Bowhunting Public Land

Public land bowhunt

bowhunting public land

Bowhunting Public Land Tips

The 2015 bowhunting season was a little delayed this year for me. I was 12th overall in the Hoosier BFL division and fished the regional at Kentucky Lake. Hopefully, my bow season ends a little better than the regional but we will see. Here in Indiana this fall season has been more like fall than the past few and the end of October and a cold front usually means the end of the October lull. As an aircraft maintenance contractor, I was able to get my 4 weeks off from work to hunt this public land bowhunting season. I made a promise to myself about 20 years ago I wouldn’t work during the rut. I have made good on that promise, most seasons since.

New tires on the camper, new flusher on the toilet (it froze and broke inside the valve) and a new “RV” kitchen faucet. I am also mounting 2 new led spotlights on the Jon boat so I don’t flip it on some standing timber 6 inches above the waters surface like I did last year. My wife is happy about the lights.

I still have a few loose ends to tie together, but I plan to leave to bowhunt public land here in Indiana by Monday, October 26th. The plan is to stay at least 3 weeks. A much-needed escape from the city. I do have a visitor this season from Texas. Jim will be joining me on the 31st and he is bringing a friend. Jim and I were in Desert Storm together and we raced mountain bikes together in Germany. It has been a long time and Jim wants to get a crack at a nice Indiana public land bowhunting buck, but will be just as happy with a doe.

Bowhunting Public Land Camp

October 26th & 27th

I made it to camp yesterday evening. I wanted to get here earlier and start preparing for the hunt before the rains came but when I tested my campers electric brakes they weren’t working so I troubleshot and repaired the brakes. Of course, I had my tools buried in my truck for the trip, but I managed with a pair of scissors and some wire nuts.

There were two wires broken where they come through the axle. I also swapped brake controllers. The one in my work truck was a little better.The rains came in the night and will continue throughout the day and night and into tomorrow. I did get almost everything unpacked and ready to go and I’m planning on hunting in the rain this evening. It should be a good evening hunt. I know where a good stand is to try and harvest a doe to get things rolling.

I haven’t scouted the spot this season, but hopefully the acorns are as thick as last season and if they’re not there is still a bean field and a persimmon tree to help me out.The leaves are gorgeous and are sure to depart their trees after this rain. This fall has been a typical midwestern fall and seems to be shaping up to be a great season. My plan is to hunt “big buck ridge” (read my 2013 journal here)  carefully this season.

Last year I got aggressive early because I felt like I knew the deer movement from the previous season and I only had the weekends to hunt, but even though I did have several encounters, including 6 with the big ten seen in the photo from 2013, I think I educated the deer more than I like to. Two of the encounters with the big ten were within bow range, but it was just too thick for a shot. I have a few weeks this season to hunt so I will be very patient and adjust my stand locations slowly as I pattern the deer. I also have a couple different places to hunt this season when the wind isn’t perfect on “big buck ridge”.

October 28th 2015 

Well, I didn’t get out yesterday evening, it was just too nasty and the wind was blowing 20 and gusting to 28. I decided since I wanted to make my way back to “big buck ridge” and I hadn’t been in there this season, I would sleep in and get back there in the afternoon so I could look around and more importantly slip in undetected.Well, the wind was wrong for “big buck ridge” “BBR” so I decided to ease into an area where the wind was a little better. It was where I shot my 7 pointer with a shotgun last season and I knew there were lots of acorns.

The wind was still blowing with a little shower here and there, but it wasn’t too bad. I got settled in by 2 PM and at 3:30 I noticed the squirrels were up and about and then 6 turkeys worked their way by my stand and I thought about a shot but held off, this time. I could tell the woods was waking up and it wasn’t long before I heard a stick snap in the direction of where I thought the deer were bedded.

It was early. A little past 4 PM and the deer were doing exactly as I had planned and only had to make it another 50 yards to be in range.Well, I continued to listen to sticks snap, leaves rustle and then the unmistakable sound of deer popping acorns. It was so obvious what I was listening to but with the wind and the squirrels I was beginning to wonder if I was really hearing what I thought was deer eating acorns. It sounded like several deer and I could see the top of a giant oak tree above me where the sounds were coming from.

