Before I get into the story of how I successfully filled my buck tag in 2019 here in PA, I believe it is important to share the information that helped me do it. To begin, let’s go back to November of 2018 when I was hunting in the same location on a cold and windy day. The main area that I hunt has historically always produced a lot of deer, especially buck sightings throughout the fall. Like most hunters, checking trail cameras to see what mature bucks are around is just as exciting as the actual hunt itself. On this day in November, however, when I checked my camera card while I waited for shooting light, my heart sank deep into a dark pit….NO BUCKS! “WHAT IN THE WORLD?!” I shouted in my mind.
Prior to setting up this stand, my father and I scouted the area and found deer trails and a good amount of signs, so we prehung a stand that summer before the season. I was shocked to discover that maybe we were wrong. Later that morning, while swaying side to side as the wind seemed to pick up with every passing minute, I saw, about 100+ yards in front of me, a big bodied buck cruising up the ridge line near the road I used to get to my stand. However, there was no way I could get a shot at it and he wasn’t heading my way. I completed two all day sits, without seeing one deer in this stand. Right then, I knew this wasn’t the spot that I would have success in so, it was TIME FOR A CHANGE.
Time for a change indeed. I continued to listen to many podcasts and watch many different YouTube channels on different styles of hunting to gather as much information about hunting as I could. From the likes of John Dudley(Nock On), Cody D’Acquisto(LWCG), Mark Kenyon(Wired to Hunt), James & Jared from Bowgahunting
and The Hunting Public, I tried to soak up as much as I could and put a plan together for postseason.
I began this action plan in February 2019. After the season, my father and I walked the area we hunt. This allowed us to observe where deer were moving in the most recent time. We all know deer change their patterns frequently from summer to fall and again in the later part of the season. Using the intel we learned from the scouting trip, I again went to work for the next couple months using one of my favorite tools: OnX Hunt Maps. OnX Hunt Maps is an app on your device that allows you to know exactly where you are with property lines to public/private lands and the ability to track and add waypoints to where you are in the field. So, when I was using this app during the scouting trip, I was able to mark waypoints on the map of deer bedding, trails, food and rubs. After the map was all marked up, I knew I needed to move the stand I was in closer to the road I walk down on, I also knew that I wanted to get more mobile and get lower on the mountain on a particular ridge.
Fast forward to August 2019. This is when my father and I headed back up to the mountain and moved the prehung stand closer to the road. We walked down further into the woods and marked the tree I would use with my Lone Wolf Custom Gear stand and sticks when I hunted during the rut. Feeling great about the adjustments we made, we set new trail cameras and began the waiting game. Patience really is a virtue when you are anxiously waiting for archery season to begin.
It was finally November, the month that all whitetail hunters have waited for and worked so hard for during the preseason to ensure everything goes as closely to their game plan as possible. Hunters also know that the rut is the time of year that all hell can break loose and gameplans can go completely out the window. Friday, November 8th, displayed perfect hunting conditions in the morning and 4:00 A.M. came rather quickly as I barely slept. After I parked my truck and finished getting my gear together, I made my way down the mountain with my LWCG on my back and Mathew Vertix in hand. Still dark, I found the tree I marked back in August with the orange and white cat eyes I placed on the tree. I quickly set up the stand and as I was getting my pack on the hanger, lots of rustling was happening underneath me to my left. It was still before shooting light, but it was quickly approaching. I took the chance and quickly pulled my bow up and placed it on the bow hanger. The only thing I did not get ready was my Fourth Arrow camera arm because I was waiting for the right moment when the rustling stopped, signalling no deer were present. However, that never happened. The rustling continued and grew louder. The next 15 minutes seemed like a lifetime. I looked at my bow set up and I could see my pins were lit. It was officially shooting light.
“SNAP” made the sound of a stick in the area of the deer that were running around me for
the last 15 minutes. I noticed that there was only one deer at the moment. A large body deer with a high and tight rack. I slowly positioned myself to his side for a shot opportunity with my bow in hand. As he walked closer to my stand, he stopped to make a rub on a tree that was less than 20 yards from me. After finishing his rub, head down, he continued to walk towards me. I drew back, waiting for this mature buck to present me a shot. Naturally, he turned full broadside, looking up the ridge on the mountain. I placed my Spot Hogg Fast Eddie Double pin right behind his shoulder. I played all my shooting cues in my mind and my Nock 2 It naturally broke as I pulled through the shot. The rest of the story is a blur as I heard the deer run less than 3 seconds and crash to the frosty ground.
I did it! All the time learning, scouting and preparing made this moment that much better. I will never forget it. I will continue to use the knowledge that I gained and continue to apply and adapt to seasons to come. The biggest take away from this experience is to never stop learning and growing. If you are in a rut, reach out to other hunters for guidance. Do your research. Read articles. Watch YouTube videos. Listen to podcasts. Get into the woods and scout. Never give up. Antler Up!