The property is a small one, about 60 acres of timber, surrounded by massive ag fields. For the past three years, I've done everything in my power to make it a whitetail hotspot.
In my neck of southeast Colorado, sustainable food plots aren't possible. Why? First, we don't have the moisture. Second, the soil isn't black and beautiful; it's dry, crusty, and stained a putrid color of tan. Still, I had dreams — a vision of what I wanted the property to be — so I rolled up my sleeves and went to work. Over the past three years, I've put in a pair of ponds, three rubbing posts with licking branches, and improved travel as well as doe bedding. This year, for the first time, I felt the property was as good as I could make it, and it was time to strike.
Naturally, many told me, especially with the property being so small, "Just stay out until the rut. You don't want to burn a good stand." I agreed, mostly. You see, when it comes to bowhunting white-tailed deer, I feel we get too cautious — too protective of our best spots. I get it. We spend the entire offseason developing them. Then, we start seeing shooter bucks pop up on our cameras. We want to shoot one so bad, and we know a mistake — a wrong move — may hinder that chance. My question: What good is all that work, all that invested time, if you're going to stress so hard that you don't ever crash in on your best spots?
In my case, my best spot this season was a new stand location. I'd sweetened the pot by adding a pond and hauling water to it all summer and fall. I also added a rubbing post and licking branch, borrowed a tractor from a friend, and cleared travel routes. I removed lots of invasive tamarack and enhanced doe bedding in the nearby cover. I even waited until mid-September, and right before a rain, planted a small rye plot. Ryegrass will grow on concrete, and deer love it. I tell you this because many of you do the same things. Piles of you do more. Then, sadly, I hear stories every year about how the wind and conditions never got "just right" to hunt a particular stand. Yikes!
The fact of the matter is, you create these spots to hunt them, so go in and hunt them. For instance, my newly created hot spot sets up just right for a northeast wind. An east wind is manageable, however, and with an east wind, it makes my scent stream just wrong enough for an approaching buck and right for me if I'm scanning the woods and not Instagram.
The conditions for my first sit of the year weren't the best. Temperatures were in the low 70s, and the pressure was holding steady at just a shade above 29.13 inches. The wind was east but would get a little south kick to it from time to time. Still, I was going. Why? I'd put in all that work, and I had an old, mature buck that had been hitting the rubbing post in daylight and several times just after last legal shooting light.
Another thing I had going for me was the wind change. For a week, west winds hit my hunt area, but the wind blew from the east on this day, and in my experience, a good wind change is as solid as a rising moon that coincides with typical movement patterns.
For three hours, I didn't see or hear a thing. The woods were quiet. I figured I should have, at the very least, seen a few does. Then, with less than 10 minutes of legal light remaining, I turned in my stand to glass a distant ag field. What I saw was my target buck coming down one of my mowed paths from the 100 percent opposite direction I figured he'd approach. The good news for me: I'd followed my Wildlife Research Center scent routine to the letter, and my Ozonics was running on Boost Mode. The buck never got me. He walked directly under my stand and stood facing dead away at 17 yards slurping water from my hand-dug pond. It was a fantastic sight.
After slaking his thirst, the old warrior turned broadside, and I was able to deliver a perfect arrow from my Hoyt Carbon RX-5. The tracking job was a short one, and the buck is without question the oldest deer I've been blessed to take with archery tackle.
The moral of the story: Get after it! Sometimes, as hunters, we are our own worst enemies. If you're constantly waiting for the perfect wind, ideal moon phase, proper pressure, right time of year, and the list goes on; you may only get to hunt a day or two. Sometimes, it's best to go against the grain — push the envelope and go in and make something happen. Think about it this way: I had an ideal wind, but the buck came from a direction that I wouldn't have figured he'd come from in a million years. Why? Because he's a wild animal. Wild animals don't have schedules are scripts. They do what they do when and how they want to do it. I could have done the same thing on November 5, and the buck could have come from the same direction, only this time he could have been tailing a doe. What if the doe sniffed me out? What if five does had come before the buck arrived, bounded into the woods, and blew for 15 minutes? It could have changed everything. The bottom line is we can do everything in our power to make our whitetail spots the best possible, and then, we need to go in and hunt them. It's that simple.