The temperatures climbed into the 50’s that day with the sun peaking in and out of the clouds. I slowly walked into an area that had not yet been hunted that season. I had a good feeling that afternoon in early November.
Most of the hunting pressure was condensed to the west side of the property bordering a wildlife habitat area. In fact, it was extremely over pressured in my opinion. I would rather sit at home than to hunt an area like that. So I studied the aerial map to find an area nobody had been in yet.
I knew some does were bedding on the east side of the property. I also knew I wasn’t the only one to know that. The bucks had to be moving through there I told myself, if nothing else just to scent check this group of does. I had seen the does a couple of times on previous morning hunts. They were moving down the ridge after feeding all night to bed down in a thick area.
The wind was right for where I wanted to sit. It was about 75 yards away from the bedding area on the edge of a grassy opening in the woods. It was an old dried up swamp acting like a deer magnet. I felt confident I could catch a buck coming out into the woods to check the does.
We didn’t have any tree stands in the area, which was good otherwise it probably would have been hunted already. I have killed a few deer in the past by moving into a fresh area and sitting on the ground in a natural blind. Hanging a stand and trimming branches would ruin any chance of seeing deer. A full on ambush from the ground was my plan.
I got close to where I wanted to be and began to scan the area for a good ambush point. I spotted two trees that had fallen down across one another. It made a perfect V and the perfect spot for me to conceal myself. I tucked into the crossing point of these trees and was able to get pretty comfortable.
There were plenty of branches behind me from the downed tree tops. I cleared away all the dry leaves and sticks to make room for my feet and hunting gear. I placed a few branches in front of me just to break up my silhouette from the front. This is where I expected my shot to be so I kept the branches low enough not to interfere with my bow.
There was plenty of standing timber in my killing radius, which is important when ground hunting. When a deer walks behind a tree it allows me to draw my bow undetected, even at close range. This area was thick enough that my longest shot would only be about 30 yards.
Most hunters can’t stand hunting like this, but I love it. I may not see deer 3 farms away and be able to brag about how many I saw, but when I do see deer they’re usually on top of me. Having deer that close when ground hunting just gets the blood pumping that much more.
I sat motionless with my PSE on my lap and my release latched onto my bowstring loop. I knew if I saw something I had to be ready to draw and shoot with little movement.
I’d been sitting for an hour when I saw a huge 8 point in the dry swamp. He had a ton of mass and good tine length. I guessed him at 150 inches. I later found out it was the same massive 8 point that a couple of other hunters on the property had seen.
Even though I tried grunting him towards me, he moved through at 90 yards and was gone. It definitely got me excited and amplified my senses. When I hunt on the ground with a bow, there is something that is just more primal about it as opposed to tree stand hunting.
It isn’t hard for me to be on high alert the whole time I’m there but seeing a big buck like that eliminates any doubt.
An hour after the massive 8 pointer moved through, I heard something to my left. I turned slowly and looked through the branches to see a smaller 8 point.
He was only 20 yards away and looking up into the woods scanning for does. I remember thinking to myself, he is nice but not a shooter so I’ll let him walk.
Well, within the next minute that thought went out the window. As I watched him in my peripheral vision I noticed he started to walk my way.
I looked down at the trail he was on and noticed it passed by me at about 5 feet! I guess I had noticed the trail before but was so excited about finding such a great spot to sit, that it never really occurred to me I was too close.
Time began to run out as this lonely buck was fast approaching. My bow was already perched upright on my lap and my release was latched on ready to draw. I slowly raised my Scent Blocker face mask to just beneath my eyes as I felt myself try to hunker down behind my bowstring. I had no idea what was going to happen but I was ready for a close encounter.
Within seconds the buck began to emerge from behind the branches and was just to my left. As he began to pass by me within arm distance I remember looking right into his eyes. He was looking my direction and seemed to stare right back at me. Instead, he must have been looking through me as he scanned the wooded background for does.
He never got nervous or changed body posture. He could have easily made one move and gored me with his antlers. I thought to myself, how on earth is he not seeing or smelling me? The wind was in my favor but at that close of range I thought he’d just sense something was wrong.
My heart was beating fast as I was trying my hardest not to shake. What previously looked like a buck that would play another day suddenly looked like a freaking elk standing before me. The air temperature had dropped enough that I could see hot air emerge from his nostrils as he exhaled like a chimney on a chilly day.
I had arrowed several does within 20 yards hunting from the ground but my only buck was at 40 yards out of a ground blind. I had never been this close to a living wild deer and I don’t suspect many hunters have. That particular moment, having that buck within arms length, will forever be burned into my memory.
He was one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. I got so caught up in the moment, and that sucker got me so jacked up, it was game on. I had totally forgotten that I was previously going to let him walk. Just as his hind quarter moved by me I knew I had out foxed this elusive whitetail. I guess I felt I had to put an exclamation point on the end of an awesome hunt.
I let him get about 10 yards past me. As soon as he turned his head a little where I couldn’t see his eyes, I knew it was now or never. With every ounce of energy, I drew my bow back as swiftly but quietly as I could.
He stopped and looked back over his right shoulder dead at me. Looking back caused his ribcage to stick out just enough to give me something to aim at, even though he was quartering away hard.
Our eyes met once again before looking through my peep. He knew he was in trouble but it was too late. I squeezed the trigger and sent a fat boy arrow tipped with a Magnus stinger broad head right in behind his rib cage just in front of his hip. The angle was so severe, the arrow exited right in front of his opposite side shoulder.
In other words, that razor sharp stinger screwed up his day. He ran about 70 yards and piled up. I couldn’t believe what had just happened.
As we went to retrieve him later that evening, I was more stoked about the actual hunt than the usual rack size. This 8 point was not big by any means, and was one that we usually let walk. But what happened had happened and it was all over. This one was more about the hunt than it was bone size.
I showed my hunting buddies where I had been sitting and the trail the buck came down. They couldn’t believe how close he was to me. They were also amazed at the hard angle shot I took but perhaps more amazed at how perfectly placed it was.
It wasn’t a tough shot at 10 yards, but to have the presence of mind to place the arrow that far back to compensate for the angle was crucial.
My close encounter 8 point wasn’t the biggest buck taken on the farm by a long shot. But I’m betting I did experience the most exciting hunt that year and certainly one that I will never forget.