My good buddy and fellow outdoor writer Mike Pendley and his wife, Cheryl, are two of those deer-crazy folks who pour their hearts and souls into planting food plots, brushing ground blinds, and running trail cameras. Their main focus is not managing big bucks, but ensuring their three children – Michaela, Hunter, and Nathaniel (aka, Potroast) – have good hunting opportunities. This past weekend was youth weekend in Kentucky, and the Pendley family was ready to hit the woods.
"We're in the outer Bluegrass Region of the state, and there aren't many crops around. Mostly, the habitat is hayfields and timber, and so it doesn't take much of a food plot to really concentrate the deer. And we have a bunch of deer around here," Mike says. "I like to set blinds on the food plots at least a week or two in advance if I can. I set them up for a 50- to 75-yard shot, and set the kids up with shooting sticks."
Mike says the deer activity had slowed down a good deal over the weekend compared to the early season. Cheryl bagged her first-ever bow buck on opening weekend (Sept. 7), and Mike said deer activity had been excellent near the food plots.
"Cheryl and I were sitting with the kids in separate blinds on separate fields so that the kids could all hopefully get a chance to shoot," he says. "We only saw a total of seven deer between us for four sits over the weekend. But those seven were enough."
Mike sat with Hunter and Potroast on Saturday morning, and Hunter was up to shoot first, thanks to a winning coin toss. A doe stepped into the field 45 minutes after daylight, and Hunter dropped her in her tracks at 50 yards with a single shot. "We saw a little buck after that that Potroast passed on, and Cheryl and Michaela didn't see a deer," Mike says.
The slow activity continued on both Saturday evening and Sunday morning, but the action picked up on Sunday afternoon. "Potroast and I tried a different farm, and we had a doe walk out first thing. He killed it with a perfect shot, and since it was warm, we field-dressed her and got her on ice quickly," Mike says. "We hadn't been back at the house 10 minutes when I heard Michaela shoot. She and Cheryl had three does walk out, and Michaela put a good shot on the first one that stopped for her."
The Pendleys certainly have butchering chores ahead of them this week. Kentucky's early muzzleloader season is next weekend, and Mike says the whole family will be out there again. "There is a big cold front in the forecast, and I've got my fingers crossed that it will get deer up and moving," he says.