One of the hardest things for me with deer hunting is getting over that instinct of wanting to play it safe at all times.
I think that’s something that a lot of whitetail hunters deal with. We don’t generally want to bump deer, so we sit back from suspected bedding cover on evening hunts and hope they make it to us in daylight.
Then we want that perfect wind. Sometimes a situation calls for hunting a spot on a “just-off wind” that gives us a chance while that buck still feels like the wind is in his favor.
I have really told myself to be more aggressive this season with some of my sits, and the first opportunity at that played out on Saturday morning.
I went into a public spot in hill country with some smaller oak ridges. This was an area I have hunted twice before, and each time I saw deer moving parallel with those ridges in the bottom. Hunting these low areas is risky because of swirling winds. If there is a way to get past this, it’s by hunting them in the morning as the thermals rise and before the winds pick up.
I woke up at 4 a.m. on Saturday and got set up in my saddle about 10 feet up the tree well before first light. The plan was working. I dropped milkweed as the day started to warm, and the thermals were lifting my scent out of the bottom. A doe came through at 20 yards and never provided me with a good shot angle, but she had no idea I was there.
At about 7:45, a heavy rain started to fall and the winds picked up. I was already soaked after 10 minutes, so I decided to stick it out. I have listened to guys who swear bucks move well in the rain, so this was a chance to test that theory.
As I was scanning the far ridge, I caught movement below me. I looked down and a good buck was walking five yards from the base of my tree.
I grabbed for my bow and about the time my hand was on my thumb release, the buck caught my scent. He let out a wheeze as rain water shot off the end of his nostrils before he took off. I drew on him when he stopped at about 15 yards, but he was facing straight away now and never gave me an opportunity at a shot.
This hunt was eye opening for a couple reasons. It was waterfowl opener and there must have been a lot of ducks flying because the shooting was pretty intense all around me. There was a time when I maybe would have pulled the plug on a hunt because of that, but it’s possible that duck hunting pressure actually got that buck on its feet and moving past me.
I believe I would have that buck right now if the rain and heavy winds would have held off a bit longer. I had no chance of hearing that deer coming. My only hope was that I would be looking in the right direction, and I just wasn’t.
There’s a time to play it safe and observe and there’s a time to act on those observations. It didn’t work, but being more aggressive almost filled by Minnesota buck tag.