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Mid-January Fighting Bucks Caught on Trailcamera

by Mike Willand 18. January 2012 13:28
Mike Willand

I am relatively a newbie when it comes to utilizing trailcameras for whitetail scouting or inventory purposes. In years past I just didn’t understand their appeal. I understood that photos of big bucks were cool and often couldn’t wait to view some of the snapshots my good friend and hunting partner, Justin Zarr, was able to capture on his. In fact, he’s probably the single greatest influence to why I use them today. I just couldn’t understand why someone would waste their time giving away their position long before the season started.  The problem for me was that extra human scent we are certain to leave behind and how it influences deer movement.

Since I’ve started using cameras over the past two years, I’ve been fortunate to have captured some pretty unique whitetail behaviors, something I attribute to my never ending bout to control my human odor. For me, it’s a relatively simple endeavor. Living in the farm country that I do I utilize the terrain to the best of my ability and simply don’t push too far into the woods. I use rubber boots, rubber gloves, and approach my cameras the same as I would approach a treestand. I try my best to eliminate human pressure even while not hunting.

Whether or not this is the reason for some of the unique photos I’ve gotten is certainly debatable. It could be nothing more than luck. However, if the old saying holds true and luck really is where preparation meets opportunity, then perhaps it’s something more. Perhaps those extra little steps do give me more luck in the photos I capture.

This past weekend while checking my cameras looking for the first signs of bucks that have dropped antlers, I was surprised at what I had captured.  Nearly mid-January and to my surprise a fight for dominance between two bucks! In fact, just days earlier while enjoying my last sunset of the year from a nearby treestand – I witnessed the same two bucks harmlessly feeding alongside each other acting as if they were the best of buds. My stealthcam said otherwise.

The battle took place between a busted former seven-point buck that Justin and I have captured at least fifty pictures of since the start of deer season. This two-year old is an absolute terror, a warrior who’s had a mostly battered rack since before Veteran’s Day. His opponent was a more timid three-year old eight-point with a wide spread, another buck Justin and I knew well, but had far less photos of.

The two-year old broken seven-pointer gloats in front of my trailcamera following the fight.

The reclusive three-year old eight-pointer in early October.

When the two bucks first enter the field they appear as equals, casually strolling out to feed just like I had observed days before. A doe group enters from the camera’s right side and suddenly tempers flare. The bucks’ ears go back, full body posturing while walking in a circle around each other for several frames. The battle grows more intense while the females look on. Eleven minutes later the battle ends, only the mangled snow-covered field still shows the signs of the struggle that took place.

While it’s not clear who won, the two-year old ends up sticking around another twenty minutes and posing in front of the camera. The reclusive eight-pointer casually strolls off behind the doe group like nothing happened.

The fight doesn't begin to shape until does enter the field.

The eleven-minute battle would end and begin at least three times, while my camera snapped over 150 images of the scene.

Notice the snow between the first and last frame - showing the battle that once took place. The only sign that still existed the day I went to check this camera.

Like I said, I’ve been fortunate to capture some pretty amazing whitetail behaviors with my trailcameras in my short time utilizing them. These new photos are among my favorites. 

Big Buck Down - The Taking of a Mock Scrape Buck

by Mike Willand 22. November 2011 15:00
Mike Willand

Bowhunting is detective work. If you’re like me you have many different stand sites set up across numerous different properties covering a handful of different regions of your home state - sometimes over several states. Taking clues that are left behind by deer, revisiting past sightings and experiences, all the while trying to piece together the big picture to make that next move on where the buck you’re looking for will be hiding. Sometimes you guess wrong and sometimes you guess right.

On Monday, November 14th, I guessed right.


For weeks leading up to that Monday I had been grimacing at all the bucks falling to friends of mine across the country. Not in jealousy mind you, but in regret that the days I was pleading to take off from work would be too late into November and past the peak of the rut throughout northern Illinois.

My decision to take the 14th-17th off was based on this year’s poor crop of what I call shooter whitetail. Older deer just never seemed to start expanding their home ranges till after Veterans Day. That’s what I was looking for on that Monday - a buck searching for love far from where he typically calls home.

