A big buck that debunks some big-buck theories
Who says you can’t shoot a big buck on a morning hunt in early October?
That’s the general line of thinking in much of the whitetail world. The thought is bucks get back to bed before daylight, and a hunter often does more harm than good this early in the season by going in and bumping deer out in the dark.
Hunters also need to be 25 feet up in a tree and execute extreme scent control. Those are a couple other popular theories. This past Sunday, a buddy of mine, Jacob Busiahn, blew all those theories out of the water by taking a great buck from the ground on Sunday morning. It’s a testament to the fact that there are no absolutes in the whitetail world.
Jacob lives in Minneapolis and does not get time to bow hunt that often. That means he has to hunt mornings and evenings when he gets the chance.
His first sit of the season in Minnesota came on the afternoon of Oct. 6. Jacob had shot a doe from the ground during the 2017 season on this same piece of private property and was ready to take another doe this year if given the chance. His strategy was to check out that same spot to see if it would work to hunt over the field edge with corn this year instead of beans. On his way, though, a fresh scrape caught his attention.
The terrain had the ingredients to work well for a ground set-up. A steep-declining, south-facing ridge with thick cover made for great bedding on any wind out of the north.
The field up top that Jacob sat over was in the Conservation Reserve Program, with standing corn to the north of him. The scrape itself was on the field edge in a low area, and Jacob set up about 20 yards away on the sidehill behind a group of cedars.
“I just cut a couple lanes through those cedars. I tried to brush myself in a little bit, but I was fairly exposed,” he said. “I had a pretty good backdrop. I wore my facemask the whole time, but I knew I was exposed, so I just did my best not to move when the deer were around unless they were behind something.”
The first sit was a bust that evening. One doe that never provided a shot was all he saw.
The next morning, he was back in there and did not have to wait long. A big buck approached that scrape around first light and sniffed the licking branch. Jacob drew on the buck, but it was quartering away sharply and never gave him a good shot.
He let down, regrouped and broke out his grunt call. A few grunts and a snort-wheeze caught the buck’s attention, but was not enough to bring him back in.
The deer walked out of sight, and 15 minutes passed when Jacob noticed another younger buck being pushed by what he figures was the same buck that had come into the scrape. That young eight-pointer came along the field edge past Jacob as the big one held back.
“He just stared in my direction,” Jacob said. “That’s when I closed my eyes and thought, ‘Don’t move, just let him calm down.’”
The buck kept looking toward Jacob’s location, maybe remembering where he heard the grunting sequence from earlier. Eventually, he didn’t recognize any danger and committed. The buck veered off the path just a little, but came within 25 yards.
Jacob stopped him with his mouth once it got directly broadside and released a perfectly-placed arrow. After an hour of waiting, Jacob’s dad came out to help him make a short tracking job down the ridge before they found the deer.
It was the biggest buck Jacob has ever taken with a bow, and one he might have never seen had he listened to all the unwritten rules of hunting whitetails at this time of year.
Sometimes, we think too hard about this stuff. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to that. I’ve stayed out of stands during early season, taken extreme precautions with scent control and hesitated about hunting from the ground for fear of getting busted.
Jacob took no scent-control measures on this hunt. Instead, he simply used a perfect wind in his face that fell off a sharp ridge behind him where he did not think many deer would come from. He took advantage of a somewhat unique situation with the consistent cold weather this fall that seems to have these bucks aggressively signposting and establishing a pecking order a little earlier this year.
Jacob, who would describe himself as more of a meat hunter, was not going in that morning needing a big buck to release an arrow, but he found the fresh sign and set up. He paid attention to the wind, used the element of surprise and got the job done on a hunt he will never forget. That’s all the makings of an incredible day in the woods.