I continued to listen to this hoping they would ease down to my location and give me a shot as they worked their way through. I was almost too focused on the direction of the oak tree, but I did scan the area around me occasionally to make sure nothing sneaked in. During one of these quick scans, I saw a deer coming from behind me and I saw bone on his head and I turned to unhang my bow as the buck stopped within 20 yards of my tree. I froze, thinking he would see me if I moved and I wasn’t sure why he was spooked so I hoped he was just running in for dinner or to check out the deer eating the acorns on the ridge above me.

The buck took off running again and I came around with my bow as he stopped again at about 35 yards. I still only got a glimpse of his rack because I was hooking up my release and then he was gone.Not sure what spooked that buck. Was it my scent swirling in the low spot he was in? Was it a bigger buck running him out of the thicket behind me? I will never know, but the deer on the hill eating acorns continued until dark. This was verified when I got in my Jon boat and a bunch of deer took off from underneath that big oak tree. It was too dark to see any of the deer, but it sounded like a tank going through the woods. Hopefully, since it was a boat the deer will be OK and return to the oak for more acorns tomorrow evening.

October 29th 2015

Being patient isn’t easy, but the wind was wrong for a morning hunt at the oak tree. If the deer were returning to bed, they would be coming from down wind and I didn’t want them to bust me when I knew they would probably come back to eat more acorns this evening and the wind will be perfect for that. I also didn’t want to go into “BBR” with a west wind because I always try to keep my back to the water for those deer and the wind in my face so my scent never really infiltrates that area. I will get more aggressive as the season winds down, but for now I really want to keep “BBR” as clean as possible because I know there are a few good bucks that use that area.

That evening I went to the big oak and settled in about 40 yards from a well-worn trail leaving a thicket that covered the entire peninsula before opening up into this vast oak stand “the field in the woods” These oaks are dropping acorns more than my other areas and these deer know it. This type of area is money when bowhunting public land and can help you harvest more public land bucks with a bow and arrow.

This is why some bowhunting spots on public land dry up from year to year. It’s important to have a few spots picked out just in case your favorite ridge doesn’t produce acorns for whatever reason during bow season. There might be a few bucks in there as long as there are good bedding areas, but the does seem to hang tight to those ridges that are dropping acorns and we all know where the bucks go when the rut kicks in.

It was 73 degrees on this evening and the woods was dead other than a few squirrels until about 20 minutes before dark and here they came right on the trail below me. It seems that prime time when bowhunting public land is right at dark so stay put til it is too dark to hunt.

The deer taking up the rear were bird-dogging the does, but I never saw antlers so I kept focused on the doe in front as she eased into range at 42 yards. The Bowtech Patriot strikes again as it sent my Beman ICS Hunter tipped with a G5 T3 between two oaks before finding it’s mark. The doe went 50 yards before going down and she went toward the lake and fell within sight of my boat so it was an easy drag for the freezer. I texted Jim and told him fresh backstrap on a stick for his welcome dinner at camp.

October 30th 2015

The wind was right for Big Buck Ridge for an evening hunt and the sleep was welcome after dealing with the doe last night. When I got to my “BBR” spot I could see how high the lake had gotten from all the rain. This makes it not only harder to reach the Jon boat, but it is really muddy, but I found a spot and drug the boat up on the mud bank and tied it off.

I eased into the area and found a tree that I hunted two years ago where I saw several bucks. I sat the evening and didn’t see any deer, but I did hear a few deer walking below me in a dry creek bed, the gravels rustling with the leaves as they walked.

This was good and exactly what I wanted to do with this approach I wanted to keep a low profile in that area and while I didn’t see any deer on this sit I knew where to put my stand on the next evening hunt and what wind I needed. This is a great way to ease into an area when bowhunting public land. Provided you have the time.

October 31st 2015

I’m going to take the day off to cook some Kentucky Burgoo so it’s ready for Jim and Silver when they arrive. I’m going to cook my chicken in a Dutch oven and munch on some of it throughout the day. The rest will go in the Burgoo. I cooked the Kentucky Burgoo all day on the fire and Jim and Silver arrived just in time for dinner and it was a hit. I will put the recipe on here so you can try it. We also had a few marinated chunks of super fresh backstrap on a stick roasted on the open fire as an appetizer.Jim and I caught up until late into the night around the fire. It had been 25 years since the last time we saw each other. We raced a few mountain bike races in Germany before heading to Desert Storm where we have plenty of stories for the campfire. It was a great night in deer camp and a big part of many deer camps around the country. I am usually solo at my camps now, but I get so serious once November hits I am in a tree daylight to dark (as long as it is cool enough) and really don’t do a lot of hanging out around the campfire, but the forecast was for HOT! all week, so more hanging out time.

