Nine Months to a Buck

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The author took this seven-point on a late-season still-hunt. (Photo by Steve Sorensen)

Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

I enjoy still-hunting. It’s an art, and not an easy one to master. It’s a science, so the better you understand deer biology, behavior, habitat, and the terrain you’re hunting, the more successful you will be. I will never be a master of still-hunting, but it’s my favorite hunting style.

Some hunters sit in a treestand throughout the season. Some wait at food plots for deer to answer the dinner bell. Some set up at their favorite, old reliable crossings. I don’t discredit any legitimate hunting method, but I’d rather walk up a buck on his terrain and on his terms, “hombre en ciervo,” man on deer.

I still-hunted at least part of each day in the Pennsylvania firearms season, even though conditions were usually less than perfect. By Tuesday of the second week I had seen only two bucks. Neither met the state’s antler restriction.

Things were about to change. I didn’t know it but my hunt actually began when I took a spring walkabout nine months ago on March 13, 2021. I was looking for shed antlers and seeing what the post-winter woods were like. I saw a bear track that day fresh out of hibernation, obviously a sow because a tiny track stepped inside the track of the larger one. Soon I came to a spot I marked “Check This Out” on the BaseMap app on my phone.

By the second week of deer season I had forgotten why I noted that spot, so I decided to see why it caught my interest. It was a mile from where I parked my truck, and took me an hour and a half to get there. On the way in I noticed deer tracks several times in the fresh snow, which told me deer were on their feet. “Perfect,” I thought, “as long as the wind cooperates.”
The spot I had marked was at the edge of a bench, and when I got to the bench I faced into the wind and began sneaking along, looping my pattern and peering down the slope every 60 to 80 yards. Within 20 minutes I saw a deer. Through the scope his ten-inch spikes were obvious. He was coming my way so I stood still and let him pass to my right at about 50 yards. He never saw me but he confirmed that deer were on their feet. I continued moving forward. Periodically the wind would shift so I’d stop and wait, hoping to avoid air-mailing my scent ahead of me.

When I reached the spot marked “Check This Out,” I saw why it was notable. Grapevines hung from a few mature trees. The tree canopy blocked enough sunlight so the multi-flora rose hadn’t turned it into a jungle since the last logging. In other spots I could see no more than 30 or 40 yards, but here I could see a hundred yards. At about 75 yards, there stood a buck. His right main beam had a tight curve with two points rising from it, enough to meet the state antler restriction rule. A high shoulder shot from my 7mm-08 dropped the seven-point where he stood.

I checked my phone for the time—it was 3:30. I needed to snap a few photos, field dress the buck, and drag him out the shortest way. I called my brother to meet me, and he drove me back around to where I parked my truck.

This buck was far from my biggest, but the size of the buck is seldom the measure of a hunt. The measure of this hunt comes from my stubborn optimism being rewarded at the climax of a challenging season. It’s in capitalizing on existing conditions so that I could walk up on an undisturbed buck. It’s in analyzing the time, the season, the weather, the post-rut behavior, and the pressure from other hunters to arrive at a place where a plan came together, a plan that began nine months ago.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He is a field contributor to Deer and Deer Hunting magazine, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.