For weeks, my good friend Justin Zarr and I had been capturing nothing but younger deer on our Stealthcams. Together, we have nearly twenty of them, scattered over four different farms, covering a hundred miles in between. Going into the 2011 season we only had one buck that either of us really wanted to take on camera. Justin would end up the lucky hunter on Halloween weekend, with me behind camera, and a buck called “Hitch”. Two weeks had gone by and we still had nothing else to chase. 

All three of my mock scrapes were flourishing with whitetail activity. The problem was all three of them had a regular onslaught of 100 - 120 inch bucks calling them their own. For Justin and me, once “Hitch” was taken, there seemed to be a major gap between age groups.

Although not the quality of buck I was hoping for, pictures like this are testimonials of a well planned mock scrape. Here, a young buck stands on his back legs to work the above licking branches.

My only chance was to await the days I believed older bucks would begin to stretch their home range, and this is why I chose the 14th -17th of November. Figuring if I failed to find a buck during this time frame, the following week yielded more days off for the Thanksgiving holiday and yet another chance to find a cruiser buck that Justin and I hoped existed. It was a shot in the dark.

Sunday night, November 13th, found me staring at the Scoutlook Weather website for what seemed like eternity, finally making the decision to sit my favorite mock scrape all day beginning the following morning. I shut off my computer and went to bed.

I awoke the next morning especially early. I wanted plenty of time to make and pack a solid lunch for the more than 10 hour sit that I was already dreading. Two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, no less than thirty carrot sticks, a large bag of animal crackers, an apple, and nearly 50 ounces of water were going to be my only sources of comfort for the remainder of the day.

The drive in was uneventful, a far cry from the morning before when no less than four different deer nearly ended up on the hood of my truck. A couple days past full moon, I was hoping the deer were returning to late morning movement again. The past several days had deer on their feet just after legal shooting light, something every deer hunter loathes to witness - myself especially.

Once dressed, I made the trek to my treestand. The moon was so bright I never turned on my headlamp that morning. I could easily make out the woods as it lay before me. When I hit the pond, which is what I used to creep into this set-up undetected, I noticed the water had risen several inches after the recent rainfall. Several steps later and I found myself in too deep – literally! After a false step, a small amount of water had gotten over the top of my 18 inch rubber boots, enough to soak my feet and cause me to curse in the dark! I stepped back a few feet and ended up getting out of the water forty yards short of where I normally step out from. I decided the pond was too dangerous to navigate in the dark, fearing a fall would send me and my video camera into the drink. A fall I surely could have lived with, but my camera may not have made it through. With my camera dangling around my neck I took another way in, trouncing through a section of tall grass that skirted the pond. With each step I took, the frosted stems sounded like firecrackers in the once soundless woods.

Once in stand I readied myself for the day. I hung my bow, my pack, and set up the camera for the self-filming session I was sure to receive as the day waned on. Not ten minutes into my sit and I heard the dreadful footsteps of deer in the dark. I turned and looked in the direction they were coming from, and made out what appeared to be two deer in the loud grasses I had just walked in from. No doubt as I peered at their faint images, they had heard me walking in. Immediately I thought my day was already beginning badly. These two deer were surely going to bust me!  And – I thought, if they heard me walk in, they were already in an area deer don’t typically show up in until about an hour after shooting light. The full moon had foiled me again – I thought!

After a few moments, the two deer ran away to the other side of the woods. I couldn’t tell if their tails were up, but I knew they had cut my trail in. I looked up into the starry sky wondering if my decision to not walk the pond all the way in would cost me the entire day’s sit.

The remainder of my sit in the dark anticipating the sunrise was silent. Only a far off cry of an owl could faintly be heard.

I turned my video camera’s power on just at shooting light, something I’ve done for much of the season so I wouldn’t have to fumble for it once the moment of truth arrived at first light. Standing up now, I faced the direction of my mock scrape. It laid just over twenty yards from me. It was not uncommon to hear the deer at the scrape before seeing them. The soft ground surrounding the scrape often made deer nearly impossible to detect if not for the fact that they would often stop to hit the licking branches which strung out from every which angle above it. The overcast sky kept the earth dim as I anticipated the hours ahead.