November 1st 2015

Hunted the big oak stand this evening. I saw a few deer on a ridge in the skyline so I will keep that in mind when the wind is right. I did hear two bucks clash in that direction another note was made.

November 2nd 2015

I hunted the big oaks again where I shot the doe and had a small 5 pointer eating acorns and rubbing some saplings under my tree. The little guy had a fresh gash across his back, evidence of the fighting going on in the big oaks.The evening hunt was hot and no movement. Jim and Silver cooked Fajitas and buffalo burger stuffed chiles wrapped in bacon on the fire. Tough hunting but great food and lots of laughs around the campfire

November 3rd 2015

The wind finally got right to hunt the creek-bed where I heard the deer walking a few days back. I only moved my stand maybe 75 yards to the creek bottom below. At 4:45 pm, a decent 8 pointer walked down to the creek bed and was eating grass that was growing in the woods. He was only a 2 1/2-year-old and had a great looking rack like my 2013 buck and he came out of the same thicket so it could be his son. He should be a really great 8 pointer in a couple years and hopefully he will survive. There was another buck that came down the same trail right at dark and I thought it was the 8 pointer because I watched it until it got to dark and just thought it was making it’s way back to my grunt that I always do right at dark in case a buck is nearby.

A buck came in from my right and started thrashing a tree in the creek bottom as this buck approached and I didn’t pay much attention again because I thought it was the 8 pointer. When it got under my tree I noticed it was a lot bigger deer than the 8. It was at least 4 1/2 years old but its rack was a little wacky with 5 on one side and 3 on the other so I didn’t shoot but knew if I saw him in a week or so I would.

November 4th thru 6th 2015

The evening hunt was hot and not much movement. Jim did see a nice 10 pointer chasing a doe but couldn’t  get a shot. I think he had a little buck fever anyway. It was his first time in a tree-stand and from what Silver told me it would have been a classic video to have. Jim said he went up that tree at least six times and all the straps drove him nuts. He was ready for a drink back at camp. This is where he began to get a whole new respect for bowhunters and he must have told me that a dozen times in the days to come.

Jim and Silver were cooking Fajitas and bison stuffed chilis wrapped in bacon on the fire. Tough bowhunting but great food and lots of laughs around the campfire. Jim brought all kinds of Texas vittles for me and I really appreciate it. I appreciated the pickles he made himself. They were perfect and I knew I would have some awesome pickles for my sandwiches the rest of our public land bowhunt. Not to be. I am still mad at jim for leaving the lid off those pickles and letting the flies to them. He said they were the first pickles he ever made I just hope he remembers the recipe.

November 7th 2015

Drew back on a 140 inch 8 pointer 9:30 am grunted him in and he finally winded me. I also saw a smaller buck at 1:15pm cruising. At 5:30pm I heard some deer moving out of thicket making those guttural click sounds then within a couple minutes two big bucks clashed for a few seconds then I heard them walk out and join the first group (probably does). I never laid eyes on the deer but I know where they sleep and it’s the same thicket my 8 pointer came from in 2013.

Well I almost left the above entry as it is but of course there is more to the story when it involves a great buck so I will explain and hopefully learn a little from what could have been a mistake. I was getting discouraged this beautiful November morning because I had not seen a deer. My experience was that deer move through this area late, returning to bed after a night on the fields but it was getting warmer and warmer and those gusty/swirly winds were twisting the tree tops and possibly sending my scent into a couple areas that I work hard to keep as clean as possible. I only hunt this ridge with a couple different wind directions. This limits my time in a great area, but I have messed up areas before by hunting them too often with the wrong wind so I was about to leave when I looked up and saw a big mature buck standing 75 yards up the ridge.

Grunt Deer During Rut

I could tell his focus was down the hill and the creek-bottom below so I felt like I better do something fast while he was stationary because when a pre-rut, cruising buck makes up his stubborn mind as to what direction he wanted to go, it was hard to change his mind. I lightly blew my grunt call in his direction and he immediately responded by casually turning to cruise in my direction. It was when he turned that I realized what a great buck he was. A slick 8 pointer with close to a 20 inch spread and long tines with at least 10 inch G 2’s and perfect symmetry.

