Sunday, December 15, 2019

DS19 Part 39: Still Hunting with the Muzzleloader

I didn't get out at all during rifle season.  It was kind of on purpose and kind of a case of the time just slipping away during a few weeks of craziness at work playing catchup after being gone, heading back to Ohio to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday, and if I'm honest, needing a break from the woods to recharge my batteries a little. 

Drove around the PRC a little yesterday to scout where muzzleloading hunting pressure is.  Tons of people in the woods right now with late elk season also in progress.  Saw a little deer sign driving around and figured out where I would hunt today.

First stop was Lance's to borrow his muzzleloader.  I sent him to a spot a couple weeks ago and he got a nice 8pt with his rifle.  That was pretty cool and he was grateful for the tip, and insisted I take his muzzleloader for a walk.  

I still hunted a long transition between a marsh, pines and an oak ridge.  20 minutes into the hunt, a deer crossed in front of me but I wasn't able to get the gun up fast enough to get a shot.  A few steps later, another passed.  The woods opened up 20yds in front of me, if I could just get around a small group of pines, I'd have a shot at one.  I stalked forward through the shin deep snow as quietly as I could, but 5yds before I got to the pines, the deer bolted.  

I probably won't be able to get out again until the weekend after Christmas.  Two tags still need to be filled.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

DS19 Part 38: Jason Finds His Buck

We slept in till 7am and hiked in to where Jason shot his buck. He did a good job finding the spot, and was basically within bow range of where I wanted him to set up when I sent him there. On the hike in we almost got trampled by a group of doe that were getting pushed by a small buck. Both of us scrambled to hide behind trees as they ran past us.  I felt for sure I was going to get run over.

I had him walk me through his hunt and we quickly got on the buck's trail. There was no blood, just running tracks in the leaves. As we came through some briars, he spotted his dead buck just down the ridge, a 2.5 year old 8pt.

While he quartered it, I scouted the area and found some classic buck bedding.

Note the bed at the base of the tree.  Classic!
Also found a double sign post rub. Cant wait to go back next year. Both of these trees were about 10" in diameter.  Its like a cathedral.

On the hike out, we dropped the pack and gridded the area I hunted. The mule kick I saw when I shot at the buck the night before still haunted me. But we didnt find a dead deer or any clues that I hit it. The rest of the day was spent processing our deer back at camp. Tagged out, we're both heading back home tomorrow.

Friday, November 8, 2019

DS19 Part 37: If its Brown, Its Down

High temp of 38 was forecast so I packed an extra layer. Was set up before first light and sat until noon, didnt see anything. Met Jason back at the access and we hit a small diner to warm up and eat lunch. While eating we talked and I decided it was the point in the trip where I would shoot the first adult deer that gave me a shot. He already had a doe and said he would take the first branch antlers buck that came by.

I took him to a new spot, it's quite a hike through some pretty rugged terrain. He thought I was joking when I told him not to fall off any cliffs. This place is the epitome of an overlooked spot or the epitome of a spot most guys wont put the effort in to hunt. I found it cyberscouting and scouted it last year and gave it one sit and saw deer. I had a ridge in mind for both of us and told him where to set up and we split up.

I kind of laughed watching his reaction to the terrain and told him to turn the topo layer on in onx and go around the ravine ahead and up the next ridge. 

I get up to the point on my ridge and start scouting. I find a tree between two bedding areas where the wind will blow my stink to no mans land but is right for the deer. The other reason I chose the tree I did was any deer that came in would have to come in upwind of me, and if they looked at me, they would have to look into the sun. I got my sticks on the tree and before I even had my safety harness hooked up, a 2.5 year old 8pt came in. I pulled my bow up and laid it across my linemans rope, put my release on, ranged him, and shot. He mule kicked just after I lost the flight of the arrow and ran a 20yds then started walking normally. If I hadn't seen the mule kick, I would have thought I missed by his body language. I waited 30 minutes and went to go look for my arrow or first blood to see what happened. Coukdnt find either and was pretty certain I missed, but the mule kick made me uncertain. Do deer mule kick when you miss? I got back up in my tree, ran through everything in my head and got back down again and looked for some sign to tell me if I hit or missed him. No blood, no arrow, no hair.