Just before sunrise I heard loud, drawn out doe bleats coming from the direction I had seen the two does run to about 45 minutes before. I reached for my grunt tube immediately as experience has taught me that when deer are vocal – you are vocal. I quickly threw out four or five short grunts and then stopped, wondering what I was thinking. I didn’t want to scare the potential bait away, and began to bleat loudly and drawn out, just as I had heard. I did this six or seven times, then silenced my grunt, shoving it back into my pocket from where it came.

I heard the running of a deer in the marsh behind me and turned my entire body to make out a buck advancing quickly on me. Without even throwing up my optics I saw that it was a good buck, at least 130-class! As soon as I recognized who the buck was I heard a very faint stick snap from the direction I was previously looking – over toward my scrape. I turned my head and came eye to eye with a shooter buck not more than twelve yards away and peering into the cattails waiting to see what all the commotion was about.

I believe the buck who was approaching from the marsh was this handsome 3 year old I called "Larry Bird". Here "Larry" works my mock scrapes licking branch.

With his eyes fixated on the bog, I turned back quickly and grabbed my bow, even glancing into the camera screen at the same time to see if the buck was in frame. All I saw was the weak outlines of the trees as the image was still too dark – camera light had not yet begun. I forgot about filming and drew!

With the buck slightly quartering in, I found my pin and settled it on his shoulder. Within moments I released! The buck took off through the timber but didn’t make it far, crashing a short distance away. The sounds of the surrounding woods quickly hushed once again. I could see two does in the distance, their tails showing white. The buck in the marsh slopped through the water traveling further and further out of earshot. I calmed myself, waiting for the earth to return to silence.

I could see a small section of my arrow, bloody and broken, laying where the buck once stood. Reaching for my phone I called my wife and daughter to tell them the news – Daddy is done!

A special thanks to Bowhunting.Com president Todd Graf for coming out to take these great pictures.

I would wait another twenty minutes before getting down from the tree to pick up the blood trail. Figuring the buck had made it into the cattails which surrounded my stand I didn’t want to take anything for granted. I was quiet, calm, and ready to put a second shot in him if need be. I took just three steps from where our encounter began, looked up and could see his body just off in the distance. I approached slowly, eyeing the buck up and down to make certain he was expired, and all the time grinning from ear to ear.

On the first day of my four day hunting vacation, within just a few minutes of light, my season was over. I knelt down beside the buck and looked to the sky once more.

My smile says it all! The buck from unknown origin showed up at my mock scrape the same day I did - ending my 2011 deer season.

Illinois Buck Down - In Season Scouting Pays Off

by Mike Willand 26. October 2011 16:58
Mike Willand

Friday, October 21st was greeted with mixed emotions as I hiked along the edge of a standing cornfield on my way into a stand I had never hunted before. The late afternoon sit was shaping up to be a mild one, as temperatures held steady around 62 degrees while winds gently blew south by southwest. As I stepped over a bent cornstalk I thought - was the decision to hunt this property the right one?

This was, yet again, all new property to me. It was first picked up by Bowhunting.Com founder, Todd Graf, a little over 3 months ago in hopes of securing more land around home. Totaling 100 acres, two large cornfields make up its majority while several smaller woodlots dot most of its borders. The property is as pretty a whitetail paradise as you’ll ever witness, but the dilemma is the area in which it belongs. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources have been removing deer for years in this region of my home state in order to combat the spread of CWD, and this land simply lacked good numbers of deer or deer sign. It was hard to justify tonight’s sit.

Thanks to the good people at the Hunting Lease Network, Todd, Justin, and I were able to pick up this great midwestern lease.

As frustrating as these thoughts were, I continued to my evening perch. My decision to hunt this ground was not based on the possible sighting of just any deer. Rather it was decided on a possible encounter with one particular animal that I believed I was hunting – a shooter buck.