The buck continued to come in my direction obviously looking for the deer that made the grunt. He had closed the distance to 45 yards but there was a cedar tree and some under story blocking a shot. He had both his ears pinned forward looking back at that creek-bottom and I knew he was giving up on the grunt. Normally I don’t grunt at a mature buck this close but I had to make a decision quick before he made up his mind to go to the creek. I grunted lightly.

I had already drawn on the buck once as he was coming into range but he stopped behind that cedar tree. All I needed was a few more steps and I would have an open shot at less than 40 yards. Letting down the draw the buck flinched at the sound of the arrow moving through the rest and I knew that wasn’t good. I either had to watch him leave and try another day or I could hit the grunt to get a few more steps in my direction. I decided to hit the grunt again.

Buck Grunt Call Tips

There is a problem with grunting at a mature whitetail at 45 yards. The big issue with grunting at a mature buck so close is that he can pinpoint, with 100 percent accuracy, where you are at. Oh sure he could spot you. But even worse he now knows where he needs to get to get a whiff of the deer doing the grunting. He wants to satisfy at least his sense of smell before moving in. He did just that. I thought I was safe with my scent cone giving me enough area to get a shot. After the buck took the few steps I needed he obviously got my scent. He turned as I drew my Bowtech Patriot to full draw. Just like that he was back behind that cedar like he knew what he was doing. I remained at full draw as he eased out of the area still in bow range for a ways.

There was two possible openings in the direction he was moving. He never entered either. I eased down the Patriot and glassed the beautiful 8 pointer as he headed down to the creek-bed below. The missed opportunity hurt. Especially with the hot weather we had been battling. The forecast was for much of the same. I knew that might have been my best chance at a mature whitetail this deer season. You can’t kill em unless you put yourself in a spot to do so. The only thing different I would have wanted to do was to point my grunt tube away from the buck before hitting it making it more difficult for the buck to pinpoint me. I couldn’t do that because he was so close and I didn’t want him to see me. I know I am getting me a grunt call with a flexible tube like the ones I have used for years. My old tubes had finally give up on me and I bought a new grunt call without the flex tube. I remembered why I had the flexible tube at that moment of truth which is not the time to do it.

The other option was to not call at all and return to hunt that buck another day because now that buck, at least for the rest of this season, will probably head the other direction if he just hears a grunt. He will definitely approach even more cautiously making the mature 8 point buck even harder to kill.

November 8th 2015

Hunted Big Buck Ridge-BBR this morning and it was fairly uneventful. I did have a small 8 point buck cruise under me but nothing else. I still haven’t seen a single doe on this ridge or creek-bottom. Even though I am consistently seeing bucks and got close to shooting a 140 class 8 pointer on November 7, I am afraid these bucks are going to start bedding with the does and leave the bedding area on and around this ridge.

I got settled in and it wasn’t long before an albino and some other deer entered the field about 100 yards away. The albino was a doe and really helped me locate the buck when it entered the field. The buck wasn’t chasing her she was chasing the buck and I was able to pinpoint him by watching her in the binos.

I watched the decent buck and another doe feed in the field above me. This was deeper in the woods than I had ever hunted on this property and it was some really old growth timber and it made it tough to locate a tree my stand would fit. The tree I finally found I could use had very little cover and really left me exposed to any deer that came up the draw behind me. I didn’t expect any from that direction since my scent was blowing in that direction but of course that is the way the deer came from while the other deer were still up in the field.

The first deer I saw was a doe after I had been glassing the field above me. I told myself I had to be careful because any deer coming from behind me would most definitely bust me moving around. I looked around only to see a doe sneaking away back into the pines. She either smelled me or saw me but either way I limited my movements after that.

I was watching the deer in the field and could see the doe running back and forth so I was sure there was a buck chasing her. I heard a deer walking in from behind me and slowly moving about before walking away. A little later I heard another deer walking behind me and I thought it would show itself eventually so I never looked around for fear of spooking it. Then I heard the deer obviously making a scrape but I never looked. I listened, to what I was now sure was a buck, walking around behind me hoping he wouldn’t get my scent, hoping it would come past me and if it was a good one give me a shot.

After making a scrape within sight of my mock scrape he eased out to the field by way of a big circle and by the time I laid eyes on him it was near dark. I knew he was a mature whitetail but had no idea how big his rack was. The big buck entered the field and then some does began to run up and down the field. He was bird-dogging them, but I never saw his head good enough to know what he was. Back in the morning, on my birthday. It has always been a good day for me when bowhunting public land.

