Where to begin is always the hardest part of sharing a story. My goal in this story is to try and make you feel like you were there with me through my 2016-2017 Pennsylvania Hunting Season. So here goes nothing.
First thing, I am going to start with is getting permission to hunt on this piece of property. I was trying to convince one of my friend’s dad to allow me to hunt near their house. I started with a very open ended question to him asking if he would allow me to hunt his land, knowing that he had other properties. He asked which one I was talking about. I responded with the land near your house. He wasn’t too keen on the idea of hunting near his house, but he did reply with this small acre and said have at it. This all occurred right around the middle of August. This left me very little time to try and prep for this property due to 5C opening on September 17th.
The hardest part was taken care of and permission had been granted. I started to use google maps to try and get a better feel of what was around the property and where I thought I might want to hang my first stand. After looking at the maps, the property looked like it could be a great funnel to get to other properties in the area with more wood coverage. The property is a long narrow strip of woods with a small field on one side and a large corn field on the other side. A few days after I received permission, I went to set up a trail camera. After getting to the property and stepping foot onto it, I had one of those feelings that this was either going to be a gold mine or bust. I went ahead and found a trail and hung the camera. With only a month before opening day, I checked the camera twice. They were both disappointing card pulls but it did tell me that there was some smaller buck in the area and a few does crossing through.
Just like that, opening day was here (September 17th) and I was not in a tree stand. I was actually attending Bow Fest in Forkville, Pa, where Flatline Whitetails had a booth. Lucky for me, there was no cell phone reception so I couldn’t get jealous of seeing early season bucks hitting the ground. My first day of hunting was Wednesday, the 21st. I looked over the maps one last time and thought I had an idea of where I wanted to go. At this point, I still hadn’t hung a stand. On Tuesday, the 20th around lunch time, I took a scent free shower and had my scent free clothes ready to go. After I got to the property I retrieved my stand and ladder sticks and proceeded along the smaller bottom field and found where I wanted to cut in to my spot. I was going to use this bottom field to access the property in both morning and evening hunts. It was quiet and allowed me to stay out of the woods where I would be potentially leaving scent on a trail. I hadn’t scouted where I decided to hang my stand, but looking at the maps to me was the best place to start. It was going to let me observe the property and try to learn where the deer move and wasn’t right in the heart of the property. After hanging the stand, I cut a few branches down, and I was out of there. I was trying to leave as little scent and noise as I could.
SEASON HAS BEGUN
The day was upon me, my opening day of hunting season. It was one of those sleepless nights anticipating what I would see the next morning. I started that morning off like I do every hunt. Scent free shower, scent free cloths to drive in, and scent free hunting clothing. I was in early and sat in the dark for a little over an hour. This is one of my favorite times to be in stand, just being able to do some thinking and clear your mind before the day that lies ahead. Just like that, the first glimpse of sunrise started peeking through. I had dreams that I would see deer right away but that wasn’t the case. I saw my first deer around 8 AM. It was a buck, walking the top line of the property between the corn field and the tree line. It was hard to tell exactly how nice this buck was or wasn’t. I was looking through my binoculars trying to figure out what this buck was, when I saw movement out the corner of my eye. This movement wasn’t that of a deer but a tree shaking violently. This movement was coming from directly behind my stand about 50 yards away. I swung myself and the camera around to the opposite side of the tree where I thought this other deer might come. I turned to find a very nice buck behind me standing only 20 yards away. He snuck right in on me, but he hadn’t busted me. He walked right underneath my stand. To this day, I’m not sure why I didn’t pick my bow up on that deer. He was a beautiful 8-point buck, maybe 115 inches. He made his way through and a tall 5-point buck, the tree shaker followed. All I did that day, was film those two buck and think, wow, what an experience on an opening day.
I continued to hunt the same stand multiple times a week. You might be thinking how or why? To answer that question, I lost my job right before hunting season. I thought to myself it’s game on, I am going to hunt harder than I have ever hunted before. I was averaging 4 to 5 days a week in a stand between a few different properties. Some also might say I was over hunting the spot. With this being a funnel and hunting my winds in the right direction, a deer cruising through to make his/her way to bedding wasn’t going to pay much attention. At least this was my thinking. There were only a few times that I didn’t see a deer while hunting that stand. I was also banking on the rut to work a little magic for me.
