Terrain: Small farm fields interspersed in an urban area. Open soybean fields bordered by small woodlots and hedgerows.
Indiana, in an effort to nurture better bucks and provide better whitetail hunting opportunities, had placed a one buck rule into effect a few years ago. The only exception to the rule is for those hunters that have access to what the state declared, “Urban Zones.” Hunters fortunate enough to have property in an Urban Zone are allowed one extra buck that must be taken with archery equipment. Another benefit to the Urban Zone is that it allows hunters to begin their season about two weeks early, on September 15th.
I was one of those fortunate hunters that found a small piece of Urban Zone to hunt. Although only about 80 acres, it was a prime area for deer. For several years I hunted the land, and saw several large bucks, but never had an opportunity for a shot. Does nearly overran the property and I would harvest several each year. (The Urban Zone also allows for an additional three does to be harvested.)
Another small piece of property that belonged to another owner bordered my land and was the place for the deer in the area. All the deer I hunted came from that spot, but they didn’t necessarily always come towards me. It was as thick and nasty in places as any place could be, giving the deer a very secure bedding area. I figured that my best chance to tag a great deer would be if I gained permission to hunt on the thick-and-nasty property. After several conversations with the owner I leased my first property. From scouting my land in years previous, I was well aware of the funnels that led from my newly acquired parcel and had several locations in mind to set up ambushes for all types of wind conditions. When hunting such a small piece of land, wind direction and getting in without getting busted is absolutely critical.
I had now accomplished the first couple of steps involved in tagging a mature whitetail. Step 1 is knowing a mature deer is on the property. I had seen several good, shooter deer, and had a trail cam photo of one particular bruiser that called the land home. Step 2 was gaining access to the land. It cost a few dollars, and it’s easy to say it’s worth it now, but it was well worth it then as well. Step 3 was learning the habits of the local deer--something that I was able to do while hunting the other side of the hedgerow for several years.
On the first couple of afternoons that I was able to hunt my new Eden, there was little action. One day a north wind kept me entirely out of the area, and another evening hunt brought only does in front of me. The third afternoon however was the charm. A perfect west, southwest breeze put what I felt was the best stand location on the property into action. It sat near a virtual deer highway where they left the cover of the bedding area to feed in the agricultural fields. A dip in the temperature brought the deer out to feed a bit earlier than normal, or so I thought. The walk to the funnel I wanted to hunt was over a half mile. This trek allowed me to enter the area totally undetected. Step 4 in the process of taking a mature buck was getting closer with each step. Getting to your spot, again on such a small piece of land without being detected is a must.
My first task once I reached my spot was to range several small cedars that I would use if a shot materialized. Settling in, I glassed the thickets and agricultural fields and did notice a couple of small bucks and several does already chowing down. I began to second guess myself, wondering if maybe I was too late. A few minutes later, a flash of white in a nearby thicket made me bring my binoculars up and sent my heart racing. It didn’t take long for me to locate the source of the movement and in an instant, the buck was moving almost directly towards me. As he paused for a moment I was able to grab my bow. I never actually counted points, but there sure seemed to be a lot of them! As he stopped once again, just beyond my 30-yard cedar, he turned broadside and lowered his head. I was able to draw my bow, compensate a bit for the few extra yards, and place an arrow right square into the pump room. He spun 180 degrees and bounded off about 60 yards before slowing to a walk. He disappeared behind another small thicket and never came out the other side.
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I gathered my gear and walked to the spot where I’d shot him. Without spending too much time looking for a blood trail, I slowly made my way to the last spot I had seen the bruiser. As the pre-rut was moving into full swing, I could smell the buck before I was actually able to put eyes on him. Sure enough, there he was. I’ve heard and read about ground shrinkage, but never ground ‘growage.’ The buck was bigger than I originally thought -- much bigger! By far the best deer I’ve ever taken.
Although a broken G3 will probably prevent him from becoming a record-book buck, I do have a trail cam photo of him from about a month earlier where his rack was fully intact, making the deer that much more special to me.