Nov 9th 2015

Happy Birthday To Me I always say that to myself on my birthday when I’m sitting 20 feet up a tree and it isn’t blowing 30 mph, below 0 degrees or above 50 degrees and I can see my mock scrape below as well as a scrape I listened to a mature whitetail buck make the evening before.

Up at 3:30 am

The journey to this spot was a long one. I had to drive to the launch area to launch the boat, idle through a mile and a half of standing timber with some invisible, under a few inches of water, then walk over half a mile up hill to my tree-stand. In my stand well before daylight I felt good about the morning bowhunt. I was just beginning to get chilled off after the walk in when I look to my left and see a big deer walking through the pines. What happened next could not have been a more picture perfect bowhunt at least until we get to the shot.

I was sure the deer was a mature buck just by the body size. Slowly turning around I grabbed my bow off the hook. I attached the release before slowly turning to my shooting side of the stand. When I got around it took me a second to find the buck even though he was only about 50 yards below me. “There he is.” I whispered to myself. He was licking some stubborn leaves on a small oak tree just outside the thick pines from which he emerged. I could see the antlers and knew he was a shooter but it was hard to tell just how big he was until he dropped his head and began making a scrape under the small oak tree. He urinated in the scrape then broke a couple limbs on the licking branch above it before walking in my direction.

Bowhunting Public Land Deer

The buck was getting closer and heading toward the scrape that I think I heard him make last evening. He wasn’t getting much closer. I decided to draw and prepare for the shot. As he moved further from the shade of those big pines the understory became much thicker. My shot opportunities were diminishing. I felt that even if he did get a few yards closer the risks of a sapling deflecting my arrow or of him winding me were very high. I decided to take the shot. While I had a clear path to the buck.The buck wasn’t in any hurry as he seemed to be scent checking his scrapes. The funny thing was he was almost directly downwind of me. He never seemed to get a whiff. That was good. Every bowhunters fear. Right?

I was at full draw as the buck walked into a great opening and was about to bleat to stop him. Thankfully he stopped on his own, broadside. The pin settled just behind his front shoulder and I prepared for the shot.

I was focused on the deer’s chest through the peep, but I saw his front shoulder move just as I was squeezing the trigger on my Scott release. The buck took a step just as I released the arrow and at 40 yards the impact was the dreaded thud of a gut shot deer. Not good I thought, as the buck walked away, never once in a hurry.  I watched him slowly walk out of sight over a little rise at the top of the ridge. He will be laying right there when I get back after lunch, I thought.

But I Was WRONG!

Well, I might be wrong. It’s possible the buck was just over that rise and we pushed it I will never know for sure. Here is what happened. I went back to the camper to have some lunch and give the buck some time. My intentions were to give the buck all day and return for the search at around 4pm. This would have been ideal but while I was going over the shot both in my mind as well as looking at numerous images on the internet to get an idea of what I might have hit other than gut. I found some bright red blood where the buck was standing when the arrow entered. I then found some purple blood with some gut mixed in. It looked like I got a little liver according to the blood initially. I found more bright red blood within a few yards of that initial blood but then I backed out. I also saw blood dripping from the entry hole. All of this is why I thought the buck wouldn’t go far.

As I was searching the internet I checked the weather forecast and saw that rain was on its way. I knew I wanted to get on the blood trail before it got here at 4pm. This changed everything. I knew I couldn’t wait until 4pm. It was going to rain so I asked my wife Tammy if she wanted to join me in the search. To take some photos. I told her I was sure the buck was just a little ways from where I stopped tracking and we just needed to go up there and recover it.

NEVER TRUST THE WEATHERMAN

We left the camper at 11:50am. I knew it would take more than an hour to get back there. That would give the buck roughly 4 1/2 hours since it had been shot. The rain was due in about 4 hours. I wanted to get back on the trail and slowly stalk the blood trail in case I needed to make another shot. I thought this would still give the buck some more time before the rain got there.

As usual the weatherman was a little off and I felt a couple rain drops as I was leaving camp. I hoped it was just a couple drops but it soon became a torrential downpour as we entered the woods and there was still a 1/2 mile hike to the blood trail. We were just blind sided by this rain and knew that the search just got tougher.

