If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Falling Poplars Deer Camp 2015

The silence was deafening.  The only thing to be heard was a steady thud, thud, thud.  
Overnight, snow had fallen, blanketing the forest in a thin white veil.  Even in the pre-dawn darkness the forest was visible to the human eye.  Not every detail but a flashlight was not needed to find the way through the trees.

His heart raced as the snow cover enhanced the light, making it seem as if he was late getting out into the woods.  He double stepped it on the path that he had cleared the month prior.  It had been a lot of work, but he was glad now.  Weeks ago he had taken the time to rake a footpath through the woods from camp all the way to his deer stand.  Removing the sticks that would crunch under foot as well as the leaves which would also quiet his approach and make the trail stand out in the dark.  This morning the snow had covered everything but the trail.  When the flakes landed on the dirt path they melted but when they landed on the leaf litter they were up off the warm ground so they stayed frozen.

He stepped into the woods, following the inky black line snaking through the trees.  His flashlight, untouched, nestled in his coat pocket.  Quiet as a mouse he snuck through the woods.  Within a few minutes he reached his stand, tied his cross bow to the rope hanging down from the upper platform and proceeded to climb the rungs of the ladder.  Sliding up and into the stand he pulled up his bow by the rope, knocked and arrow and settled in, awaiting the dawn and shooting light, both legal and visual.

The woods was quiet.  Not a sound could be heard except the thudding of his heartbeat.  He strained to hear any sounds, but the soft wet snow had dampened the forest floor and everything and everyone were silent.  So he sat and he waited and soon the sun began to rise in the eastern sky and the woods began to come alive with the sounds of birds flitting tree to tree and squirrels chattering as they climbed down from their treetop nests.  The noise was welcome as it quieted the ringing in his ears. 

Within the first hour of shooting light, he spotted movement.  Ahead and to the left, emerging from the thick saplings.  This area was known as the slashings.  It is where the state had logged off all of the trees 2 years prior and it was now a tangled mess of saplings, ferns, and grasses.  Impenetrable and un-huntable for a human but a safe haven for a deer. 

He identified the movement as a deer and within a second or two he spotted antlers.  The deer however, was not coming towards him but headed deeper into the property which he hunted.  He reached down and grabbed his grunt call.  Pointing it in the direction of the deer he held it up to his mouth and blew softly into it.  A grunt was emitted from the opposite end.  This sound mimicked another buck and was used to help draw a buck, hopefully, a dominant buck, in towards the sound to defend his territory of lesser, younger bucks. 

The deer continued on his straight path into the thicker area covered in pine trees but before it did he glimpsed his antlers in entirety.  It was an 8 point buck.  The deer ignored his grunt call and disappeared from sight.

Disheartened he slumped back in his seat.  This was the 4th buck he had seen from this stand this season and only one of them had been close enough for a shot and that had been the small one, which he wasn’t interested in shooting anyways.  So he sat still and continued to survey the woods around him.

A mere 5 minutes later he heard a noise directly in front of him coming from behind a thick clump of a cedar tree.  He couldn’t see through the mess of green boughs, but he readied himself just the same.  A few seconds later a deer stepped out from behind the cedar clump, taking a few steps to his right.  It was the same 8 point he had seen a minute ago.  Apparently he had heard the grunt and decided to come investigate, just not the way he had hoped. 

The buck continued to move to his right, his offhand side, and he needed to shift his position in the stand to get a shot.  Ever so slowly he began to rotate his bottom on the cushioned pad he sat on.  Halfway through his rotation his pants squeaked on the seat cushion.  The buck stopped instantly and looked right at him, only twenty yards away.  He froze but deep down he knew the game was over. 

These deer were way too smart.  In this morning silence, the sound of that slight squeak of his pants might as well been a bullhorn in the cheering section at a football game.  The deer hesitated only for a half-second and then leaped away.  Making three quick bounds, he was out of shooting range and stopped at the edge of the thick pines to look back.  He gave his tail a few swishes and walked into the depths of the dark pines, never to be seen again.

Inside his head he cursed silently.  You just don’t get a lot of chances like that.  He needed to take advantage of those close encounters.  Disgusted he sat back, figuring his morning was most likely shot now.  What are the odds of seeing another nice buck? 

Within 20 minutes he spotted movement again.  This time an adult doe and her yearling fawn emerged from the slashings, much closer to his stand.  The yearling walked down the trail to within 10 yards of his stand.  He watched her closely.  

Knowing he wouldn’t take a shot at the little one but if the older deer approached he would try and fill his tag.  It wasn’t meant to be.  The big doe continued on her path and walked behind his stand and off into the woods.  The little one realizing she was being left behind trotted quickly away to catch up with her mother.  He smiled at the way the little doe hurried to catch up. 

He checked the time, 8:45 AM.  The snow still covered the ground and the morning had already given him three deer sightings.  A successful hunt?  By his standards, yes, but he really wanted to tag a deer before the gun season opened up and the deer went into hiding.

Within minutes of the two does passing by he spotted movement again.  The same location as the previous buck.  This time he spotted antlers right away.  Big ones.  Reaching for his call he gave a small soft grunt.  He watched as the buck continued down the path towards the center of the woods and he thought for sure it would take the same path as the buck previous. 

