Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 30: My chance at a MA Public Land Pope and Young

Today was my day, I jumped a deer halfway down the cart rd to my stand, so I picked up my pace as walking was quiet and I wanted to scoot away from him to not spook him too hard knowing it was still dark and I had a bank to hide me only 10 yards away...I heard only two bounds then silence and it was headed towards my stand. I got settled by 6:30 am and started grilling the brook crossing I expected that deer to come from at some point. At 7 am, surprise, there's a dark body moving through the young hemlocks across the brook and I stood up and grabbed my bow knowing this was all going to happen quickly. Big woods bucks are incredible, you can honestly never underestimate the strength and will power of these bastards. At 7 am I shot a minimum 130" buck (could easily be in the 140's) with my bow at 30 yards. He was at least an 8 pt but honestly I saw rack for 2 seconds before I decided he was a shooter and had to range the tree ahead of him and prep for the shot, it all happened in less than a minute between spotting him at 45 yds and shooting him at 30 yds as he was about to walk out of my last shooting lane headed to the community scrape my camera is overlooking and has been catching some serious bucks at since Nov 1st. After the shot the buck bounded twice back towards the brook, looked at his body (which I immediately registered in my head as possibly assessing his wound) and then he walked off just like he came in, sneaking away at a slow pace, definitely no signs of injury but he was in the thick stuff quick and even in my binos I only got a couple small glimpses of him sneaking away. As luck would have it the nock didn't go off, first time for my Nocturnals, so I have no clue where I hit it and didn't even know at first if I hit it other than that sound I know so well of punching the rib cage. I waited 30 minutes before getting down to find out what happened. When I got to the spot I saw the fletched half of my arrow with some blood, fat and hair all over it up to my 4" wrap. 10 ft away was the broad head half of my arrow, also covered in similar blood, fat and hair. Now I know I hit him, and I saw no blood or hair in that first 10 ft. As I carefully and quietly started tracking back to the brook where he first bounded to, my mood changed instantly. As I picked my head up looking ahead of the fresh tracks, I spotted a huge pool of blood. I jumped over to it and saw blood everywhere, an easy 12" wide blood trail heading off where he snuck away. I immediately felt a sense of relief. Despite not knowing where I hit the buck you only see blood trails like this when you heart shot or double lung a deer... Right? I walked down the blood highway with no effort for 50 yds, was satisfied I nailed him, and then decided to back out both to get some help dragging him out and to play it extra safe, he's a big buck, its early, no need to press on. I arrived with my buddy at 9:30 am, plenty of time I thought for a deer that was spilling blood like a stuck pig and that brought me confidence that we were going to walk up on him very quickly. Nope. We tracked him about .4 miles from 9:30 am to 11:00 am, losing blood about 4 times due to drops getting smaller in size, the ground being crazy saturated and barely showing tracks, never mind the fact that every drop of blood that hit the ground hit a puddle in the leaves and was immediately watered down, and low and behold, we jumped him. I can't blame the conditions really, but they didn't help at all, the ground was soaked, saturated and fresh tracks looked 3 days old and fresh blood was either pink water or a sliver of red on the outside of a small puddle of blood on a leaf. He never bedded down, only walked steadily as if he never knew he was hit, but at 11:00 am, we approached a super thick laurel patch and despite him taking the easy path the whole way, he had no choice but to dive into the laurel. Apparently he thought that was a perfect spot to watch his back trail as we got only 30 ft away from him and jumped him out of the laurel thicket. Now I knew we were in trouble. We never found a bed in the thicket, and the bound marks and fresh tracks in the mud on the other side of the thick laurel had us thinking it wasn't even him we jumped. I stayed on his tracks and found a leaf with a pink puddle of water on it, it was him, and we were still on him. We regrouped and decided we had to press this deer. Not the normal approach I'd take, I'm a patient hunter and I always back out if it looks sketchy, but we've followed him this far, he showed signs of being hit real hard, and the rain was only going to get worse today so why would we back out now? I was able to get back on his tracks, find some small wet spots of blood to assure us we were on the right path, but the blood was getting thinner, less consistent and all I could do is hope and pray inside my head for him to go down. About 100 yds after jumping him and .6 miles overall, I found 5 drops of blood where he went up a small slope following a run, continuing to take the easy path onto a small oak flat 40 yds across, and then we lost him in the sea of tracks and feed sign. I followed the main run that crossed the oak flat, we back tracked over and over following every run and every set of tracks that left that flat, but there was no more blood. If it were dry the tracks and scuffs and specs of blood would have given us a chance, but the wet landscape had us washed up. All I have left for hope is that he is headed into more open woods that narrow down between the steep hillside to the east and the swamp to the left, neither of which he attempted to venture into, taking the easy path along the landscape the whole .6 miles we tracked him. Tomorrow I venture out with my father and 2 of our friends to grid and body search the narrow corridor he was headed for which spans another 1/2 mile north to south before the road and only about 300 yards between the swamp and steep hillside. I am confident he is dead by now and I'm hoping the steady rain held him down tonight so he can die in his bed. The question will be whether he is truly mortally wounded and lies within that last 1/2 mile stretch, but I have not lost hope that we can still stumble on him tomorrow. Wish us luck. Our chances are as slim as can be but I feel like I will be rewarded for the stupid amount of time I've spent hunting this season dedicating my time to the chase that consumes my life and daily thoughts. If I don't find him tomorrow I'll dedicate Friday, and probably Saturday to searching for this buck. I owe to him, I owe it to myself, and I owe it to my family whom I've left at home (despite their constant support) for hours on end since September as I've pursued my passion for Massachusetts mature bucks.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

November 11th was the day, the rut should be peaking this week.