I got on the trail immediately where I had left off that morning and could tell that any blood trail would soon be gone. To make things worse the deer was dragging its feet and was leaving an obvious trail by way of rustled leaves but that trail was slowly disappearing with all the rain.

TRACKING DEER WHEN BLOOD STOPS

When the blood ran out and we just could not get back on the bucks trail we just started looking for the deer. I thought he was still around fairly close we just needed to search the area thoroughly to find it. The search turned up nothing except that Tammy found 2 more drops of blood near a crossing at a drainage. The problem was the rain had washed all the blood away by the time I got there. She assured me it was blood but being her first real tracking and the fact that she was seeing the infamous red splotched leaves and thought they were blood several times I really wanted to see the blood myself to be sure.

We were ready to leave until Tammy found the blood so we searched another hour. I’m sure she was ready to get out of there before we really got started. She hung in there. Even though I would have preferred to see the blood she found with my own eyes I decided to accept her find as part of my search. If she saw blood it would save many miles knowing that the buck was heading in the direction that the blood indicated. It was a peninsula of the lake. While it would be a lot of walking I could actually cover that whole peninsula and locate the deer. I was sure he wouldn’t double back through all the thick stuff he already went through.

Those couple drops of blood would prove vital in the recovery of this buck as you will find.

Nov 11th 2015

Veterans Day It is Veterans Day today and I want to dedicate todays search to all my combat veteran brothers out there and especially to my combat veteran buddies Jim and Silver. They made the trip all the way from Texas to bow hunt and hang out and I know they are back home on the edge of their seats hoping I find this deer. Besides my feet and legs need some motivation to get going on what could be a many mile search.

LOCATING DEAD BUCK

It was really amazing how I finally located this deer. Drinking coffee and sitting around the campfire then back to my computer to search ways to locate a bad hit deer. I already knew to look for buzzards but wasn’t sure how long it would take them to find the deer. Reading several accounts some said within hours, others said before the dang deer was even dead and still others said 2 to 3 days. There was also some that said all their buzzards migrate out of their area by November. I had a couple dilemmas to contend with. I thought. If the buzzards had already located my buck they would not alert me to it from the air. However, they could pinpoint its final resting place as I grid searched the lake peninsula.

If the buzzards had not located my buck then they would be of no use to me. Yet another painful hike and the search would be more difficult without their help. The nights were cool and the days never got too hot. I was confident I could salvage the meat if I could just find the deer today. It was forecasted to be a little warmer. The sun was blaring down. I was cutting it close.

Truth is my sore feet, sore legs and the poison oak between every finger was holding me back a little this morning. I was also thinking that if I went too early I could walk right by the buck without seeing it. I was hoping to give the buzzards more time to locate the deer. The winds were gusting to 20mph that morning but was supposed to lay. I felt like the light winds would maybe help the buzzards zero in on the buck. Honestly I didn’t know what to expect. This was the first time I had to go to this extreme to locate a deer. I was trying to come up with every possible scenarios I could.

IT PAID OFF!

It was around 10am. My wife had asked me if I was going to get after him soon. I told her all the different scenarios that I had discussed with myself in my head into the early morning hours and up to this point. She knew it was eating me up and kept encouraging me I would find him. I asked her how she was so sure and she would just smile and say, I just know you won’t stop until you find it. It’s just how you are. I remember thinking, Dang, now I have to find it for sure. It hadn’t been easy up to that point and it don’t usually get easier as time progresses.

I got to the launch area to put in my jon boat. Buzzards were circling in the distance. I told Tammy before I left the camper that I was going to rely on her two drops of blood. Even though I thought I knew where the buck bedded. It was exact opposite direction as those two drops of blood. She said goodbye and good luck. She once again assured me she saw blood on those leaves in that cold pouring rain.  Here was my wife on essentially her first tracking expedition in 45 degree pouring rain. It was in two of her least favorite things. Wet and cold. She reminded me of this several times during the search. She hung in there and I’m forever grateful for her toughness. It was those two drops of blood that made the search on this day short and sweet.

FOLLOW THE BUZZARDS

I could see the buzzards circling in the general direction I thought the deer to be in relation to those two phantom blood drops Tammy found. Its tough to accurately determine exactly where they are when they are so high up. Nearly a mile away. By the time I had the boat launched and started idling in the direction of the buzzards I started to notice more groups of circling buzzards. I saw a couple more way up the cove where I thought the deer could have doubled back to. This was based on the possibility that this was a deer I passed up 2 years ago. He was leaving a thick bedding area on the day I shot my 8 pointer in 2013.