Last weekend I had scouted the entire property with my trusty Lone Wolf treestand armed on my back. The winds that day howled from the northwest, at times gusting to over 25 miles an hour. It was the perfect day for a scouting mission. On the entire piece I only cut two separate deer tracks, five random rubs, and three deer beds that I considered of the male variety. It was these three deer beds I concentrated my efforts on the most. Each bed was large, often separated by as much as forty yards. One of them was even situated near a decent sized rub, further confirming my suspicion that they indeed belonged to a buck. I hung a stand following much deliberation on the south side of the beds and went home to get a few hours of sleep before the following morning’s sit.

Deer sign was minimal throughout much of the property except this rub, which was situated near a good sized bed.

That morning I returned into stand hoping to encounter the buck that called the beds his own. I was deceived by the weatherman however, as much of my three hour sit was greeted under a steady, hard rain. Nothing moved all morning and I got nothing but wet. I second guessed myself and tore down the stand as quickly as I set it up, returning home empty handed.

Today is a new day, I thought, as I climbed into stand. The wind was southerly, and I still believed a buck was bedding nearby. Only this time I was north of the buck’s bedroom. My hope for the night was that the buck would show as late into the evening as possible, entering the cornfield to my left after crossing a fence-jump that sat forty yards away.

Unfortunately, I was in for a long and very uncomfortable sit. The tree that Justin and I had chosen to perch this Lone Wolf into weeks before the season began was now barren of any leaves. What’s worse, the tree was about as thin as a flag pole and the stand seemed extremely close to the ground. Surely a buck would see every move I made as he inspected the landscape before hopping the fence.  So I made the executive decision to stand for the entire agonizing time frame leading up to sunset, which was still nearly four hours away!

The evening was calm for the most part. I would slowly move my head, and head alone, left to right again and again, scanning the two sides I expected deer to move from. I wasn’t worried so much of what went on behind me since the wind would surely take care of any of those animals before they got close enough for an opportunity. With lazy eyes I admired squirrels and birds as they busily readied themselves for the approaching winter.

At five after six, the sounds of the woods were starting to hush. The squirrels had just about all gone to bed and the birds seemed to have disappeared entirely. For a few moments, the woods I had been glaring at since 2:45 were finally quiet. My ears perked up.

The silence was broken quickly when I heard a small twig snap, and nearly immediately I knew what it was. The next step was so distinct that I reached over to my camera, turned it on, and opened my camera’s iris as large as possible - anticipating a deer to show. My first glimpse through the thick underbrush was very brief, but I knew in an instant what it was.  I reached behind me to grab my bow in anticipation for the next few moments of my life.

The buck disappeared for about a minute into some thicker underbrush, actually passing the low fence crossing I had predicted he would jump. My first thought was he was going to bypass me completely, cut the corner of the field and head toward some apple trees that sat in the far distance. But a distinct thud quickened my heart pace as I knew he had jumped the fence!

He appeared almost out of nowhere, conjuring himself from the thick green underbrush that sat just thirty yards away! With my right hand I situated the camera to capture everything on film, with my left I prepared for what certainly looked like a shot opportunity.

It was clear by his body language that the buck had no idea I was in his presence. Easing his way toward me, I remember thinking how that long painful sit was about to pay off, and the decision to stand was probably the most perfect one I could have made.

I drew back the string of my Mathews z7 Xtreme once the buck vanished behind a limb that protruded from the naked tree I was sitting in. I eased my feet across the floor of my stand, careful not to make a squeak. My twenty yard pin settled just behind the buck’s shoulders. I took one deep breath and released my NAP Nitron tipped arrow.

The buck’s initial reaction to the placement of my shot was promising, a solid mule kick that’s often symbolic of a properly placed arrow. However, he was now standing thirty yards behind me, acting as if he had not been shot at all! Realizing I could not get the camera positioned to view the buck again, I quietly took the time to grab another arrow, nock it, and draw again. Now at thirty yards, I set my pin on him again and released!

