As many of you know I am preparing for a two week whitetail hunt in Canada here the middle of November. Because of this and the work schedule in the shop, things have really been changed around compared to my regular hunting stratagies.
Generally for out deer season which is 5 weeks in length, for the first three weeks I am looking for a +160" whitetail. After that I go into my "Last two week" mode. Generally this means I am looking to harvest a mature animal of at least 4 1/2 years of age but score really matters little to me at that point. Just want a mature deer.
Well, as I will be in Canada for out rut season this year I decided that I would go into my "Last two week" mode from the get go this season. Basically any mature whitetail or mule deer would be on the ground.
Because the work load in the shop is still pretty heavy I decided I would try very hard to get my buck this weekend so I could get back to work this week and hit the rifles hard again before I headed up north.
Woke up Saturday morning at 5:00 AM to 30 mph winds and 55 degree temps. Drove up to our better hunting area for mature bucks and set and watched the grass blow for 4 hours and came home rather unimpressed.
Worked a few hours in the shop and headed back up for the evening hunt to watch the same grass blow in the now 35 mph wind!!!
Next morning got up again, a bit earlier because of our time change and headed back up to the hill. This time however just after shooting light a small herd of mule deer does crossed 400 yards under my position and suprisingly there was a 4x4 whitetail in the herd as well [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif[/img]! Not unusual to see mature whitetails with mule deer does but generally not until the rut begins.
He was a 3 year old buck. Ear tip wide and pretty tall but not a shooter. I talked myself out of the shot for about 10 minutes until they were out of view.
Shortly after that I saw another whitetail buck drop over the rim. On the skyline he looked to be a decent buck so I grabbed the 6.5 Allen Xpress and the rangefinder and humped it over the the rim where he had dropped off. Got down wind and crawled over the edge to try to find him which I did quickly as he was just at the bottom of the hill. He was another 3 year old but larger then the first one. Still not meeting my age requirements.
I watched him though the Weaver V-Tac scope and then suddenly caught movement farther down the valley. I turned the scope on this deer and found a VERY large and heavy whitetail. He was a clean 4x4 which I estimated him to score in the 145 to 150 range which for a clean 4x4 is quite large in this area. He was at least a 6 year old judging from his body and mass, very large and heavy.
Something had spooked him off the river bottom and he was moving off to higher ground, QUICK!!
He got behind a hill and out of sight so I got up and scrambled to the top of the rims as I knew he would be topping the rim and heading for the high ground above. There was a large opening on the tops of the rims that I may get a change for a shot.
The only problem is that he would be a ways out there and the wind was still in the 25-30 mph range. Not good for shooting at decent ranges.
When the buck topped the rims he was at a steady trott. I ranged him at 525 yards. This would be a chip shot for the 6.5mm AX but not in these conditions. Did not matter though as he never stopped running until he was up in the higher ground, typical big whitetail behavior.
I decided to head back to my post and on the way I spotted a mule deer buck that had also been jumped off the river bottom. He was about 900 yards down the rim but looked to be significant in size. I am far more a whitetail hunter but am not a fool either. If a big mule deer shows himself I will shoot him!!!
I worked down the rim keeping an eye on the buck until I was about 500 yards out. I glassed the buck and could tell he was mature and very tall. Forks were not great but he was a shooter. The winds were swireling severely at this point and there was a portion of rim hanging out that would offer me a 200-300 yard shot so I decided to try to make it to that point and take the shot.
When I got there the buck was no where to be found, NO WHERE!!! Like a fart in the wind, gone. I walked the face of the rims for two hours trying to find him and never saw any sign of him. Feeling like a fool, I headed back to the truck and headed home for the mid day lull.
That afternoon, the 6.5mm AX was left at home in favor of the longer reach of the 257 Allen Mag. I set up under where the big whitetail had gone up into the higher ground but he never showed that evening, in fact, just more wind blowing in the wind!!
Wind was still churning at 30 mph but it was a bit cooler at 40 degrees, still way to warm. I drove up and set up in a different location overlooking a creek bottom which had proven inactive for the previous part of the season except for mule deer does but the smaller mule deer bucks were beginning to act a little frisky so I figured I would see what happened.
After first light a small group of does started up the creek bottom toward my position. To my suprise it looked like the buck that had given me the slip the previous morning was right on their tail with his nose in the air the entire way. He was a solid buck. Very good 4 point on the left antler with deep forks on top and bottom but he was pretty week on his right side. Still with my time restraints I decided to take him.
They were 700 yards off and I ranged a point at 500 yards which is where I would dump him with the 257 AM. I would have considered the longer range in good conditions but the wind simply would not allow it. Even at 500 yards the wind would be an issue but I felt confident in that range with the big 156 gr ULD at 3330 fps.
They made their way towards me but at 600 yards the buck held up and let the does walk by. Almost like he knew that something was waiting for him. I considered the shot at this point seriously as the wind had calmed a bit but checking the grass at his location showed a stiff wind was still blowning. I passed and he returned up the creek bottom to live another day, which is always a good way to end a hunt in my opinion.