I sat in my jon boat for several minutes contemplating which group of buzzards to follow. Finally I called my wife back at camp and told her to stick around awhile before heading home. I might have something. I also told her if I found this buck within the next hour or so it was because of her two drops of blood. The blood I was so skeptical of. There was a bit of skepticism. She understood that it would have been much better if I could have seen the blood myself. I would ultimately be the one walking the miles and miles to try and find it. It was explained to her why it would help matters to know, without any doubt, that what she found was blood. I showed her on the map why finding that blood where she did could eliminate the rest of the world. Where she found the blood was well into a fairly narrow peninsula with very little chance the buck would double back after how far it had traveled. It was a land mass that I knew I could completely search. Albeit with a lot of blisters, thorn stabs and cuts. As well as many sore muscles, but it could be done.

They Were Circling My Public Land Buck

I picked the group of buzzards that were the furthest away from where I shot the buck than any of the other groups. I idled the jon boat closer while watching them circle high. They would all come about treetop level for a couple tight circles then fly up again. I knew they were interested in something on the ground so I idled slowly toward them and as I got closer I noticed half the group never returned from their low circles. They landed! I thought aloud and continued to watch the more timid buzzards circle high again. The buzzards circled low again. They were now going out of sight because I was close to shore. The topography rose in front of me and then gradually lost elevation toward the opposite shoreline.

When I got my boat tied and had climbed up the shoreline I could see that only one buzzard now circled. The other 6 or 7 were sitting on or near whatever it was that interested them. I was still a little skeptical based on the distance I knew this buck had to travel if in fact it was him but I had to look.

I slowly moved through the cedar grove keeping my eyes on the lone buzzard. It seemed to be leading me to its find. I’d stalk quietly so as not to spook the buzzard. Even though I knew I was close to the others if they flew I would probably have to wait for them to move in again to pinpoint whatever it was they had found. I stepped on a couple sticks while watching the buzzard above. I laughed out loud a couple times because the buzzard was low enough for me to see it very well. Each time I stepped on a stick and it cracked the buzzard would look back and down at me from flight. It was surreal but comical as well. The little things we experience in the woods is amazing. It’s why we love to spend time there.

THERE HE WAS PILED UP UNDER A CEDAR

I followed this buzzard for a while. Each time it did the low flight circles I would move a few more steps in that direction. Then I heard the unmistakeable flutter of wings in the tree branches ahead. I knew I was close. The buzzard above wasn’t going to let the others get a head start so it finally landed. I saw the tree it and the others were perched in so I picked up the pace. I thought I would have to do some searching after getting to the buzzards. But there the buck was below the buzzards. The buzzards stayed looking at me. I only wish I would have snapped a photo at that point. I was so excited about finding the deer that I forgot completely about the ones that found it for me. This deer walked almost a mile (I measured on google earth that night) from where it was shot. I do think we must have pushed the buck in our initial search in the rain but I’m not positive. I do know that the buck was in his bedroom with scrapes and rubs all around him. Those two drops of blood that Tammy found that day in the rain proved instrumental in locating this deer. They focused my search to an area exactly opposite of where I thought he would have gone.

Thank you baby for sacrificing the warm camper to help me find my buck on my birthday. You are the best wife a man could ask for especially if he is a bowhunter. Ken McBroom

Jim Phillips and Silver joined me for a week of bowhunting. Jim tells his story of his first deer hunt in the big woods from a treestand Thanks Jim and Silver for some good times and a great addition to deer camp this season. I only wish the deer were moving a little better. The food was great and I laughed harder than I have in a very long time. Thanks

I finally got a little time to talk about this hunt. Me and Ken started planning this hunt about 2 years ago. We served in the Army together. A tour in the first Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm. We had not seen each other in almost 24 years!!! I knew Ken was a die hard bowhunter. I like to think that I am as well, but I was wrong. Again!!!! Ken IS just that, a die hard bowhunter.