This time the buck took off in a dead run, disappearing out of view. Elated, I turned to the camera and whispered my emotions so as not to potentially spook the buck even further away. My interview was short, quiet, and to the point. Following it, I made the decision to find the first arrow and back out of the situation entirely. I was confident in the first shot, but from experience I did not like the reaction following it. I grabbed the red painted arrow of the first shot and walked back the way I came in, all the way around the property, so as to not spook the wounded buck.

I would not return to the property until nearly midnight with my good friend and hunting partner Justin Zarr readily at my side. We walked over to the area the buck stood during my second shot and quickly located blood. The trail was easy to follow with the use of Justin’s new best friend and flashlight, the Cyclops Flare Spotlight. At 193 lumens and 100% LED, this flashlight has become my most wanted piece of equipment going into November this year. I’ve been on two track-jobs so far this year while Justin has been using this light, and I’ve completely fallen in love with it.

Thanks to Justin I've now been on two tracking-jobs with the Cyclops Flare Spotlight and have decided I must own it going into November.

Justin and I caught up to the buck just over 150 yards from where I had placed the second shot. Lying just a few feet away from a shallow pond, it was clear by his sopping hide that he had tried to cool off just a short time following our engagement. Studying the shot further, I realized that I had shot a bit further back than initially intended, prompting the buck’s unusual reaction. Although I had caught one lung and devastated the liver, my decision to back out was absolutely the correct one. In fact, had it not been for that second arrow, I would not have returned until the following morning.

Elated once more I grabbed the antlers of my prize, smiling from ear to ear. The hunt that began on a last week on a windy Friday following work, ended on a calm night seven days later.

My first buck of 2011 and all on film!

Hunting Deer Scrapes Part 2 - Creating a Mock Scrape

by Mike Willand 27. September 2011 13:07
Mike Willand

As you may remember from reading my last entry “Hunting Deer Scrapes Part 1 – The planning of a Mock Scrape”, I am undoubtedly a scrape hunter. Although it seems to be a somewhat lost art in today’s modern bowhunting society I still believe it’s a tactic worth utilizing, and once used properly, can help put the odds in one’s favor. 

With the 2011 Illinois deer season just days away, I’m going to commence the second portion of this five-part blog dedicated to the scrape. If you’ve already read part one of this series then you should have already planned the location of your set-up.  Let’s begin.

Essential Scrape Building Tools:


Because scent control is my highest priority when creating a scrape I rely on the following list to help eliminate as much human scent as possible from an area already being used exclusively by the whitetail’s nose. Whenever possible, utilize the natural scent masking abilities of the rain and wet weather. While I don’t believe anyone can beat a whitetail’s nose all the time, you can fool it some of the time.

-Box of latex gloves.
-Rubber boots.
-A scent eliminating field spray.
-Scrape dripper.
-Small gardening hand rake.
-Trailcamera.
-Scrape scent.

Creating Your Mock Scrape:

Most of my mock scrapes are what I would refer to as community scrapes. They concentrate heavily on the building of long-term relations between the local deer in general. I am not a deer expert, but what I am saying is they are my attempt to make as many deer attracted to the area of the scrape as possible, thus bringing in as much of the community as achievable. This way when a buck is moving through the area, whether he’s a local or not, he should hopefully take notice of the scrape due to the already high frequency of visits by other deer to that location. To do this, I rely heavily on the licking branches. They are the key to a successful community mock scrape.

Adult does are typically the first to begin working many of my scrapes over-hanging branches when I begin these community scrapes in late summer.

I spray the overhanging branches of all my scrapes about once every seven to twelve days, beginning six to eight weeks before the season opens. The idea here is to get the local adult does interested in the scrape. Although beginning a scrape this early is not always possible due to time constraints, it’s what I try to do from the very start.

I do not even begin to work the actual scrape itself until sometime in late September or very early October. It’s at this time I believe that many of the surrounding area bucks begin to branch out - settling into smaller autumn core areas which are often nearer doe groups as they await the first signs of does coming into estrus. This is also the timeframe when testosterone levels are soaring, causing once-friendly bachelor groups to break out into conflict, resulting in a greater frequency of rubs and scrapes that literally seem to appear overnight.

