It is easy to get discouraged as deer hunters when things are not going as we think they should in November.
I struggle with this every year. The calendar flips from October, and I get this rush of anticipation on that first November sit. The deer have to be moving today, right? It’s November.
It doesn’t work that way, but in northern states like North Dakota and Minnesota, you can be sure that the movement we love as whitetail fanatics is on its way soon. So be in the woods.
November 1 and 2 in North Dakota were slow for me. Not even young bucks were cruising, but each new morning was filled with one thought -- “It’s one day futher into November.”
I was settled into a tree in my saddle before first light on Nov. 3, and I chose this location for a couple reasons. It was a good pinch point between two great bedding areas to my north and south. I had also bumped a bunch of does off the field here a couple weeks prior while hunting an evening on the neighboring property.
It was a lone doe that showed up first on Nov. 3. She browsed around below me before moving off, and I couldn’t help but wonder where the bucks were.
It was quiet again for about an hour before I looked back to my left and noticed another doe moving through thick brush. Behind her was a bigger-bodied deer, so I grabbed my bow off the Heroclip. They both came up over a small crest on the terrain, and I got a good look at him as the sun shined bright off his 10-point rack.
They walked on a soft trail that was right on the top edge of the river. This was not the trail I was set up for, and the doe went right underneath my tree. She got five yards downwind and immediately hit a wall of scent.
The buck was 10 yards upwind to my left, standing and staring at the doe as she began to stomp and blow. This continued for almost five minutes before she busted out of the timber and onto the field to run away. The buck just stood there, scanning the situation.
I was hanging about 12 feet up in the air right against the tree trunk. I used the bow to hide my face, tucked my chin low to avoid eye contact, and he stood still as a statue. His only movement for nearly 10 more minutes was to shift his head to look for whatever might have spooked that doe. He never did see me or have any idea I was there.
The whole while this is happening, I’m talking to myself. “Be patient. He’s going to give you a shot. Go through your process and take your time.”
The buck finally started to loosen up his body language. He put his head down to browse, and I used my feet on the platform to extend away from the tree and draw my bow. Instead of giving me a broadside shot, the buck turned and walked down the exact same trail he came in on.
I looked up the trail and saw where there was a slight turn to the right. There was an opening with a few twigs in the way that would be within inches of his body, but I trusted I had the power on my Victory RIP TKO arrow with 200-grain fixed blades to accurately and ethically take the shot.
I settled back into my anchor position. He stepped into that opening and I bleated to stop him. With him quartering away, I put the pin off the shoulder right near the back rib and pulled through my resistance release. I watched as the arrow drove home right there. The buck went 40 yards, stopped for a few seconds and fell over.
After a couple days of very little activity, it all changed. That’s November. That’s why regardless of what happened the day before or other variables (it was nearly 75 degrees that day), it pays to be in the woods this time of year. My buddy, Tyler Notch of Alexandria, shot another good buck cruising a different portion of that property the morning of Nov. 4.
Here are a few key aspects of my hunt that I think helped.
I preach creative access into hunting locations a lot, and this was another example of how I believe that helped.
I had two options on how to access this spot -- walk through an open agriculture field in the dark or walk the steep, muddy banks of the river. Moving 500 yards along the river was a pain as I got covered in sweat and mud, but it kept me from busting deer off that field. I was able to slip into this tree without hearing a single deer blow or run off. That never hurts a hunt.
Invisible in a saddle
I continue to be blown away by how well hidden one can stay when hunting out of a saddle.
I was only 12 feet up in the tree, and this buck had no idea I was there. I felt completely pinned to the tree like he could bust me at any time, but he never did.
Finding where the does are
My first hunt on this trip on the morning of Nov. 1 was in a spot where I knew I probably shouldn’t be.
It’s not a bad spot. It’s a nice pinch point when bucks really start chasing hard, but it did not feel close enough to great bedding for so early in November. I sat there because the wind was questionable for the tree I really wanted to hunt, and it was forecasted to be much better the following day. After striking out on both of the first two days, I thought hard about just finding where I thought the most does were at that time.
That’s why that hunt a couple weeks earlier proved important. I had a fruitless sit on the evening of Oct. 17, and I blew a bunch of does off a neighboring field on my way out. I hate doing that, but it told me that the trees along that field would be a place to think about come November. As much as anything, that’s what drew me to that tree where I killed this buck.