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November Heat
by Mali Vujanic

imageThe sweat was literally pouring down my face as I closed the distance to my tree stand in the predawn darkness. Despite making the long walk at a slow pace, the 71 degree air temperature and high humidity were none forgiving. By now my socks were soaked and despite walking in with my outerwear strapped to my backpack, my light-ware was now uncomfortably wet. It was unfolding as one of those all too familiar Indian summer “sweat shop” hunts and being the scent freak that I am, I was quite honestly thinking about turning back for the truck. I know this may sound like a September opener scenario but in truth, this was November 14, smack-dab in the middle of the rut. I believe that was the only thing that kept my spirits up and focused on hopefully getting a crack at a great buck.

I had just returned from a 7 day stint in Illinois where the day and night temperatures had shattered all time record highs and 4 of my 7 days hit 80-stinkin’ degrees! So this morning’s conditions were all too familiar and painfully that same weather pattern pulled out of the Midwest and followed me back to Maryland. Though not quite as bad as Illinois, the temperatures here in Maryland were still hitting the mid 70’s and that can still make for some tuff November bowhunting. No, this was not shaping up to be the cool, frost bearing November’s I had anxiously awaited for 11 months but it was November none the less and I will take 70’s in November over 50’s in September any day. The rut was in fact here and despite it all, you can’t arrow one from the truck.

Despite the muggy conditions, I started spotting deer right at first light. My tree stand was set back from the field edge about 100 yards but I could still see small portions of the field now that the leaves had fallen off. With my binoculars I spotted several does and fawns still in the field feeding. Before long a few immature bucks showed up and began to push and bump them around. Shortly after, all the deer within my view came off the field and began to filter through the woods around me. The forecast called for a west/southwest wind but there was not a puff to be felt. Deer were now all around me and I have no idea how they did not smell me. Persimmon’s had produced well and all those deer were randomly picking up the jellied deserts for the better part of an hour. Still as it was, they never picked me out.

A short while later one of those immature bucks came into view and began to push the does around pretty hard. Before long he had moved all the deer behind me and out of view. Around 8:30 I sat down and turned for my pack to pull out a drink and my cell phone and like a ghost, there he was! It was one of those situations that no matter how stringent the Management Program on your property, you just KNEW it was a mature shooter buck without putting any further thought to it. The big 9 pointer was on a steady gate and by the time he got parallel to me, my autopilot had already kicked in and I was standing at full draw. I had shot the big red oak at 36 yards with my laser an hour earlier and this guy was going to be passing by it just a couple yards short. I guessed 33 yards. When I let the arrow fly, he never moved a muscle. That is, until my arrow robin hooded a 1 inch diameter sapling about 15 feet from him! For the rest of my life I will never forget watching that lighted nock perfectly settled in the buck’s vitals-yet frozen in mid air. I could not have done that if I had tried! The buck just stood there for a moment then turned around and walked back from where he had come. Honestly, I really don’t think he knew what had happened and I even watched him make a scrape before completely losing view of him. Disgusted, I stayed on stand till around 11am before leaving to take care of a few obligations at home. For convenience, I was planning on hunting another farm that afternoon but after giving it much thought, I decided to return to the same farm and hunt a stand near the area the buck had disappeared to.

After settling in for the afternoon hunt I heard an incredible crash of antlers coming from out in the field in front of me. I could hear the fight as plain as day but struggled to see the bucks making all the noise. When they finally came into view I could see two Hammer Heads going at it about 150 yards away. I have witnessed small fights in the past and even heard some fights before. But nothing quite like what I was experiencing at the moment. For nearly 10 minutes, two 5+ year old bucks were absolutely trying to kill one another and I honestly thought I was going to witness one of them getting killed first hand. Mud was flying into the air and I could even hear the bucks bawling loudly like steer as they pushed one another back and forth in the field. At one point, the two bruisers took a break by standing still-still locked up. One of the bucks literally flipped the other buck on its back, pinning him to the ground upside down and then pushed him backwards for over 50 yards! I remember thinking to myself that if that bucks survives, the hair on his back will never lay flat again! It was that intense. Then, more deer caught my attention and several other bucks had been lured to the sight and sounds. One of the onlookers was the big 9 point I had missed earlier in the morning as good of a buck as he was, he would not of matched up with either of the two doing battle.

When the fighting was over, the winning buck walked every single buck off the field and into the woods directly in front of my position, including the big 9. Then I saw the winning buck walk back into the field by himself. For over 20 minutes I watched and waited for those bucks to come through and I remember thinking they all must have cut to the west and out to the field again....that is, until the big 9 came into view and once again coming right for me. He was steady walking down a worn deer path that led just 10 yards by my tree. This was going to be a much closer shot than this morning’s miss! After the shot, he kicked out his rear legs and only took a few bounds before coming to a stop. Within 15 seconds, he was finally on the ground.

I never thought my day would have unfolded the way it did, especially under those conditions. It literally went against everything I had ever experienced when deer hunting. But it never ceases to amaze me how the rules can change when November rolls around, no matter what the conditions. I was extremely grateful for having the opportunity at killing that buck. And witnessing a buck fight of that magnitude will forever be with me. November is the most magical time of the year for us bowhunter’s and I have already started the countdown to next year’s big show. Even if Mother Nature throws us another nasty Indian Summer smack in the middle of November, that should give us no reason to think the odds of killing a big buck at home are greater than sitting in a tree stand.

Posted by Mali Vujanic on 11/14 at 05:06 AM
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