When I do begin to paw out the dirt for my scrape, I use an old gardening rake that fits right in the palm of my hand. I typically spray the rakes with the synthetic formula made by Tink’s Power Scrape and begin to rake two or three small diameter semi-circles within inches or feet of each other. It’s important that each one of these scrapes is directly below the licking branch or branches.

Using a small gardening rake I begin to start the actual scrape just after I believe the majority of bucks to be out of velvet.

Because two of my three scrapes cannot be accessed from a water source (something I discussed in my last blog “Hunting Deer Scrapes Part 1 – The planning of a Mock Scrape”) I am using for the first time ever the NEW Tink’s Scrape Bomb Scrape Dripper. This Scrape Dripper is designed to respond to temperature and barometric pressure so it only releases scent during daylight hours. It’s also supposed to work very efficiently, sometimes lasting two to three weeks between visits, which allows the hunter to set out multiple mock scrapes without excessive visiting maintenance. This is important when trying to manipulate deer movement. Nothing will lessen your mock scrape’s success more than too much human scent at the actual site of the scrape.

As part of a suggestion from another hunter I look to for advice on all things scrape related, this season I am implementing the use of a scrape dripper like the one showed above made by the good peaople at Tink's.

I am placing the Tink’s Scrape Drippers just high enough for a man to reach and hopefully too high for a deer. I’m doing this for two reasons. The first and foremost is scent. The dripping bottle will get the brunt of my scent each time I refresh the dripper even while wearing latex gloves; keeping it at eight or nine feet only lessens the chance the deer’s nose will ever get close enough to really examine it. The second reason is the higher container will hopefully let the scent from the dripper reach further distances if a nomadic buck looking for love wanders through some time during the season. While it’s a long shot I know, I believe in always stacking the odds in my favor as much as possible. If nothing else, a higher dripper placed above the licking branches will eventually also drip on those limbs, thus creating the further effect of a whitetail hitting both the branches and the scrape on a regular basis.

Justin showing us just how high I am placing the scrape dripper, and noticeably directly above the licking branches.

Choosing a Scent:

The scent you choose for your scrape should be decided by the season’s timing. It would make no sense to begin dashing in doe estrus urine in August just as it would make no sense using dominant buck urine in January. Utilize common sense. Most every manufacturer lists the best times to use their product throughout the year. I choose the Tink’s products on the actual scrape itself because they are simple, easy to purchase and use, and effective.

For the licking branches I have tried several different manufacturers over the years and not generally noticed all that much of a difference between specific brands. I will let you know as I do when a specific manufacturer produces a specific licking branch (forehead gland) scent that I believe is a must-have for any mock scrape hunter. I will be testing between two different brands again this season.

Setting up a Trailcamera:

I am always weary when setting a trailcamera on a scrape of any kind unless it’s on an open field I know won’t be visited except at night. The reason being, trailcameras just add too much scent and commotion to an area, bringing too much attention to the hunter. I typically place them on a trail leading into the scrape rather than over the scrape itself, but if you must, make sure the utmost scent control is followed, don’t check your camera as often, and spray down even when using gloves. There is no sense going to all this trouble if all you’re going to do is let the deer know you’re there.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of my Mock Scrape blog when I will be dissecting the trailcam pictures, or lack thereof, from each of my scrape set-ups. Hopefully explaining what I believe to be the reasons they did or did not have success. Who knows, with the season just days away, I may even have a buck down before then. Wish me luck!

Bow Seasons Opening Day

by Mike Willand 31. August 2011 14:55
Mike Willand

I awake. Eyes still shut and body still warm. I sit up in my soft bed still hunched over, grasping a minor head pain from the few cocktails which visited me the night before. My eyelids open faintly as I put foot into action, followed by weight, and then in one swift motion stand erect, yet unstable. I shake it off with a forceful yawn.

I ease across the bedroom floor being careful not to wake my beautiful wife as she sleeps so peacefully and so carelessly without thought of the day that will soon follow. The bedroom door squeaks ever so softly as I dance through the doorway and into the hall, shutting the door behind.

