Rut Reporter Will Brantley of Murray, Kentucky, knows the region well. He spends 40 to 50 days each season in the Mid-South whitetail woods. Brantley shot his first deer at age 10 with a sidelock muzzleloader. States covered: KY, TN, WV, VA, NC.

Nov. 6: This was by far the coldest morning we’ve had so far this season in the Mid-South, and where I was hunting in Kentucky, the deer reacted accordingly. I watched three bucks chasing does, one of which was a big 10-pointer. All of them were out of range. The action was pretty steady up until about 10:30 a.m.

After a quick break at noon to shed a few layers of clothes at camp and eat some lunch, I was headed back to the woods by 1:30. I packed a climbing stand with the idea of setting up in a creek-bottom funnel that sits between a thicket and a big green field. I’d seen deer working through the creek bottom from a distance while hunting another stand several times over the previous week. The wind was perfect for it. I sprayed several pumps of doe pee on the trail behind me as I walked along the edge of the field and down into the creek bottom. I found a nice, straight maple to climb and settled in 50 yards off the edge of the field.

I’d been in my stand about 45 minutes when I first saw this buck moving through the trees. He had his nose stuck in the scent path I’d made and was trotting fast right along the edge of the field. A glance through my binoculars confirmed a decent rack, and by the time I stood up and grabbed my bow, he was in my best shooting lane at 25 yards. A quick mouth grunt stopped him as I was drawing. I held the pin for just a second and touched the release. The arrow hit the buck toward the back of his lungs–just a couple inches behind the “boiler,” but it was a clean pass-through. I waited two hours and recovered him 150 yards down the trail.

Honestly, the buck wasn’t as big as I thought he was at the shot, but such things happen from time to time in the deer woods–especially during the rut. But no regrets from me. Watching a buck march along with his nose to the ground following a scent trail I’ve created myself and then killing him with a bow fires me up. It’s especially cool when it happens in the middle of the day when you’re least expecting it and weary from a bunch of long hours in the stand.

As for the big 10-pointer I saw that morning, my wife, Michelle, set up the next morning in the area where I’d seen him. She saw him too–he passed within 35 yards of her tree, but offered no shot. I’m sure Michelle will hunt that spot again this weekend–but she’ll have a .30-06 in her hands this time around. Modern gun season in Kentucky opens Nov. 13.