It’s been a long season for Alan Mote, my neighbor and hunting buddy. He passed a bunch of bucks during Minnesota’s archery season, and had close encounters with a couple of dandy deer that, for one reason or another, didn’t present a good shot. In late October, Alan enjoyed a high-action bow hunt in Missouri with Tri-State Outfitting, where once again he saw several great bucks but didn’t put his tag on one.

Never one to call it quits, Alan grabbed his muzzleloader for the opener of Minnesota’s blackpowder season this past weekend. And on Sunday evening Alan’s patience was rewarded when this beautiful 3-1/2-year-old 8-point showed up. Alan made good on the 30-yard shot, and tagged the biggest buck of his life.

Interestingly, Alan was hunting a stand not 50 yards away from where I shot my archery buck nearly two months ago. The area has remained attractive to whitetails throughout the fall, thanks to a decent acorn crop and a small strip of alfalfa on a nearby farm field. In addition to the buck he shot, Alan passed another small buck and watched nine does; most of those deer were in easy muzzleloader range. While both bucks were traveling with does, they were more interested in feeding than chasing girls. That might have changed had one of the does been in heat, but the important lesson here is simple: Keeping track of the food sources that does are hitting is always an effective strategy, regardless of the phase of the rut. Bucks are rarely far behind.