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Morken: Another buck encounter in mid-December

Eric Morken

In our Dec. 12 issue of the Echo Press, I used this column to write about why I felt the weekend of Dec. 15-16 could be a great time to get back in the bow stand.

The thought behind this was pretty simple—there should have been some does coming back into a second estrus cycle after being missed by bucks in mid-November. With that, I figured I better take my own advice and get in the stand for an evening hunt on Dec. 15.

Temperatures were not what many would consider ideal for getting deer on their feet. Last year's big-buck encounter on Dec. 16 came with temperatures in the mid-30s. This year's encounter came under nearly exactly those same conditions.

The spot I targeted that afternoon was a known travel corridor. My stand sits between a river and a steep ridge that heads up toward agriculture fields. Deer love to bed on the neighboring property to the southeast and browse through the trees on the land I have access to before moving up to the cut corn after dark.

I got into the stand at 2:30 that Saturday and didn't see a deer for about two hours. At 4:30, the woods came to life. A group of eight does and fawns arrived first, but they were 80 yards away and not showing any sign of coming closer.

They had their sights on something. All of them were browsing their way toward the ridge and looking behind them on a regular basis. That's usually a good sign.

A buck came about five minutes later, and I threw my binoculars up to get a look. This was an eight-pointer that had run himself ragged through the rut. His antlers and thin body structure looked like that of a 2.5-year-old.

At this point in the year, the clock is ticking for me. With work, the holidays and my daughter's birthday on Dec. 27, I do not have many sits left. I was ready to fill my regular archery tag with a doe if given the chance, so I was interested in trying to get these deer within bow range.

I started a calling sequence. First a doe-in-estrus can. Nothing. I grabbed the grunt tube and let out a few soft calls. The buck did not react, but the does trotted off the ridge down to the bottom. They scanned the situation and slowly moved off. A few minutes later, the buck followed.

By now there was 10 minutes of shooting light left. I thought the night was over until I noticed two does and a fawn coming down the trail to my right. I turned around and positioned myself for a shot, but they fed through some brush out of range.

The older doe eventually got downwind of me and knew something was up. She wasn't startled, more so curious. She raised her nose in the air trying to catch my scent. After a while, she let her guard down and walked right at me. If a shot presented itself, I was ready.

It was at that moment that my attention shifted to a sound behind me. I looked over my left shoulder and saw another eight-pointer. This one was more filled out in the body, with a rack a little wider than the ears. I knew it was a buck I wanted to take, but I had to react now.

I turned to my left. As I did, the doe spotted me and issued a warning wheeze as she ran off. The buck stopped in his tracks and stared in her direction.

His vitals were in a small opening 20 yards away. I examined everything between me and him, even drew my bow back and buried my pin on his shoulder.

Could I slip an arrow through there? A few tiny branches made me nervous. If he took two more steps, I had a bigger, clearer opening to work with. I had to wait him out.

By now, only a few minutes of light remained. The doe that spooked had stopped to examine my location about 60 yards away. He kept his eyes on her, and when she moved off, the buck took his first step. In one motion, I drew back and let out a bleat with my mouth to try to stop him.

Unfortunately, he was on high alert. At the sound of my call, the buck trotted off through the trees and out of sight.

I got out of the stand that night a bit frustrated, but feeling like I had learned a lot again by having another close call like this on Dec. 15. Hopefully, I can fill my tag before that next season. If not, I'll be back in a tree somewhere around that same date.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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