Today, I am taking the day off from hunting. Despite a dismal start to the season due to a brief stint of the flu and a fractured rib, which I will detail in a future article about treestand safety, I am still optimistic. Although I have experienced spotty action, the majority of sits have not met my expectations of what a typical whitetail rut with below average temps generally measures up too. I have drawn back on one buck that caught me by surprise, but I opted to let him walk after a quick analysis of his age. Aside from that, no “shooters” have graced my presence in the deer woods thus far. Last night, after an uneventful evening sit in a great metro location, I will admit that my mind began to wander a bit and the walk out in the dark had me questioning the strategy I had in place to kill the buck that I was in there after. Did I move in too early? Is he bedding where I think he is? Is he even still alive?
We have passed daylight savings and the clocks have been set back meaning that we must rise earlier to get to our stands before daybreak and the same goes for cutting out of work in the afternoon. Frankly, it can be easier to find a reason not to go at this time of year; the comfort of a warm bed can seem more logical than rising at 3:00 a.m. to brave the harsh November wind and cold. On top of that, many firearm seasons have already begun, or are about to, adding to the anxiety of what will become of the bucks in your area. I received a call from a buddy in Northern Missouri this morning who has been hunting for ten straight days. He reported that brief bouts of rutting activity are followed by long sits with little to no action at all. The tone of his voice told me that morale was low in the “Show Me State.” Oddly enough, the conversation that we had this morning mirrored a call from him at roughly the same time last season. We were both sitting on unfilled tags in multiple states and agreed that although the action was slow, time in the tree was the only way to punch a tag. Two days later, he killed a buck that grossed in the upper 160’s. I think that this a lesson to us all on the mysteries of the rut and its intensity, or lack thereof. Persistence pays off.
So today, I am taking a break and regrouping. I am reorganizing gear that has been hastily strewn throughout my garage and truck. I am untangling the ball of calls and gear in my pack that loosely resembles a cluster of tangled Christmas tree lights and returning all my respective archery equipment to its rightful place in my pack. I am going to wash all my clothing and look over maps to draw up a new game-plan and get ready for the next phase of the whitetail rut. But most importantly, I am going to shoot. Our equipment is more vulnerable right now than it is throughout the entire off-season. Dawn and dusk walks to and from the stand, bouncing off of branches and tree-pegs and general travel make an unforeseen incident that alters a bows accuracy all too possible. So today I am going to shoot…a lot.
This phase of the season can be tough. We are approaching lock-down and dropping temps make sitting still for long stints a chore. Spotty action allows one’s mind to drift and a small acorn of doubt begins to form of what the remainder of the season will bring. But right now is the time to grind it out. The rut is a tricky beast and can shift quickly from one day to the next. A hot doe can trigger raw pandemonium just as quickly as it can coax rutting bucks a half mile in a different direction.
So, for those of us with unfilled tags, stay focused and grind. Hunt smart and remind yourself that it can still happen at any time. Amid the lack of sleep, mental exhaustion and minor malnourishment that goes along with hunting season, we wait all year for these few magical weeks of hunting with high hopes of catching a glimpse of a bruiser cruising the timber. It can happen in the blink of an eye, expunging that small acorn of doubt that filled your mind only a day earlier.