There is something special about waking up at 5:00 am on a crisp October morning and pouring out that first cup of coffee. The silence of the house is peaceful and quiet which in turn gave my mind plenty of opportunity to dream about rutting whitetails and the possible scenarios that could place me in front of a solid buck. After all today was October 31st, and through my experience it’s when a lot of monster bucks seem come out of hiding. It was hard to imagine that I had canceled my scheduled vacation on November 2nd and 3rd to take advantage of the first cold front of the season with hopes of putting a mature buck on the ground. The weather app on my cell phone quickly reminded me as I scrolled through the daily forecasts that the cold front would be short lived as unseasonably warm temperatures and rain proceeded.
A light frost covered the windshield on my truck as I turned the key to start my drive to the location of my Summit climber which I had left strapped to the tree the previous night. One last check to make sure I had all of the essentials for my first all day sit of the season raced through my mind when I reached my destination. Do I have my release, doe estrous, camera cards, etc. The walk in to my stand felt refreshing since the only thing strapped to my backpack was my PSE compound bow. As I approached my stand, I took a moment to freshen a scent pad that I had placed about 15 yards in front of my stand with some Special Golden doe estrous. Little did I know, that this would pay dividends in my quest for a trophy Pennsylvania buck.
The morning started off with little wildlife sightings other than the sound of a lonesome crow sounding off in the distance. There was a stiff northwest wind that seemed to drown out the sound of life overtaking the fading dawn. I decided to stand to locate any approaching deer since my eye sight was limited when sitting. The howling winds were sure to dampen any noise of approaching deer and I wanted to spot them before they entered the kill zone. At about 8:15am, I was surprised to see that a mature doe and a yearling buck had snuck to a distance of 20 yards behind my stand location. Their presence was a welcoming sight, since I haden’t saw many doe throughout the entire season. The swirling wind and falling tree branches seemed to have the deer on edge, as the doe stomped the forest floor with her front hoove. She seemed to have an idea of my presence or maybe it was the smell of fresh estrous that had her on alert. As quickly as they had appeared they vanished into the thicket of mixed saplings and mountain laurel.
About five minutes passed until I caught movement along the ridge below me. Three doe quickly moved along the ridge before prancing into the creek bottom. At first I thought maybe a buck was pushing the doe along but after some time passed and nothing materialized out of the thicket where the doe had emerged my focus faded and I resumed scanning the whole forest for any signs of movement.
My trial camera had captured multiple pictures of a beautiful 9 point that had been hanging around my stand the past three days from anywhere from 8 am to 10 am. I glanced at my cell phone to see that the time was now 9:30 and I had yet to see any bucks. As my eyes shifted from the screen of my cell phone to the opening beyond the apple tree in front of my stand I quickly caught a glimpse of amber colored antlers moving in my direction. Unfortunately for me, the apple tree was one of the few remaining trees that had held on to its leaves. I anticipated the buck appearing within bow range at the base of the apple tree, however, as I caught movement on the other side of the apple tree I became aware that the buck had other objectives other than filling his belly. A doe moved along the edge of a golden rod field about 100 yards away from my stand. The buck seemed to have froze as he stared off into space appearing to look like my 3D target at times. I glassed the buck with my binoculars and had determined that he was the 9 pt that had been showing up on my trail camera the previous day. Finally, after what seemed like forever, the buck showed signs of life as he circled in place in a similar fashion as my golden retriever just before she lays down. The buck did just that, bedding at a distance of 60 yards from my stand facing the ridge in the direction he had appeared. He seemed to be guarding the doe as she continued to browse along the golden rod thicket.
After a short rest, the buck was back on his feet moving in the direction of the doe which was not in my favor. I reached for my grunt call but my frozen fingers failed to secure the grunt call and it fell to the forest floor beneath my stand.
My heart sank as I stared at the grunt call laying 15 feet below me with the buck slowly moving in the opposite direction. I decided to try and use The Can bleat call but was unsuccessful in capturing the buck’s attention. The morning seemed to slow down after the buck and his prized doe faded off into the distant thicket. At 12 pm, I caught movement along the ridge below me as a small 6pt moved parallel to my stand. A short time passed and another spike buck moved in my direction and eventually bedded within 20 yards of my stand. The spike was up and moving within a half hour of bedding. I hoped the spike would catch the scent of the doe that the taken the 9 pt buck away from me earlier to possibly force them back my way if bedded in the thicket below me. Unfortunately, the spike decided to head in the opposite direction possibly due to the scent of a more dominate buck in the area.
Two o clock rolled around and the stiff winds finally started to diminish. I was preparing to do some rattling with my shed antlers but as I reached for my rattling antlers I spotted a deer moving in the direction of the golden rod thicket to my right. I didn’t need to use my binoculars as the bucks antlers seemed to shine in the mid afternoon sun. I attempted to once again use my bleat call, but the buck continued to move into the golden rod thicket. The buck moved back and forth throughout the thicket and eventually jumping the 9 pt and doe. All three then ran off until eventually the disappeared from my sight.
The next two hours seemed to drag on with no deer sightings and the thoughts of the 9 pt pushing the doe to the location of my second tree stand ran through my head. I remained confident though as my trail camera pictures showed lots of deer activity around the apple tree from 5 to 6:30 pm. The once stiff northwest wind died down to a light breeze over my left shoulder. With the winds finally dying down, I decided to take a break from scanning the forest floor and rely on hearing any approaching deer. As I sat down, I rested my head back against the tree and close my eyes listening for the sound of crunching leaves.
A loud deep grunt echoed in my ear, and I quickly stood up and grabbed my bow. Not knowing which direction the grunt came from I stood motionless with my bow in my hand. A heard a second grunt, which allowed me to pinpoint its direction which was coming from the golden rod thicket where the bucks had pushed the doe of at 2 o clock. The 9 point appeared with his head stretched low pushing the doe in my direction. As the doe approached my tree stand, she quickly veered off moving in the direction that they had come from in the morning. The 9 point stopped at the edge of the golden rod field, and started to scent check the air. Knowing that I had freshened my scent pad with doe estrous in the morning, I felt confident that the buck would eventually move in my direction. To my surprise he did just that, however, he worked at an angle that didn’t present a clean ethical shot so I decided to wait and allow the buck to present a shot that I was comfortable taking. He eventually moved to within 20 yards but remained on the opposite side of the apple tree in front of the tree stand, which didn’t allow for a shot opportunity. The buck circled back to where he came from but to my surprise he began to move directly to the base of my tree stand! As the he neared 5 yards, I tried to anticipate his next move to decide where I would take my shot. As I slowly moved into position to draw my bow, the buck stopped abruptly and appeared to look into my eyes for a split second before dashing off to my left. Luckily for me he halted at 25 yards. Although I could not take a shot due to overhanging branches, I once again started to anticipate his next move to put myself in position to take the shot if one was presented.
Just then the buck made a crucial mistake as he turned 180 degrees and started working his way back to the scent pad. A move that was seconds away from positioning him into a shooting lane just 20 yards in front of me. As a drew my bow my focus was on slowing down my movements. This buck was alert and cautious. I wasn’t giving him any chance of busting me. With the pin in position I cut the arrow loose.
The once silent woods exploded as the buck took off crashing through the fallen limbs and leaves. My once nocked arrow pinned into the forest floor. I knew when a heard the all too familiar crash that my arrow had hit its mark. I reached for my cell phone to send a text letting my friends and family know that a big buck was down. From sun up to nearly sun down my all day shift came to an exciting climax. A day well spent in the great outdoors and another epic memory etched in time.
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