After a six-hour drive to my hunting lease in Kansas, I arrive at the farm around 11pm and quickly set up my tent in the gusting wind and darkness. I unpack my gear and settle in for a night of restless sleep as my mind races in anticipation of tomorrows hunt. Although I’m not planning on hunting in the morning, I plan to wake up at sunrise and drive the area to scout for deer movement.
My alarm goes off. I am tired from the work week and the long drive but I jump out of bed in excitement and anticipation of the morning scouting session. Its a cool 40 degrees, which is unseasonably cold for the morning low in mid-September so I am expecting decent activity. After three hours of driving, glassing and scouting from afar, tiredness sets in so I head back to camp.
It’s getting close to 10am so I decide to stop and check trail cameras in the immediate area surrounding the farm. Thinking to myself, “It might be too early in the day to check cameras and I should probably wait a couple hours” did cross my mind but the temptation was too much. After running a trail cam through the latter part of the Summer, I wasn’t getting any pictures of my target buck in this particular area of the farm so my intention was to pull this camera and move it to a different location.
As I close the distance to within 100 yards from my camera, I see a doe and fawn have picked me off. I don’t really think too much of it because there always seems to be a doe in the area no matter what time of day it is so I push on without stopping. As I get closer to the camera she starts to circle in front of me instead of running the opposite direction. At this point I stop and watch her run to another low area with thick cover, littered with willow brush and small trees. In an instant my heart sank as she alerted five does and three bucks from their beds not more than 100 yards from where I stood.
I am in utter disbelief! One of the bucks is the typical 12 point (pictured above), who is my number one target buck for the season on this particular farm and he is accompanied by the second biggest buck on the property which is a heavy 9 pointer (pictured above). None of the deer in the group spotted me or knew what was causing them to run but were alerted by the running doe that I had spooked minutes earlier. I watch them trot across the road as I shake my head and mumble a number of curse words for blowing these deer out of the immediate area.
You may remember from one of my earlier posts that I had laid out an exact strategy to hunt this deer throughout the early season. Read the full post: My Exact Strategy For Western Kansas Early Archery Season
The spot where I bumped them from was less than 400 yards from where my tree stand is located, overlooking the waterhole where I have numerous pictures of my target buck. The wind was perfect that evening for him to move during daylight but all bets were off because I had ruined the hunt before it even began. I sat the stand anyways hoping that they bedded up in the milo field to the North but all I saw were does and fawns.
Hindsight 20/20 I should have waited to check that camera until at least noon but I’m not sure if that would have made a difference. I think regardless of the time of day the same scenario would have occurred but I will never know for sure.
One of the main takeaways from this excursion was the realization that I didn’t need trail cameras anymore because they had already done their job. Because of my pre-season scouting, I knew there was a shooter in the area and I knew he was coming to the water tank on a regular basis. I positioned my tree stand accordingly so that he could not wind me on his approach, I put in the necessary work but all was lost because of my excitement and trying to nail down his exact bedding location. For what??
I follow a number of hunting shows where they are constantly running cameras to locate the exact travel pattern and bedding area of a hit list buck. Although this information is extremely benficial, it can also be high-risk, resulting in bumping deer and jeopardizing a hunting area. In this particular scenario, I was caught up in the mentality that I HAD to keep running cameras in order to kill this buck. That would be like me as a salesman getting a person to say “Yes, I’ll buy your product!” and then continue to explain features and benefits for another 10 minutes even though they have already committed to the sale. Ludicrous, right?? How much is too much? Sometimes less is more.
All things aside, it was a wonderful opening weekend and it felt great to get back into the stand with my bow in hand. As hunters, we are constantly putting together the pieces of the puzzle and trying to wrap our heads around these elusive animals in hopes of filling the freezer. After all, this is an entirely new property so I have to expect certain things like this to happen because of my lack of local knowledge. I came away with lessons learned and memories made, and in the end that’s all that really matters. I love deer hunting!