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Ben's 2020 Semi-live hunt log

TheBenHoyle

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Opening up turkey hunting on IL DNR sites would make way too much sense, so they kept it suspended. On a positive note, good luck next time out and let us know how you do.

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I'm sorry you got the short end of that stick, but honestly I'm not surprised. hopefully that means next year there will be loads of turkeys on those public sites.
 

TheBenHoyle

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Illinois
I had 4 hard days of turkey hunting that resulted in zero turkeys and very few actual birds sighted/gobbles heard.

I had a honey hole where I have had a great deal of turkey activity in the east. Last year I only got there one day and it was very windy and I heard no gobbles. I chalked that up to the wind. This year I went to that spot. No birds. Decided to scout out a new spot further north and saw some cool stuff, but I didn't find any turkeys.

I went back to that same spot two days later and it was officially a dry hole. I'm not sure what the deal is but something has run the turkeys out of that spot. I spent the other two days hunting a different area. The first day I set up on a field edge where I have had turkey encounters in the past. I was a little unnerved by the coyotes howling and chasing something in a small stand of trees directly across the field from me.

As the sun came up, I heard gobbles all around me. Most of them were to the south about 1/4 mile. At about 7:30 I heard two shots and 20 minutes later I could see 2 hunters leaving the field to the south. I'm not sure if they doubled up or one of them took two shots. Or if they totally missed, but I had heard so many gobbles that even if they doubled up I was pretty sure I should set up down there the next time I came out.

I ended up seeing a tom in the next field to the east, but he couldn't see my decoys. I attempted to make a move to that field but he melted away into the woods before I was fully set up and I did not see him again.

Two days later I went back in and set up by the woods to the south where I had heard all of those turkeys, but once again as I was setting up my decoys I heard coyotes in the woods right behind me. Probably about 70 yards away.

Well, no surprise I heard the gobbles back to the north and there were no turkey noises anywhere near me. I did however see 3 coyotes that day. I have a feeling that the key to getting a turkey on that property is to know where the coyotes were yesterday as they seem to be chasing the turkeys from place to place.

I still have two days of turkey hunting planned back at the spot I usually hunt for deer in the fall. I have a really good feeling about it, but it does hinge on the late season turkey behavior not being tremendously different two weeks later. SO I probably will get a curveball and have a story about missed opportunities. And I'll share it with you.
 

TheBenHoyle

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501
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Illinois
We can chalk up the 2020 Spring Turkey season up as a win for the gobblers. I managed to get out three days to end my season, and while I saw a lot of turkeys, I never had much of an opportunity to bring one home.

Friday I got out and set up in a nice little spot just across a newly planted field about 140 yards from the timberline along the creek that most of the turkeys usually roost in. I heard a lot of gobbling, but most of it sounded like it was north and west of me. About 7:30 I saw a hen come out of the tree line and she was on a pretty good track to come right by me. Then a Tom came out and he was on display, but he was drifting to the east. The hen, never really looked at him. Just kept coming my way. She go about halfway and then stopped to take a good look at the hen decoy I had set up. I was calling softly and hoping she would just keep coming, but she took a hard right and headed to the west.

In about 30 yards she crossed over a little grass strip that separated the field I was on from another field. And she just kept heading west. The Tom decided he needed to keep up so he started heading west along the far treelike, but as he got to the grass strip he saw my decoy. He crossed over the strip, but then headed south along the strip. He got to a spot that was about 50 yards from me and partially crossed back over to take a look at my decoy. I was thinking about shooting, but it was a little bit long and I was still hoping he would come in. BY the time I realized he wasn't coming in, he dropped back into the other field and was effectively screened from me.

And that was my best opportunity. I saw him again later on the far side of the field to the west, about 400 yards out.

Saturday I had a lot of gobbling and I saw a train of 4 jeans and 4 toms headed south along the far side of the west field. They worked back to the east and they were about 150 yards away on the other side of the little block of timber I was sitting in. I was hoping they would work their way down to me, but there were about a dozen deer bedded right near where they were and they decided to get up and move, which scared the turkey and they ran back to the west and then to the north.