The big buck sauntered his way down the slight slope and when he reached the raked footpath that the hunter used to travel to and from his stand he stopped.  He seemed as if he was thinking.  He just stood there for a minute, looking this way and that way, and then turned and headed right down the very footpath the hunter had walked, just a few short hours ago.  The big buck walked down the path his head bobbing up and down with each step and the hunter in the stand readied himself.  The wind was in his favor and as long as the buck continued to walk the path he would be within shooting distance in a few more seconds.  He began to count the long ivory-like tines the buck carried upon his massive head and rut-swollen neck.  One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine and then the buck disappeared behind a tree.  He was only 20 yards away a perfect distance for a bow shot.  He stepped out from behind the tree and stood facing the hunter. 

“Turn sideways please,” he whispered in his mind.  “I have no shot at this angle.”

The buck continued to stand and then dunked his nose into the leaf litter.  He had found something to eat.  In the morning stillness, the crunching of the buck eating echoed all around the woods.  “CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH!  Over and over he dipped his head to the ground.  Every once in a while he would shift his position slightly but would not give up a shot to his vital section. 

The hunter began to get nervous.  He knew better than to take a bad shot and possibly wound this deer.  His scope mounted crossbow quivered in his hands as the crosshairs traced over the bucks body searching for that one spot which would quickly and humanely bring his mighty quarry down.  His only option was a shot to the neck, risky at best.  He would have to hit the jugular vein or sever the spinal cord.  Any other shot and the buck would run away, wounded and unrecovered.  He waited.  He could not take a shot that was not perfect. 

The buck stood there in all his glory eating away the morning.  He couldn’t believe it.  He had never seen a buck eating in the woods let alone stand in the same spot for almost fifteen minutes.  His arms began to ache and his hands began to go numb from holding the same position for so long.  He couldn’t move, though.  There was no cover between him and the buck and any movement at all would surely be seen or heard by the deer.  So he sat, and he shook and shivered as the adrenaline, aka, buck fever coursed its way through his veins.  Then as quickly as he stepped into view the buck turned one hundred and eighty degrees and walked straight away from him, back the way he had come. 

He groaned, no way was this happening.  No way was that buck going to stand in front of him at 60 feet without presenting a shot and then just walk away.  Now the big tree was between him and the buck and he could only see the slight line of its rump sticking out from behind the tree.  He was almost sick as he watched the buck walk down the trail. 

Five yards further and then ten yards further and then he stopped.  He looked this way and that way and then as if heaven was shining down upon the quivering hunter in the tree, the majestic buck made a left turn and headed back up the hill presenting the hunter with a 30 yard, quartering away shot.  His finger twitched on the trigger of the crossbow and the arrow rocketed out of its cradle and smashed into the buck behind his shoulder smack dab in the middle of the vital zone.

The deer took off like a rocket towards the slashings and the hunter began to grunt at him rapidly. “Grunt, grunt, grunt.”  The deer ran 40 yards and stopped to turn around and investigate where the loud grunting was coming from.  The hunter watched as the buck swiveled his head looking for the intruder buck and then two seconds after he stopped the mighty buck began to sway back and forth as if he was drunk and then fell over sideways dead.

The hunter stood up in his stand arms raised in the air as if signaling a touchdown.  “Yes, yes, yes,” he said aloud and into the woods.  “Awesome!”

That my friends is the story of how I shot my biggest buck ever with a bow.  

I arrived in camp and began to set up around 11:30 Friday morning the 13th of November.

I have a large tarp I place over the camper to protect it from the elements

There is also a screened in room off the front that I cover in tarps to block the wind

Here is camp all set up

Here is a short video of Saturday morning in my stand

The big boy where he fell

A close-up

Luckily for me he ran towards a spot in the slashings that had an opening and I was able to back my truck into the slashings off the two-track to within 30 yards of where he fell  Thankfully because he was heavy and I was all alone.

Once back to camp I had to put up a buck pole and somehow get this brute hung.  Luckily for me I had brought along a bunch of ropes and pulleys and a come-along to assist me.

The weather got really warm and I had to put up a shade sail to block the sun.  Eventually I had to cut up the deer right in camp so the meat wouldn't spoil.

Brian arrived Saturday night and we had a great evening by the campfire.  Unfortunately, the warm weather and hunting pressure drove the deer into hiding and we only seen one deer each during the gun season.  Both deer were small does and we passed.  We departed camp early due to some oncoming nasty weather but, all in all, we had a good time.

Brian brought up his guitar again and we enjoyed the music and singing by the campfire late into the night.

It got so warm in camp, that we stood around in t-shirts and had the windows open in the camper.

I was pretty happy!
(especially in my newly knitted hat made by Brians girlfriend Aria)

Until next time,

I thought of a name for our camp.  The area is thick with poplar trees also known as Quaking Aspen.  The trees surrounding our camp are some of the largest I have ever seen and during big windstorms they like to fall over.  Hence the name.


  1. That is a mighty fine looking buck. Glad you were able to get one. Sounded like an enjoyable time too with your brother :)

    It took me awhile to get used to seeing dead deer in the back of peoples' pickup trucks when we lived in Montana :)


    Wait. What am I saying? That would cover UP the leaves.
    And dog turds.
    Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I have no idea why my comment posted twice. Hence, the delete. Maybe I offended myself?

  5. What a great post. I'm glad you had success and a good time with your brother too. Good pic of you too!

  6. That's very manly impressive!
    And I'm dropping by to say congratulations. Saw your comment on the beer guys' blog. Excuse my "Good luck to that sucka" remark. Good luck to...you. Smiles.

  7. Wow, is that what hunting is like? That's intense. I've never been hunting because I suck at life, but now I kinda want to.


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