My 2017 Season Recap (borrowed from the 2017 thread)
I’d like to take a minute and congratulate everyone who punched a tag in 2017. No two hunting seasons ever seem to be similar. Whether it’s the weather or crops or the rut, every single year has its distinct differences. Never forget, no matter how well we prepare Mother Nature is always willing to show us how unprepared we really are. 2016 showed me just that and it was a grind. I had a bunch of great encounters but I had only closed the deal once for the entire season and that came with just a few days left in the late season. Because of that, the 2017 season would probably be the most prepared season I have ever had. Notes were made during the 2016 season and after the season I made a point to go through that check list. Some serious scouting was done in a few areas with some snow on the ground to really give me an idea of what was happening. Some stands were hung, some stands were tweaked, and some stands were removed. I went into 2017 with confidence that I just needed time on few prime stands and the opportunities would present themselves. Cameras were put in the woods in late August- September and some great deer were showing themselves. The stage was set.
For the most part early bow season was a typical one. Does… fawns… small bucks. After laying eyes on a giant one night, I did some speed scouting and hung a new set along with a camera. The camera helped confirm what I had hoped was a great spot. I had 4 encounters with two shooters in that spot in early October but never sealed the deal. October provided a lot of opportunities at young bucks, does, and fawns. I put eyes on shooters while on stand maybe 8-10 times but nothing within bow range. As much as we all like to be in the woods in October, we would all rather it was the month of November.
For me, the rut lacked intensity. I was literally in the woods almost every day during the rut and it was probably the most unexciting rut I have ever witnessed. While I saw many bucks scent checking does and bumping does on food sources, the rut lacked the insane chases. Only one time all season did I witness a buck pursuing a doe through the woods grunting along the way.
On the evening of November 3, after experiencing somewhat of a lull for close to two weeks, I was hoping to change my luck. I began an aggressive rattling sequence followed by mature trailing grunts. First deer to show up was a 1.5 old and he parked himself next to the ladder of my stand trying to figure out what all the commotion was about. Then, directly in front of me and to my surprise, walks a huge 9pt. He walks out of the bedding, right to the young buck, passes by the stand at 6 yards. I never get a chance to even think about getting a shot at him. Totally unprepared, there is literally no chance of me standing, turning 90 degrees, drawing my bow, and connecting. So I just watch… One hell of an experience.
November 5 was probably the most perfect morning to be in the woods during the rut. I saw a ton of deer on their feet early in the morning including 3 shooters. I was lucking to get a shot at one of those shooters. It was a poor shot. It was high. I didn’t have great penetration. It was raining. No blood trail. The end result was that deer was never found. Easily would have my biggest buck, ever. That was a tough one to swallow but after a day off to get my head straight I was back on the prowl. The rest of the season just didn’t produce another opportunity for me. I was seeing a good buck here and there but never within striking distance. The bucks seemed to always be one step ahead of me and just out of reach.
The gun opener was the slowest opening day I have ever seen. My hopes were to get my kid a good shot at a buck. I headed to the Wyoming County and hung a “perfect set” for us for the opener. Well that “perfect set” did not produce and to my disbelief the day ended with us only seeing two fawns. Overall very little shooting even heard from the stand and very few deer taken by the neighboring farms. The southern tier just didn’t live up to its hype this year.
On the morning of November 21, I hunted a field set and put eyes on two good bucks. It was still dark when they made their way down the middle of the field but judging by body size they seem to be mature. They eventually split up and went their separate ways, each of them heading to a known bedding location on the perimeter of the field. I felt I knew that two bucks were bedded in close proximity to my stand and I should be there in the afternoon I hopes that they return. Would you believe that a half hour before dusk they both showed up? They were bedded directly across the field from each other. They both entered the field on the same trails they exited early in the morning, they arrived within 5-10 minutes of each other, and they were headed to meet each in the same spot in the field where they left each other this morning. Maybe they were bffs… Either way one of them never left there alive. A 60 yard shot with the trusty old Mossberg 500 12 ga with Hornady SST did its trick and dropped that 8pt in his tracks. Easily the biggest bodied deer I have ever shot as he easily outweighed all 240 pounds of me. I volunteered my kid to help me drag that deer out and I think he may have been excited as me.
With my regular season buck tag filled my attention is on my kid. My kid’s opportunities to hunt are few and far between. School and basketball take up most of his time and the first chance since opening day for him to get out would be Thanksgiving morning. He ended up killing two button bucks and missing a “decent” buck. What a great day! It was great for me to see my kid successful and in all his glory. He was obviously disappointed in missing the buck but happy with the opportunity. It is awesome to share the woods with your kids and see that they appreciate it as much as you do. He loves the woods and he loves the water. What more could I ask for?
For the remaining gun season, without a buck tag as daily motivation to be out there, I will admit I got lazy. I didn’t hunt every chance that I could have. 3 deer in the freezer is plenty for my household. For the times I did hunt morning sits would prove to be awful. Practically zero morning movement once we got past Thanksgiving weekend. Typical of the season, the last two weeks, deer sightings were limited to right at dusk.
Bring on the late season! I have learned to love the late muzzleloader season. The late season plan is simple… find the best food source you can find and sit on it! This year I spent a lot of time during the last week focused on developing a plan for late season. Odds are if you have that magical food source the bucks will no doubt show up. Well after scouting relentlessly I realized that I don’t really have one. Spots that I hoped would be good are just not seeing the foot traffic. At dusk every day I am doing some “road scouting” in hopes to find these agricultural sweet spots and I am striking out. After 9-10 days of scouting, I have two mediocre spots that will see all my attention. My plan is to only hunt these two spots. One is good for SW winds and the other is good for NW. On December 12, I passed on an 8pt that I believe is 2.5 years old. I had seen him before but it wasn’t until he was in the crosshairs that I realized he needed another year. The next afternoon I hunted the same stand with almost the exact circumstances. I had a young 3pt walk out of the bedding into the woods, and into the field. Approximately 5 minutes later I had a 9pt on track to mirror his every step. Except when he walked out of the bedding he knew something was wrong and stared in my direction for a good five minutes. He took off running until he reached the 3pt who was now in the middle of the field. I was able to quickly shoulder the gun and get a quick shot off. I was unable to find any sign that I had hit this deer. No blood. No hair. Nothing. I walked the deer’s tracks to the edge of the woods and saw no signs of distress. I thought I missed. Just a clean miss. I left the woods that day filled with disappointment. I went over the scenario, in my head, again and again. I had a tough time believing that I missed. I second guessed myself and went back 2 mornings later to look at the evidence again. Thankfully I did because I found that buck dead within 70 yards of where I shot him. Perfect shot through the shoulder, destroying both lungs. The unfortunate part was not being able to harvest any meat from him. He had two puncture wounds (one in the neck and one in the abdomen) that were grossly infected. It felt great to find him and to punch buck tag number 2 on the year.
Preparing for 2018 has already started. My checklist for 2018 has been made and I am hoping over the next few months to get that list completed. I’d like to have the bulk of the work load done well before the season and post season is a perfect time. What’s on the list? Typical stuff… hanging stands, clearing lanes, posted signs, and scouting.
Thank you to everyone participating or following this thread. It is a great way for us to kill some time as we await the trolling season. The original idea behind this thread was to give a play by play of the happenings in the deer woods in real time so I welcome everyone to participate and to share their experiences. It’s fun to live vicariously through others and have the ability to witness the ups and downs of everyone’s season. It’s crazy how emotional hunting season really can be for some of us and I’m thinking that I have left the woods feeling every possible emotion this year.
In the end I would call 2017 a success.