About 3 hours later I had a hen come out of the timberline to the north and she got to about 40 yards and took a long look at my decoy and decided she didn't want to meet my hen. She drifted back to the north. Then about 40 minutes later, three toms and three hens came out of the same spot she had come out of. The wandered around for a half hour, and the looked in my direction a lot, but they must have been decoy shy or call shy by this time in the season, because they showed no interest in my set up at all.

I went back out on Wednesday and had a nice sit, but I only saw a few turkeys and they were all on the far side of that west field.

All in all I had a nice turkey season, but there was far less action that I would have liked. I was out nine days and never took my gun off safe once. So now I am left to day dream about next year and hope that I can have some good hunting fun this fall. I might try to do some fishing this summer and I do have a Canada fishing trip planned for September, but who knows if that will happen. If it doesn't, I might have to schedule a trip up to the family farm in South Dakota for some duck and goose hunting in the fall.
 

TheBenHoyle

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Well I fell off the radar for a while there. I was furloughed from my job for about 2.5 months and that was the busiest I have been in my life. Lot's of projects done and a lot of fun had with my family.

Then I went back to work and have been even busier. Apparently no one did my 10 weeks of work while I was gone...

I did get to do a week of fishing and caught enough bass, bluegill and crappie to get a decent meal for the family. That was fun. And it makes up for the fact that I won't be going to Canada in September for a fishing trip. Sounds like my group is punting on that until June (hopefully).

Meanwhile I have picked up my archery turkey and deer tags for Illinois. I have an app in for the fall shotgun turkey season in Illinois as well.

I found out I have been selected to have access to a forest preserve about 30 minutes from my house for archery deer hunting during the rut. Not sure how great the hunting quality will be, but I am excited to have a place to go that is close.

I have also picked up a 3 day nonresident waterfowl license for South Dakota in early October. I'm headed up to the family farm to pick up a side of beef and I hope to get my dad out on his pond to shoot some ducks and geese.

I have already gotten a squirrel this fall, so my fall hunting season has started although there won't be much action until October. Can't wait.
 

dirtclod Az.

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Well I fell off the radar for a while there. I was furloughed from my job for about 2.5 months and that was the busiest I have been in my life. Lot's of projects done and a lot of fun had with my family.

Then I went back to work and have been even busier. Apparently no one did my 10 weeks of work while I was gone...

I did get to do a week of fishing and caught enough bass, bluegill and crappie to get a decent meal for the family. That was fun. And it makes up for the fact that I won't be going to Canada in September for a fishing trip. Sounds like my group is punting on that until June (hopefully).

Meanwhile I have picked up my archery turkey and deer tags for Illinois. I have an app in for the fall shotgun turkey season in Illinois as well.

I found out I have been selected to have access to a forest preserve about 30 minutes from my house for archery deer hunting during the rut. Not sure how great the hunting quality will be, but I am excited to have a place to go that is close.

I have also picked up a 3 day nonresident waterfowl license for South Dakota in early October. I'm headed up to the family farm to pick up a side of beef and I hope to get my dad out on his pond to shoot some ducks and geese.

I have already gotten a squirrel this fall, so my fall hunting season has started although there won't be much action until October. Can't wait.
Following again this year.
Good luck with Turkey and Deer! 💥
 

ElkFever2

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Mar 4, 2019
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Iowa
You been out hunting, Ben? I’m sidelined for a couple weeks doing storm repairs.
 

TheBenHoyle

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Illinois
So this year I am going to try saddle hunting. I am not sure how many of my hunts will involve a saddle, but I am pretty excited to have a bit more mobility. To that end, I bought all of the stuff I need, but the Tethrd platform came unfinished, bright aluminum... So I pulled out my camo spray paint and my painters masking tape and got to work. I think it turned out pretty well.

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TheBenHoyle

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Sorry for the delay but I have been a little busy and neglectful. So I'll catch you all up on my hunts so far.

Saturday October 2nd, 2020

I went out to my buddy's house in the country for an archery deer hunt to open my season. I wasn't really expecting much action, but it was going to be nice to spend some time with him.

He lives on 10 acres right next to 40 acres owned by his father in law. The back corner of his hayfield looks north down a treelike/waterway that ends at a wooded railroad corridor. He built a platform in a mulberry tree in that corner and it will be a great place to rifle hunt coyote in the winter months.

