My November Buck
It’s amazing how fast a hunt can develop during the rut. One minute you’re quietly complaining to yourself about the lack of deer activity. The next, you’re fighting off a compulsive case of adrenaline as you come to full draw on that rutting buck.
It’s an emotional roller-coaster, comprised of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. But, these vary emotions are what keeps us coming back year after year. Fortunately, I was able to fill my buck tag again this November. This hunt provided me with some interesting insight on predicting buck movement during the rut. I also learned that hunting deer sign this time of year, specifically rub lines, may not be as far-fetched as previously thought.
This past weekend, November 13th-15th, I embarked on a 4 hour trip from New York to Maryland for a mini rut-cation. Deer activity had been increasing and the weather forecast was calling for a nice cool down. However, the strong winds that were predicted wouldn’t be so welcoming.
My alarm sounded early Friday morning. I set off to meet an old friend for a morning hunt at a private farm property in Baltimore County. This same friend has proved to be a buck magnet for me in the past. Once again his luck would rub off on me. The weather had cooled off some but the winds had endured throughout the night. We settled into our respective trees and braced ourselves for a windy morning. By sun rise we both were feeling the vertigo from our trees being violently blown in the wind. With no sign of deer movement and gusts of wind reaching 40 mph, we decided to back out and try again that evening.
By mid afternoon the wind had settled down. We set out again in pursuit of a November buck. Around 4:15 pm I caught a glimpse of a small spike making his way across the field heading towards my direction. He stopped about 80 yards out, stuck his nose in the air and proceeded to scent check the area. By this time he was directly downwind from me. So I decided to spray the last bit of doe estrus I had left. The wind quickly dispersed the estrus into the air. Sure enough, he licked his nose, flicked his tail and trotted right at me. This buck was a yearling at best. But, this was a great opportunity to test my tending grunt call. So I picked up my Grunt Call and proceeded to hit some tending grunts. Almost immediately I heard the unmistakable sound of a buck crashing through the leaves. However, It was coming from the complete opposite direction from where the spike was. I swung around and instantly locked my eyes on a very respectable 7 point. Proof of concept, the call had worked! He made it within 15 yards of my stand but never provided a shot opportunity. I’m glad he didn’t, he’ll be a nice buck in another year or two. The daylight quickly disappeared and my first hunt of my rut-cation had concluded.
My November Buck
It was Saturday and my plan was to make an all day sit at Liberty Reservoir . This watershed is a public property that I’ve hunted many times in the past. I gathered my gear, packed a few snacks and set out to one of my favorite hunting spots. It was a crisp day and my last bow hunt of the season. The hunt started off slow and by midday, without a deer in sight, my patience was beginning to run out. I decided to gather my things and relocate to another section of the reservoir. This time I made the choice to hunt from the ground. So I headed out to a section of hardwoods not far from a power-line field. To my right the hardwoods slowly transitioned into pines as they descended downhill. I knew this location well. Deer would typically cross over the power-line field into the hardwoods and make their way to the pines. I’d seen this scenario played out many times before. I thought that maybe I’d catch a buck cruising along this same path. I searched for a concealed location to hunt from the ground. In the process I stumbled upon a fairly fresh rub line. It started a few yards from the power-line field and led in the direction of the pines. Suddenly I had a flashback. The year before I had harvested a November buck while hunting a similar rub line. The rubbed side of the tree and direction of the rub line would indicate which way the buck would be approaching. But, It was peak rut. They say hunting deer sign this time of year isn’t a good tactic. However, could the year before have been an indication that bucks still cruise rub lines this time of year? I was willing to put this theory to the test. I settled in for the evening hunt and made sure to keep my eyes peeled to the east. If a buck was indeed cruising this rub line he would be approaching from this direction.
I had about 20 minutes of daylight left when it happened. Crunching leaves from the east quickly caught my attention. As I quietly stood up I made eye contact with my November buck. He froze in place, realizing that he had made a mistake. I came to full draw, tapped my trigger release and watched my arrow make contact. In a matter of 30 seconds the hunt was over. I quietly fist pumped as my adrenaline climaxed. About 20 minutes later I began the search for my arrow and blood sign. To my surprise I found nothing. I knew I had made contact. So I decided to walk the edge of the power-line field where I had last seen him run. I knew I’d likely stumble upon a blood trail where he had crossed into the field. After walking a few minutes I stepped right over where he had crossed. A blood trail proceeded directly into the straw grass and into the power-line field. But, I quickly lost blood. I decided to back out until the following morning to give the deer some more time.
My father and I returned Sunday morning and were able to recover the deer. Another successful hunt, lesson learned and great memory! This wasn’t a trophy buck by any means. But, the circumstances surrounding the hunt made this harvest a truly special one. I was able to get it done on public land, from the ground, and while hunting a rub line during the rut for the second straight year. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Hope you’ve had a successful hunting season thus far. Thanks again for Joining The Hunt.
Until next time….Hunt Hard!