stared in my direction for a few minutes, turned around and walked with stiff legs. The young yearling raised his head to the buck, and they locked antlers briefly in a casual sparring match. More antlers caught my eye at about 50 yards past them (they were at ~35 yards behind the thicket). This guy was bigger, and the antler clanking proved interesting enough to bring him in to 35 yards as well. All three bucks locked antlers at the same time! What luck I had! The biggest of the three was a 5x5 2-year old with a 130" rack! He will be a tremendous deer next year! After they fed further south and out of sight, a lone mature doe came in to about 50 yards and began doing some soft bleats. I never could see what might have caused her to do so, because she ended up feeding alone and out of sight just as the bucks had done.

My hunt ended, and now my mind is filled with anticipation for my next hunt there. The rut might bring out some real giants, and the field edge with a wind anywhere from the north-east to east will hopefully prove very effective for rattling in a bruiser. The count-down to late October begins!
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Excellent journal Dan, looking forward to more entries.
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October 23rd, 2012:

I haven't been keeping up with the journal for a while now. I've been busy trying to understand deer movement on a new property I got permission on last month. This spot is producing great deer sightings - averaging about 8 deer per night on this field-edge + ~10 acres of slough and aspen cover. The hunt is tough - deer are moving into the field from every possible access point, with the majority coming out on the crest of an aspen grove. Mostly antlerless deer so far, but a good number of bucks have been coming out and/or staging in the cover. I've passed on well over 15 deer so far (4 of which were young bucks). The first big boys (two) showed up the night before last: movement happened at last light, and they staged on the neighbour's property at 60 yards without offering a chance to evaluate antler size and make (or pass) on a shot. A mature doe at 30 yards prevented me from lifting my binos for a closer look in the dim light. No trees capable of holding a stand, so I'm challenged to hunt from the ground. Tried my first rattling sequence of the year at around 4:00PM. No responses. Given the delay in rutting activity, I think that my rattling may have been to aggressive.

Last night I sat in my vehicle and scoped out another property. To my surprise I watched a group of four bucks (1 two year-old, 3 three year-olds) travel together on a neighbouring property. This is the latest I have seen bucks travel and feed together. This, along with the fact that I have just started seeing scrapes in the last week, makes me think that the seek-phase of the rut is going to happen later than it did last year. Time will tell.

I took a drive over to my prime rut property. With over 10cm of snow on the ground, I was hoping to see lots of sign. To my disappointment there was very little. Only about 6 sets of tracks across the lane way that splits the 50 acre property.

I'll be heading out this evening to hunt the newest addition to my hunting grounds. Weather predictions are calling for a Northwest wind and the snow has been falling all night and morning. Movement should be intense tonight. Fingers crossed for a big buck in range!
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New name, same guy....

I headed out on October 23rd and had lots of action.

First I had a mature lone doe come in to my ghost blind. With half a foot of snow, I was expecting lots of movement. She came in talking to herself, making the occasional doe grunt while feeding. After mulling around for about 5 minutes, she came in to 10 yards and bedded down! Wow, I've never had a deer bed so close to me while sitting on the ground. The only problem was, I had my head peaking over the blind and she bedded down facing directly at me. Fortunately, a yearling buck entered the field to my left (her right), and it peaked her curiosity for long enough that I could ease myself down. Slow and steady, and she didn't spook. The yearling fed farther from us, and the doe settled again. After about 5 more minutes, she suddenly looked over in that direction again, jumped out of her bed, and over the fence she went. A half hour or so later, the yearling buck returned. He ended up meandering right over to me, then walked back out to the field offering some perfect 15 yard shooting opportunities. A short while later, and another bigger bodied yearling buck did the same thing. They joined together and fed for a bit. The smaller of the two put his ears back and lowered his nose, triggering another entertaining sparring match. The little fella wasn't well versed in the rules of fair fighting... He kept circling the other buck trying to poke antlers into rump. It was very entertaining to watch, especially to see the differences in their personalities and/or sparring tactics. Minutes later another doe (yearling) came in to ~15 yards and walked towards my downwind side. Once she hit my fresh tracks in the snow, she spun around and bolted farther to my right. About 12 antlerless deer then filtered out into the alfalfa field and b-lined it towards a harvested spring wheat field. Unfortunately, one of them came to within 80 yards downwind, and an uncomfortable amount of snorting ensued. The last 40 minutes of legal shoot light resulted in a pile of snorting.