But we figured it would be a nice place to watch the sun rise and see what was what. The answer to that is not much. There was standing corn to the west and standing corn to the north, but we did see a couple of deer come out of the corn into the waterway and then duck into the railway corridor.

At about 10, my buddy decided to be done hunting. He needed to feed his goats and get some other chores done. I decided to walk north through the waterway and explore the north edge of the cornfield.

This year I am going to try to do some hunting from a saddle and this was a real low pressure opportunity for me to try out my tree climbing system and the saddle.

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Turns out I can get up in a tree without too much trouble. I think I am going to enjoy this type of hunting. I have a pretty good hunting opportunity coming up during the rut that I think the saddle will help me with quite a bit.

I hung out in the tree for about an hour, and then I got down and headed back to the house. It was a beautiful day but I didn't see much for tracks along that field edge. I think there is a doe and her fawns bedded in that area so I don't think I will be headed back there for hunting anytime soon.

I did see an old telegraph pole that still had the insulators on it though. That was neat.

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TheBenHoyle

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Friday October 9th, 2020 - Tuesday October 13th, 2020

South Dakota nonresident waterfowl

So Friday morning I was all loaded up and on the road early to get out to my parents' house in northeast South Dakota. They were born there but lived in Illinois my whole life. When they retired they bought a small house in their hometown and they go back and forth every few weeks.

So I was headed to their South Dakota house where I would hunt three days on the family farm before loading up my car with a half a steer I bought from my uncle.

I got out there early enough on Friday that my dad and I could drive around and do some scouting on the ponds and sloughs and there were a lot of ducks. only one of the pons had good edge cattail cover, but I figured we would do ok.

first morning I was able to pull a gadwall and a shoveler out of the water.

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I. figured we were off to a good start. But the ducks didn't seem to be moving and they really didn't care for my decoys. and all of our activity had cleared out the ducks in this pond. So we went a mile west to a big slough that is known as the Big Slough.

This area had been grazed earlier in the year so there wasn't a big wall of cattails that you could use to get close to the water. We circled around to the east and belly crawled in close but it looked like there was just shovelers and coots on this side. And then the geese started piling in.

There were about 30 of them but they all landed on the other side of the open water. We were considering trying to belly crawl further, or back out and try to come in from a different direction or even just stay put and hope that some of the geese would swim over by us. But before we could decide, something caused the geese to get up and fly off to the east. We ended up hanging out by the slough for a while and we had some shots but they were poorly made on fast moving ducks and didn't turn into anything.

We decided to drive south to see where the geese came from and discovered a partially picked corn field just south of the slough about 1/4 mile.

Then we drove back north past the pond we had set up on in the morning and I spited some geese on the water. it looked to me to be about half of that group we had seen on the slough. considering the good cattail screen, we decided to sneak up on them.

we got into position with my dad on one side of a clump of cattails and me on the other. the geese appeared to be on my left with my dad back to the right and I was afraid that they would see me and get up where they were, giving me a long shot and giving my dad no shot. I could only see 5-6 geese and I was afraid that this was going to be no good, but as it turned out the other 24 geese were right in front of my cattails. And up they went, right in our faces. We probably should have had our limit, but my dad took one shot, perfectly downing his goose, and promptly stopped firing, even though he has a semi-automatic with two more shells. meanwhile I took two shots to down my goose and by the time I was ready for a third shot the geese were a long ways off.

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That's my haul for the first day.
 

TheBenHoyle

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On Sunday I went out alone. Dad said his back was bothering him. As it was he only missed a beautiful sunrise.

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I saw some mallards on the far side of the pond and tried to sneak up on them, but when I popped out of the cattails looking right they were on my left. They saw me and were out too far before I could adjust.

I tried to go to the big slough in time for the geese to come in but they got up and headed west instead of north. I sat there for a while and saw a pintail and a widgeon, which was neat. had some shots, but again they were passing shots on fast birds.

It was very windy, gusts of 60 mph so I headed back to my parents house without birds.

On Monday dad came out with me and I saw a wood duck on the pond which I really didn't expect. There are not many trees in this part of South Dakota...

It was swimming our way in the early morning and when I thought it was in my decoy spread I snuck down and collared to get it to jump up. Well I shot two ducks but they were both shovelers and that woodie must have snuck out the back door...