Friday the 11th was a big day for me and numerous rut reports flooded in from some friends too.  Driving to my area in the morning I encountered a giant 160 class 10 point in the road that was frantically trying to find his way into the woods as he was pinned outside a fence.  My driving up to him only made him freak out more, but he found a way out of the road finally, awesome buck cruising alone.  My hopes were high, what a sight to see, now if I could only encounter a deer like that in the woods that'd be great.  As I sat in my tree stand Friday morning in anticipation of a deer crunching in through the extra dry and crunchy leaves, my buddy was blowing up my phone about an encounter he had with 5 bucks chasing a doe by him in the morning and he missed a shot at one of the bucks.  Minutes later he had another doe come by and another buck come in from behind him.  "Finally, its on" I thought, now when are my deer going to get moving?  Suddenly at around 8:30 am I heard the unmistakable sound of deer crashing through the woods in front of me in the clear cut.  I stood up and grabbed my bow immediately not know if they were coming at me or by me or where they'd pop out in the thick cut.  With so many roads crossing near my stand, they could fly down any of them and be on me in a hurry.  As I heard the crashing moving right to left in the thicket, out popped the doe in a full sprint across a long logging road lane in front of me at about 80 yards.  I starred at that exact spot as I heard the buck grunt and come crashing behind, out jumps Bullwinkle in a full sprint only 20 yards behind her, here we go.  The doe took him on a long run along the soft ridge in front of me zig-zagging through the thick cut.  Its amazing how gracefully a 200+ lb wide racked buck can easily keep up with a doe darting around even in the thick woods.  As they raced around in the thicket I was flipping my can call over and over again trying to pull the doe to me while she ran scared and suddenly they went up the hill and out of sight.  I could still hear the faint sounds of crashing but my heart began to sink as I thought they were gone.  Then the doe cam crashing back over the hill right down a cart road that leads right to my stand, but then she turned off, no buck in sight though.  I pulled up my binoculars to check her out, maybe the chasing kicked up another doe?  I saw her tail at half mast, a sign she's in heat, so where is Bullwinkle?  As I scanned left only 20 yards behind the doe there he was, standing there, nose in the air starring right in my direction where the bleats came from.  The doe was now calm and so was he and he began tending her, keeping a safe 20 yards between them but he'd move up every time she took a step or two.  I watched both of them in my binoculars for over 15 minutes as they barely made it 10 yards in that time.  While the doe began feeding, Bullwinkle starred in my direction looking for the source of the grunts and bleats the whole time, but he wasn't leaving her and she wasn't even interested in the calls one bit.  They worked left to right, slightly angling my way, there was a chance they'd end up in my shooting lane 40-50 yards out, a shot I'm prepared to take if the situation is right.  I practice all year at long distances not only to make the short shots easier, but in the event a big buck comes by at a distance and I have a clear shot, I don't want to waste that rare MA encounter, I want to be able to make the shot confidently.  They eventually got behind some white pines blocking my view of the hillside they were slowly working along, and they never came out.  I was hoping they bedded there as I know doe's have come off that hillside and down by my stand per my trail camera, but I think at the end of the day, the crazy high winds that picked up not 30 minutes after I lost sight of them strapped them down for the day.  I sat all day in the cold 20 mph winds and 30-40 mph gusts blew me around in my tree, just in case they popped out again.  They either bedded there or made a 90 degree turn and went further back in the clear cut where I know Bullwinkle spends most of his time.  I went back in there  Saturday morning with hopes he'd still be tending her or that other bucks discovered his catch and would be moving her around giving me a crack at Bullwinkle, but the bedding area was quiet.  I watched a bob cat hunt mice and squirrels for about an hour, he struck out multiple times on both, was cool to watch.  At around 8:15 am I heard fast foot steps coming at me and as I stood up a 4 point on a half trot came cruising by me through two shooting lanes at 30 yards, he was on a mission.  Later that afternoon in the same stand I had a deer cruise out of the bedding area on a good pace but it was 5 pm and too dark to see what it was.  It didn't come down by my stand like my camera has showed so often, instead it stayed up on the hillside about 60 yards out.  Not a bad two days in the big woods considering I saw ZERO deer Tuesday through Thursday, I'm hoping this is the week as the rut should be in full swing the next few days.  Hopefully the mild weather doesn't strap them down too much.  On another note, I checked a few cameras today while I was unable to hunt (I hate Sunday's in MA) and got a couple new big bucks on a community scrape that's in a natural terrain funnel that connects two huge pieces of woods.  One of the bucks on Friday 11/11 when all hell broke loose, was a nice 10 point at 10:38 am!  I also discovered an awesome 8 pt with super mass and long tines with a real right rack and gnarley bases.  Looks like I have some new bucks in some new woods to track back to their home range and start planning to hunt them.  I also marked a couple climber trees, this spot is too good to ignore the rest of this season, I'll have to try it a couple days at least.  Good luck the next two weeks to those who will out for what I think is the best two weeks of the MA bow season!  I'll be out there almost every day, here we go, it could happen.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

November 8: Time to peak

So here we are, November 8th, and I've heard of about 2 or 3 mature bucks being seen, and only one was chasing.  The weather has been solid, not as cold as it could be, but comfortable enough for these deer to be moving, so what's going on?  This is actually normal for zone 6 based on my last 8 years of intel in that area, things don't seem to really pick up until November 9th-ish.  So I hope that is true because otherwise I'm at a loss for ideas why I haven't even been seeing young bucks wandering around.  My target bucks area has been cold for sign since the flurry of scrapes happened the last week of October.  Other than 6 pack, who showed up on one of my cams on 10/27 the day of the afternoon snow, I have not seen any of the 7 bucks on my cams that resided in Bullwinkle's territory all summer, including his bachelor mates.  My theory is this:  Bullwinkle has pushed his younger competitors out of his territory.  Is this 100% accurate?  Probably not, but given that I run 7 cameras and 6 tree stands in his core area, all I've got on camera in the last 3 weeks is Bullwinkle and some doe's.  On Friday 11/4 around 8:30 am I saw 3 doe's scootin' up the mountain with no buck in tow, they weren't looking over their shoulder but they also weren't being cautious and feeding.  The next morning at 5:30 am my wifi cam sent me pics of a doe and fawn feeding alone heading back to bed and on Sunday morning I had two doe's on another nearby camera heading back to bed before light and coming out the same way after dark.  This provides evidence of two important points in my opinion: 1.  They are being sneaky and stealth and trying to avoid being chased around (even though they are not being chased and the young bucks in the area are no where to be seen by me or my cams) and 2. They are clearly not in heat yet being grouped up still and still hanging with their fawns, but they are definitely restless because I haven't seen doe's or got pics of doe's in a couple weeks, hopefully this means things are about to heat up.  As for my boy, my latest updates are two close calls, as close as it gets in the big woods without actually seeing or shooting my buck.  On Friday 11/4 I checked one of my cams mid day to find out Bullwinkle had gone back to bed a couple hours before it got light and I quickly went back to my Jeep to gear up and get in the stand for the remainder of the afternoon having a perfect wind for the afternoon with hopes he'd retrace his steps that evening or come down like 6 Pack did opening week (pic below).  He never showed, probably as expected, but it left me with some confidence that he was still using his core area and still going by my stand that has great entry and is near flawless with the right wind.  However, things remained slow overall for me not having seen deer with my own eyes since opening week other than the three doe's that morning.  Today I sat that stand in the morning, saw nothing and then decided (since the wind finally switched south) to go to the north end of his territory to a stand I have only been to the morning of opening day.  While there was little sign to speak of on the way in per usual with my recent hunts, Bullwinkle was the only picture on my camera, and boy did it get my emotions mixed up.  On Halloween night, while I was sitting only 200 yards away, Bullwinkle went the other way and visited one of my stands an hour before dark!  While I am somewhat heart broken, I am also totally rejuvenated.  My only two pics of him at this stand (and the cam only tells part of the story as usual) have been with plenty of shooting light and he looks cool as a cucumber moping around eating acorns with full confidence that he owns the area and the doe's aren't worth chasing yet.  I'm going back to that stand the next couple days with high hopes.  Its thick, 300 degrees of laurel around me, acorns everywhere, still falling today actually, and I know he beds close when he's in there, it's only a matter of time before we cross paths, hopefully it plays out just like Halloween night but with me in my stand at full draw.  More to come on this game of cat and mouse...