I proceed next into my daughter’s room and peak over her tiny crib. Leaning over her nightly fortress, I place my lips on her cheek, run my hand softly over her hair, and disappear back into the loneliness of an empty hallway. The whole time wondering if she’ll ask where I am when she awakes.

Into our guest bathroom I go. Parades of womanly decorations greet me in my tiny chamber. Quickly I undress and step into the shower. The water instantly awakens my senses with a frigid reminder of the upcoming months in which I will make this an almost daily routine. However, today is different. It’s a day I have yearned for since the robin's return in late March and the television first roared with the crowds of summer’s baseball admirers. Today is the opening day of archery season and my body is still fresh from the short hibernation of the hunter.

Storms of memories cascade into my aching head as I continue to shower. Thoughts and dreams of a new year in stand amongst my most favored of competitors - the whitetail. And I thank God I can do it again! As I close my eyes to rinse the soap off my hide, the visions of the great deer I have known flood into my mind like the great Mississippi in spring. And then dreams of the great bucks I anticipate to encounter this year trade with them.

I step from the shower with a great loud thud which is heard throughout the land! Yet a soft touch onto my bathroom floor. My ears are erect now, senses sharpening, and blood at a steady gait tingles through my veins and quickens its pace. The predator within me - awakes! Within minutes, I am dressed and descend down our home's dark winding stairs.

I march into the kitchen with great pride. It has been so long since this moment and I am overwhelmed with anticipation for what the season might bring. I open the fridge to quench my thirst, followed by my greedy acquisition of the last apple. Standing over the kitchen sink I stare out our window into the dark unknown. I knew the ground I would hunt this morning, and knew the tree I wanted to hunt from. The young oak stood on the edge of a secluded meadow, where switch grasses grew as tall as a man. Surrounded by apple trees, this oak has proved its worth over the years with encounter after encounter. But as I took the first bite of my forbidden fruit I wondered if today it could yet yield even another encounter. I continue to chomp at my apple and walk out of our home, locking the door behind.

The cool air gripped me so, causing my heart to skip a beat and blood to quicken once again! It is a crisp air, so full of life and with the whispering promise of an autumn to follow. The gentle breeze blows from the south but still harbors the last hints of summer's domain.

My truck waits out front like a chariot waiting to cry unto battle. Packed the night before, it stood motionless waiting for its master. I cross the grass with such eagerness. This drive I knew would be the beginning of many and would take me to unknown places in the months to follow. It would be the first of another year, filled with the trials that I am to set before myself. There will be triumph! There will be pain. Moments in between scattered with my thoughts, prayers, frustration, eagerness, loss, and ultimately – belief. A deep belief within myself and something Above me still.

The truck roars into gear as I leave my familiar home. The beams from my vehicle are about the only light in an otherwise dark and sleepy neighborhood. I turn the corner heading out of town. The whitetail woods my next destination.

On the highway I glance at the dashboard, seeking out the morning's present time. It spoke ten after four. I knew a twenty minute drive laid itself ahead of me. It would put me into my perch at ten till five I presumed. This meant a good hour before a legal shooting light. A perfect time, I thought, to get into an eagerly awaited and ready position, waiting for the first footsteps of autumn's prey.

Trailing down the highway I begin to drift. Thoughts and dreams billow into my mind once more. Visions of the past reappeared as if to haunt my present memory. The Big Nine who slipped away, the Great Ten who I could not draw on! Little bucks, dozens of does, and the found sheds of whitetail that were never even seen by me. And then my imagination! Conjuring mythical males with countless inches of antler! Greater whitetail than I have ever known seep into my brain and deliberately force me down a path of personal glory! My head is flooded with these thoughts as I continue down the road.

As I pull over the river, I can see my destination in sight. A twenty two minute drive was about to abruptly end. As I slow my faithful steed to an eventual stop, I feel my blood begin to quicken once more!

