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Where Have All the Bucks Gone?

by Justin Zarr 18. November 2011 10:18
Justin Zarr

I don't know about the rest of you bowhunters out there, but this year's rut and poor hunting conditions have about got me beat! I've been hunting relatively hard, when time and work permits, since the end of October with very little success since my last Blog entry.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, I don't get to hunt every day. Like most of you who read this I have a regular job that keeps me occupied from Monday to Friday and the vast majority of my hunting is done on the weekends. That usually leaves me enough time for about 20 to 30 sits per year in stand, with only a third of those being during prime time. So when the sun is shining, I've got to make hay!


Sometimes I wonder why I even bother rattling.  It never seems to work for me.

The weekend of November 6th & 7th should have, by all accounts, been pretty good. We were just approaching the full moon and the weather was decent. However, after three hunts that weekend I had seen a grand total of 5 deer. The only bucks that showed up were a couple of love sick year and a half olds. Certainly not the caliber of deer that Mike and I are looking for.  Although they make for some entertaining hunts, after the first few you start to question whether or not a bigger buck is ever going to show up.


This little guy was right under my stand as I filmed him.  He had no idea Mike and I were perched just 15 feet above him.


I really nice 1 1/2 year old buck that Mike grunted in last weekend.  Give him a few years and he may be worthy of a shot.

The following weekend was much of the same. 4 sits yielded a total of 9 deer and again nothing with antlers older than a year and a half. High winds, a nearly full moon and warming temperatures certainly didn't help deer movmement, but I thought I would have seen SOMETHING moving around.


When you're sitting in your treestand in the morning waiting for the sun to come up and the moon is so bright you can almost shoot, it's usually not a good sign.

On Friday evening (11/11), at the end of a frustrating sit I did shoot a nice big doe that came out into a corn field in front of me. With shooting light fading and a 35+ yard shot I never saw exactly where my arrow hit her, but I was 99% confident the shot was good. However, after not seeing the deer drop in sight and not finding much blood I elected to wait until the morning to recover her. Unfortunately the local coyotes had different plans in mind as they found my doe, just over the rise out of site from my stand. Figures.


Although I double lunged this doe, the entrance and exit holes were both high which resulted in a poor blood trail.  Electing to let her lay overnight I was disappointed to find the coyotes got to her before I did.  Ironically, she was only 40 yards away from where I had followed the blood trail, but was unable to find her after dark.

Besides the lack of buck sightings from stand, it's been a tough year for trail cameras too. My trail cameras are working hard for me, but the big guys just don't seem to be cooperating. Despite my best efforts to local another shooter buck, I haven't found anything that really gets me excited for these cold November (and soon December) mornings.


Bucks like the one seen here have been frequent visitors to my Tink's mock scrapes, but the big guys have been eluding me so far.


This big guy we nicknamed "Goldberg" has been a frequent visitor in front of our Stealth Cam Prowlers, but with a busted main beam he's off the hit list for this year.  I just hope a neighbor doesn't get him during gun season.  If he makes it, he'll scare you next year.

Now that gun season is on here in Illinois I'll be limited to hunting my spot in bow-only Lake County, which unfortuantely isn't holding many trophy bucks this fall. The biggest buck I have on camera is a spindly 10 point that may have grossed in the mid 120's before he busted off a few of his tines!


"Spud Webb" before he busted off his right G2 and possibly several other tines.  Not a bad buck, but not exactly the caliber of deer I'm looking to put my 2nd buck tag on.

Okay, I guess I shouldn't be complaining too much here. All things considered I've had a really good season. I've harvested 3 deer, all on film, one of which is my biggest buck ever. That buck, which you can read about by clicking here, ended up gross scoring just over 158 inches which is far bigger than I originally thought. Although I'm not looking forward to another taxidermy bill, I won't mind admiring him for years to come.