Going back to bed nice and early on the south end of his territory, too bad he didn't come out that night!!

Trick or treating at my stand while I was only 200 yards away at another stand.  Cat and mouse...

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Nov. 3rd first sighting

So I was supposed to be working today, but.... I saw that a weather front was moving in and that the day was calling for rain starting around 10am. With that info in mind I added a day to my hunting vacation. Night time lows were only going to be around 50 degrees but I hoped that the weather would keep them moving. I got into a stand that I have hunted a little already, its a big Laurel patch that I have had numerous bucks visiting. There are a lot of acorns in the piece which I think is holding some does (although I have had zero pics of does on my cameras lately). Regardless, the winds were predicted to be almost nothing out of the southeast which sets up nice for this spot.
   I got into the stand at about 6am, it was warm but comfortable as I waited for daylight. Winds early on were light and steady, but as daylight approached it really died down and they were almost nonexistent except for a few moments here and there where it might have picked up to 2 or 3mph. I was worried with the low pressure and light winds that my scent might be an issue so I took out a can of Buck Bomb "Doe P" and sprayed the branches and brush around me. I wasn't trying to use it as an attractant but more as a cover in the event a deer showed up and the wind swirled.
    At about 7:20am I heard the sound of approaching footsteps, the problem was they were approaching from almost directly behind me. An even bigger problem is that behind me is a sea of Mountain Laurel that is so thick that there is no way I could shoot through it. At about 20 yds I picked up movement, it was a big 7 pointer that I have had pictures of. He was walking steadily with his nose up in the air. He appeared to have caught the smell of the buck bomb and was checking it out. At 10 yds he cut my track and stopped (as i mentioned there is absolutely no way to shoot into this stuff). He stuck his nose in the air and I could hear him sniffing the wind. Moments later he bounded a few yards further into the thick stuff and began to blow at me like it was his job. I am not sure if he caught my wind or picked up my boot track (either is possible), either way he didn't like it. He proceeded to make a 50 yd circle around me, blowing almost every step of the way. Without exaggeration he probably blew 100 times before he was finally gone. At one point he was probably 200yds away and still blowing at me.
    Well, at least it wasn't a wasted day and I really couldn't have got much closer to a deer without killing it. I knew the buck well and knew that he was a likely target in that area. So its always good to know that I had a plan and in some ways that plan came together. Luckily for me that buck wasn't even on the list of bucks I "really" wanted to kill...but I would have been happy to if he gave me the opportunity.

Monday, October 31, 2016

October 31: Young bucks on the move

I have very little personal experiences to share about this MA season so far because I continue to see little to no deer movement.  Things really heated up with my weekend, on Friday I had a doe come by at 6:20 am in the dark and set off my flash camera, and on Saturday I saw two doe's crossing a power line while I was driving out.  Its an October slump, but tomorrow is November so my hopes are still with each passing day.  Today I decided to get out of my bucks main bedding area which has been super cold and started moving into the doe areas he likes to visit.  After another beautiful morning, I adjusted a couple cameras, opened the scrapes, added a little scent and snuck off, I'm going to leave the bedding area alone for a week or so I've decided.  After dropping my gear at my Jeep I took off to the top of what I call "Moosebuck Mountain," where I started getting regular pictures of Bullwinkle (originally Moosebuck) last year.  I hung my new Bushnell Wifi camera (courtesy of the best girlfriend in the world) at the top of the ridge on an intersection with a big community scrape as I've caught Bullwinkle here mostly at night but quite frequently the last two years.  Thanks to trail cameras placed all over last years rut sign as I expanded my scouting for Bullwinkle, I discovered his second favorite thicket to bed in on the north end of his territory.  This "mountain" is in the center of his range, smack in the middle of his two favorite areas to bed and spend his time, making this ridge top is an ideal spot for him to cross over while traveling between them.  My plan is that if I can catch him checking this scrape in the next couple weeks it will give me some sort of useful information, leading me to either his southern or northern bedding to hunt, regardless of what time he passes by.  I've failed to make use of this camera to date as I seem to be a step behind every time I hang it somewhere new and the spots have been cold cold cold.  This scrape has had plenty of activity the last couple weeks so my hopes are high, would be cool to get a text to wake up to in the morning showing me which direction he's headed, all intel is good intel on big woods bucks.  This afternoon I took a chance in a new tree stand on an open hardwood hillside that I haven't hunted yet.  Its a stand for a dead North wind or a NE and until I got in there to learn the thermals, I didn't want to risk anything else.  But today I was yearning to see a deer after a slow two weeks, and this spot is perfect for cruising bucks, as evidence by the video below of 6 Pack from last Thursday when I snuck in to check the cam in the snow.  A NNW wind turned out to perfect, so I'm excited to have a new NNW stand given how much we've already seen that wind direction this year.  I got news of a 1 1/2 yr old buck chasing doe's that died by the bow this morning, and another 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 yr old buck that died by the bow cruising for doe's this afternoon.  Another buddy of mine saw a nice buck in a field with his nose down going back to the woods, later 5 doe's came running by him, but the buck never followed, must have just got the girls up and checked them out.  My area is still very slow for scrapes, but others are reporting fresh scrapes the last couple times in, some areas are heating up, get in the woods as much as you can, any day the big buck in your area could get up and move, it could be yours next!

