Deer Hunting Journal 2008

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Opening Day 2008

September 15 2008

I could see the buck coming through the thick underbrush. He moved carefully…deliberately…His senses on high alert. My heart was racing as he slowly closed the gap between us. 30 yards…25 yards…20 yards…I drew my bow undetected…just as he was about to step into my shooting lane…the alarm went off, jolting me out of a deep sleep. I rubbed my eyes trying to decipher my dream from reality. It had seemed so real.

It was 3:30am and as I made my way downstairs, I could see the trees through the window, swaying in the wind by the light of the full moon, not exactly ideal conditions. With temperatures expected in the mid 80’s, it seemed like a better day to sit on the beach than in a treestand.

I was hunting with Dan Beyer from Whitetail Solutions. The plan was to get some video of our hunt, so we climbed into our treestands equipped with video cameras and bows, and waited for legal shooting light. It wasn’t long before a small button buck came in to feed. We decided to wait for something bigger, and let the young buck go on his way. A short while later a wily old doe made her way in. She came in on full alert, carefully picking her way through the thick brush, constantly checking the wind. While she offered many shots, we couldn’t get the shot on camera, and she soon made her way toward the bedding area. The morning hunt was exciting. We had two deer within range, but because we couldn’t get the shot on video, we let them walk.

Dan was going to take a midday break before heading out for the afternoon hunt. I couldn’t hunt in the afternoon, so I decided to try a stand in an old apple tree to see if the deer were feeding on apples during midday. I climbed into the stand and began setting up the camera. I glanced over my left shoulder and I could see three bucks approaching the apple trees! The time was 11:15!

Watch The Video

I quickly put my release on and nocked an arrow. By the time I turned the camera on, 2 of the bucks were right underneath me! A few minutes later, a fat fork horn fell to a well placed shot. So many times we hear experts say that one of the best times to harvest deer is between 11am and 2pm. As I sat in my tree stand contemplating that statement, I noticed a doe making her way into the apple trees. The time was high noon! This time I was ready, and I videotaped her coming in and eating apples along the way. Ten minutes later, she fell to a perfect shot from the Mathews Drenalin.

I had seemingly everything working against me on this opening day. It was Eighty degrees with the wind gusting to thirty miles per hour. The moon was full, and I was hunting during the middle of the day. Not the best recipe for success, but in just over an hour in my stand, I had harvested two beautiful whitetails. I could have made every excuse there is to not climb into that stand, but I know from experience that persistence pays and as a result I have some incredible memories of a truly great opening day! The next time that you have the opportunity to hunt…don’t make excuses! Get out there and climb into that treestand. You may be very surprised at the outcome.

September 18 2008

trophy whitetailToday’s hunt finds me on a large piece of land that I try to manage for trophy bucks. My management principles are simple-Harvest does and let small bucks grow up. I try not to harvest any buck less than 3 1/2 years old.

While I have several treestands on this property, they are all in thick cover and todays hunt is more of a reconnaissance mission, so I sat in an old blowdown where I could see for a couple of hundred yards. I have several trail camera pictures of huge bucks and I am trying to figure out where they are coming from. This vantage point allows me to narrow it down and plan my strategy for harvesting one of these wise old whitetails.

1 1/2 year old buckIt is 4pm when I get settled in. I feel very confident in the makeshift blind. There is plenty of cover around me in the old blowdown. The afternoon is warm, but the northwest breeze is perfect for this location. Around 5pm I see a deer headed down the hill about 150 yards away and headed right in my direction. I decide that if it is a doe, I will take it. As the deer gets closer, I see that it is a small buck. I recognize the 1 1/2 year old 5 point from the trail cam pics. He continues down the hill and I draw my bow as he goes behind a tree at 20 yards. He steps out from behind the tree and stands perfectly still, slightly quartering away. I settle my pin on his vitals and ever so gently let the bow down. My makeshift blind has passed the test. The young deer had no idea that I was there and I was able to draw my bow undetected. I watched in amazement as that buck stood motionless, 20 yards away, chewing his cud for 20 minutes. He didn’t move a muscle, except for his jaw.2 1/2 year old buck He then began to mill around a little bit and after half an hour, he continued making his way down the hill. It was a truly great encounter. I get just as much pleasure from observing the deer and learning from their behavior than I do harvesting them.

The next half hour is quiet, with the exception of the many squirrels foraging for the virtually non-existent acorns. I am not sure if it is still too early for the nuts to be falling or if it is going to be a bad year for the mast crop. We will have to wait and see. I am listening to the squirrels rustling in the leaves behind me when I hear a twig break…Squirrels don’t break twigs. I turn slowly and see two more bucks coming right towards me. The first one is a deer that we know from the trail cam pics. We call him Forky, and I believe he is 2 1/2 years old.3 1/2 year old buck Right behind him is a deer that we call Stubby. Stubby might be 3 1/2 and he got his name because he injured one side of his rack when he was in velvet, so he has 4 points on one side, and a stub on the other. These guys continued to feed in my direction. They passed behind me at 10 yards and when they got downwind, you would have swore that I slapped them on the ass. They just about turned inside out trying to get out of there! By that time, it was about 6:45 and the sun was setting. That is quitting time here in Connecticut, so I packed up and headed home with some great memories of my close up encounters with these three bucks. Not the bucks that I was looking for…But pretty cool nonetheless. While I did not harvest a deer this evening, I would still consider this hunt a success.

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John VanDerLaan

John VanDerLaan is the managing editor here at He oversees a team of editors, writers and pro staff that are subject matter experts in hunting and hunting gear. John's expertise includes thoroughly testing all types of hunting gear, as well as hunting all over the U.S. and Canada. While his hunting expertise includes game birds, small game and large game, his favorite game animal is the whitetail deer and he loves to share the knowledge that he has gained over 40 years of chasing the wily whitetail with both archery gear and firearms. John is an active member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

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