Lessons from an Early Season Trophy

Labor Day weekend marked the kickoff of most Western whitetail archery seasons, but the majority of hunters won't even take the field until November. Out West, distractions come in the form of mule deer, elk, antelope, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and more. In my home state of Washington, whitetails take a back seat until November, when the rut starts in earnest. Until then, many whitetail hunters will be content to fish for a record run of Columbia River Chinook salmon or to pursue a range of fish and game species before taking the field for whitetails.

Deer are deep in summer patterns right now across the entire West, and are feeding and watering mostly in low-light conditions as another scorcher of a summer burns across the landscape. Most early September whitetail hunters will be hoping to kill a big buck in velvet as they take their stands and pick up their bows in this heat. This beautiful deer, mounted by Lewiston, Idaho's, famed Clark Taxidermy, fell almost a year ago to the day in a garbanzo field outside Lewiston. We pictured it and featured Tina Lind's exciting hunt in last years Rut Reporters.

Lind was ecstatic about the gorgeous, velvet 130-class buck taken from a stand she repositioned near a garbanzo bean field in Clearwater River country after observing deer movement and reacting to those observations. Lind's buck wasn't close in size to some of the monster bucks whose photos appear in other 2012 rut reports, but it may have been the most gorgeous.

Lind says she's just as thrilled with her trophy upon receipt of the shoulder mount as she was the day she killed it. He pride comes not just from the kill itself, but also from the work she and boyfriend Ryan put in to be successful. Lind is one of the most dedicated female sportsmen I know, and she shows more excitement when talking about the hunt than do most men I know. Here's what she and Ryan do to be successful while adding to their knowledge year after year:

For us, [scouting] starts in late June/early July with driving county roads, targeting legume fields with a transition area between the food source and a bedding area nearby. We come across many fields in the middle of nowhere that do not hold deer, but the fields on canyon edges or near bigger timber patches always seem to produce a higher quantity of deer.

Once we find a field with a large quantity of deer, we spend a few nights a week observing the deermeating in the field, looking for mature bucks. Once we spot a quality buck or two, we try to find out who owns the field and work on getting permission. Once permission is granted, we keep an eye on where and when they are entering the field and then make multiple trips back in the early morning, looking for where they exit the field.

Some questions we keep in mind are: Are they coming in on a trail where we could set a tree stand? Are all the deer entering the field from the same area? Is there a water source near by? What will the wind direction and thermals be doing in that area? Where is their bedding area?

Unfortunately with my student teaching schedule this semester, I won't be able to hunt a whole lot in the early archery season, so I plan on archery hunting deer during November in the rut. I learned last year that persistence and adaptation pay off and to keep an open mind.

Even though the first night I didn't see anything in my stand, I pushed forward and tried it again, just in the morning. This time I had a yearling doe walk by, but I also heard the deer walking behind the brush line, and then I realized I needed to move my stand. By sticking it out, and being willing to switch stand locations, it resulted in a successful hunt.

Like so many successful Western whitetail hunters, Lind put herself in a good position to score through scouting, careful observation, and persistence. This week after she builds a pedestal for her new mount, she will set garbanzos beans at the base of her trophy to remind her of the buck's food source and preferred feeding habitat.