6 Pack came by Thursday 4 hours after I checked the camera, cool snowy video.

Bullwinkle cruising by like he did on 10/16, 10/18 and 10/21.  Just need to pick the right day.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

October 27th: Things are heating up, right?

Another slow day for me, but not for others as the friend report has been heating up all week.  This cold front has paid off great for most hunters I've been exchanging information with.  Fresh scrapes are showing up, aggressive rubs, and I've heard two reports of grunting and chasing.  My area remains quiet, I sat my bucks core bedding area for 4 straight days in 3 different stands, not a deer in sight not a picture on the cameras.  My attitude is still very positive after a mid day scouting mission today to make my rounds and check the cameras and stands I haven't seen in two weeks since before the season began.  The sign is still light in my area overall, only a few satellite scrapes, barely any community scrapes opened up yet, but some good rubs continue to pile up in some areas around the thickets where I know doe's like to hang.  The intel continues to pile up for me, I've never known so much about a buck I've been after.  I got a surprise last night while I was clearing some memory cards I pulled last week, a picture I couldn't see clearly enough on my card reader while in the field last week, but my target buck "Bullwinkle" walked right by my camera only 3 days after I moved it, he walked right down the cart road at around 8:00 pm,15 yards from the stand I sat the last 2 days.  I began wondering if he'd gone nocturnal, which was hard to digest considering I had so many day time pics of him in his core area, I'm talking like 80% of the pics of him in his core area were day time from June to early October.  But it all makes sense now that I've thought it through, this is what bucks are supposed to do, rest up and save their energy for peak breeding activity.  After checking my cameras today, its exactly what I had hoped to confirm after sitting 4 days without him or another deer in sight.  I got pictures of Bullwinkle at two other stand locations out of the 4 spots I checked, all night time pictures checking his doe areas.  3 confirming his departure from his core bedding area at night, one from his north most bedding area, and another of him bedding smack in the middle of his territory by my climber spot and coming out at exactly 6:30 pm last week, probably too dark to shoot of course.  I'm confident he's in trouble this season with my current set up, it seems like wherever I put a camera he shows up on it.  My last stand location I hadn't got a picture of him he visited 3 times last week, I just knew by the terrain and last years sign this was a regular spot to check, especially with all the mature oaks around.  While I may not be getting many pictures of him in his core bedding area lately (last pic was opening day at 6:08 pm) he is still checking his doe areas at night either coming from or going to his favorite bedding areas.  Don't give up on big old bucks, while there is certainly a chance to kill them this early in the season, they know its time to relax during the day and conserve energy for marking their territory and visiting the ladies at night.  It brings me additional confidence and patience to know that despite mostly nocturnal pictures, that I did get him moving in shooting light 3 times in October and all of these dates he's showed up at a tree stand location confirmed by trail camera just since the start of the month:  October 2, 10 (at two cameras), 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 23.  Some pictures below of the recent action...

Never got him in this cam and he shows up 3 times in 5 days!

Mock scrape in the snow, looks real doesn't it?  Still gets ya pumped!!

These two rubs were right on my trail to my stand.  I could smell the birch tree on the second one it was so fresh.  The last 3 times I went to that stand there was a new rub on my trail in, and now there's 3 rubs and 3 scrapes... Guess they like the path I cut.

Coming out of bedding the week before the season opened, I couldn't tell it was him on my card reader, so I guess I was sitting in the right place the last couple days, just need him to do this with a light left, quartering away 20 yds isn't bad!

And so it begins...

    ...Actually it began a couple weeks ago, but for me it began yesterday (Oct 25th). I was waiting for some cold weather, and yesterday morning it was 30 degrees and windy. I hunted a spot that recently has had a lot of smaller bucks. I was hoping to fill the freezer and also keep my better stands fresh. I didn't see anything, morning or evening. I am in the same place again this morning. The temps are a cool 30 again but with a light wind, it's nice but no deer as of yet.
   As far as bucks on the list for the season there are a few. 1st is the drop tine, he's been around a couple years. I saw him once last year and we found a shed from him this spring. The 2nd is the split brow tine buck. He has been around a couple years as well. I set 2 new stands for him and already have numerous pics of him. I'd like to think if the temps and wind cooperate I might have a shot at that buck. 3rd is a buck nicknamed by a friend as "Juice" because he went from a skinny framed 9-point to a big 10 this year. We really don't have his core nailed down, last year he was everywhere, but he was young. In the last few days I got his pic in the area I'm sitting now, but I never got him in this area last year. Time will tell if he sticks around. The last deer is a buck I got pics of twice last year. He was a big 8 with a sticker on his g2 last year. He is the same again this year, just bigger. That buck I only got pics of a couple times last year in late October then he disappeared, maybe he'll stick around this year. There are numerous small to decent bucks but these 4 seem to be the dominant bucks in the area....but ya never what might show up in November.



"Sticker 8"

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 25: Cold fronts, Cold Hunts!!