This great hunting area has proven to be difficult to hunt while remaining undetected. I haven't had a hunt there that didn't result in at least one deer busting me. No trees large enough for a tree stand, and piles of deer using piles of trails. There just doesn't seem to be a way to hunt it effectively. I haven't tried a morning sit there yet, but I might try one soon. Perhaps they move a little quicker to their beds and don't stage too much where I am sitting. I will need to enter my hunting spot via the alfalfa field. Nearly every deer I have seen enter the field has moved about 1 kilometre to feed near some waste wheat spilled in the field. This will hopefully allow me to enter my hunting spot without too many deer noticing my entry.

We'll see what happens next time.
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October 29, 2012:

Hunted last night at my prime whitetail spot. Sign is still minimal there, but after driving in I wasn't about to drive home. Thick fog and lots of hoar-frost forming and nearly a foot of snow on the ground made for a neat evening.

I made it 50 yards from my car and discovered a young 1.5 year old buck up and feeding. I waited him out until he moved off and out of sight. My stand was another 80 or so yards, so I made my way to it. I got about 10 yards from my tree, and this young buck gets up off his fresh bed. He'd bedded down only 15 yards from my stand. I casually continued to walk to my stand, and the buck bounded away without too much apparent fear. In the stand I went, and I got settled. About 15 minutes later, I was about ready to start a rattling sequence. I picked up my tube-sock with pine cones in it (for making rustling noises), and suddenly I caught movement. Another yearling buck was bedded only ~80 yards from me under a big spruce. Somehow I had made it into my stand undetected! I held off on calling, because I didn't want him strolling in a screwing up my hunt for a mature whitetail. At 4:30PM he got off his bed and strolled away from my stand. I began doing chase+grunt sequences about 10 minutes later with no responses. Between 5:00 and 6:00PM I did two rattling sequences. Still no responses. At sunset (which was unrecognizable with the fog), I did one more rattling sequence without adding any aggressive grunts to the mix. About 10 minutes later I heard faint movement of a distant critter. Well, it turned out not to be so distant! A tiny spiker buck made it in to 50 yards before I saw him. He b-lined it straight to the base of my tree and gave a couple of social, non-aggressive, grunts. With the wind in my favour, I was hopeful that I wouldn't bust him. Unfortunately, he stopped at 5 yards and spun around, bounding a few yards before stopping. Shortly thereafter, he walked away uncomfortably and that was the last I saw of him.

About 10 minutes before last light, I climbed out of my stand. I was concerned about hurting myself if it got too dark... As I was climbing down, I heard a single snort downwind of me. I never did see who made the sound. I made my way over to one of my trail cameras near another stand. It was out of juice and had few pictures on it. In two weeks, my mock scrape had only attracted the attention of 3 bucks, and none of them are shooters... The one buck seems to be mature (4.5 to 5.5) but is severely lacking in the head-gear department.

Hopefully things pick up soon. Still no indication that any chasing or cruising is happening out here yet...

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Awesome deer Dan,it is really cool to know that we where in that spot shedden this spring,even better that it payed off for you CONGRATS bud. Can't wait to put my hands onthat big muley.
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Just had the monster 170+ deer in at 25 yards. Rattled him in... Was shifting in my seat and my glove fell from the tree. He left at a fast-paced walk. Can't believe I blew the opportunity. Rattled another 130 buck in 10 min before sunrise. So disappointed in myself right now....Still has all his points and stickers!
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Not sure I could shoot any other deer this season. Things are just heating up now and he is already a day walker. Will I get another chance? I can only hope
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