I got back up in my tree. 30 minutes later a few doe came in. They were in a patch of super thick briars and grape vines that made the bedding area just north of me. I could see a deer body part here and there as they milled around. Finally, one moved towards my side and I had a 6" hole through the thorns at the vitals. I drew and fired, the impact sounded good and blood was pouring down the near leg and then both legs within the first 15yds. She stopped and tipped over at 20yds. I felt relief. I dont know if I could miss another deer this trip and be able to look in the mirror.

The game bags were hung by the grills and smokers with care
I didnt want to interrupt Jason's hunt so I packed everything up and hiked out, swapped my sticks and hunting stuff for my game bags and knife and hiked back in. I had her quartered just before dark. As I was finishing up, a different small 8pt walked in on me. I looked up and we had a short stare down before I bared my teeth and growled at him. I loaded the meat on my pack and saw Jason's headlamp coming through the woods as he worked towards our meetup point. I whistled at him and he stopped and I hiked down the hill and recapped my hunt.

He beamed about how awesome the spot I sent him was. He said he shot a 2.5 year old 8 just before dark and wasnt sure about the shot placement. It sounded to me like he made a good shot but we decided to play it safe and come back to track the next morning. The way he described the shot and deer behavior after, I was confident we would find a dead deer in the morning. I was also kind of happy I wouldnt have to hike back in after packing my deer out.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

DS19 Part 36: Rain Day

Stayed up late last night visiting with my mom and did dishes with her. Didnt get to bed till 1130pm, so with that and a full day of rain forecast for today, I decided to skip this morning, sleep in and get caught up on some laundry. Gonna head out after lunch, rest that spot for today and try again tomorrow morning. Not sure yet where I will hunt tonight, maybe do an observation sit with the bow a 1/4 mile north and see what I see or just go somewhere completely new. That's 21 sits on the season. 10 or 12 more before I have to go back to MI. I love hunting here, I love the hills, the briars, the crp, the balanced buck to doe ratio, the age classes you see and the warmer November weather.

Not a fan of the ticks though 

I dont mind hunting in a light rain, but it was just heavy enough that I didnt want to risk losing a blood trail. Watched the radar all day and had an opening in the clouds around 3pm. Got to the spot I was going to hunt and sat in my car till the rain slowed and hiked in. It stopped raining just after I was set up. Didnt see anything and climbed down at dark.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

DS19 Part 35: Biscuits, Gravy and Blood Trails

Took the morning hunt off to have breakfast with family. Jason sent me a message around 8am.

Him- I think I shot a doe. She looked wobbly then a buck pushed her off
Me- What do you mean you think you shot a doe?
Him- Should I get down and check my arrow?
Me- Yeah, let me know what it looks like.
Him- clean arrow
Me- ughh, you shoot under or over her?
Him- Missed by ten yards. Sucks because I had two more in my shooting lanes for ten minutes after. Arrow is clean, no blood.
Me- any fat grease on the shaft?
Him- no, she was uphill of log, I found it under. Back up in my tree now. There's deer coming
Me- sends him a pic of homemade biscuits and gravy

Best biscuits and gravy ever
Him- you suck.
Him- I just missed another one
Me- sorry man, sends pic of half eaten biscuits and gravy.
Him- God I suck. Just blew a chip shot. Pushed my hand forward instead of releasing
Me- you have any arrows left?
Him- just shot a doe
Me- yeah!?
Him- dragging a leg, moving uphill. I'm out of arrows

I finished breakfast and headed out to where he was hunting. It's a steep ridge near a funnel across the top. I had noticed good deer movement on that ridge during a leeward wind last year.  It was leeward that morning and deer were pouring through. I throw some flagging tape and a bottle of power aid in my fanny pack and hike up the hill. He is running me through what happened and I see a deer slinking through the brush towards us. Deer, buck! Dont move!" I whisper. It's a solid 8 and we get about 3 minutes of video of him at about 30yds before he finally realizes what we are and heads back over the ridge.