Anticipation was super high, deer movement has been super slow, for me anyway.  The cold front had me excited Monday (33L, 50H) so I sat all day in the prime conditions.  It was a SW that switched to WNW cold breezy wind that brought a lot of noise to the woods and quieted the bird and squirrel activity in my area, but the deer movement was also quiet, no deer Monday at Bullwinkle's Back Door.  I call it the backdoor because my stand overlooks an opening on the edge of the clear cut that leads to a dark hemlock and laurel thicket creating an edge that is dark on one side and wide open on the other.  Last year, there were 8 rubs and 2 big scrapes within 30 yards of where my stand is currently set showing the clear entry and exit in and out of the clear cut, Bullwinkle's core area.  On Tuesday I sat Bullwinkle's Front Door where I passed the 4 yr old 6 point "6 Pack" last week.  My tree is surrounded by thick laurel and trees that were sparred during the cut.  Behind me is a single logging road fed by 2 different roads and a couple other runs that come out of the clear cut and funnel down where the deer head to and come from the power lines which has 2 different scrapes on it on each side of my stand.  In front of my stand is a big clearing that is fed by 3 cart roads that all funnel to one and a big community scrape.  I can see at least 100 yards into the clear cut from both stands, and am right on top of big scrapes that were opened and hit multiple times since September, but despite the excitement of October 25th, no deer for two days in either stand!  Tomorrow the cold windy front continues with a projected NNW wind and more cold temps.  Instead of changing it up like I want to in order to seek some better action, I'm going right back to the same stand where I was today.  There's just too many ways he could travel by me where I can shoot him and too many of his scrapes near me within range and a W or NW or NNW wind is too perfect for him to swing around the slope in front of me cutting into the wind as he scent checks the bedding area, its a great set up, I can't give up after one day of seeing nothing.  After all, I got patience for days and one of my favorite sayings for hunting and fishing is, "If it sucks, make sure it sucks."  Also, I should note that the scrapes in my area haven't been hit and nothing has shown up on my cameras since last week so I'm being stubborn hunting a seemingly cold spot this week, but its my bucks core area, I'm not leaving yet.  Not to fear the October lull though, I saw doe's on the way to and from hunting off the side of the road, along with a few reports of young bucks being seen Monday evening.  Tuesday morning I heard about a lot of doe movement in the cool breeze, and I heard about a nice buck being taken as well.  Get out there, tomorrow is October 26, I'll be there, it could happen.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

10/21 Hunt

Hunted 10/21 despite warm temps, and light rain. About 5PM I had a single deer come down and the old cart rd 35 yards west of me. Not sure if it was a small buck or doe. It was my first sighting from a stand for 2016. Temps dropping overnight. Hoping they're on their feet tomorrow. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 19th: I saw a deer!

Finally got a slight improvement in the weather and it paid off this afternoon, but not after a hot nerve wrenching.  It was a very warm morning, 63 degrees for the walk in and morning hunt, calm with a SSW that was supposed to switch to WNW by 9:00 am.  I couldn't avoid sweating slightly despite wearing light camo today, which added to my already diminished expectations for the morning, and then it got worse.  The first hiker of the day arrived at 7:45 am, walking his two dogs down the cart road I come in on, only 70 yards from my stand.  I know the road gets used a little by horse back riders, but I'm hoping this guy isn't a frequent flyer as his dogs were running freely through the woods, luckily they were down wind and weren't too loud.  I bailed early because I couldn't keep my eyes open this morning, the weakness of a daily hunter, something I'm sure you've all experienced before if you've woke up at 3:30 am for multiple days in a row.  I parked my jeep on the shady side of the powerlines I drive into and embarked on a mid day recharge nap in the drivers seat.  In my 3 and half hour slumber (and trust me it was worth it!) I heard a woman and her dog walk by, roughly an hour in between her passing both ways by my jeep, the nerve she had to wake me up, "another yuppy?" I thought.  When I woke up around 2:00 pm I decided it was time to shake off the cobwebs and get going, the wind was supposed to die down and the low for tonight is freakin 45, deer might actually move!  I got settled into my stand by 3:00 pm with the WNW wind blowing steady in my face, the perfect set up today.  At 3:15 pm I heard something walking right behind my stand that made me turn slowly to look, I'd be astonished if a deer was on its feet now, its still above 70 degrees, and then... The 3rd yuppy of the day.  This guy walking by himself down the cart road I enter on, which its important to note my camera has been watching for over a month with zero human activity, walks right by me.  I yelled to him to stop him from going into the bedding area I'm waiting for my buck to walk out of, and he waves and keeps walking.  Then I asked him "where you headed?" so he points forward and keeps walking.  I actually got lucky that he was down wind of the bedding area and did in fact turn down wind of me instead of walking up into the bedding area.  I was so close to getting down, but I figured with the sound being covered by the wind and his scent staying down wind of everything, I may be ok.  The wind died by 5:30 pm, but was softly and quietly blowing out of the WNW still, then I heard something making noise on the slope out in front of me above the cut clearing I'm over looking.  As I starred in that direction, my heart jumped as I watch a branch start flying around, BUCK.  I raised my binoculars and could see the body and legs standing behind the flailing branch, he took a few steps forward and I could see a nice rack as wide as his ears.  Likely not my buck I thought, but with the fading light my heart was pounding because I didn't know for sure.  When he stepped out into the clear cut, I could finally recognize the familiar buck, I named 6 Pack.  He slowly worked down into the open cut, staging there and feeding on acorns until it got dark when I packed up and slipped out, likely within 50 yards of him, but I stayed down wind and he didn't take off.  He must have thought he won, fortunately for him I'm after something bigger because I let 6 Pack walk at 35 yards broadside while he was eating. Everything worked out in my favor to end the day, and to end the warm front as tomorrow brings a 45 degree morning, finally some weather that will bring more deer movement and higher hopes, on to tomorrow. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesday 10/18: Summer is here!

What a beautiful day to be out on a boat, fishing, swimming, or riding with the top down, not so much for deer hunting.  Some how I avoided sweating on two trips into the stand today, it was a balmy 60 degrees this morning which stayed decent with cloud cover and a breeze until the sun came out, then it was summer time weather, killing my high hopes and deer movement.  I sat downwind of my bucks bedding area this morning with a southerly wind that blowing a lot out of the east, luckily that still keeps my wind out of the clear cut bedding area.  In the afternoon, with my buddy freed up and 80 degree temps, we figured it'd be worth a shot sitting our food plot in hopes of dropping a doe tonight in front of the video camera.  The morning turned up no deer, but it was encouraging as I sat my new stand set for the first time, very scenic, very hidden and while I thought the acorns were light in the area, they were actually pouring down around me all morning long, which has me looking forward to more sits there.  When I got down at 11:00 am to check my camera and leave the woods, I found huge fresh tracks in the mock scrape I opened the Thursday before while I was checking the camera, and then I found fresh urine in my bucks scrape in front of my stand, could he have been through since Thursday?  Yeah, he came through alright, at 6:08 pm yesterday, he's still killable and I'm only a step behind him.  My first thought was "should have been there", but in reality if I wasn't helping my friend track his deer I wouldn't have been in that stand anyway.  So the fact I got the 3rd daytime pic of my buck in 3 weeks right near my stand is certainly encouraging for the weeks to come.  He's still in his core area, and he seems to be sneaking around during daylight as often as he did during the summer, the next couple weeks could be key if I want to get him down before he's running doe's and traveling everywhere.  The food plot turned up some encouraging turkeys, a nice tom with a 10"+ beard and 1"+ hooks hanging with a few hens, and then 17 hens later on were seen, looking good for the future crop of turkeys.  We saw no deer, just two random people from the neighborhood walking our field coming to check out the food plot, that generally doesn't mix well with hunting success.  The wind was sketchy at best all day today, only blowing South about half the time, I hope the westerly winds coming tomorrow settle in more consistently, I'll be down wind of my buck for the next 3 days rain or shine.

