Tuesday afternoon, I arrived down in my hometown in Illinois. With work having wound down completely, and the house being in constant disarray with this flooring project, there isn’t much for me to do, really, since Matt works so much. I intended to just stay Tuesday night and then leave Wednesday evening. Well, I sorta kept tying on one more hunt, since I had literally nothing to do in Madison until Friday night. I got to spend all day Wednesday with my sister and little 9 month old nephew (who is just the best). I also got to do a little target practice. I found out I’ve been giving my bow a pistol-death-grip with my left hand (I draw right-handed), which is what’s been causing my arrows to miss high and right. Once I corrected my grip, I was shooting 5 inch clusters and bullseyes. It would be nice to be more accurate, but without a place to practice, I’ll take it.
I got back to Wisconsin late on Thursday night so I could put the house back together before the weekend. My mom was lobbying for me to stay another night since she had Friday off, but I’d left Matt and the dogs completely unsupervised for three days.
The pre-rut is definitely going hard down there. It should be going up here in Wisco too, but the deer on the land we hunt are so quiet and secretive that it’s hard to know. We’ve seen one scrape up here, but my second evening hunt down in Illinois, I heard two bucks rattling and grunting somewhere out of view of my stand. The younger, smaller bucks are also chasing does already. Since I haven’t already inundated this post with pictures of myself posing with a beast, it should be obvious I didn’t get anything.
The first two nights, my mom’s friend and I hunted the corner of a bean field over decoys. Nothing the first night, and just the rattles and grunts the second.
The third night was a clutch decision on my part on Wednesday evening. Again, with nothing of particular interest of import to do back at the house, I opted to stay for another hunt- I’m much more likely to see deer down there on this private land than I am to see any up here. Plus, these are the kinds of deer this guy regularly pulls out of there. If I said that wasn’t affecting my decision, you’d all be allowed to call me the filthy liar I would be for making that statement.
So. We head out for a third evening hunt. I have the stand I want to use in mind. The ladder stand I used last time I went home. One of his buddies from work was headed out with us, too. When we parked the trucks near the road, he mentioned wanting to use the same stand I did. So I told him he could have it, and I took a stand about 50 yards to the south, down in the creek draw. I shouldn’t have done that.
I figured that since it was such a windy day, and the temp had dropped about 15 degrees that afternoon, the deer might stick to the sheltered little valley anyway. I saw a small buck chasing a doe about 80 yards away from me within 5 minutes of climbing up. And then nothing else. About 4:30, I heard the coworker’s bowstring twang, a deer hauling ass away, then some crashing to the north. When we all climbed down at dark, he said he’d watched two does and a 5 pointer pass before taking the shot at that doe just before the sun set. I should have taken that stand.
So we tried to track the doe. There wasn’t a blood trail to go on, just the prints from her taking off after impact. And she’d run north down the bean field towards the pasture. We kicked around in there for a bit, searching, until we realized the bull was at that end. We called off the search, and they were going to head out today to try to find her, if the coyotes didn’t get to her first.
So. I came home empty handed again. I can’t describe how very badly I wanted to fold down the Jetta’s seats, lay down a tarp, and try to stuff a big, corn-fed buck in there. I’m not sure when I’ll make it down again. The rest of November, our weekends are chock-full. Next weekend is the USMC ball up in LaCrosse, the weekend after that is opening day of gun season, and the third weekend is right after Thanksgiving. That’s the last weekend of gun season, and Matt gets a 96 for the holiday- we always go up north to hunt there. Maybe I’ll make it down for another middle-of-the-week trip next week or the week after. And just maybe, the third time will be the charm.