The stuff that happens when you don't have a bow in your hand
We look at his arrow and first blood. Its pink with a few air bubbles in it. He got a pass through but its only bleeding on one side. White hairs with light tan hairs. There is hair in the blood spots for 10yds or so. I suspect single lung. Its only been about 40min since he shot her, so I suggest we wait 20 minutes before picking up the trail. We hike back to the car and grab the sled, knives, etc and hike back up. He leads the trail and I hang back. It's not much of a trail, more like blood pouring out. I am confident the deer is dead but about 100yds later I'm surprised its not and am thinking single lung for sure. I am staying back about 30yds behind him, when he stops. He nocks an arrow and starts stalking up the hill. He draws, shoots. I hear a thwack and see a deer jump up with an arrow sticking out of its hind quarter. I run up to him, she is down again just 20yds up the hill and expires shortly after.

There was a melancholy moment after she died where the two of us stood over her in the morning sun just a few feet apart and paid our respects, appreciating the seriousness of what took place.  I wasn't even the one who made the kill, and it was a very emotional moment.  I didn't cry, but I came close.  It isn't like on TV when these clowns hoot and hollar and straddle the dead deer and put all of their focus on the horns and their egos.  Real hunters have too much respect for these animals to be so irreverent.

Deer are amazing animals and its remarkable to see how strong they are even when mortally wounded.  Even when you make a great shot, you can lose deer, so I think there was also a little bit of relief on both our parts that we found her at the end of the blood trail.  As I write two months after the fact, its been fun to watch Jason's social media posts full of venison meals.  Yeah, it sucks to see an animal you love and respect so much die, but the food part of hunting is why we're willing to make that sacrifice.

He guts her and we sled her down the hill.

He didnt hit any lungs or the heart. She spun as he shot and turned a broadside shot into a quartering to shot, maybe even straight on.  The arrow went in in front of the right shoulder and came out behind it kind of in the armpit.  It wasn't the single lung I was thinking, it was a no lung.  He got lucky and hit an artery which explained all of the bubbles and the bright pink blood and the hair coming out for so long on the trail.

I headed out to hunt and he went back to camp to start processing.

I decided to hit the spot I missed the big 10pt. Only I moved my stand location about 75yds north along the ridge onto a different spur. I was set up by 2pm or so and didnt see anything until about 5pm. A solid 8pt buck is working his way up out of the bottom up my spur. I stood and watched him browse on acorns through my rangefinder until he got to 43yds and stopped. He looked up my way, didnt like something and slowly browsed backwards retracing his footsteps up the hill. I threw a couple hail mary grunts out but he paid no attention. I snort wheezed and he stopped for a minute or so and continued browsing. 10 minutes later I see a head with horns pop up over the next spur north. It's a buck and at first I mistook it for the 8pt circling back around. But no, it was the 10pt I missed. He came to about 80yds and worked his way back down into the bottom where the 8 came from and disappeared. I grunted but he didnt act like he heard it.

I climbed down and hiked the mile and a half out. Got back to camp and made venison stroganoff with back strap from Jason's doe and homemade pasta.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

DS19 Part 34: Buck Fever

I love the 5th of November. Killed a lot of deer on this date. I've done enough observing and scouting to this point in the trip, its time to hunt!

Woke up at 4am and hiked a mile and a half back into a east facing ridge where a funnel intersects it. A west wind was forecast with light rain all morning. Scouted the area a couple days before and it looked fishy. Found a tree and was set up by first light. At 730am a small buck chased a doe by me. At 745 it started raining. A light rain, but steady. At 9 I added a layer. It was cold November rain, and the guns and Rose's song played in my head on repeat. I ate a couple pop tarts and a fruit roll up at 930. I was sitting in my stand kind of hunched over to keep my face out of the wind. Every 30 seconds or so I'd survey the area around me. Which wasnt often enough.

At 1030 I scanned to the right and at the end of my scan, a deer was in the corner of my eye. I turned my head farther to see what it was and saw horns, big horns. I reached for my bow, clipped my release in and looked the other way thinking the deer was walking behind me. It wasnt there. I looked back to where I originally saw it. It wasnt there. I looked further away and he had ran backwards, now standing at 30yds. He must have saw me move when I looked at him or to grab my bow. I drew, told myself to go through my shot sequence, put my 20yd pin on his vitals and shot. As the arrow flew my heart sank. I didnt use the right pin and immediately knew it. The arrow stuck in the ground underneath him and he bolted.

