Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

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greenhorndave
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Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby greenhorndave » Tue Sep 22, 2020 10:49 am

I hunted the end of last week in the Big Woods of WI in the far NW corner of the state (Bayfield County). Never hunted or scouted up there because of the distance from my house in SE WI and deer numbers are better in the southern half of the state. But I was going to be up here anyway so I was able to sprinkle in some hunting.

I cyber scouted a fair bit. Targeted a few different areas. Hunted the first which was transitions around a swamp, but there was only old deer and fresh beaver sign, including really old human sign, including this old death trap tree stand.

20200916_165225.jpg

The next time I hunted transitions between and around some 6 year old clearcuts and swamp. The aerials showed one fire road, but I thought I could get in tighter away from them. But new UTV trails were there and the vegetation in the cuts was turning colors and no sign on the edges. Found a bed on a finger into the swamp, but it seemed random and the other sign was lacking.

I wouldn't say I was disappointed, just appreciative of the work NorthwoodsWiscoHnter, Bridge, etc., put in to find bucks.

My buddy was bear hunting and mentioned an area he was seeing deer cross the road on his way home after closing. It was about a 3 mile stretch, but was a fairly defined area based on other natural boundaries.

I drove back there to go in up/crosswind, but the wind laid down flat, and what wind there was switched to my back compared to what the weather forecast said. I literally heard a leaf drop when I was standing there geared up, so I bailed as there was no way I was going to get in quietly.

On the way home I saw a truck by one of the fire lanes. Then I helped my buddy break his bear stand down the next morning and saw another track by a different fire lane.

That hatched my plan: find good transitions where there weren't any fire lanes.

I located a few options that worked for the day's heavier wind. One was a super brushy point into mature timber that I would come across first, and the one beyond it was a brushy low area, thinned timber, mature timber, clearcut and not far from a swamp pond.

I got in below the finger and started finding a few tracks in the bottom. Then some fresh poop. I was happy.

20200919_154606.jpg

There wasn't amazing sign below the finger so I kept pushing on to the next spot about 200 yards away through knee-deep muck and brush. Then I started finding more poop and the only defined trail of the trip so far. I was only hunting one day so I just followed the trail and didn't care about leaving ground scent.

20200921_170555.jpg

I kept finding fresher poop of different sizes, including bigger buck turds.

20200921_170821.jpg

Then more. But now I had to work between this wall of spindly balsam trees where the lower branches intertwined to get to the clearing where I wanted to set up. I had to wiggle in and out of them to avoid breaking them and catching the Beast sticks on my pack on them. I got to a 3x3 pocket in between some of them and stopped to mark another pile of fresh poop on OnX. I put my phone away and looked around. Couldn't see more than 10-15 yards.

Then I noticed movement. Close. All I could make out was feet at first but it was walking steadily right at me. Then I saw about a 120-30 rack. Whoa. But now it was about 10 seconds later and I could see his face with nose to the ground in an area that I had not been in. The wind laid down, but I could feel it in my favor.

I froze. There was no way I could have walked through those pines with an arrow nocked so there it was in my quiver. He was facing me I was able to move my bow and hand enough to dislodge the arrow from the quiver but couldn't nock it without getting busted. I hoped he would have turned for a bit, but he stayed facing me and rubbed a balsam with his face at 10 yards.

He moved again and I continued to hope that he would turn. No. He then walked perpendicular to me and once his head got into the basketball sized window at each of our head levels, his head snapped onto me at 5 yards with the pines between us and I knew it was game over. He bounded away, stopped and when I moved a little, he bounded a short distance, stopped and waited a bit before finally bounding off for good.

This was where he was when he busted me with the sight window being at the top of the circle.

20200921_172158.jpg

I stayed there a bit, then went to see the sign he made. This is all the sign that a Big Woods buck left behind for an early season head rub.

20200921_162303.jpg

I went to the opening I was targeting from the aerials, which was only 25 yards through the balsams from where he busted me. It was loaded with his poop and he did browsing young maple tips just like Dr Ken Nordberg talks about. The encounter went down at about 445 PM. I set up but didn’t see anything else before closing. A prime clearcut was about 80 yards beyond this.

20200919_182415.jpg


20200919_174204.jpg

So I was disappointed, but also given a massive amount of confidence. 1) I identified the right spot on an aerial in an area that I never saw before. 2) I patterned other hunters and activity prior to the hunt. 3) I went in when wind was right. 4) I had a plan for looking for sign in key areas before moving on. 5) I found good sign and tracked it. And 6) I got into a Big Woods buck's core area quietly and undetected and caught him by surprise.

