Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hunting at the cabin 11.09.13 - 11.12.13

Hunting in the hills of SE Ohio is a definitely a different style of hunting contrasted to the relatively flat farm lands of Central Ohio. With unbroken expanses of public land forests stretching over areas larger than 100 times the local farms I normally hunt, making a mental change in how to hunt is always in order. Combing over aerial photos and topographical maps helps you key in on those likely travel corridors by looking for the areas that contain the path of least resistance across the terrain combined with possible edge habitat that will help funnel the deer movement within bow range. Putting miles on your boots, packing stands & bows up hillsides across drainages and along shelves to reach those selective areas away from other hunters is something that you have to work for.

The overall challenge of hunting the area near camp is something I always look forward to, but the camaraderie of our deer camp is hands down the biggest draw. It's a place probably very similar to other deer camps across the country. We have guys from all ages, all backgrounds, all beliefs, and all walks of life that gather together with the commonality of deer hunting binding us together. It's a place where you can pick up with an old friend at the exact spot you left off the last time you hunted together. Stories are shared, memories are made, and trophies are celebrated together. Fresh tenderloins are often prepared with cold drinks in hand while antlers are measured and admired no matter the score. Although the collective times spent together only represent a few days total out of a calendar year, somehow those days still have the biggest impact on all of us. Deer camp is truly something that is tough to describe, but damn do I look forward to it.

The first morning in the woods was spent hunting from the ground after I couldn't find a suitable tree in the dark. I didn't wander too far from camp actually, with the plan being a close morning hunt, followed by lunch, the departing off to new and distant locations bound to hold deer. The morning calm was broken up by an ambitious 8 pointer chasing around 3 does who clearly weren't smelling what he was cooking.

My afternoon was almost as uneventful as the morning. The bright side was that I did do some exploring and found what should be a great area for spring turkey hunting, but with the miles logged and not "feeling" a quality spot I ultimately hunted again from the ground. With deer sightings totaling 1, and not hanging a stand for the next morning I made my way back to camp for dinner.

Morning 2 found me in a familiar spot where we've all had some success & sighting in past seasons. It's a bottom pinch point facing the hillside that deer tend to travel down. There were a handful of scrapes and rubs in the normal areas that they show up, but this year the sign was noticeably less than in past years. Not that deer sign means squat right now, you need to be hunting the does, but it's an observation that matches with what a lot of other people are reporting this season. The deer sign is slow to pop up this season.

Heading off in the afternoon, I again sought out a new area for me to hunt in. It's one that I had marked on my maps from the past few years, but just had never explored. I liked what I saw when I hiked back into the area. I set up shop at the intersection of a creek bottom thicket, a clear cut, and an oak ridge that dumped down into the bottom. There were some good trails intersecting in the area, so I felt confident in the set up. The late afternoon offered up a show of 2 younger bucks harassing a single doe, both of them grunting with almost ever step they took. It was fun to watch, but the closest they came was to 54 yards.

View to the clear cut area to my left.
View up the ridge and down into the creek bottom to my right.
I returned to the same spot the following morning with high hopes as the morning sun started to light up the sky. It always seems like the perfect morning when your on the stand in November, but it just wasn't meant to be for this particular spot. A lone 8 point wandered through looking for some receptive ladies out there, but he wasn't in range, or of the size of deer I was looking for. Time to pack out and again look for greener pastures.

Somebody else thought this was a good spot too. 
Lunch back at camp was short & sweet since I was off to do some more exploring that afternoon. I decided to stick to my plan of moving until I find the deer along with scoping out more of the areas I've mapped out but had yet to hunt. The way I figured it, I could choose to hunt the same old stand sites and not see deer, or I could challenge myself to get out and seek new spots. When you're not seeing the deer that you want to see then you've got nothing to lose, so that afternoon I made a little drive to set up in another new spot. As always, it took some work to get in there, but at least it "felt" right. I hung my stand and got settled in.

Looking up the ridge and back to my left

Looking up the ridge and back to my right

The view directly behind my stand
But the afternoon was a bust... no deer sightings. Keeping with my optimistic ways, the bright spot was that there was snow in the forecast overnight. Hopefully that would bring a nice white blanket providing extended visibility as well as a clean canvas for me to paint red in the morning. 

Up extra early, I was off to sit in my stand for the last hunt of the trip. Responsibilities back home were waiting, so it was now or wait until gun season to kill a cabin deer. The woods were just beautiful this morning. Coated in a little over an inch of fresh snow that just seemed to lay o soft blanket on everything it came in contact with. It was just a great morning to be in the woods, and soon after legal light came in my hunch on this spot payed off as a young 8 point made his way right into my lap. I picked up my bow seeing a deer make it's way towards my perch, but as I was able to judge the deer I quickly hung it back up and picked up my cell phone to get a short video.

The woods remained calm for another hour or so until a slightly larger 8 made his way into my area. I was standing with bow in hand and was ready to send an arrow his way. It wasn't the biggest deer, but as I was sitting there after the first deer came through I made the decision to try and fill a tag no matter what. Maybe today it's time to judge the size of the hunt and not the deer. The setting was picture perfect, my time in the woods is quickly going to be limited, so what the hell. I was mentally ready and satisfied with my decision. 

The buck closed the distance and was coming behind my stand. I pulled down the fleece balaclava so I could cleanly find my anchor point, slipped the release onto the string loop, and began building tension on the string. Coming to full draw the elastic in the balaclava decided it didn't want to stay under my chin, and popped back up to my nose. Taking my thumb from my release hand I managed to pull down on the elastic while wrenching my neck upward. By now the buck was behind my stand and as I leaned around to take the shot my backpack was now in the way, causing my limb to get caught up on the shoulder strap. I let down slowly, pivoted around to my right, and see the buck standing broadside behind some brush. Looking forward there's an opening and as he steps forward I begin to draw back again only to have my arrow slip off of the string. I pin it on the shelf and let down on the string. Quickly re-nocking the arrow and looking for another opening it's too little too late. He's facing directly away and walking on. I smirked and shrugged my shoulders. I guess it just wasn't meant to be for this buck today.

I waited it out for another hour or so but nothing else showed up. In the time that passed I snapped a couple more picks and then packed out to head for home.