Just like the title says! We “coulda”, we “shoulda”, we “woulda” in a number of different ways, had the best season ever if opportunities could have been made into filled tags! By “opportunities, I don’t mean to say, saw but no shot, I mean to say, saw, drew, shot, missed and in some cases, shot again…missed. Four Booners shot at and missed – Only one tagged for 2016! Coulda been worse! Coulda been none tagged!
Lets start from the beginning:
Its late september! Its unseasonably hot, as all of September was. The hunt started on Wednesday afternoon w temps pushing 94 degrees and a stiff wind out of the SE blowing like a hair dryer, with the mosquitoes worse than any year I’ve ever seen! Tim sees what he thinks is a 150” 10-point and lets him walk by – his first afternoon, he lives to regret this decision as Tim saw “Bullwinkle” – likely the largest 10pt ever to have set foot on the home farm – I later estimate his score around 170″. The remainder of the week, temps stayed between 92 and 94 degrees for daily highs. In the 12 years we’ve run hunts in NW MO, never seen heat like that so late into September! Tim snaps a picture – which is the first pic we get of “bullwinkle” – named for the broken left ear you can see in the picture of this blogpost. You’ll note the broken ear on other photos. Tims error in judgement occurs because bullwinkle body is so large, it makes the rack look smaller than actual. Tim learns “realtime” an important lesson! One all of us have learned just as painfully as Tim does!
The remainder of the week was generally slow – with below average deer movement, East component winds remained the entire time. Most of the deer switch to nighttime movement when it was much cooler. Sunday evening, at 10point alley – Tim see’s sticker buck – another booner on the home farm. We figure sticker to be in the 180’s as a nontypical w a large 6″ +/- sticker off his right side G2. Tim says could be the biggest deer he’s ever seen!
The October group arrived with high spirits and one concern. Most all the bucks we photo’d in October and late Sept were nocturnal. Possibly because of the unseasonably warm weather. Possibly for other reasons. We were not sure. What we did know is that all over the midwest EVERYONE was reporting the same. Not that ALL the deer were nocturnal, but a huge percentage – way more than normal and were moving mostly at night and predawn. Immediately prior to the October groups arrival however, Triple Brow – the large 200-class deer became a very consistent occupant of Farm 2. Just days before the groups arrival, he walks buy the 181-stand on farm two w plenty of daylight. We are all encouraged!
I hunted only one morning that week, and saw a nice 9pt that was right at 140, and there was one or two shooters seen walking into stands that were bedded under stands. There were shooters photo’d at the Mcfall Farm (aka dads) during daylight hours but the process of choosing stands based on winds, fatigue, and what/who saw what produced a haphazard means final choice stands that did not produce any activity. We just weren’t where we needed to be and when that week!
Now it gets interesting! A small group that requested a special set of dates, last few days of October, first few days of November – during the full moon – saw extensive rutting activity despite the full moon. No shots were taken but several nice shooters were seen, lots of grunting and chasing – all in all a VERY exciting hunt.
Our November Group arrives and deer are moving like crazy. Everyone is logging hours and days in the stand – its warmer than we want and winds STILL are NOT cooperating – but its the rut. My Nov group has one simple philosophy – doesn’t matter the wind, doesn’t matter the weather – sit all day! Bullwinkle gets missed most likely due to buck fever. The very next morning – Bullwinkle reappears around 830am and is shot – hit. There is nearly no blood. Buck fever prevents accurate recollection of exactly what happened. The hope is the hit was minor – bullwinkle is never seen the rest of the year. I tracked for several hours the next day – in case the hit was a gut shot. I found a weak blood trail and have an idea where the deer went. But no tag filled!
last pic of Bullwinkle (notice the broken ear – same as the pic featured w this post)The Same week – Sticker buck is seen out searching for does mid day and is shot at, missed, and then shot again. The hunter is relatively sure the hit put the buck down, and waits the rest of the day in his stand so as not to move the downed buck (in case the hit isn’t great). The arrow is completely coated in blood. I felt sure we had him. The following day, no deer, but a blood trail is found and after nearly the entire day of tracking – no deer. About a week goes by and we see that the arrow didn’t slow sticker down much at all! These pics show the same day while we were tracking – he was tracking does and making scraps elsewhere on the farm. We never get a confirmed sighting of sticker again during shooting light!
Finally – after all this missing! Michael puts down the big 6×5 that literally was one every trail cam on the farm many times. He was a beautiful 159″ deer! The shot was perfect!
Early bow season ends – Rifle season is starting, two new hunters arrive in camp to bow hunt during rifle season. Lots of shooters are seen. Including a huge and wide buck – where the hunter claims via text, he had no idea a whitetail could get so big. Which was it? Sticker? Bullwinkle? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…One deer was missed – we figure this deer in the 160’s as a 10point – called “trashy”. The shot was a misfire – halfway through draw the release “released” and the arrow was several feet over the deer. The trailcam captures a piece of the action!
We continue to see trashy throughout the remainder of the season so we know he survives and thrives. Here are some better pics…
Then of course – my giant – 200″ Triple Brow was arrowed and harvested New Years Eve day (Please see other blog post). My pursuit of him pretty much was full time (I’ll be blogging about it) – I did nothing but hunt farm 2. I did not tend the home farm cams or the mcfall property cams and as such, have no clue what was going on there. I got down to dads one time after triple was tagged to check 3/6 cams, not seeing any shooters or seeing any deer from the stand, I focused on staying on the two north farms where I knew we still have two deer that would gross Boone! The season ended without any other tags getting filled.
So – we could have shot 4 (YES FOUR) deer that would have grossed boone and crocket this year had things gone better and shots been true. Of course we know this to be the very nature of bow hunting. Whether its hours of sitting in below zero temps with 40-50 deer in the field – all of which can see you move for your shot, or whether sitting endless days on-end during the rut, not practicing your shooting, or whether its the VERY nature of Boone and Crocket deer to walk in the exact spot no other deer walk forcing the only shot to be taken standing on the flip up seat of the ladder stand and leaning off the stand, relying on tether tension to get the shot, its NEVER easy (and its NEVER gonna be)…It will NEVER “just happen” and if you try too hard to “make it happen” you’ll likewise fail as well! This is what makes chasing them so fun! This is why bowhunting is the ONLY way to chase these giants and so long as its up to me, growing and hunting boone and crocket animals is the ONLY reason I do what I do!