Question for you Beasts: Assuming that I could have nocked an arrow, would you have shot through this to hit a buck at 5 yards? The thickest stuff was covering his vitals. Personally, I wouldn't have because the branches were literally a foot from me. I don't think the arrow would have gotten off the rest cleanly despite it being 633 grains. But I've never tried shooting through that so I don't know.

20200921_172158.jpg

So I learned a ton, even more than I rambled on about.

A great hunt but no kill. Satisfying in its own way.

Onward to the rest of the season.

Edit: forgot to say that I found this on my window after I got out of the woods by the National Forest. Man it would have been sweet to drag that buck out right there...

20200920_083644.jpg
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby Huntress13 » Tue Sep 22, 2020 11:32 am

You did all the right things! Probably a good call not to shoot through the twigs.

And the note.... are you sure you can't go hunt there again? :lol:
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby john1984 » Tue Sep 22, 2020 12:21 pm

Awesome hunt !
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby Trout » Tue Sep 22, 2020 12:33 pm

Wow! Sounds like an awesome hunt! If i could have got an arrow nocked and drawn on him, I would have shot through that at 5yds.
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby greenhorndave » Tue Sep 22, 2020 12:48 pm

Trout wrote:Wow! Sounds like an awesome hunt! If i could have got an arrow nocked and drawn on him, I would have shot through that at 5yds.

Thanks. Appreciate the insight.

I just couldn’t get nocked without getting busted and then I would have had to draw parallel to his trail and then rotate back to perpendicular because the arrow would have fouled on the branches before the draw. The buck just caught me in a tangle... or should I say, I got caught in a tangle when in hindsight I shouldn’t have tried to get to the opening that my mind was set on and never got myself into that position. That’s probably learning #1.

I forgot to add that about 20 minutes before I saw him, someone was on the road just DIMEING Zac Brown Chicken Fried. Lol. Must have been my buddy Chop trying to booger me up.

Too bad I was in too deep for road noise to matter. ;)
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby SEMObowhunter » Tue Sep 22, 2020 1:02 pm

Awesome hunt and I would definitely be back. Possibly with a note for chad if he returns. :snooty:
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby Stretch » Tue Sep 22, 2020 1:28 pm

great hunt, i think I would show the note to the local c.o.
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby greenhorndave » Tue Sep 22, 2020 1:32 pm

Huntress13 wrote:You did all the right things! Probably a good call not to shoot through the twigs.

And the note.... are you sure you can't go hunt there again? :lol:

:lol:

Thanks.

I have other places I want to focus on that are 3 hours and under away... that one is like 5.5 hours. Doesn’t mean I won’t do it though. :lol: Might park somewhere else and bike in. 8-)
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby greenhorndave » Tue Sep 22, 2020 1:34 pm

Stretch wrote:great hunt, i think I would show the note to the local c.o.

Thought about that, but I already threw out the guy’s phone number.

What is it with people thinking they own sections of National Forest?? :roll:
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby Trout » Tue Sep 22, 2020 1:37 pm

greenhorndave wrote:
Trout wrote:Wow! Sounds like an awesome hunt! If i could have got an arrow nocked and drawn on him, I would have shot through that at 5yds.

Thanks. Appreciate the insight.

I just couldn’t get nocked without getting busted and then I would have had to draw parallel to his trail and then rotate back to perpendicular because the arrow would have fouled on the branches before the draw. The buck just caught me in a tangle... or should I say, I got caught in a tangle when in hindsight I shouldn’t have tried to get to the opening that my mind was set on and never got myself into that position. That’s probably learning #1.

I forgot to add that about 20 minutes before I saw him, someone was on the road just DIMEING Zac Brown Chicken Fried. Lol. Must have been my buddy Chop trying to booger me up.

Too bad I was in too deep for road noise to matter. ;)


I've never done an out west elk hunt, but something I learned from watching the out west elk hunting videos from born and raised outdoors, etc., is if you're going to stop to do anything- call, glass, hunker down, take a break, drink water, etc- stop where you arent exposed if an animal comes up on you but you arent so hidden you cant get a shot off. What I do now when I'm scouting, even in the off season, is I ask myself those two questions every time I stop moving (am I hidden, can I shoot). A couple other good examples are never stop in direct sunlight, never stop on the backside of an obstruction from the direction an animal is coming from. Murphy's law!

