Crawford late Oct. buck

Crawford with his late October buck.

There is nothing better than late October. The leaves are turning from their dull green summer color to the fiery reds and yellows of fall. Instead of 90-degree days, there is a hint of crispness in the air each morning, making the smell of autumn float through the air with assertiveness. 

On top of those things, the bucks are beginning to move more in the daylight, as they are beginning to search for receptive does. It is a great time to catch a buck slipping, since they are still partially on a bed-to-food pattern, just moving earlier than they were at the beginning of the month. This past Sunday evening, I was able to catch up with a beautiful West Virginia 8-point, doing just that. 

After hunting all week with no luck, I found myself scratching my head Sunday afternoon, decided where I should go. After much deliberation, I had a hunch about a ridge where I had good luck in the past, but the lack of acorns there this year caused a lack in deer activity thus far. Around 2:30, I hopped in my truck and headed in that direction. 

I knew going in the wind was going to be so-so, but I was hoping the evening thermals would pull away from where the suspected bedding was and would allow me to be stealthy enough to not get busted. 

As I ascended the ridge, the wind was blowing in the absolute worst direction, so I stopped and pondered my next move. After a minute or 2 of thinking, I decided to completely abort the situation and head to a completely different area, which was a pretty bold move for this late in the afternoon, but I knew staying there would result in nothing good since everything would smell me. 

I practically ran back to my truck with all of my gear and quickly got in to head a little way down the road to a place that I had scouted this past winter. 

It is a little finger ridge, only 75 yards off of the road, but for whatever reason, deer feel comfortable there. I had also seen a nice buck cross the road a few times while driving by it, so I knew there was at least 1 shooter in the general area. 

After parking my truck, I quickly reassembled my gear and trudged to the top of the ridge. This particular area had been severely logged a few years ago, creating a thick tangle of briars and other vegetation. 

Once on top, I slowed down to survey the situation by looking for a white oak, combined with trails leading to it. After a few minutes, I found what I wanted, and was pleased to see there was a heavy trail leading from the small grove of still standing white oaks, out to a nearby cattle pasture, which I assumed the deer were using after dark.

The oak trees did not contain enough cover for me to feel good about climbing into them, so I stepped back a little bit and climbed a small pine tree that was mixed in with a couple of other pines with large, full limbs. 

Since most of the mature trees in this area had been cut, there simply was not a great option, but I figured this would have to do. Glancing down at my watch, I noticed it was around 4:30, and assumed I would be waiting a while before any deer showed up. As the minutes passed, I counted cars as they drove down the hardtop road behind me. I hated to hunt within seeing distance of a road, but sometimes you just have to do whatever works.   

While I waited, I could not help but be a little excited as the cool autumn breeze was directly in my face, and the colors on the trees were magnificent. 

The air was cool and comfortable, and I was simply happy to be alive, drinking in the allures of my favorite time of year. Before long, I watched as a few does stand up, and fed their way past me in a picture-perfect manner. I crossed my fingers with hopes that a shooter buck would do the same thing later in the evening. 

When the sun began descending the horizon, the wind died down, and the thermals began to take over, pulling straight down to the road behind me. As this happened, my confidence rose since I knew there was no chance of a deer smelling me until they had already made it past my location. 

Around 6:30, I noticed a group of bucks heading my way, and I readied myself as they went in behind some brush. 

In the group, there was 1 nice buck that I decided I was going to happily shoot if the group came close enough. Figuring they were going to do the same thing the does did, I swung around the tree a little bit, making sure I was in a good position for when they stepped out, except they did not step out. 

They swung around me, landing themselves 60 yards away, and not nearly close enough for a shot. As they fed on acorns from a different tree, I tried to coax one of them in with a doe bleat, but there was little interest. Soon they were tired of acorns and headed out to the cattle pasture on the other side of the road behind me. 

Aggravated, I sat back down and contemplated how I was going to get out without spooking any of the bucks. 

While I was planning my exit, the sound of a branch breaking caught my attention. Focusing in the direction I thought it came from, I could not see anything due to a large pine limb in that direction. Another minute or 2 went by and I heard what I thought to be tines hitting a branch, like a buck was walking through brush. 

Suddenly, a nice buck appeared and was heading my way. I grabbed my bow off of its hanger, and quickly, but methodically, positioned myself for a shot. By this time the buck was 30 yards and closing quickly, as it went behind a tree, I went to full draw and waited for it to step into an opening. 

By the time it hit a shooting lane, he was only 15 yards, and he stopped perfectly on his own. Placing the sight pin on the buck’s lungs, I squeezed the trigger on the release and watched the buck tip over.

I don’t know what it is about Oct. 24, but this is the 2nd year in a row that I killed a nice West Virginia 8-point on this day. One thing for sure, there is no better time to be an outdoorsman than right now. 

There is certainly no time like the next few weeks, as these are the days I feel most alive.  A couple of weeks of living, paid for by an entire year of existing. ο

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