rut reporters,
A mature Kentucky buck hits a lone white oak.. Will Brantley

The best kind of cold front moved through the South yesterday. It brought some much-needed rain to the area, but more importantly for deer hunters, it finally gave relief from the 85-degree daytime highs we’ve seen for the past week. My buddy Ryan and I grabbed our climbing stands and headed to his place in Tennessee early yesterday afternoon.

We don’t run many trail cameras there, but I had a spot in mind that’s been good to us in the past. There’s a tall, straight pignut tree that sits on a flat at the convergence of three finger ridges. The pignut is perfect for climbing—and it’s surrounded by huge white oaks.

I figured at least a few of those oaks would be dropping acorns. They were—raining from every limb, in fact. I had it in mind to shoot a doe or two, but those thoughts changed a bit as I hiked toward the pignut. The flat was torn up with fresh rubs and scrapes.

As the last of the rain passed and the northwest wind picked up, I soon realized that I hadn’t dressed warm enough. Yankees like Bestul might laugh at my shivering in 60-degree weather, but I was wearing Crocs and shorts two days ago. I sat there in a camo t-shirt and light rain jacket, teeth chattering and hands buried in my pockets.

The deer movement was a good distraction, though. I saw the first does nearly two hours before dark. I would’ve gladly shot one of them, but I never got a good opportunity. A young 6-point walked out and fed on acorns 15 yards from my tree, but I let him go.

With 5 minutes of shooting light remaining, I caught a glimpse of another deer slipping across the flat, walking right to me. A quick check through my binocular revealed it to be a good buck—not a giant, but a solid 8-pointer with long tines. I clipped my release to my string as he fed to within 10 yards, but behind brush. Soon as he stepped into my lane, I drew—and he turned and walked directly to my tree.

I stood at full draw, looking down at the buck’s rack through the gaps in the platform of my stand. He walked under me and then straight away, without ever giving me a good look at his vitals. By then, my light was gone. I lowered my bow, put it back on the hanger, and again grabbed my binocular. The buck thrashed a sapling 30 yards away and raked out a scrape. Then he disappeared into the night.

My heart was pounding. Despite being a little disappointed, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face, knowing that action is just a taste of what’s coming in the next few weeks.