reflections of 2020

The 2020-2021 Kentucky deer season is winding down; today is the final day for the December Muzzle-loader season.  After today there is about a month of bow and crossbow season left.  This year, about 135,000 deer have been harvested in Kentucky, and there should be another 2000 to 3000 more animals harvested before the Martin Luther King holiday when the season closes.  Here is my reflection on this year’s season. 

Overall this year, I saw fewer deer than in previous years.  However, I have had some incredible encounters with several bucks this year.  One that made the greatest impression on me this year was a hunt back in late September.   I had five bucks come rushing into my location in the woods, where I was ready to let my crossbow do the talking.  Two of the deer were (what I call) shooters; they supported some fine headgear – ten-pointers or better.   All of the deer were within range to take a shot, but I didn’t have a clear shot on the two bigger bucks. The only deer that I could shoot was a smaller eight-pointer at nine yards, so I put the crosshairs on him and waited for something to change.  I was hoping maybe one would move closer or move from behind a tree to give me a clear shot.  The minutes seemed like hours before any of them moved, and I didn’t move either because there were so many eyes looking for danger.   I never was able to get a clear shot of the two shooter bucks; my heart was still pumping hard as they slowly moved away from me.  That is what I call a close encounter.

I hunted this area of my farm several more times this year, hoping to get a second chance at the big bucks.  I saw the two shooter bucks a few days later right at dark and farther away.  Oh, well – that’s why they call it hunting and not killing!  I did harvest an eight-point buck this year with my crossbow, but he was not nearly as big as the bucks I encountered that late September evening.  I also harvested a bearded hen turkey on the first day of bow season with my trusty Hoyt compound bow, and during the KY spring turkey season, I harvested two nice longbeards.  When I look back over the year, it was a good year, after all.  What was your best encounter while hunting this year?

MY FIRST CROSSBOW BUCK


Modern gun season has come and gone for 2020. Today is Saturday, December 5th, and I am hunting on my farm with Scott Devine; he is in pursuit of a doe, and I would love to take a buck today with my crossbow. I have passed up nine different 8 point bucks this year in hopes of harvesting a 10 or 12 pointer, which I have trail camera pics of in recent days. Scott has set up in my cabin on the south side of my food plot, where he has about a 40-yard shot to a feeder, and I am hunting on the southeast part of the farm, where I have pictures of a 12 pointer.
It’s 30 degrees and calm this morning. I can see my breath as I exhale, and I can hear a barge pushing up the Cumberland River not more than a mile away. Slowly I am starting to see the ground below me as the sun begins to rise. I can hear an owl hooting in the distance, and I know the songbirds will soon be filling the air with their songs. Then the acrobats of the trees (squirrels) will begin chasing each other through the branches.
Now it’s about 8 am, and the sun is slowly making the frost disappear from my neighbor’s hayfield. It’s a great morning to be in the woods, out in God’s creation. Nearby I heard a volley of shots from duck hunters on the river, but by late morning, neither one of us had an opportunity to make our shot – we had not even seen a deer. I began wondering if deer hibernated for the winter like bears do or traveled south for the winter like ducks and geese do.
Scott had prepared to hunt all day, but I had a couple of things I needed to do, so I checked in with him before I got down and let him know I’d be returning for the evening hunt.
It was early afternoon, and my neighbor’s dogs were taking part in a barking marathon. I texted Scott, and he was watching four does. Since he wasn’t able to harvest one today, he decided to head back home before it got dark.
After we said our goodbyes, I settled in my stand for the evening hunt. I noticed the dog barking marathon was finally over, and the woods were quiet again. Just before dark, I could hear something approaching my location in the leaves. It was a deer. As it got closer, I could see antlers. I had my crossbow aimed in the direction of the buck as he continued directly towards me. He stopped at twenty yards and looked up at me. Since he was slightly quartering away, the time was now or never to take the shot.
My heart was pumping hard, ready to jump out of my chest, when I pulled the trigger on my crossbow. The deer bolted and ran! I quickly got down and looked for my bolt and /or some blood while it was still light, but I could not find either, and now it was dark. I decided to back out and return in the morning.
After a long night, morning finally came, and I started looking for my buck. I found him within five minutes! There was no blood trail because the bolt was only sticking out of him about four inches (which is why I could not find my bolt at the scene of the crime). He is not the biggest or the smallest buck I have ever harvested, but he is my first crossbow buck! Thank you, God, for this experience.