I'm envious of your hunt, getting that close to an animal like that on the ground would make my whole season.
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby greenhorndave » Tue Sep 22, 2020 1:47 pm

Trout wrote:
greenhorndave wrote:
Trout wrote:Wow! Sounds like an awesome hunt! If i could have got an arrow nocked and drawn on him, I would have shot through that at 5yds.

Thanks. Appreciate the insight.

I just couldn’t get nocked without getting busted and then I would have had to draw parallel to his trail and then rotate back to perpendicular because the arrow would have fouled on the branches before the draw. The buck just caught me in a tangle... or should I say, I got caught in a tangle when in hindsight I shouldn’t have tried to get to the opening that my mind was set on and never got myself into that position. That’s probably learning #1.

I forgot to add that about 20 minutes before I saw him, someone was on the road just DIMEING Zac Brown Chicken Fried. Lol. Must have been my buddy Chop trying to booger me up.

Too bad I was in too deep for road noise to matter. ;)


I've never done an out west elk hunt, but something I learned from watching the out west elk hunting videos from born and raised outdoors, etc., is if you're going to stop to do anything- call, glass, hunker down, take a break, drink water, etc- stop where you arent exposed if an animal comes up on you but you arent so hidden you cant get a shot off. What I do now when I'm scouting, even in the off season, is I ask myself those two questions every time I stop moving (am I hidden, can I shoot). A couple other good examples are never stop in direct sunlight, never stop on the backside of an obstruction from the direction an animal is coming from. Murphy's law!

I'm envious of your hunt, getting that close to an animal like that on the ground would make my whole season.

Those are really good suggestions. I was glassing along the way, but I put myself in a spot that someone with claustrophobia wouldn’t have liked. :D So I couldn’t see anything with the binos in that spot anyway. I thought I was only going to be in that stuff momentarily, but the buck had other ideas.

It was a cool experience. Never saw a buck’s eyeballs that close on ground level, especially not a 3 or 4 year old.
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby KLEMZ » Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:06 pm

Absolutely awesome post Dave! All the detail, pictures, etc. reminds me of the hunting beast in the early days, well not quite, because you would have also included aerial and topo photo's.....Haha just kidding. I am very impressed with how you carried out this hunt. I have hunted Bayfield county national forest land for over 30 years and can tell you that finding the secure area of a mature buck and getting close to him in September is NOT an easy task. You have learned your lessons well!

The sign you noted is typical of that area. Hardly any obvious trails, very sparse rubbing sign. Droppings are a HUGE thing up there for getting on deer. You didn't mention tracks, but they are also hugely important for getting on the bucks up there. Understanding the terrain required for possible bedding is also required to even have a chance. You put all that together via map scouting and then on foot in short order. Very cool!

I have never gotten a note on my windshield while hunting up there but I have been followed by local hunters more than once (as evidenced by tracks in the snow). I go out of my way these days to be stealthy on my parking and access trails. Just gives me peace of mind so I can enjoy the woods without worrying about human intrusion.
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby greenhorndave » Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:57 pm

KLEMZ wrote:Absolutely awesome post Dave! All the detail, pictures, etc. reminds me of the hunting beast in the early days, well not quite, because you would have also included aerial and topo photo's.....Haha just kidding. I am very impressed with how you carried out this hunt. I have hunted Bayfield county national forest land for over 30 years and can tell you that finding the secure area of a mature buck and getting close to him in September is NOT an easy task. You have learned your lessons well!

The sign you noted is typical of that area. Hardly any obvious trails, very sparse rubbing sign. Droppings are a HUGE thing up there for getting on deer. You didn't mention tracks, but they are also hugely important for getting on the bucks up there. Understanding the terrain required for possible bedding is also required to even have a chance. You put all that together via map scouting and then on foot in short order. Very cool!

I have never gotten a note on my windshield while hunting up there but I have been followed by local hunters more than once (as evidenced by tracks in the snow). I go out of my way these days to be stealthy on my parking and access trails. Just gives me peace of mind so I can enjoy the woods without worrying about human intrusion.

Thanks for those kind words Klemz. I should have set up my Klemz(TM) platform sooner and the buck might be at the taxidermist now. :lol:

To some of your points... I only saw one rub in three days of scouting. I don’t mean a fresh one, I mean a SINGLE one. It’s so much different from the edge poplar stands in southern WI it’s ridiculous.