I pull off the road and onto the gravel beside it, shutting off the lights in one fluid motion. My hand turns the key and an eerie silence falls once more to me. The door to my truck opens with swift intentions, and a blanket of cool, crisp air charges in! Instantly I am outside my truck and gearing up for what will be my final descent before dawn. I sit down on my tailgate buttoning and pulling at the cotton camouflage that will hide me from searching eyes. Soon, I am lacing up the boots that will guide me over various and often intemperate terrains.

With my earthly uniform now covering my body I reach for the one item that will separate my intentions from friendly to foe. I open its casing and am overcome with what this moment truly resembles. It is man's first instinct now buried in a world of conveniences and farce. An item so basic in principle and yet so regarded even in this day. As I take hold of the almost primitive object, it is like I am reaching back to ancestral needs. It is my bow! Where string and stick meet with an unearthly BUMP! As if to say to the gods our species will not fail and become earth's most fabled of predators! Holding it I feel a pure restoration of the human spirit.

I am now ready. I am now equipped. I begin my hike into the great woods lying ahead of me, one foot after the next. And although I walk into these woods with no one by my side - I am not alone.

Good luck on opening day.

Introduction of a Bowhunter.

by Mike Willand 14. January 2011 01:48
Mike Willand

I’m back! No two words that when strung together could help exemplify my feeling of rejoice any more than these after rejoining my friends here at Bowhunting.Com in the media I so actively love, blogging.  Not just blogging about any old thing either, but of bowhunting and whitetails -two subjects I’ve devoted much of my spare time to over the past 15 years…which I am sure many of you reading this can relate to. I’m just lucky enough to be in the position of sharing my world with you right here on BH.Com, whether through my candid interviews on stand or my simple words etched here in cyberspace.

Who I am is unimportant. Just as equally unimportant is my background in hunting. Because no, I’m not that guy who takes 180” monster bucks every year. Nor am I the guy who hunts unpressured ground and boasts of hundreds of hours on stand. That’s simply not the guy I am. What is important, however, is that I am a guy who hunts land like a lot of you probably do. And, like most men my age also help to maintain a household, run a small business, pay my bills, and finally when the chance of time is granted, gets to sneak out and enjoy the majesty of a hunt. Which I think we can all agree on, is often less than we all would like.

What I can provide is valuable insight into this world we all love, and, that occasional bout of laughter that can often accompany it. Regrettably, I am an imperfect hunter of whitetail bucks, unlike many of our professional television hunters; I make a great deal of mistakes.  I won’t lie when I do either. It’s those mistakes that have molded me into the hunter I am today.  I plan to bring you along for this ride, giving you every detail of my profound impact onto my hunting grounds. As hunters, we know that not all impact is positive. I’ve been known to make a few negative impacts as well while sending otherwise unwary bucks into the next county. Not every plan works. If they did, I probably wouldn’t be doing this anymore.

Something I do think that is important to know about me is that I am a new father. This past June my wife and I gave birth to our first child, the new love of my life, my daughter Jovie. Although she kept me from the woods much of this deer season, just having her in my life has made this one of the most memorable. And that’s what I’m going to leave you with. That it’s the friendships I’ve made since picking up the bow that are what means the most at the ending of a cool autumn day. I would trade all the heads on my wall for just one more joke told between friends before the long drive home. Although that could quickly change if I had… let’s say… a 200” whitetail buck on my wall. I’m not bitter about this though.

Thanks for taking a moment to read through my first blog here at BH.Com and for welcoming me into your computer. I leave you with some of my favorite pictures which help to capture the past 12 months -my season from scouting till end.

 

The best friend a guy could ask for while shed hunting this past winter. Here she sits next to her first find ever!

A big ole' Tom I was fortunate enough to take this past October. As it would turn out, he would be no match for my tackling abilities.

While shed hunting in early spring, I posed in front of this rub that decided the fate of my prior (2009) deer season. A great season that it was!

And finally, this buck who was bedded alongside a hill in late winter last year. I watched with great anticipation for several minutes hoping his antlers would both fall off leaving me with the reward. Alas, it would never happen. Such is life I guess.

Categories: Bowhunting Blogs



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