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2023 Deer hunting Recap (MT, KY, IN)

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Mar 3, 2023
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This is my first time making an original post on here. In my offseason (pre-turkey season) boredom I keep seeing people posting their season recaps. I really enjoy reading through these so I figured I would make a post of my own just to share how 2023 went for me.

In the past I have hunted a ton every season (Deer, Ducks, Turkeys). This year was going to be different because we had a newborn baby. I was trying to be considerate of my wife and family this year about how many days I was going to go out. I had a few hunting trips planned and I knew that if I was going to keep the peace in my house I would need to limit the amount of time that I was out in a tree stand. For this reason I barely bow hunted at all leading up to gun season. This was tough for me because I love bow hunting. I have not always been the best husband in the past when it comes to hunting season. I was determined this year to not put myself in a situation where my wife was upset with me about hunting so much.

My season kicked off in late October when me and a few friends made a trip to Montana for general deer season. This was our second time hunting in this area and we have started to figure it out a little bit so we had some ideas of where we wanted to start the hunt. Our trip was great. We saw tons of Elk, Pronghorn, Upland birds, Mule Deer and Whitetails which is very cool for us since we are used to only seeing whitetails and turkeys back home.

A couple days into the hunt two of my friends hunted one spot in the afternoon and I hunted an hour to the west. I saw plenty of mule deer does but no bucks that day. That night while debriefing our hunts over a few beers my friends both mentioned all of the deer sign they had observed at the spot that they went to. They did not see any bucks though, and had already picked out a different spot that they wanted to go to the next morning. Based on the fact that they did not hunt the morning in the spot they went to, and all of the sign that they had observed, I suggested that it would probably be wise if someone went to the area they were in that afternoon to see what it was like in the morning. This spot was a small piece of Type 1 block management Ag field that was surrounded on three sides by a big winding creek bottom followed by lots of BLM. No one else wanted to go there for some reason so I decided I would be the guy to hit it in the morning and see if there was anything going on.

My assumption was that the deer would likely feed in the green ag field at night and then head back to the bottom where there was more cover to bed down in the morning. I got in early and walked around the perimeter of the Ag field to get a good vantage point looking down into the bottom. I made sure to enter on the down wind side of the ag field so that I would not wind any deer that may be in the field feeding that I could not see in the dark. At daylight the spot I got to looked great but the bottom was full of cattle that were not there the afternoon before. After sitting for a few hours and seeing no deer I decided I would head back to the truck and go find another section of public to hunt. As I got back to the ag field I looked out, and to my surprise there was a whitetail buck walking along the edge of the field heading my direction. He was about 400 yards away at the time. His wind was blowing right to me and he was feeding occasionally as he walked my way.

I took my time getting my rifle set up on a small bluff that was clear of brush and would give me a clear shot. The situation was perfect. Once I was set up and ready for a prone shot the buck started moving quickly towards me and gave me a perfect 250 yd broadside shot. The buck dropped where I shot him and I had a fun time dragging him 600 yards around the edge of the field and to the truck. He is no giant, but it is my biggest public land buck and I am proud of him. I guess the other guys should have hunted that spot again.

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The next hunt for me was Kentucky Gun Opener. I am fortunate to have some good friends with a great farm down there that they allow me to hunt at. 2 hours into opening morning I had a group of 3 does come running through the woods and across the power line that I was hunting over. Just like you would hope, a buck came a few seconds later chasing them across the opening at 300 yards. I could not get him to stop and he crossed the opening and went into the thick timber on the other side. I went back to making coffee on the jet boil. 20 Minutes later I looked down to my right and saw 3 does walking through the woods within 50 yards of my blind. I had a feeling it was the same group so I got my gun ready because I figured big fella was going to be following them. Sure enough, here he comes walking out into the open right after them. I nice and easy 50 yard shot with my 300 win mag and he dropped. 2 for 2 so far on the season. We ended up killing three bucks that opening weekend at that farm between all of us, and mine was the smallest of the 3. It was a picture perfect whitetail rut with bucks chasing does everywhere. That was a weekend I will never forget.

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The last season for me was Indiana gun opener. We are fortunate to have a couple farms in the family that we manage for deer and turkeys. I had been running trail cameras all year and had a good idea what what bucks were running around. One of our farms had a really cool deer running around on it, but I thought he was only 3.5 years old so I was not planning on trying to kill him. I had talked to the neighbor, who had filled his tag in bow season, and we had both agreed we were going to let him walk this year so he could continue to grow. As fate would have it, the week leading up to gun opener this buck started showing up on camera every day during daylight. I talked to the neighbor to confirm that we were going to let him live, because I figured if I was seeing him in daylight, they probably were too. When we discussed it he told me that he had some family members coming to hunt opening weekend, and if they got a chance at that deer he was going to tell them to shoot him as neither of them had ever killed a buck. I told him I couldn't blame him, but if he was going to be on their hit list then I wasn't going to pass him either. With that I got ready for opening day. I set up in a blind on a ridge in some timber overlooking some bottoms that this deer (and many others) liked to frequent. To follow the trend of the rest of my season at 8:30AM the buck I have been mentioning came walking through the woods right to my blind. I got a broadside shot at 60 yards and dropped him.

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Needless to say, I had a great deer season that I am very grateful for. I have never killed 3 bucks in a season, and I hunted less this year than many years past. I really think that making a point to prioritize my family on a lot of days that I would have liked to be bow hunting had something to do with my luck. I was able to be present and engaged for my family and still find success in the field. I know that not every year will be like this one, but it was definitely a learning experience for me.

Hope you all enjoy my story.
 
Nice write up! I’ll be navigating the newborn / hunt time balance myself this fall. Looks like you managed to get out quite a bit!
 
Nice write up! I’ll be navigating the newborn / hunt time balance myself this fall. Looks like you managed to get out quite a bit!
Keys for me were planning way ahead regarding when I would be gone, and making sure my wife had help arranged when I was gone (grandma, sister, friends).
Good luck and congrats!
 
Keys for me were planning way ahead regarding when I would be gone, and making sure my wife had help arranged when I was gone (grandma, sister, friends).
Good luck and congrats!
Thanks! I’ve got a few whitetail hunts planned close to home and hopefully draw a pronghorn tag about 3 hours away so I can scoot for a weekend and be close enough to head back quickly and not feel like I’m abandoning the spouse and infant. So far she’s been pretty understanding, but also adamant that she gets the chance to have a few days chasing whitetails for herself.

Love the gnarly bases and extra little eye guard point on that IN buck, btw!
 
Congrats on a great deer season! Nice bucks! Thanks for sharing.

Making sure my wife has grandparent help at home w the kids while I'm away hunting always helps for sure
 
Nice write up! I’ll be navigating the newborn / hunt time balance myself this fall. Looks like you managed to get out quite a bit!
Mean this respectfully. But after having a sept 2nd (opening archery day) baby - i can tell you that you wont have time for hunting.

1-4 months is a time intensive season of parenting.
 
Mean this respectfully. But after having a sept 2nd (opening archery day) baby - i can tell you that you wont have time for hunting.

1-4 months is a time intensive season of parenting.
June 30 is when our party is getting crashed. Just hitting that four month mark in time for MT rifle season. ;)
 
Congrats on the season and the little one. What part of IN (home for me as well) do you hunt? I hunt Cass County thanks to Redman. Nothing beats being in the IN hardwoods in the fall for me.
 
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