So with all of that said, it's certainly not time to give up now! There's nearly 2 months of season left here in Illinois and if I want to fill my 2nd buck tag I'm going to have to keep hunting hard. So tomorrow morning when I'm in my Lone Wolf stand with Mathews in hand, I'll try to picture my tag wrapped around 150 inches of antler I know could be around the next tree.

 

Trail Cameras Don't Always Have Good News

by Justin Zarr 26. September 2011 16:18
Justin Zarr


With the price of today's trail cameras well within reach of most bowhunters, you're hard pressed to find a hunter who doesn't own at least one or two. Most of us put these handy little devices out during the mid-summer months in hopes of catching a monster buck lurking within our hunting areas. Just one photo is all it takes to get your blood pumping and cause many nights of lost sleep leading up to the hunting season. However, this isn't always how it plays out in the whitetail woods.

Heading into this summer I was admittedly anxious to find out what would show up on my trail cameras at one of my primary hunting areas here in the Chicagoland suburbs. Last year was one of the worst years for getting pictures of good bucks on this farm, despite the fact that I was able to connect on a very nice whitetail in mid-November. Having taken out the lone buck that was a consistant resident of this area I was unsure who would take his place come this fall.


After shooting this buck last fall I was somewhat concerned to see what bucks, if any, moved in to take his place.  During the course of the fall he was the only buck that showed up with any consistancy on my trail cameras.

With 6 trail cameras running since early July, my fears have somewhat come true. I have yet to get a single picture of a buck I would consider a shooter. In fact, it took several months before I got a picture of a buck at all! If anyone is proof that there isn't a Booner behind every tree here in Illinois, it's certainly me.


This up and coming 2 year old has been a regular on two of my cameras this summer.  He's nice, but not a shooter.


It seems like each year I have a plethora of these messed-up yearling bucks running around.  I have no idea what happens to them after the fall is over.  They seemingly disappear.


I'm pretty sure this buck is a 3 year old, but his jacked up left side doesn't exactly get my heart pounding.


I believe this the the oldest buck I've captured on my camera this summer at 4 or 5 years old, but he won't score much over 100 inches with that rack.  If I see him, there's a very real chance he'll get an arrow flung his way...


Another up and coming 2 year old who will probably disappear after this season.


Possibly the best buck I have on camera so far, I think this buck is 3 years old and will be lucky to hit 125 inches gross.  A nice buck, but not what I'm looking for this season.

Despite my lack of targets for this fall, I'm not worried yet. Every year there's always a few bucks who move through this area during the end of October and into November when the rut kicks in. I know my stands are hung in the best spots to catch one of these cruisers when they make the mistake of coming through, so there's no need to panic quite yet. The same goes for those of you out there who are in a similar situation. Just because the big bucks are eluding your trail cameras right now doesn't mean they won't make the mistake of moving into your area later in the year. The key is to hunt hard, hunt smart and be ready when he shows up! After all, you just never know what's going to happen in the whitetail woods.


I captured several photos of this buck, nicknamed "Big Mac", last season but nothing after November 18th.  I didn't find his sheds and don't have any photos of him so far this year.  Although I have no idea if he's alive or not, I'm still holding out hope that he's around and until I know otherwise he is my #1 target on this particular farm.

With that said, heading into opening weekend Mike and I will be hunting a new farm that we picked up roughly 2 1/2 hours from home. We know there's at least one shooter roaming those woods and we're pretty sure there's a few more where he came from. This weekend we plan on putting out a few mock scrapes using our Tink's Power Scrape and seeing what our new Stealth Cam Prowler trail cameras can pick up. I have a feeling we'll be pleasantly surprised the next time we check our trail cameras.  The Prowler shoots great HD videos so I'm excited to see what shows up.  As most of you know, scrapes are possibly the single best place to get a lot of photos/videos of the bucks in your particular area. 


The angle of this photo is deceiving, but with a few weeks left to grow I'm hoping this buck topped out well into the 140's, which makes him a shooter in my book.

Good luck to those of you who are heading out for October 1st this weekend. Remember to always wear your safety harness and shoot straight!

 




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