Next weekend would be the last weekend that any hunting could go down in my home state of Virginia. Some states with high populations of deer have very late antlerless seasons to spur extra hunting from the hardcore hunters. The hope is that you will cut down the deer population by hunting anything that walks since both bucks and does have no antlers this time of year. The other hope is that you will shoot a doe that is pregnant and this will stop the population growth as well.
Yesterday was a great day in the suburban whitetail woods. A small 33 acre parcel with houses on 3 sides of it cause the bucks to grow big and stay mysterious year round. I told my wife I wanted to get into the stand for the afternoon since this would be the last sit I could do until the fall, unless I had some kill permits from the state. I purposely only want to hunt in the afternoons at a time like this because the mornings tend to see deer feeding and you will blow them out of the area as you try to walk into your stand in the dark. My goal was to get in the stand by 2pm which means that 3pm would be a big win. I ended up grabbing all my gear and getting in the stand by 2:30pm. The wind direction was bad right off the bat but it wasn’t supposed to be. Below in the picture you can see the actual layout of the property, where the stand is, where the deer are bedding and where they should be coming from towards me.
Light blue=wind direction
Dark blue= intended direction of deer movement
Green= My entry to stand
Now let me explain the lay of the land for you. As you can see my entry was completely from the other side of the property and is actually only available from that side. I always come through the back end if the wind allows because I am very close to the neighboring property which already has more pressure towards it because of more human activity. My entry way is on an actual trail which deer use as well. The tree stand is facing Southeast which it towards an opening that you can see in the picture as well. The deer are bedding South of the stand and they will either move north towards the opening and hang a left straight towards my stand or by the Blue arrow, they really move North through the brush and come straight onto the trail that’s by my stand.
Last night, it couldn’t have played out better. The sun was setting at 7:49pm which means I was able to hunt until 8:19pm. I know the deer move right at about sunset which meant a pretty boring sit until 8:03pm. I was standing when I heard rustling to my right straight from the bedding area. It was very dark with the trees being very green already and essentially being a canopy of darkness. All I could see was 1 deer coming straight for me in a slight trot. I immediately grabbed my bow. By the time I grabbed it, I lost sight of the deer but then realized another deer was right there as well. I then saw the deer move backwards back towards the bedding area while another one split towards the house in the back by the trail. I stood patiently trying to figure out what the heck was going on and what would happen next. I couldn’t believe it! 6 deer hop out of the woods on the trail straight behind my stand about 50 yards away and they go right on the trail that I entered from! It was apparent that since the wind changed and it was headed straight towards their bedding area, it caused them to smell me pretty quickly. This is why they changed directions and headed behind me. I just about threw in the towel and then thought to myself as I looked at my watch. “Well, there might be a few more behind them, who knows. Just wait and see what happens. You have 5 minutes.” Within 2 minutes, all 6 deer came trotting right back off that trail and stopped straight behind me. It looked like game time! I grabbed my bow again as I saw the lead deer was a HUGE body. Then there were 2 smaller ones, followed by a 4th bigger bodied deer and then the last 2 were pretty average size. The largest lead deer kept coming in closer but was staring right towards my direction in the tree. I drew my bow back as I knew I was at roughly 20 yards or so from where they would be walking. As I sat there drawn back, the lead deer just stopped dead in its tracks as the following 2 seemed a bit rambunctious but stopped as well. I had my pin right on the lead deer’s body as I had 5 different thoughts going through my mind.
- That deer looks huge! I think it’s a buck.
- What if I shoot and it’s a buck without antlers? He will be huge next year!
- If he takes 1 more step, I will let the arrow fly.
- I should let the arrow fly, I will hit him right behind the shoulder and lung him.
- Just wait and let them all come closer on the path.
As those all flew through my mind, the lead deer flicked it’s tail and all 6 split straight into the thick vegetation and were gone within seconds.
I missed my chance, I blew it. I couldn’t tell you how much was replaying in my mind as that happened. It was remorse for not taking the shot while disappointment that I was going home empty handed. It was also the end of my season and a long one at that. What made me question everything and hesitate?
I had a pack of SD cards that I wanted to swap since I was getting out of the stand. I ended up changing 3 cameras out and headed back up the trail to my truck. As I was driving home, I kept replaying everything in my mind and the unsettling part of it all was how the deer acted. A doe or a group of does don’t hop around the way these deer did, nor have I ever seen a huge deer lead a pack like this before. The other thing I thought about was how come I didn’t see any of the deer in the 6 pack pregnant? It was time to see those babies dropping or surely get close to dropping. It surely was a red flag for me.
As I was going through my trail camera’s it dawned on me that my gut was right because all 6 of those deer were bucks. They were in a big bachelor herd and they are all over my cameras always together as the 6 pack. The reason I didn’t shoot is something that I cannot say I planned so there is no credit to be had or taken. What I can say is that my feelings were telling me something wasn’t right and I hesitated just enough for them to get going. While I was upset then in the heat of the moment, I am happy now.
Practicing QDM is important on this property to me. While I do want more meat for the freezer and to take advantage of the hunting season, whacking a huge buck that I would see this fall wouldn’t be something I would be excited about. These deer were all over my camera’s throughout the season but just so happens now they are all together. As I sit here and type I feel great about the way I realized things were weird and how everything ended up in the end. Another positive to note is that everything played out accordingly to plan and my patterning of these deer came out like a scripted basketball play in a game. I couldn’t dictate the wind shift that occurred but I was able to get them into shooting distance and could have launched a shot on them.
At this point, the 6 pack will be together until I see them growing their bones in the summer months. I look forward to seeing what is growing and what deer is going to be on the hitlist in the fall. The excitement starts now!
Scout, Hunt, Repeat