We ended up cleaning up my decoy spread and moving to the big slough again, hoping that the geese would come in. As we were making our way to the water, a big group of ducks got up and flew right towards us. I snapped a shot at them as they were passing and two fell hard. That was awesome! but in the effort to find them in the grass were were out in the open and the geese took that moment to come flying towards us. I think they were definitely going to do what we had wanted them to do, but our actions sent them off to the west...

We checked another little slough in a bean field that was full of gadwalls and teal. we tried to sneak round on either side, but although I gad some shooting I didn't bring any down. For whatever reason, my dad didn't shoot at all.
 

TheBenHoyle

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The other part of the trip was a little welding project I had cooked up for dad and I to work on wheel I was out there. Dad has a welder and knows how to use it and I have always wanted to learn. So every afternoon we would be out in his garage fabricating some parts to convert my trailer hitch game carrier into a wheeled game cart.

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There I am, hard at work. I'm probably going to have to get a welder at some point, because I really enjoyed it. I won't show you any pictures of my welds, they were not show-worthy but I think they'll hold.

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That's dad with the finished project. The wheel carriages and the handle are being held on by clamps. They will be removable and I still need to drill some holes so I can bolt them on as needed. But I am super excited to be using it sometime in the next few weeks. Not only that, it was a fun project to work on with my dad. I know he enjoyed teaching me how to weld and this was the first real project he worked on in the new garage he built last year.

On Tuesday, I loaded up the car with all my decoys and coolers full of grass-fed beef as well as some goose and duck meat. I made the trip home in about 11.5 hours. And I was pretty tired after so many early mornings. It would have been nice to come up with some more waterfowl, but I think I have my dad interested in doing this again next year. He told me he is going to be watching the ponds and sloughs to try and time out when the heavy migration starts. We were mostly hunting local ducks and geese who were pretty smart about avoiding us. On top of that one, the night before I left one of my dad's cousins stopped by and said we should hunt a few spots on his land. It was too late to take advantage, but I am sure the next trip we will add those spots in to the places we can hit.

All in all a great trip.

For those who recall my Fall Slam goals of a duck, a goose, a squirrel, a deer and a turkey; I only need the deer and the turkey to get it done. Next weekend is the shotgun turkey season opener and I think I will have a chance to go out. Can't wait.
 

TheBenHoyle

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Well, I had quite the day yesterday. This is probably going to be a multi-part post.

I was out in the same stand that I have taken my other two deer out of. It is tucked in the corner of 10 acres of trees surrounded by ag fields in Northwest Illinois. I hunt there at the invitation of one of my dad's friends, who is kind of the neighborhood archery deer hunting mayor. He knows all about everything, and I am very lucky to have him inviting me out to hunt.

As it was, I went out in the morning and everything was going great until I stepped over the field edge and had 4 or 5 deer out in the field in the dark. They all start blowing at me and some run off. I try to back out and move down the field edge to pop into the trees, but there are more deer in the trees, right under the stand. Bam, busted. Deer running off in every direction. Ugh...

I try to be a positive thinker when hunting, but I tell you it was hard as the sun came up and the clock turned from 7 to 8 to 9 to 10 and all I see are geese flying overhead. I couldn't even hear any turkeys, which I was just as interested in getting on to as I was in getting a deer.

I was probably one layer of clothes too light for the wind too. So finally at 10:30 I got down from my stand and took a sneak down the old quarry that runs down the middle of the woodlot. I figured it would get me out of the wind, warm me up a little and it makes it so you can peek into the other end of the woods without being busted by something along the way.

Also, last year I actually bumped a nice buck out of a bed at the end of the quarry. If I had known he was there I could have poked him with an arrow I got so close. So I was particularly sneaky and focus on that bedding spot on my right as I came down the quarry.

Well it was empty and I was standing there contemplating my next move when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a couple of turkeys. They were probably 80 yards away and moving stealthy like they saw me and wanted to get away. And they were headed to the east.

I knew that I could head back up the quarry to the east and peek my head over in hopes of finding where they stopped running. So that's just what I did. I went 3/4 of the way back to my stand and peeked over the top. Nothing. I took a long slow look at everything with my binoculars and there were no turkeys.