View from my stand overlooking the clear cut.

One of my favorite spots to sit in Western MA, my food plot.

My buck Bullwinkle surviving opening day while I helped my buddy blood trail a deer.

Excited for 2016 Deer Season

The 2016 season is finally here. 

Despite having limb delaminate a few weeks back(luckily it was covered under warranty and was quickly replaced by grrr gear), sight issues (got a sight and some help from BK (reducing noise), and being busy at work things are coming together. The bow is dialed in and shooting as well as it ever has with me at the release. 

Going into the 2016 season I have three target bucks. #1 is the slammer I saw last year. #2 is a mature 10(pictured)and #3 is a decent 8(pictured). However my area often produces bucks during the rut that I have never got a trail picture of before. 

With any luck( and all you guys know I've got a little) it won't be long before we're into some good rutting action.

Persistence would describe 2015. In hoping 2016 provides opportunities a little quicker. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday, October 17: MA Opening Day is here

So much scouting time and preparation, anticipation, planning, excitement, early season in two states to get the rust off, opening day is finally here!  And guess what, as with most years, if it wasn't rain, here came the 70+ degree temps, bringing the October lull effect the only way New England can bring it for the 3rd week of October.  My morning was slow, 55 degree walk in, couldn't avoid sweating despite the easy flat walk, barely any wind but just enough thermals to keep my scent high in the trees.  I chose my hottest stand but no deer, no pictures on the camera since last Thursday when I snuck in to check things out, but I did find fresh tracks and I pushed two deer on the way in, I was near deer and in MA, that's not too bad.  One of my buddies had a young 6pt feed by him, another buddy shot a 4pt at 30 yards around 8:00 am.  Other than that I got reports from 5 other guys reporting a whole lot of NO MOVEMENT this morning.  I left my stand at 1:00 pm to help my buddy trail his buck, but it bled very little and left us very little sign to follow in the dry leaves.  I was only able to help gain another 6-7 drops of blood over another 150 yards and we lost his path.  This situation always leaves us with mixed feelings, the thought of burying an arrow in an animal we respect so much leaves us empty handed and feeling wasteful.  Yet I always want to know if there a chance it will survive, maybe it was a flesh wound, maybe the arrow came out, maybe he was barely hurt.  Sometimes I'm not sure if I'd prefer it survived or died for the animals in the woods to scavenge on, which is possibly better than suffering through a likely infection and months of injury which for a whitetail can mean life or death if not fully healthy to evade predators, not to mention inhumane.  That is bow hunting I guess, we win some we lose some but what's most important is that these situations usually leave us in a better state as hunters.  We've now learned our mistakes, and the next encounter things will slow down, the shot will come easy, things will play out like they should, it'll all come together, and the hunter won't make the same mistake.  The next few days look warm and Septemberish, but that's ok because I have plenty of tree stands to hunt and time to hunt them, and I know I can't get one on the couch so I'll be there.  Maybe tomorrow will be the day of Bullwinkle, but if not, we got some nicer weather coming, that will at least raise my confidence above the current thermostat levels!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

October 13: The woods are primed for Bullwinkle.

Its October 13th, not a significant date of course, but I'm getting crazy excited for the MA bow season and the woods are priming up for action, depending on your area of course, the results were spotty my last two days in the woods.  My findings from two days of scouting, checking and moving cameras is that you need to get out and check your areas if you're not already prepped for the season. With the leaves changing and beginning to fall you literally have a few days to get out and scout before the ground is covered with fluorescent yellow and orange leaves covering up fresh sign daily and making it challenging to see sign change over time in a given area.   A few of my spots were red hot with multiple fresh scrapes opened up and fresh buck rubs, and each of those spots had bountiful acorn crops in the area, luckily for me my stands have been hung in those areas for weeks and I guessed right.  A few of my spots had little buck sign to speak of, but still had decent activity on the camera with a good mix of day time pics, telling me their still not ramping up too much overall.  And a couple other spots were pretty cold for buck activity, but had plenty of doe's feeding around, which in the big woods is a ticking time bomb for visiting bucks, better things to come.  Like the acorn crop, buck sign has been all or nothing from what I saw, but what's most important to me is gathering more intel on my target buck as I'm constantly wondering what the hell is he up to lately given that he hasn't shown up much on my cameras in September, but he's been busy!  Check out the pics below, some good scrapes and a couple good rubs I found, but most importantly my target buck Bullwinkle, two of which were day time pics of him rummaging around my tree stands.  With as much room as these big woods bucks have to roam, something as simple as a night time picture of a mature Whitetail is huge to have the confidence they use your area.  But to single out a particular buck or two like our cameras allow us to do, and then gather years of intel of which direction he heads, when he heads there, and what he does in certain areas all play a huge role in narrowing down your strategy to hunt them.  This year is the year of Bullwinkle for me, I'm all in, 6 out of the 10 stands I hung this year are for him. 3 stands are surrounding his core area, something that took me 2 years of moving cameras around the outside of a major clear cut that is now 3 years old, prime for browse and cover.  He's not necessarily a "giant" in terms of antlers, but he's well over 200lbs dressed, he's Pope and Young all day, and I have pictures of him dating back to 2012 when he was what I believe is 3 1/2 years old, making him 7 1/2 years old this year.  I know his core area, have tons of day time pictures of him this summer in it, and I know his doe areas from the scouting and hunting I did all last season, which paid off big in my preparation this year.  More often than not this year I've guessed right wherever I hung a camera and he usually walked by it.  Only time will tell this season, I have more intel than ever confirming my game plan and the travel routes in and out of his bedding and doe areas, all I can do is hunt my stands with the right winds and wait him out.  I have all season to hunt, multiple stands for multiple winds, I got nothing but time, time is on my side.  Good luck to all the hunters taking Monday off to hunt, there's nothing the anticipation of opening day, this year more than ever, I don't even have to wait for the rut, my cameras are telling me Bullwinkle is killable during daylight right now, its on, and I'm more excited than ever.

