Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. If hunting had a mission statement, that would be it – just those three simple words.
It was the first week of November, a week many hard core deer hunters dream about for an entire year and I was certainly no exception. My vacation dates had been filed for months and October was soon coming to a close. “Rutcation 2015″ was just around the corner! As any avid hunter does, I was checking the long term weather forecasts every single day… even multiple times per day. Soon the extended 10 day forecast was giving me a peek into what I could expect during my vacation days. As each ensuing day spit out another predicted forecast, I was praying that they had it wrong . . . terribly wrong.
How could this be? Wisconsin is supposed to be blasting into winter during November, not giving us temps suitable for a beach day on the shores of Lake Michigan. Temps read like this for many of us across the Midwest during the first week of November: Monday – 72; Tuesday – 72; Wednesday – 70; Thursday – 69; it wasn’t until Friday that the daytime temps fell back down into the 50’s.
The weather for our “rutcation” was awful to say the least.
These unseasonably warm temps not only meant crappy daytime movement, but also lots of southerly winds. Being in Wisconsin, I’ve learned to hang stands in locations that are most often suitable for north or west wind variants as those are predominant during the fall. This had me worried because south was just one of those winds that didn’t compliment this property very well. It was time to improvise.
Adapting to the Weather
Halloween night was cool and rainy and my plan was to take advantage of the conditions and still hunt a thick bedding area. That plan quickly changed when a live band began blasting music from the neighbor’s garage for a Halloween party during my walk in. It was raining pretty good at the time and I thought about just packing it in, however, it was October 31st and I was already wet. So, I decided to plunk down in an observation stand overlooking a food plot and large alfalfa field. Within 20 minutes, deer were pouring out of thickets on the west side of the alfalfa field about 200 yards away. Every time a buck would come out to chase, the does and fawns would bounce back into the thick cover of the high lines and standing corn before reappearing to feed in the green alfalfa. This continued for the remainder of the evening and in total I saw roughly 10 does and fawns and 4 smaller bucks. By the end of the night, I knew exactly where I needed to get a stand hung.
Here’s a visual of the property and key features to help understand the hunt and the decisions made.
Over the next few days my cousin, Jared, and I traded off between filming and hunting. It was only Monday, November 2nd, and we were already frustrated with trying to find decent rut stands that played with the southerly winds. With only a few marginal south wind stands in place, it was time to adapt.
New Stand = New Hopes
We ended up sitting a new property Monday morning until 10am or so, and then headed out to do a hang and hunt in the area I saw all the action a few nights ago. The timing could not have been better, the farmer was harvesting the corn field that surrounded the point as we were looking for the right tree. The commotion from the harvest effectively pushed and congregated the deer to the south and allowed us to hang a double set without alerting any deer. Once we finally got settled into the large multi-stemmed basswood we figured the action would be slow until the evening hours.
You usually never find the perfect tree in the perfect spot, but this was one time I’m happy we did.
Eventually the deer began to filter out just like they had during my observation sit. By the end of the night we had seen 3 does, 3 fawns, and 3 bucks, the biggest being a good looking 2 year old 10 point that was on our “do-not-shoot” list. All in all, it was a decent night in the stand for being 70 degrees. That was until a trespasser decided to walk his dog into the field . . . with a half hour left! After my steam settled and we were out of the woods, I went to talk with the culprit. Rather than chewing him out, I politely asked if he would refrain from walking his dog on a property that was not his. He agreed and that was that. Hopefully it didn’t mess things up for the days to come.
The next morning I was behind the camera for my cousin who was hunting a different property. We saw good movement early, but no shot opportunities. Potato harvesting by the landowner had us out of stand a little sooner than we would have liked and it was back to planning our afternoon hunt. During our ride home, we followed a combine to the east side of the property I hunt. Because of this, we ended up hunting the west side again. Back up the same tree it was for us.
Doubt Setting In
When you’re fortunate enough to hunt a prime piece of property during the rut, you expect big things and heart wrenching encounters night after night. So when you’ve been skunked heading into the last 15 minutes of daylight on November 3rd, doubt begins to creep in. “Seriously, I’m wearing a t-shirt and deer hunting in November!” “I knew we should have hunted a different stand.” “I’ve yet to get a picture of a mature buck on this side of the property, why would I waste one of my precious November rutcation sits on this side of the property?”
Trust me when I say we were a little heart broken and perplexed. More or less, we were angry at Mother Nature.
November is Still November
With 15 minutes left of legal shooting time, I had just finished up a final wrap up for the camera, needless to say, it was a bit depressing. As Jared and I were mumbling about the hunt and discussing tomorrow’s plans, he all of a sudden went into full serious mode and whisper-yelled, “Buck coming!”
I was in complete shock and tried to find him in my binos as he was cruising across the alfalfa field, nose to the ground. Finally, I picked him up between the tree limbs and immediately knew he was a good buck. Ironically enough, he was coming from the exact location the trespasser was the night before. He was headed in our direction, it was only a matter of drawing him within range at this point. Once he got to edge of the alfalfa, we lost him behind all of the thick edge-brush. I knew there was a main trail off the southwest corner of the field and if he decided to take that, he’d be long gone.
Despite the warm temps my cousin and I were able to capitalize on a mature Wisconsin whitetail. (video coming soon)
I quickly picked up my grunt tube and hit him with a short contact grunt followed by a longer breeding type grunt. Without being able to see or hear him, we had no way of telling what he was doing or how he reacted. We sat there with our attention at wits’ end just trying to figure out if he was still there. All of a sudden, he answered with a grunt and I knew we were still in the game. Having thick cover between us and the deer, the bruiser was enticed to take a closer look. Then BOOM, there he was! He came crashing through the hedgerow into a grassy opening just 40 yards out. I immediately drew back as he continued to close the distance. And like a sixth sense, the buck lifted his head from the grass and pegged us. I have no idea how he did it, but he did. Staring us down at 25 yards, I settled my pin on his heart and let an arrow fly before he had the chance to bolt. The lighted nock looked good and the shot was confirmed when the wide-racked-10 tipped over 40 yards later!
Just like that, November felt like November again.