Being from deep south Texas I had no idea how much work this trip was going to be. Don’t get me wrong. I grew up hunting mule deer in the mountains of southern California and since have hunted in Georgia and Texas. However, the styles of hunting are a lot different. I’m fortunate enough to have a good friend here in Texas who loves to hunt as well. I invited him along. “Silver” would make the trip that much more fun as he is also a veteran. He served in the Gulf as well. I could only imagine the stories that would be told around the campfire. We got on the road Oct 31 about 9am and were dealing with heavy rain. The wind and rain followed us all the way to Indiana. Twenty-three hours later I was able to shake my friend’s hand for the first time in 24 years. As luck would have it, Ken had dinner ready and a nice doe hanging in a tree in camp. Ready to be skinned out. The first night was just as I had expected, food, cold beer, and memories. The next day we got serious.

Day 1

I had never hunted from a treestand before. I brought one with me. After a quick lesson by Ken and feeling fairly comfortable, on the four foot tree we had at camp. I was ready to hunt. Silver decided to hunt from a ground blind. I knew with my fear of heights this was going to be interesting. Me and Silver found a nice creek bottom and a bedding area. Ken went his own direction and after much trial and error I was 15 feet up in a tree. With my knees shaking. Silver was across the ridge from me. After I got calmed down and caught my breath I started realizing how much fun I was having. I was listening to the sounds of the woods and then…………. It happened. A doe over my right shoulder at 20 yards. I am right handed so this was not what I needed. She stood there for what seemed like foreever. There was nothing I could do. She finally started to move around behind me. I stood up to take a shot over the left shoulder, PERFECT? Not really. She suddenly blew up. She went thrashing through the woods. A BIG 8 or 10 point buck right behind her. I stood there wondering what just happened. They were soon out of sight and I was not feeling well. Sun down, beer time.

Day 2  

Let’s just say I won’t talk too much about it. New place. Long walk. My tree stand strap came loose. I fell in the mud and couldn’t find a tree I could climb. By the time I did I just didn’t feel like doing it. I watched turkeys for a while and then went back to camp. I searched a new area close to where I saw the buck the night before. There was a great scrape and some rubs with one good tree. Got Silver set up and up the tree. I went, and went, and went. I could not get set up and was dropping everything I had with me. Six times up and down. I was sure I had alerted every deer within 5 miles. Did I mention I have never bowhunted public land like this before? Beer time.

Day 3

The morning was just too foggy and the camp felt really good. Ken took us to a few other places that looked really good. Other hunters had already staked their claim so we had to change plans. The 3 of us loaded everything in Ken’s Jon boat. He dropped us each off in different locations. I found a really nice spot about 30 yards uphill from the lake. I was able to get in a great tree with very little effort. Finally.

Just before dark I had a small buck come in behind me down the hill to the left. I knew he was not stopping for anything, he was going somewhere and very determined to get there. There would be almost no shot unless he turned uphill right now, and guess what he did.

I had about a 3 foot shooting lane. I whispered to myself “if he gets in there I’m taking the shot, and guess what he did. My brain said 35 yards and I pinned him and let it fly. After a huge mule kick and hearing my arrow smack the tree behind him I was very unsure of my shot. I started texting both Ken and Silver and somehow made it down the tree. It was stuck in a cedar tree. There was lots of hair on it and on the ground. But very little blood, if any. Ken advised us to wait until morning. So we pulled out, left my tree stand and arrow in the tree. We picked up Silver and went back to camp. Not feeling good. It was BEER TIME!!!!

Day 4

Hunted that stand again the next morning but all I could think about was that deer and my questionable shot. By 9am I couldn’t stand it. I got down to start tracking. A quick message to Ken and Silver and I was in search of blood. I had found some small drops by the time they arrived. The three of us continued to track it for about two hours. We found a little here and there. We then lost it completely and came to the conclusion that the deer was still up and walking around. My questionable shot became reality, bad shot.We went back to the tree and ranged the shot at 42 yards. I’m sure my guess of 35 yards left me low of ideal placement.

My mistake. Lesson learned. Shooting from an elevated stand can be tough. I practiced shooting my bow from the roof of the house, sitting, kneeling. But nothing can prepare you for that moment. Do I feel bad? Yes and no. I did get a shot and I did hit the deer. While wounding a deer is not what any hunter wants to do it happens. I would have loved to harvest my first deer with and bow but the hunt wasn’t all about that. I got to see and spend time with old friends doing what we love to do. Mission accomplished and I can’t wait to do it all again

Bowhunting public land
Public Land Bowhunting
About Ken McBroom 215 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

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