So, let’s fast forward to October 31st, Halloween. I continued to run a trail camera all season long on the other side of the property which was only 150 yards away. Just far enough that I couldn’t see that side through the thick cover. There were two scrapes by the camera. I hunted the morning of the 31st and saw a few does. On my way out, I went past the camera and freshened up the two scrapes and left for the day. I did the same thing the next morning. I was curious to see if anything had come to the fresh scent. I got home and loaded the card in the computer to find a beautiful mature buck there at night smelling around and kicking some dirt. I immediately got excited and continued to hunt hard. More days came and went without seeing a shooter. At this point I had a trip planned to Ohio and I was ready for a change of pace. Needless to say, I had a great trip in Ohio with some good friends, where we all had success killing buck. My cousins were also out in Ohio and had success. They were in a different location but 5 bucks in 5 days is a pretty awesome feat. The season also came to a close statewide in Pa while on our trip to Ohio. But, there was that extra time in 5C that was still open and I was excited to get back to Pa to hunt.
THE BIG DAY
After Ohio, I took a few days off from hunting to spend it with loved ones, who I had been missing while on my trip. I had set my eyes on November 16th as my next trip to the stand. That morning I did my normal routine of scent free shower, scent free clothes to wear in the car, and changing into my scent free hunting clothing upon arriving at the property. I also entered the property the same way, along the field edge until it was time to cut into the woods to my stand. I was in an hour early like usual. Once again, I found myself sitting in the dark thinking about life and the amazing high I was coming off of from Ohio. My spirits were high, and I had the rut on my mind. The sun did its usual thing and started lighting up the woods. The birds were chirping and the day was coming to life. I sat patiently waiting for my first deer to come. Just like that, a small doe came running about 50 yards above me. I thought game on, a buck is behind her but which buck was it. Well it wasn’t a buck at all it was a raccoon that chased her, he even came right down to my stand and sniffed my first ladder stick before continuing on. It made for some excitement and cool footage. I continued to scan the woods for any movement. It was at that point around 9 AM that I caught something moving.
Right away the excitement took over. I saw a beautiful tall white rack making its way through the woods. The adrenaline kicked in and I told myself shooter right away. This buck made his way to 40 yards and stopped quartering to in some thick coverage. He stood there for 10 minutes, which felt like more than a lifetime. He was looking up the hill, I couldn’t tell what he was looking at, but I had a good feeling it was another deer. This buck decided to turn around and go back the way he came; my heart sank every step he took. I was trying all the tricks to get him to come back, nothing was working. This buck was the one that was on trail camera Halloween night. I knew it right when I saw him. I sat down and got that depressed feeling, so close yet so far away. I did some talking with friends and my mind was set, it was going to be an all-day sit. My only dilemma was I had no food with me. I thought well I’ll sit till roughly lunch time, get down, run to the closest gas station and come right back. After seeing that buck the things that were running through my mind, one thing stood out, it was November 16th. Some might say so what it’s just another day. Well for me this was the day my grandfather passed away 6 years ago. Immediately I thought this buck was the “PaPa” buck. I was praying that I would have another encounter with this buck.
An hour goes by and just like that another doe comes running right at me and cuts up the hill about 20 yards in front of me. I thought not another raccoon please, and it wasn’t. Boom, there he was the “PaPa” buck coming in below me in the thick coverage chasing the doe. My heart was pumping; the camera was rolling and the bow was in my hand. He stopped directly below me in thick coverage standing 20 yards away. I wasn’t sure if he was going to come straight towards me or continue on the trail. He stood there again for another 2 minutes. This 2 minutes felt longer than the 10 minutes I had to wait the first time. Once again I was so close but yet so far. The doe must have continued on behind me towards the backside of the property, and he was watching her every move. She must have moved just enough that it was time for him to continue on the trail he was on. He came to 15 yards in a wide-open spot. I laid the absolute smack down on him. He ran 50 yards and piled up. I have never been so excited and mentally drained all at one time. The un-thinkable just occurred. Two bucks in less than a week. I got down out of the stand to find my arrow covered in that beautiful bright red/pinkish color. It was an easy track job since I had seen him fall. As I walked over to the deer, he got bigger and bigger every step I took. He had so much character that you couldn’t tell by the trail camera photos. He had the acorn point, split brow tine, an inside point, and a worm hole. The only thing this buck didn’t have was a drop tine. The “PaPa” buck came in at my biggest buck to date scoring a gross score of 131”.
Thanks for taking the time to read this story. I hope you enjoyed reliving the hunt with me as you read along. Until next time may all your arrows fly straight and true.
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