Cruising Bed Hunters
At this point it’s no secret to many mobile hunters that positioning yourself adjacent to bedding areas can greatly increase your odds of success throughout the season. Mature Whitetails are often only moving short distances in daylight, so in some instances it can literally be a game of minutes of shooting light remaining.
As October winds down, a buck’s testosterone levels begin to ramp up in preparation for the peak breeding season here in the Midwest. It is during these times I still stay focused on bedding areas, and if I am fortunate enough to still be on a particular buck or two, I tend to start seeing them move more in daylight in their core living area. This not only is in the evening, but also in the morning when bucks are moving late back to bed or getting up to move mid-morning and mid-day to check the area for doe activity.
My key strategy at this point is to begin positioning myself in areas that are adjacent to multiple bedding areas. This can be a section of high ground in a swamp connecting other high ground to low land, or a culmination of points in the hills. I try to put myself in the mind set of a mature deer and calculate how they may navigate an area efficiently and undetected in-order to get a quick inventory on other deer in the area. As one can imagine wind blowing in and out of these bedding areas can play a factor as bucks may cruise the downwind side utilizing their nose to locate other deer. These small windows of openings in topography and cover can be deadly if you’re able to locate and set-up in them.
On November 8th, 2022, I was fortunate enough to find myself in one of these locations. I started my day early at 3:00 AM, hitting the woods by 4:00 AM to make the ½ mile hike back to my location. There were a culmination of factors getting me excited about the hunt including a shift from a South wind to a North wind, a drop in temperature by 15 degrees, the last day leading up to a full moon, moon underfoot at mid-day, and finally the first break in high winds and some rain for a couple of days.
I slid into the area and got set-up quietly by 5:15 AM. The morning hunt was fairly slow, but I did encounter two small 8-point bucks making their way back to bed late around 7:30 AM, they slowly traversed the small island transition I was on and headed back into the swamp to bed.
At 8:00 AM I made a quick decision to pull down my set-up and quickly hike out. I had some work I needed to attend to at home, so I wanted to get down early so I could possibly make it back for the midday movement.
After making a full round-trip home, completing my work, and returning to hunt I found myself creeping onto the same transition island around 1 PM. As I looked down the length of the island, I saw the white flag of a deer tail go up. At first, I thought I had spooked something but then noticed a buck was circling the tip of the island, I quickly crouched down and watched as he slowly made his way back into the swamp.
When the cost was clear, I quickly and quietly slipped up to the front of the island to set-up by beast gear stand and climbing sticks. As my foot hit my first stick to climb, I heard a deer busting in from the swamp, I quickly turned, and a small 8-pointer had me pegged climbing the tree. He quickly blew at me while exiting back into the swamp.
I paused momentarily then continued to ascend the tree into my stand, I quickly pulled up my bow and prepared for what was shaping up to be a good afternoon of action.
At 1:40 PM I heard what sounded like a car driving through the swamp… I quickly grabbed my bow and locked my eyes on the swamp in front of me. Not a minute later what looked to be a shooter emerged from the swamp and made his way onto the small high ground transition.
After a quick assessment, I knew this was a buck I wanted to shoot, the buck aggressively came down the center of the island walking straight for a downed tree limbed where a small scrape had opened the day before, at 10 yards I let the arrow fly, and watched it impact a little far back and high.
I watched as he hunched hard and kicked on impact that ran off down the island, he stopped at about 50 yards hunched again, then ran rapidly into the swamp.
My excitement was drowned by the uncertainty of the shot, but I quickly decided that I needed to wait before attempting to track him.
Fortunately, I was able to contact Scott Gagliano, Max’s Deer Recovery #414-651-0255, and send him a video of the shot. Scott and I agreed that it was likely liver and gut, so we decided it was best to backout and track in the morning with his dog Max.
I waited for another hour and a half on stand before getting down, then slowly crept out of the area listening closely for any movement. Although disappointed in my shot placement, I was encouraged by the fact that I had Scott and Max to help in the morning.
After a long night, I returned with Scott and Max in the morning along with a couple of my friends Rick and Kevin. We all made the ½ mile trek back to the area with anticipation.
Once we reached the island Scott and Max got to work quickly. Max quickly got on the scent trail as Scott directed Max based on my description of the hunt. Within 15 minutes Max had located the buck just 40 yards into the swamp, it was a successful recovery and a time for celebration.
I want to thank Scott and Max for the advice and help with the track.
I also want to give a big thanks to Kevin and Rick for helping me drag the buck out.
This hunt proved to me once again that being mobile and placing yourself close to active bedding areas can be a key to one’s success leading into the rut.