I just returned from my second trip out to northwestern South Dakota to hunt with Western Ranch Outfitters and the folks at Bowtech. On my first visit, the freak October 4 storm that dumped 50 inches of snow in areas surrounding Rapid City–that uprooted trees and collapsed roofs with near-hurricane-force winds, and buried horses and cattle by the hundreds, leaving them strewn and frozen on the landscape–also kind of messed up the hunting.

The guides, as guides do, had the deer pretty well figured out before the storm, but by the time we showed up, that was all out the window. As a result none of the writers on the first trip killed a buck, so Bowtech and the outfitter generously offered to have us back out.

On the redo last week, I saw lots of good bucks, but they were acting weird for the second week of November. Although traveling with the does, they seemed to be in a sort of holding pattern, hanging out amiably together–almost like early-season bachelors–waiting for…something. No real seeking or cruising or competitive behavior. And by the end of the trip, I was getting that feeling we archers sometimes do despite all the proof to the contrary–that it is actually impossible to kill a buck with a bow (more on that another time).

And yet, I had a great hunt. I did manage to get a doe, and there’s this: In bowhunting, you’d better enjoy the process, because results are often not so forthcoming. Northwestern South Dakota has a pile of deer, and I saw a bunch of them. In fact, on the first trip, I had probably the best–or at least most prolific–sit of my life.

On the very first evening, I saw more than 70 deer–and when I say, “saw,” I’m not including, “saw way over there, through my binoculars.” I saw more than 70 deer walk past my stand, and I passed several pretty good bucks. (Here’s a very quick video of two of them.) I know some PA hunters who grew up seeing 40, 50, 60 or more deer on opening day. That just doesn’t happen where I hunt, so this was pretty darn cool. At one point, just before dark, I watched a steady train of does, fawns, little bucks, and a few near-shooters file past: I counted 38 deer in the span of about 5 minutes.

Anyways, all in all, it was the most deer I’ve ever seen in one sit. You?