Love when you go check your cam/stand and find a tree snapped in half!

Community Scrape worked up good already 30yds from stand,

Nice tall rub on my brite eye trail... He was here...

The man, the myth, the legend Bullwinkle...

Heading to bed yesterday morning..

Coming out of bed yesterday afternoon, 15yds from my stand!

4:15pm?! Why can't MA open earlier??

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

October 11: Humble Pie

The Whitetail woods of the Northeast always have a way of putting you in your place.  The bucks are big enough to get you jacked, available enough to keep you wanting more of the chase, but the reality is they are scarce enough where you better be patient and temper expectations.  Slipped into the best conditions of the early season today, 33 degrees this morning, no wind, dead calm and quiet, ground damp from the rain a couple days ago, leaves on top starting to dry from yesterday's wind.  There was a slight crunch in the leaves, but walking carefully I was able to remain ninja quiet on the way in.  The crunch always gives me added hope I'll hear the deer coming in allowing me ample time to stand up and be ready, but let's be serious, this is the North East, I saw nothing but squirrels today.  Gathering acorns, chasing each other in turf wars and acorns spats, they were loud and obnoxious.  However, the positive to take away from dull days like today when all conditions point to good deer movement, like my iPhone app that said the best deer movement was 7:30 am - 10:30 am, is that the constant rustling in the leaves from the squirrels kept me on edge, focused on moving slowly as I panned almost 300 degrees looking for that ear flicker, tail wag, or sneaking legs through the timber.  I'm taking tomorrow off in CT to do some scouting and camera hanging in MA for a giant 10pt, I'll report back on current sign and acorns conditions from my tour.

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10th... Still getting action.

My NY tag is filled which has turned my focus back to CT, and guess what, the deer have returned!  I shot a doe on Wednesday 9/28 that was found by coyote's in the middle of the afternoon before I could recover her.  Since that day, I saw no deer on back to back sits in a stand that was 3/3 with sits/sightings, and my camera went from 3-40 pics a week for 3 weeks to zero pics in a week since the carcass was in the area.  Knowing shooting light is getting later and later, I slept in until 4:00 am, instead of 3:00 am like I did last week, left the house by 4:30 to arrive at my parking spot by 5:15 am, leaving plenty of time to switch into my scent free clothes and get to the stand well before shooting light arrived at around 6:30 am.  Today's conditions were rut like; while it was only 43 degrees for a low, that matched the low to date this season, and the steady 12-15 mph NNW wind had me confident nothing was catching my scent today at the top of the ridge.  Looking over my shoulder at 7:10 am my eyes caught two doe's walking through the open oaks and hemlocks behind me, looking like they were taking the same path as the doe I shot only 12 days earlier.  I was filming myself this morning, although that proved difficult with the doe's directly behind me at about 70 yds, feeding, taking a few steps, feeding some more, taking their time getting on top of the ridge.  As soon as I thought I could tell they were coming my way, I lost sight of them, and seconds later confirmed more movement walking away from me down the ridge to the run that crosses the brook below connecting my ridge to an adjacent ridge the deer pass between.  The rest of the morning was cool and breezy today, its starting to feel like fall.  I checked my camera on a scrape on the way out, no action to speak of.  The bucks are not scraping much at all the last couple weeks minus some yearling bucks I've seen pawing in community scrapes in NY.  My cameras are showing mostly only doe movement for the few I've recently checked.  As of now, the action is slow, bucks seem to be laying low in general, no fresh rubs or scrapes seen in 3 states the last two weeks, the October lull might be legit right now.  I'm heading back to the same stand tomorrow to hope for that nice 8 or 9 point that were frequenting the area just a few weeks ago, but its October now, things are changing in the deer woods. My gut tells me its not going to happen because I don't have that kind of luck and its the October lull and I could come up with 20 other reasons the bucks won't move this time of year... But hey, it could happen.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Pics from 10/8

Saturday October 8th, On the board!

After hunting for 7 straight days I entered the woods sleep deprived and very tired today.  However the anticipation of more great conditions for the morning hunt and my plans to sleep in on Sunday, I dragged myself up the mountain in New York for my 3rd straight day in this stand.  As it is, I've seen deer every time I've sat this stand this season, and I've already passed 3 one year old bucks.  Cloudy skies and a SSE breeze between 5 and 10 mph had me excited for another morning in this stand, despite the 50 degree temp and humid air, which made feel warmer than any other day this week.  I had hopes of finally seeing one of the many doe groups feed across my bench like many years past, or maybe even getting lucky and seeing an older buck late for his trip up the mountain, or maybe I would even get skunked this morning, always possible in the deer woods as we all know.  At 8:20 am I checked my clock, wondering if I was close to 8:30 am when our NY hunting crew would be getting on the radios to check in on the action.  As I was looking at my phone, finally, the unmistakable noise of a deer walking in the crunchy leaves.  I looked up staring in the direction of the noise, but couldn't spot the deer and my heart rate starting climbing as I knew something was close and that feeling of maybe getting busted by an approaching deer continued to drive up my nerves.  Once I spotted the deer I knew it was safe to stand up, I quickly noticed a bigger rack than the 3pt, 4pt and 6pt I've been seeing all week at this stand and a quick look through the binos confirmed he was a 7 pointer.  He wasn't huge, and any other day would probably have gotten the pass.  However, after passing 3 bucks already this week, missing once and hitting two doe's (only one of which I recovered) this season, I was locked in for a clean harvest, and this was the best NY deer I've seen all week, and more so, I could have my Sunday's off for the rest of the season to recharge if I tagged out.  I ranged him at 35 yds as he entered my shooting lane, "buuuuuurp," he stopped broadside in my shooting lane, I thought to myself "grip, nose, level, pick a spot" and click!  My arrow ripped right through him, perfect shot I thought to myself.  He bounded about 20 yds and froze, I knew he had no clue what just hit him, and he stood there still for about 2 minutes.  As I was coaching him in my head to go down, he started walking away hurt, very slowly, and soon got 60yds away and out of my sight.  I knew the shot was good, he just needed time.  I jumped on the radio as it was now 8:30 am to tell the guys about the news.  While I was breaking the news and hearing about Reggie's 3pt he had just dropped only 500yds down the same bench, I suddenly heard some thrashing in the leaves, as I looked up I saw a deer bed down.  I noticed it was my deer as soon as I raised the binos on him, but he got up again, only to crash a few more steps and collapse for the last time.  For the double lung shot I made, I thought this deer fought the good fight longer than I had expected as I hate making them suffer, but the good news was he was down, and he stopped moving, and I'm on the board for 2016.  Its been a great few weeks to start off 2016;  My scouting in CT paid off with multiple deer sightings and a couple shots, unfortunately my doe was eaten by coyote's, but my buddy Pauly also dropped a 6pt in a spot I showed him I had previously scouted.  My go to "old faithful" bench in NY paid off big as well going for 6 hunts and seeing 7 deer, at least one a day aint all that bad on public land!  I certainly spent very little time scouting in NY this year and my bench just so happened to be getting heavily used prior to the season opening, and it all came together today.  I'm hoping the deer come back in CT as they vacated the premises for a week after the coyote's got my doe, this week I'll be focusing on CT trying to get a tag filled in another state.  After all, NY and CT are my warm ups for the MA bow season I've spent countless hours scouting for all year and setting up 8 stands, 2 climber spots and growing my food plot.  After one more week in CT, I'll be all in for the MA season pursuing big woods public land bucks, mainly my target deer, "Bullwinkle."  The pressure is off now, and I'm more excited than ever that this will be a great season as I get to let all the little ones walk this year and focus on shooting a mature buck, hopefully its Bullwinkle...  More to come, the season is young.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday, October 7th

