Sponsored by: Bohning Archery
A crisp fall morning in South Dakota and I have 2 tags for the Rosebud reservation. A whitetail buck and any doe. Figured I would just smack the first doe that showed up. The buck tag would be great to fill, but who am I kidding? After 30 years of bowhunting I had still not taken a whitetail buck. I’ve taken many big game animals but the whitetail buck has always eluded me.
I was hunting with my longtime friend, Ken Byers of Byers Media. We’ve shared a few camps together and always have a great time. Ken dropped me off before daylight on a hilltop over looking a creek bottom. I crossed the creek and headed for the tree stand.
It was gorgeous watching the sun rise as it lit up the ridge in front of me. I could see little silhouettes of animals moving from the top into the bottom, where I was set up. This shouldn’t take long at all! Figured I’d give the Primos can call a whirl. 1 bleat and out pops a pretty little spike. He was looking for the source of that noise, bringing him right in front of me at about 5 yards. After watching him for 5 minutes or so he continued on his way. What a great day I thought.
Seemed like only moments passed before a couple of does stepped out of the tall grass to my right. I ranged them at 40 yards, moving to my left… perfect! After dialing in the Optimizer to 40 yards, I started to draw on the larger doe. Suddenly I caught movement to my right… NO WAY.. this doesn’t happen to me! Out stepped a nice, high tined 8 point WHITETAIL BUCK! I immediately switched gears and focused my attention on the crease just behind his front shoulder. I assumed he was on the same path as the does. He looked like he was but my real life experience with whitetail bucks is less than adequate. Re-ranging him never crossed my mind.
After a few steps out of the tall grass, the buck stopped broadside and put his head down. Like I said, perfect! The arrow was away, heading right for that sweet spot… only about 4 inches TOO LOW! It blew through the opposite leg and I heard myself say out loud, “really?”
The buck took 2 bounds and stopped. The does didn’t stop. They blew out of there like they were on fire. The buck kept looking back at the spot that stung him high in the front leg, then licking his leg and looking again. He had stopped behind a large bush (we call them tag elders in Michigan) and continued this looking then licking for about 20 minutes. I realized that I should probably load another arrow. Why did that shot go low? As I slowly nocked another arrow, I beat myself up trying to figure out what went wrong. As if on cue, the buck began moving around the bush toward me. If he stepped out, he would only be 25 yards away.
Was he really going to offer me a second chance? He was moving slowly with a heavy limp. Closer, closer. He finally stepped out and faced directly toward me closing the distance even more. I was whispering, “turn.. turn..”, when suddenly he just laid down. He was 20 yards in front of me, laying down. I’d waited 30 years for a chance at a whitetail buck and here in the course of about 30 minutes, I was about to get a second chance. An even rarer opportunity.
The buck had no clue I was there, but I needed to get him to stand up. I came to full draw and let out a bleat… no response. His ears didn’t even turn towards me. That’s odd, I thought. So I wheezed at him, louder this time. Again, no response.
I could see his entire chest, so I decided to take the shot. The arrow couldn’t have been more perfectly placed. In seconds it was over. He had flipped over, but never left his bed. The “Mojo” had come to an end, but it sure did die hard!
After investigating the scene, the buck had come out of the tall grass about 12 yards further away than the does. Lesson – never assume! The spot where he stood for about 20 minutes behind the bush was soaked in blood. He was bleeding out and I can only guess that is probably why he laid down.
There was a change in gear that I need to mention here. My PSE Axe-6, Easton ACC Pro Hunters, HHA Optimizer, G5 Tekan 3’s, TRU Ball Short-N-Sweet, Hunter Safety System harness, Sitka gear and of course Blazer vanes, have all served me well over the years. But the one new thing for this hunt was the HECS STEALTHSCREEN system. Does HECS work? Was it the difference? All I can say is that I believe it helped make the opportunity possible and I will be wearing HECS on every hunt from now on. The Mojo has ended!