I decided to scoot back into the quarry and go halfway back to the west where I saw the turkeys to begin with. I thought maybe they didn't run that far and they were hung up. Well that was an empty hole too. But I was hearing jays scolding something. And I know that jays will sometimes scold turkeys. The scolding was further to the west, so I slowly moved down to the end of the quarry and sat down behind a big tree and waited. While I was waiting I found what I think is an old arrowhead.

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It doesn't seem quite finished. Like they didn't finish the bottom of it, but those angles seem a little too precise to be naturally occurring and the edges were pretty sharp. I'm no expert, but I'm calling it an arrowhead.

As I was sitting there, I had made a few mouth calls to the turkeys and I was texting my wife to tell her I messed up my opportunity at a turkey and I heard it. The sweetest noise, a turkey calling back.
 

TheBenHoyle

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I have heard that you can break up a flock in the fall and then just sits down and call them back together, but I had never seen it work. But here I was about to witness a turkey reunion.

Now I was behind a man-sized tree trunk, so I felt safe peeking out my head to see where they were. And I saw some coming down the hill opposite me, maybe 80 yards away. then I saw a head pop up about 30 yards away. But I was hearing calling from the other side of the tree, so I peeked over there and I could see a few heads about 30 yards away. This was about to be really good.

It was a week-long shotgun season and I had my shotgun with me so I turned a little to get it and then I peeked back around the tree to locate one of the close ones for a shot, but they were gone. I peeked back around the other side and I see the trail of turkeys has reversed course back up the opposite side.

And just like that, my imminent turkey dinner turned into regret. Lesson learned, when you break up the flock and call them back in, be ready to shoot and don't be a lookyloo popping out on both sides of your hiding tree. Next time... Next time...

I was planning on an all day hunt, so I had lunch packed and since I was in the quarry out of the wind I decided to just hang tight and eat something. But really I was hoping that the turkeys would come back around. They didn't.

Eventually I walked back to the stand and went back up in the tree. And that started a 3 hour wait where I was continuously battling the quits. Im sitting there or standing there thinking about how I messed up my opportunity at a deer by blowing out the deer under my stand. When the woods are only 10 acres, it is easy to think that spooking a handful of deer would clear them all out. And I am thinking about how I coulda, shoulda, woulda had a turkey if I wasn't so dumb... I'm trying to tell myself that it can all change in a heartbeat and to just stick it out, but it was not easy.

Side note, early in my research into deer hunting I read about rattling horns and how it is very effective at bringing in bucks, so I got a couple of shed antlers from my uncle's farm and tied them together and take them every time I am out. Sometimes I try them a lot, sometimes just barely, but they have never worked for me. I enjoy banging them together, but it seems a little hokey to me and I have always felt like it is too much weight and bulk to bother with since they have never worked.

Now it is almost 3 and sundown is 6 and I know I don't really want to shoot something as the light is failing since I don't want to gut it by headlamp and I am 2 hours away from home and so forth. So I tell myself that if I can make it to 4 o'clock that I can get down and go home and feel like I accomplished something. Since there is nothing going on, I start thinking about packing up to be ready and I see my rattling antlers hanging there and I think I'll hit these for a few minutes and then put them away, not that it's worth doing... So I bang the antlers together and slip them in the backpack and feel miserable.

I had been sitting and I decide that if I stand up and face the tree, the wind will flow around me better and I won't be so cold. I stand there like that, not looking for deer or anything, inspecting the bark, for about 10 minutes. Then I look to the west and oh my goodness there is a real life deer! It was beyond shocking and I never would have expected it. It is about 80-90 yards away so I pull up my Binos and I see it is a buck. Now I am not really good at judging deer size/age or any of that, but this buck looked good enough for me to want to shoot.

I watch him walk up this draw towards me and he is just shredding all of the little trees/weed stalks with his antlers. He is coming very slow and deliberate and I realize he is coming in looking for a fight. My rattling actually worked. I'm shocked by this realization, but I file it away because I am more concerned with getting my bow in hand and hold back the surge of adrenaline that I know is coming my way.

very quickly I find myself writing a script for the buck but then realize I need to be reading his because he is not going to walk right under my tree. He is veering to the field edge to my south. I look at where he is headed and realize he is going to go behind a big tree when I can get to full draw and then he will walk into the open where I can send an arrow. I had spent a lot of time ranging things for distance so I was pretty sure he was at 30 yards. and when he stepped into the opening I settled my pin and let fly. I didn't stop him and maybe I should have but he was moving slowly and I didn't hesitate as the opening was not big.
 