PEACOCK

All my hunts are different, but many are very similar. However, a few are very different, and one of them is this story today.
About 15 years ago, I was turkey hunting near where I lived in Paducah, Ky. I started my hunt at daylight; I had been chasing a couple of long-beards for over an hour. Finally, the gobblers had gotten quiet, and I decided to set up on the front field. I set up some decoys and called every once in a while. Decoys are like every other tool in my arsenal; sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t.
I got the hen decoy set up, and I positioned myself just near the corner of the woods for a good 25-yard shot if the ol’ gobbler came to investigate. I had made a couple of series of calls over 45 minutes with no success when all of a sudden, a blue head appeared from the woods only 50 yards from my position.
Soon a peacock emerged, walked up to my hen decoy (Henrietta), and circled her 3 or 4 times. Then it pecked Henrietta, and she fell over; it was hard to keep from laughing. I started calling, and the peacock started toward my direction; it was searching for my calling. It came within about 5-yards of my position, stopped just to my right, jumped up on a log, and let out a woman screaming cry. I sat quietly and motionless until the peacock was gone.
I found out later that there was a business located down the road from where I was hunting called “Barnyard Buddies.” I believe the peacock had escaped from there. Now I can say that I have called up a peacock. Get out in the woods and experience whatever God sends your way. (What is your unusual hunting story?)

THANKSGIVING

It’s hard to believe that today is the day before Thanksgiving. It rained a lot last night, and the wind is really whipping outside. I decided to sleep in this morning and wait until the weather breaks before heading out to the woods. It’s still windy, and the temperature is very warm for this time of year but I’m still going.

Although the rut has peaked, it’s still going on. Yesterday I hunted both morning and evening and didn’t see a single deer, and I didn’t hear very many shots either. The deer have adapted to the hunting pressure by going nocturnal; I’m hoping that the big ol’ buck will slip up and show himself today! I’ve passed up seven eight-point bucks this year, hoping for something a little bigger.

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, I encourage you to stop and think about what you are thankful for this year. Many things have changed for everyone due to COVID-19, but I still have a lot to be thankful for myself. My wife and sons, my family, and my God are the top three. I’m also thankful that I still live in a free country where I can hunt and enjoy things I like to do. I’m thankful that my glass is half full, not half empty. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving Day and count your blessings.

Is the rut here yet?

Yesterday evening I sat in my elevated box blind on the north end of my food plot, hoping for Mr. Big to show up.  The wind was blowing from the NNE at 3 mph, which tickled the leaves that remained on the trees.   This was a crosswind for my position; I like hunting a crosswind.   Had six antlerless deer show up, but no bucks.

This morning I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm was set to go off.   Got up and made coffee, dressed, made some breakfast.  Opened the door and to my surprise, it was raining.  Change in plans I decided to hunt in the cabin this instead of a ladder stand.  Got to the cabin and it was still pitch dark; the weather can play a significant role in hunting.  This August was the wettest I can remember, followed by a very dry September, and now a very wet October.  The first deer I saw this morning was about 0730 at my mock scrape about 200 yards away; I didn’t see any antlers.  Then around 0800, a spike buck showed up at 40 yards from me; he came from the west and looked the food plot over and didn’t see anything, scent checked the wind and turned and left the way he came.  Then 15 minutes later, a 3-point buck appeared precisely as the spike had come from.  He circled my feeder and stopped for a few bites of corn.  When he didn’t see any ladies, he went on his way.  The rain has stopped, and the wind has picked up a little.  It feels a lot colder than 48 degrees this morning with the wind, dampness, and lack of sunshine.  The weather forecast is calling for more rain and wind this afternoon and evening.   I may be working on my honey-do list for the rest of the day.