I headed out as I had to ship a couple rifles out and during the day the wind kicked up to a sustained 55-60 mph. It was insane how hard it blew!!
Because of the very hard windsI decided to not return to the area I had been hunting which was open terrain and try out a very small section of river bottom I am able to hunt.
The quality of bucks in this area is quite a bit less then my other area. In fact, a 130" buck is a BIG buck in this area. I have taken a couple 140 class bucks but in the 18 years I have been hunting this area those two bucks have been the largest I have seen.
As such you have to adjust your requirements for a shooter and now it was simply 4 1/2 years of age or more, no matter the antler size.
I got down to my usual spot in the thick river bottom. At my favorite location I have two shooting lanes that offer shots out to 400 yards into nearby alfalfa fields. There is a small slough fed by the river as well so there is alot of cover, water and food so there are alot of deer in this area as well, just generally not the hummers!!
I had hunted this area a couple times earlier in the week with no luck at all. I generally rattle and grunt here and when the time is right its very exciting and quick hunting.
It was about 3:30 PM when I got set up and I waited for an hour to settle things down from my movements and then started a grunt sequence and then a bit of light rattling. Nothing appeared from that try. The wind was absolutely insane and it sounded like a jet engine in the cotton woods.
I decided to get a little more aggressive with the grunting and rattling hoping something was relatively close because if it was not it would not be able to hear me at all!!
This time, almost instantly, another 3 year old popped out into the slough and headed my way. He was a clean four point on one side but had seven on the other side, very interesting buck. In another couple years he will be very impressive but I let him walk by. In the heavy winds he crossed 10 yards to my right and still never smelled me.
About 5 minutes later a cocky 2x2 popped out of the brush in one of the fields about 100 yards out and came a running right at me. Obviously looking for a bit of a tumble inspite of his small rack. He was only 2 years old but with his attitude I suspect he will be one of the dominate bucks in the area soon!! He beat the hell out of some willows and then ducked back into the heavy brush.
Things settled down for a bit so I gave the horns another try and right in the middle of my rattling a head popped out of the thick brush 150 yards up the slough. It was a larger buck but he was looking right me with the horns in my hand and had seen my movement rattling. I could not get the rifle up as he had me pegged.
Luckily I had the grunt tube in my mouth and blew a couple challange grunts to him to try to get him to move in some way so I could at least get the rifle up to see what he was.
Finally he ducked back into the brush and I grabbed the 6.5mm AX and started scanning the brush, nothing!!
I knew he was a better buck but he was not overly wide and could have easily been another younger buck. I could tell that he had rather tall eye guards though which is not common on younger bucks so I was hopeful he would give me another look.
Nothing happened though. I decided to give the horns another try but this time kept the rifle on my lap as well and kept the horns low on the ground behind some cover. You see I was basically sitting on my rear up against an old cottonwood tree right out in the open!! Suprisingly, this has always worked better for me then trying to hide in a ground blind.
I rattled pretty aggressively again and just as I laid the rattling horns on the ground and looked up, there he was. Standing right in front of me just out of the heavy brush. His whitethroat patch looked huge, that may have been because he was only 50 yards away!!!
I eased the rifle up on my knee and took a look at him. I kept the crosshairs on his throat patch as I looked at his antlers. He was looking right at me still so I could only see his spread, NOT IMPRESSIVE at all, but also his base mass which was very good for this area and his eye guards which were also far above average for this area.
Just then a coyote let out a yet a couple hundred yards down river and he turned his head. His tines were not overly long and neither was his main beam length but he was a clean 5x5 with small kickers off both of his G-2s. That was enough for me and I centered the V-Tacs reticle on his throat patch and tickled the Rugers trigger. He was down before I herd the crack of the rifle. The great thing was that even at 50 yards, shooting in a sitting position, the Holland QD still allowed me to see the shot land on target. I love those brakes!!
I let things settle down for a few minutes and then walked over to the buck. He was actually a bit heavier then I had expected. His rack was very compact and his points not overly tall but he was a great buck and its always fun to rattle in a buck.
It was not long range by any means but for the first field test for the 6.5mm AX I feel it was a great success. I aged him right at 4 1/2 years so I was very happy with that as well and his body was very large for this age of a deer. He was easily in the 200 lb live weight range and would offer alot of fine eating for the winter and summer months!!
Here are a couple pics of the buck. Again nothing amazing, just a solid Montana river bottom whitetail. Will take that every year!!!
You can see from this view the size of the bocy of the buck, his neck was beginning to swell as well from the start of the rut.
Now, its time to get some rifles finished and shipped and get my 270 and 7mm Allen Magnums ready for the Canada hunt. Hopefully, that will produce a speical buck, we will see!!
Good luck to everyone else this season, hammer a booner!!!