TheBenHoyle

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Illinois
The arrow disappears and he turns and runs about 30-40 yards back the way he came and then just sort of looks around and slowly ambles out of view. I felt really good with the shot but I can't see my arrow in the ground and I didn't see blood coming out as he ran. So I tell myself I need to wait 30 minutes before I get down and look for my arrow. But even with my binoculars and a lighted knock I can't see my arrow. I start to worry that I misjudged the range. So I get my rangefinder out: 29 yards. And then the adrenaline lets loose. I'm shaking and cold and second-guessing everything. I text my wife, I look through he binoculars, I start noticing that the "window" for shooting might not have been as clear of obstructions as I thought... That was a VERY long 30 minutes.

I get down and go to where the arrow should be and I can't see it anywhere. Even worse, I don't see any blood on the ground... So I am checking sight-lines back to the stand and trying to eyeball where I would have had to have shot and BINGO. There's my arrow and it is red!
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It had actually been tucked under that log I have it propped up against. I'm feeling better now, but I don't understand why I don't see any blood on the ground. Luckily I know the 1st 40 or so yards and I just start heading that way slowly looking for more blood.

It was rather harrowing for me since I have only shot and recovered 2 deer before and I have heard horror stories of people losing or bumping wounded deer. so I took it slow and found drips and drops along the way. from the stand it looked like he might have turned and walked north out of my sight so I kept looking for a side trail, but the little bit of blood I was finding ket working downhill. I was very nervous about him just being bedded down and I would bump him and he'd go out of the woods and I would have to back out and get permission to look on someone else's property, but I just kept going slow and there he was!

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TheBenHoyle

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Ah sweet relief. I found him and he is a beauty.

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This is the third deer I have taken and so far I have taken them all with the same arrow. I number my arrows and it just so happens that this arrow is good old #3. I can't decide if I should retire it or keep pressing a winning hand.

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Like I mentioned earlier, I am not great at judging deer on the hoof. At this point in my deer hunting life, I am just thankful to see deer. But it turns out he is a real nice looking deer. He has a double brow time and some hooks on the one side. My first buck was probably 2 years old, with a small basket rack and last year I shot a doe fawn. This deer was much bigger bodied with a rack that I am really fascinated by.

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I had a heck of a time dragging him up out of that draw to the field edge. He was a very heavy boy. I didn't get to use my new deer cart that dad and I welded up two weeks ago. There was too much brush in the way and I was able to drive my truck right up to him through the field.

A few reflections:

I am proud of myself for being able to learn from past mistakes with deer and not script the encounter but rather read the script unfolding in front of me.

They talk about football players making the transition from college to the pros and how eventually the game slows down from them and they aren't just reacting. In this hunt, during the shot sequence, I really felt like I was doing that. There was a lot to think about and I felt like I was able to address it all as it was happening. Hopefully that trend continues. When I first started archery hunting I was a frazzled mess.

I am almost out of venison from last year and this big guy is going to yield a lot more meat than my fawn last year. It will be nice to not have to feel as stingy about eating it next year.

I don't really enjoy gutting deer. But it is not for the reason most would think. I can handle the blood and the gore, but I feel so inefficient as I fumble along. It takes me forever and I hope that it will get easier as I go along. As a side note to this thought, his heart was intact but both of his lungs were gone and his chest was full of blood. I must have hit him a little back from where I was aimed and I think that means I should have stopped him before I released. I think he must have taken another step forward.

I almost don't know what to do with myself now. I have shot several squirrels, a goose a half dozen ducks and a deer. All I need now is a turkey to complete my fall slam, but I don't have great access to turkey hunting ground. I might be able to get back on them in this same woods later in the season, but it is hard to justify the drive as the turkey are rarely in the woods I was working. Normally they are about 150 yards north across the open ag fields by the wooded creek bottom.

Anyway, I will get out for some more hunting and I'll share the stories, but I think we may have reached the peak in adventure.
 
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