November 18, 2014
Sitting here at the keyboard this morning pounding away at deadlines, I can't help but listen to a strong north wind blow as the fallen autumn leaves swirl against the windowpane. Seeing that the outside temperature remains firmly stuck in the upper 30s – in mid-November in North Texas, for gosh sakes! – I'm struck by a question or two.
The first is a bit half-hearted and filled with bemusement. I wonder where old Al Gore is holed up this morning, enjoying this late fall global warmth?
And the second question, a bit more serious one from where I sit, what on earth am I doing actually sitting here in the office? Because here it is November, my bow is sitting over in the corner with a quiver full of arrows and scary sharp broadheads and time is wasting.
To quote football's Chris Carter, "Come on Man!"
It's November and there's not a better time of the year to be a deer hunter perched high up in a tree, waiting patiently for a rutting buck to throw caution to the wind, and a strong north wind at that.
I first realized years and years ago while hunting with the Davis boys of North Texas, Charlie of Denton and Mike of Denison, on their family’s Cooke County spread not far from the Red River. In all of the years of deer hunting I’ve done before or since, I’ve still never seen a weekend quite like it. Rarely did a half-hour go by without seeing several deer on the move.
If that deer was a doe, well, you knew what was coming next; a panting buck with his tongue hanging out searching for the winsome doe throwing her estrous scent into the breeze. Sometimes, two or three panting bucks would bolt out of the woods looking for the doe in heat. And when they did, we all had a front row seat to the November rut in all of its glory with deer running just about everywhere through the woods, or so it seemed. By the end of that weekend, more than five bucks – good bucks – had been tagged by the hunters in our camp, mine being the smallest, of course.
To this day, nearly 20 years later, we all still talk about the weekend that the North Texas deer woods went nuts with bucks chasing does. A few years later as my outdoor writing career took off and with it, a few opportunities to travel and sample deer hunting in other states, the November rut still reigned supreme, especially when November found me in Pike County, Illinois at Rick Womble’s Hopewell Views Hunting Club.
In all of my life, I’ve never seen better deer hunting for 140- to 170-class bucks than what Rick and his gang offer in one of North America's best overall counties in which to chase record-book whitetails.
A cruise into nearby Pittsfield, Illinois, for an evening dinner was always a treat since you never knew what big buck story you would hear, or which famous Outdoor Channel television deer hunting celebrity you would bump into. But it was always the big bucks of Pike County that kept me coming back for more.
Like a gnarly non-typical I nicknamed Morph the moment I saw him. By week’s end, I had played cat-and-mouse with this bruiser several times on perhaps the best patch of deer woods I've ever hunted. Finally, on the last day of my hunt, a film canister brimming with cotton balls doused in Tink’s 69 proved to be the buck’s undoing.
After coming through trailing after a hot doe, I finally got a shot at Morph, but an unseen branch a bit downrange of my stand caused my arrow to deflect and skim harmlessly over the top of his back.
Severely bummed out and thinking I was going home empty handed, I looked up less than an hour later and caught my breath again because Morph was cruising back through the area a second time, this time searching for my Tink’s 69 scent bomb.
When I came to full-draw, he either saw the motion or heard a faint sound and stopped, behind a tree, of course, with only the tips of his antlers showing. After holding for three or four minutes, or more like eternity it seemed, I had to let down. When I did, Morph saw the motion and bolted off of the trail…and out of my life for good.
Or so I thought, because less than a half-hour later, Morph’s November-rutting lust did him in for good when his nose caught another snootful of Tink's 69. And yes, he really did smell something as the company's old commercial goes. With the smell of love in his nostrils and on his brain, the huge bruiser buck came down the trail yet again and into view directly in front of my stand.
This go around, however, the third time was indeed the charm as I finally arrowed the giant-bodied buck once and for all. When I put my hands on his gnarly antlers and tagged him, I thought something to the effect of, "Man, I LOVE the month of November!"
There have been numerous other November encounters through the years with other bucks, some successful, others not. But through it all, in cold weather and warm, as bucks throw caution to the wind and hustle through the woods, surrounding uplands and heavy thickets looking for a doe, I keep coming back looking for more.
What's the point of all of this?
Simply this: Right now, it’s November, the best time of the year to be a deer hunter. Because of that, let's make a deal: I'll quit writing and you quit reading, if only for the moment and we'll both head to the local deer woods.
When we get there, let's agree to quickly, quietly and safely get into a treestand that is sitting near a doe-attracting food source or in a bottleneck travel corridor or in a wagon-wheel location where two or three deer trails converge and then we'll hang on for “deer” life, pun intended. Because if either one of us end up in the right spot at the right time this month, then the action is about to get crazy good.
Good as in deer hunting's version of crazy good, like only the month of November can bring.