To hardcore deer hunters, nothing is more exciting than the onset of the whitetail rut. It’s a magical period filled with high-impact action that teaches hunters so much about the creatue that they revere. If one is lucky enough to be in an environment that’s heavily populated by whitetails, the education potential is multiplied proportionately.
For the last two years, I've hit the first frenzied stages of rut right on the nose at Jim and Helen Palmquist’s during what I affectionately refer to as: "The Running of the Does". We all agree, I believe, that the key to becoming a successful deer hunter is knowledge of the creature we hunt. And the sagest hunters that I know will readily admit that the most reliable source of whitetail lore comes from personal observation of animal’s behavior.
Let me assure you, 3-days of sitting a stand during the rut at Palmquist Farm is the equivalent of five to ten years of the exposure that one would experience in the average whitetail woods. The degree of higher learning you receive about the whitetail deer on The Farm is absolutely priceless and will be carried with you the rest of your hunting days.
During 3-days of hunting, I saw remarkable interaction among the members of the herd and was afforded countless opportunities to experiment with deer vocalization, determining what works and what doesn’t. Without a call, I was able to turn bucks that were headed directly away from me and bring them running back under my stand as they headed into the forest behind me looking for the rutting activity they were led to believe was going on; all based on what I was seeing and hearing from the animals that were all around me.
The 3-days I spent in the stand, from daylight till dark, were filled with almost perpetual action as I photographed and studied the whitetail deer in the chaotic throes of whitetail ecstasy. So fascinating, exciting and non-stop was the frenzied behavior of the herd that I dared not even doze in the stand for fear that I would miss something. When it comes to whitetail observation, it just doesn’t get any better than the experience at Palmquist Farm during the running of the does.
My objective, per my agreement with Jim, was to take a cull buck out of the herd; one with an undesirable antler configuration. I was beginning to wonder if that was going to happen. Each of the bucks I saw was extremely symmetrical with the only fault of most being that they needed another year or two to become extraordinary trophies.
At noon on day third day, I looked over my shoulder at the grass covered beaver dam and was treated to the sight of a 10-pt buck approaching my stand. It was wide with good mass, but the tines on the rack were short and stubby. This was a cull buck!
I snapped photos of the buck before exchanging my camera for my Vixen. Placing the crosshairs on the ribcage of the unsuspecting whitetail, I squeezed the trigger of the little Excalibur bow. The blazing trail of the Luminok blinked out and then brightly reappeared under the shadow of the overcast sky indicating where the arrow had buried itself in the ground as the hapless animal spun and bounced away from the point of impact.
The buck began its last retreat as it repeatedly started and stopped, unsure of what had just happened, but very sure that something was dreadfully wrong. In the last seconds of its life, it moved into a thick swamp in a futile attempt to escape fate.
A heavy blood trail led me to the downed buck, which had gone deeper into the swamp than I’d hoped. When the animal was dressed and with great effort drug to the road, I suddenly felt like I was 81 years old, instead of 61.
Every bit as great as my experience in the field at The Farm, are the homey accommodations, the delectable cuisine and the warm companionship of Jim, Helen and their many guests, both local and visiting. A heartfelt thanks goes out to Jim and Herb for providing me time with their herd; to Jim and Helen for taking care of my every need while I am there; and especially to Helen for such wonderful meals, homemade bread and goodies, as well as the best sack lunches in the world. Palmquist’s Farm -where you’re always welcome and never sorry.