Back to NY, 3:00 am again for a morning hunt with my dad and two guys from our NY crew Reggie and Pat.  Today there were only 10 deer in the field by the road and abandoned house, 8 doe's and 2 young bucks sparring.  The good news is they'll probably head up the mountain, the bad news is we have to walk by them without totally blowing them out of there.  Another awesome morning for hunting, 45 degree low, calm wind, crunchy leaves.  At around 7:30 am I spotted a deer moving quickly up the mountain, as I stood up to get ready, I thought I noticed it was a doe in a hurry and that got the blood pumping in anticipation of what could be spooking her.  After losing sight of her when she got on my bench, I noticed a deer step out from where I last saw her and stare down the mountain.  Unfortunately, it was not a doe, it was a familiar face, the same 6pt I saw last Sunday morning.  Good deer to experiment with I thought, and I threw a short grunt at him, he immediately grunted back and came walking in my direction about 30yds.  I grunted again, he grunted back and closed another 20yds.  He was now at about 35yds so I left him alone, he crunched down half a dozen acorns in less than 5 minutes and then bolted in excitement through my shooting lanes across the bench, stopped again and calmed himself down on some more acorns.  As I was losing sight of him 70yds away, I head another deer walking toward me from where the 6pt came from.  Enter the 4pt from opening day, walking in like a boss.  He stopped briefly at the scrape but didn't hang around, he went straight for the trail and headed up the mountain.  I could still see the 6pt in the distance but I don't think he even heard the 4pt and the two never met up.  As I pulled out my phone to let my dad know about the action, I had a text from him already stating he just had a 4pt close by was busted by him and he headed my way.  That was it for the morning, Reggie and Pat didn't see any deer, no other action aside from the busy squirrels all morning long.  Back at it on Saturday...

Thursday, October 6th

Up at 3:00 am, out the door by 3:30 am, hour and half drive, parked by 5:00 am, in the tree by 5:45 am settled by 6:00 am, this is a typical round trip for hunting New York.  There was a doe and fawn hanging around the road and abandoned house where we park, gave me some hope they'd head up the mountain this morning.  It seemed all worth it for the near perfect early season conditions, 43 degrees, thermals in full effect on the mountain side carrying my wind off the hillside out of the NE.  I watched a familiar 3 point show up on my bench and head right for the trail that scales the steep mountain side 40 yards away, all within a minutes time and he was gone.  It felt like a boring morning overall, but with the squirrels constantly gathering acorns and worse, knocking acorns out of trees, along with the dry leaves, I was on high alert all morning so the time passed quickly.  The good news is the deer are moving in the mornings pretty consistently in NY where I've seen deer 4 out of 4 sits, the leaves are getting crunchy too so there's a good chance of hearing them before seeing them.  In the afternoon I grabbed my climber and headed above the field, closer to the parking area where they've historically come down during shooting light.  75 degree high, yeah I didn't see any deer this evening, onto the next hunt...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Forgot to include pics from 10/5

Acorns?  This group of 4 red oaks has been dropping for 4 weeks, the drip line, or should I say drop line is at least a 60ft circle of acorns this thick!! But the carcass 200yds away is keeping Coyote's around and seemingly keeping the deer out.

For those of you who don't know me, I'm Rob Cote, obsessed Whitetail hunter.  Check out No Bitchin Outdoors on Youtube:  No Bitchin Outdoors

Whitetail Blog Wednesday October 5

Had the best weather conditions of the young season today, low 39, calm, clear and chilly!  Fleece jacket, fleece neck gaiter, 2nd pair of socks, hand warmers? Check, check check and check.  Got into my stands ninja quiet for a 4 and half hour morning hunt and a 3 hour afternoon hunt, trees pooring acorns, thermals were taking my wind up into the trees all morning long as the sun came up, thermals took my wind right off the hillside all afternoon and the sun went down... Wait for it, ZERO DEER today.  I checked my camera, another coyote last night, I think the deer are officially avoiding my area due to the carcass from last Wednesday.  I moved my camera from my ridge stand overlooking a group of oaks pouring acorns (see pic) to the corner of the adjacent hillside where a ton of oaks are pouring acorns over an area loaded with last years scrapes and rubs.  At this point, I'm abandoning CT for a few more days in favor of an earlier morning and a longer drive to NY for some more public land pursuit.  I should at the least have our NY grounds to myself and the deer will have no hunters to dodge or smell as they work their way to bedding, improving my odds greatly from the normal weekend traffic, which I still went 3/3 with sightings Saturday-Monday.  Stay tuned, the next 4 days will be live from New York.