By: Joey Baker
It all started when a few friends of mine asked me if I would like to join them on a group lease back in February. They had previously hunted this ground, but were hoping to expand the lease by locking down some additional acreage from the adjoining farm. Looking at my current deer hunting situation, I said sure.
We went up in March to check out the new ground and to do a little shed hunting. At this time, we were all fired up when we saw all of the deer sign from the previous year. We found several sheds, and loved how the ground itself laid out. It had it all – food, plenty of cover, CRP, hardwoods, a lot of draws, and water. What else could a guy ask for? We all agreed that this was a whitetail haven.
One of the trail cam images that excited the group of hunters.
Fast forward to October when I was thrashing beans in Southeast Missouri. I received a text from a buddy with a picture of a bruiser buck caught on trail camera, followed by another text that said a group of the guys were headed out to chase after the giant this weekend. Knowing that I had a lot of acres to get out between now and then, I put in the extra hours so I too could make the trip. I got done with crop harvest on Thursday, October 22nd and knew that it would be a good weekend to hunt. The temperature was dropping and a high pressure front was in the forecast. I packed up that night and made the 5 ½ hour drive to Northern Missouri the next morning.
I arrived to the land and met up with the group at 3:00 pm. I literally had just enough time to put my camo on and hit the woods. Everyone in the group already had their spots picked out and I didn’t have a clue. So, I narrowed it down to a couple of stand locations, and decided to play the wind.
The Evening Hunt
Once I got to the stand I trimmed out one final shooting lane, which as you’ll learn, turned out to be one of the greatest moves of my hunting career. I was hunting a field’s edge tucked back near a thick bedding area. There were a few trails coming by the stand and a small creek that ran near it. I settled in and had one of the best hunts of my life.
Joey with his downed Missouri Monster!
Around 4:30 pm, I had an 8 point buck come in to about 20 yards broadside, followed by the arrival of six turkeys. They were scratching and feeding roughly 50 yards out. I already had what I call a successful hunt by the time the deer and turkeys had fed on off the field. For the next hour I sat there and watched squirrels play as I awaited the golden hour of deer hunting.
Making it Happen
At the right time of year, I think you can drastically improve your odds in the stand by using a deer’s curiosity and aggressiveness to your advantage. I’m big on making noise at this stage in the year. I grunt, rattle, shake limbs, and rake my boots over the bark on the trees. Now don’t get me wrong, this has worked for me, but it may be against everything you believe in. Everyone has their own hunting style, and this happens to be mine.
Striking the Chord
While calling and using this tactic, I played on the heartstrings of what is my biggest bow kill to date and probably of my life. This guy was coming to see what or who was calling this place their new home. Needless to say, he wasn’t having it. Just remember, if you use aggressive calling tactics like this, you are going to sacrifice your position, which is the greatest weapon in your arsenal when you’re hunting from a tree.
Moment of Truth
Although using this deer’s aggression against him was my success, it could have very easily been my downfall. He knew exactly where this noise was coming from. This brute came through the thicket like a dinosaur. He was swinging his head from left to right snapping off saplings from both sides. Yes, he was snapping them off! He was coming straight at me. He stopped 20 yards from me, looking in my direction, and started making a scrape about 3 feet wide, raking his feet as hard as he could. He was clearly aggravated. When he was done with his scrape he proceeded by making a rub on a tree the size of my leg.
While all of this was going on, all I could do was to tell myself to calm down. “Buck Fever”, that’s an understatement. This guy now played on my heartstrings! Staying calm was all that I could think about. I kept telling myself, “Don’t look at him. Don’t look at him.” Of course I can’t take my eyes off of him! “Don’t look at his rack…..wait, he has a 3 foot limb hung up in his rack???” “Dang it. I looked at his rack!” I just had to keep telling myself to just breathe!
Another look at this Missouri Giant.
He got the feeling that something wasn’t right and twirled and bolted to about 30 yards away. Still, no shot! But he just couldn’t let it go that another buck might possibly be in his territory. He started angling away, all the while I was trying to get a shot. He stopped at 45 yards broadside looking straight ahead. I centered my pin and let it fly. THWACK! That noise had never sounded better. He spun around and headed back in the direction he came from. I heard him crash and pile up a short distance later. I did it!
I knew I had put a good shot on him, but it was 6:15 pm and doubt started to creep in. I sat there for another 30 minutes rehashing every detail in my head…Every Detail. I got down out of the stand and went to the site of shot. Yep, he’s down, that’s a kill shot.
Easy to see how “buck fever” set in with a brute like this.
Knowing that I had just shot the deer that everyone was chasing, I decided to wait on everyone else before I took up the blood trail. I texted the fellas and told them that I had killed a pretty good buck. They had no idea that it was the giant 15 pointer we all dreamt about. They came with flashlights in hand and I just hung back quietly. Forty Five yards later they saw a white belly. The closer we got, the more excited I was. They still had no clue that it was him. Finally, the lights hit his rack and one of the guys said, “Is that him?”
Before anyone could say another word I said, “Yep, I got him fellas!”
They were all in disbelief. What a monster! A 15 yard drag to the edge of the field and this deer season was off with a bang. What a buck!!
I haven’t scored him yet, but what do you guys think?