I didnt feel the adrenaline until I was about to get down from my stand to inspect the arrow. I calmed myself down and placed off where he was when I originally saw him...9 yards. 9 freaking yards! He was an amazing deer, big tall pearl white tines. Lots of mass. I saw one split brow. Probably the biggest deer I've laid eyes on from a treestand. It stopped raining 5 minutes later.

I packed up. My head wasnt right and I had to put that behind me. Still 7 more days to hunt down here. Made some coffee at the car, ate some peanut butter and jelly and a cup of pudding.

Drove to another spot for the evening sit. There was a truck from west Virginia there with three guys walking into the woods. They stopped and I asked them where they were headed. Two were going the way I wanted to, but not nearly as far back. I asked if they minded if I walked past them on the way to where I wanted to go, and they were cool with it.

Saw a really big bodied buck at this spot observing a couple evenings prior. It's in a bottom where three ravines dump into a crp field. There is a creek running out of one. There are scrapes everywhere. As I got to the top if it and looked down I heard a deer running. Then I hear a grunt. There is a big chocolate racked buck pushing a doe out of the ravine the creek comes out of. There are three ways they could go, they skipped the first, now there is a 50/50 chance they could head my way. I drop my pack, grab my release out and put it on, nock and arrow and jump off to the side of the trail. I wait 5min, nothing. I throw my pack on and start walking down the hill, 50yds later the buck blows at me and storms off. He must have lost the doe and was coming back at me.

I get to where I want to be and hang my stand. It was a beautiful place to watch the woods. 10 minutes after I was set up, another buck is pushing a doe behind me but never in range. I heard him grunt a few times but never got a good look at him. I hate hunting bottoms, never see anything in range it feels like, but man, how do you ignore them?  Definitely my guilty pleasure.

That was it for the night. Had pork loin, redskin potatoes and corn for dinner.

Monday, November 4, 2019

DS19 Part 33: Finding the Zone

Decided there was one more spot I wanted to do an observation sit on. Long ridge that juts out into a point/peninsula on a lake. At the top of the ridge was a secluded crp field. There was a dead end road at the base so I parked there and started work my way to the end of the point and then was going to walk up the hill and sit on the crp. As soon as I got to the tip of the point, I hear a deer jump up near the top. I look up and throw my binos on it and it's a really nice buck in the 120 to 140 range. He goes about 30yds and looks back at me. I pretended like I wasnt paying attention to him and walked back to my car and drove away. I think that deer was bedded, which was weird because of the time of day and time of year, but even weirder for the wind direction. The wind was going up the point. But, he could see where I parked from his bed, so I think he was access watching. I drove to the next nearest access and scouted the rest of the ridge hoping to make a game plan for that evening.

Had lunch around noon and went in from behind him, hoping he didnt leave after I left. It was probably a mile or so from the next nearest access. I got to the crp, flicked the ticks off, and Bush whacked through it. The plan was to get just off wind from where I thought he would come off the point and shoot him before he got to the crp. When I got through the crp, I didnt see a tree I liked that wouldnt skylight me. There was a stiff breeze with sporadic gusts, so I decided to stalk the bed and shoot him in it hoping he was facing downhill. It probably took an hour to get within sight of it. When the breeze would settle, I'd stop, when it would blow I'd move. It was a great stalk that I was very proud of, only my target wasnt there when I got to him.

Tick Country
I dropped down the hill and walked a mile and a half to plan b for the evening sit. A ridge top funnel. I was only about 6' up in a macgyver saddle I use sometimes which is basically a muddy ambush harness. Works great but pinches the hips a little. I just used the top if my beast sticks as a platform. That worked great, too.

20min before last light I got a wild hair and got down and spot and stalked my way through the funnel. The funnel was thick briars surrounded by grass/clover fields. I saw a rabbit at 40yds and drew on it, as I was settling in to pull the trigger, a deer walked out in my sight window 10yds behind it. I froze, the deer looked up at me and did the head bob thing. I let down and it bolted out of sight around a corner to the left. I quickly snuck up to the corner and it was still there with another doe at 43yds. I had a shot and am comfortable shooting that range but wanted to get closer. Blew it and they ran.

DS19 Part 39: Still Hunting with the Muzzleloader

I didn't get out at all during rifle season.  It was kind of on purpose and kind of a case of the time just slipping away during a few w...