On Saturday November 7, 2015 about an hour and a half before first light I settled into what I felt was my best all-day stand for that particular season. This was the last day of a week-long public land hunting trip in north central Pennsylvania. I had seen many deer over the course of the week and season but I was looking for a buck I was confident was at least 3 ½ years old. So far, I had not had any shot opportunities on bucks of that caliber.
I hunted this particular stand on opening day of bow season in early October and it’s located in a thick bedding area with many white oaks and 2015 was a good acorn producing year. I saw 10 does on opening day and quietly exited the area in early afternoon, knowing that the best thing I could do was stay out of this stand until pre-rut.
I returned about a month later and hunted this stand November 2nd and 6thand on both hunts I had several younger bucks and many does within range. There was two large actives scrapes within range of my stand and although I’d hunted the stand the previous day, I felt it was my best opportunity for this final hunt of the week.
The doe sightings had me feeling it was just a matter of timing before a mature buck would be searching for an estrous doe and come into the active scrapes during that search and unfortunately for him, have me on stand at the same time. On top of that, the secure cover and acorn mast made this an excellent stand for all-day sits during the rut. I rarely hunt the same stands on back-to-back hunts but all these positive factors along with my confidence in my scent control regimen during entries and exits and while on stand had me feeling confident.
During the morning hours of my hunt I saw several young bucks and does and around noon, several does browsed into the area and one of them worked a licking branch over one of the scrapes. The oldest doe seemed to notice me in my tree as this stand was not as high or had as much background cover as I like, but it was the best tree of what the location offered. However, after circling downwind, and testing the air, she calmed down. The entire doe group stayed with 30 yards of my stand for the next three hours, feeding and bedding, oftentimes downwind of my tree.
This was probably my most telling experience about the power of a detail-oriented scent control program. The success of properly cared for and used Scentlok clothing and headgear, clean rubber boots, and a clean pack was clearly demonstrated when that mature doe stood 20 yards downwind trying to wind what she had picked in a tree by testing the air, only to calm down and remain in the area for several more hours without concern.
In mid-afternoon the doe group slowly moved towards the open hardwoods in the valley below. Then, about an hour later I saw a deer walking through the thick mountain laurel towards me, heading for the larger of the 2 scrapes. One look at his large headgear and I could tell he was one of those rare public land mature bucks that I spend so much time and effort pursuing. As he approached my set up, he stopped broadside at about 30 yards. I released my arrow and as he ran off I could see I had hit him, but it looked like I may have hit him further back than where I wanted. I quietly climbed down to the ground and went to the site of the shot and found my arrow and some blood. Because it would be dark in about an hour, and based on my hit looking like it may have been less than perfect, I decide to the return the next morning to recover the buck.
The next morning I tracked the buck into a thick section of the bedding area and recovered him about 200 yards from the site of the shot. He turned out to be my biggest 8 point to date. Although I did not take a tooth and get the buck aged, he had a field dressed weight of 185 pounds and was clearly 3 ½ years old or older.
ScentLok definitely played a huge role in taking this and several other bucks over the years. Had the old doe winded me and snorted and spooked, the odds of taking that buck would have decreased immensely.