You mentioned tracks... I found some near the first muck crossing in the second pic of my post, which is what led me to cross there and keep on that heading. It wasn’t super fresh or big, but it was a good clue and led toward the first place I wanted to see. I then started finding more, although they were in real soft bottom areas and broken spots in the decaying leaf mats. The droppings were the difference makers though. Even though I was in a bottom, I could tell some of them were fairly fresh doe and fawn droppings. Then the buck droppings started to show and were fresh too. I slowed way down... maybe too much or maybe I should have just set up then, but I wanted to get closer to the clearcut. Hindsight is always easy.

I really owe everyone here huge thanks for giving me the knowledge to make it happen. I think the best one was a thread that Ack linked to in a different thread... this one: viewtopic.php?f=159&t=1550 (in fact, the rack on the buck I saw looked really similar to the one in the pic in the fourth post) And things Dan has mentioned in the past about looking at transitions in Big Woods like points in swamps. Takes a little imagination with the cut areas because it’s like looking at a negative image of a swamp aerial, as well as thinking about how the points lay out for a given wind.

That helped me target stand ages with the help of OnX, then I spent time driving around, parking and looking in spots but not hunting them based on vehicle activity by fire lanes. The tricky one to reach with the right surrounding terrain ended up being the magic ticket. I should also add it was about a mile for me on the path I took as opposed to about half that if I parked perpendicular to the area I ended up finding him. I’m pretty sure I would have bumped him if I came in straight in from the road.

Oh, and for aerials... I might draw something out. The Google aerials don’t seem representative and the OnX one is splattered with my pins. :D
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby funderburk » Tue Sep 22, 2020 10:19 pm

Very cool, Dave! Sounds like a heck of a hunt. You were obviously doing something right being nose to nose with him. Apparently you’re part ninja :lol:

I had a very similar situation last night (minus the encounter). Snuck way too far back, over way too tough of terrain, way too late after work. Terrible plan of attack by the way. Once I finally got to where I had marked, and where the sign and terrain was telling me to stop and climb, it was way too thick and gnarly to get an arrow through. After making an attempt at sitting low, I realized there was NO WAY I was getting an arrow through any of that mess even sitting on the ground, especially at closing time where those wrist-sized saplings almost disappear. Didn’t feel right about it, so I decided the best thing to do was abandon post and scout until dark in an effort to gather as much intel as possible before retreating with my tail between my legs.

Of course, I was super bummed. The spot I chose had super fresh mature buck sign, yet I wasn’t prepared enough to hunt it properly. After whining about my failure to flinginairos, he helped me see the positives of “wasting a hunt” in order to confirm suspicions about an area rather than tip-toeing around it all the time.

Like you, I’m trying to focus on what went right. I’ll certainly be assessing and addressing what went wrong (already have a list), but this post was great to read and serves as a good reminder that we’re hunting these animals down, not just killing them.

Congrats on an awesome hunt! It’s already making you deadlier and more efficient because you’re choosing to learn from it. That’s inspiring.

NinjaDave. I like it 8-)
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Re: Big Woods trials and tribulations... And a dilemma I need help with

Unread postby mbone1327 » Wed Sep 23, 2020 12:36 am

Great post, Dave. Here in New England young maple stands no chance. Red, sugar, mountain they’ll eat it all.
I had a somewhat of a similar situation happen to me this weekend. Did a morning hunt in a new place that I’ve aerial scouted but never put boots on the ground. Showed up about an hour before sunrise and crept in. My plan was to walk the edge of the river and marsh and check for sign on the beginning of points, oxbows, bowls.
I was in a little bit of a rush because I got there later than I wanted too so I didn’t take the time to really scout hard. Not easy in the dark either. Anyway after plowing through the first few hundred yards against the river edge I came to a clear cut that was logged probably 15 years ago. There were brush piles and sticks everywhere. I was not quiet and I thought I completely blew up the hunt because anything in the area heard me. I started seeing somewhat fresh buck turds on the edge of the clear cut towards the river side. I thought about stopping and setting up on the clear cut but I didn’t because there was still human sign.
At this point the sun was starting to rise so I could see somewhat without a flash light. I found another 4-5 piles of buck turds and started slowing down. I was coming up on the first point. The point was probably jutting out about 50 yards into the river marsh. When I was probably 30 yards from the tip of the point I heard a deer crash into the river and then the sound of something walking through the swamp. I didn’t get 5 yards from the deer like you did and I never saw the deer. I did find his bed on the edge of the greenbriar patch. The wind was blowing from the north towards the river and my guess is he was probably facing east/west (river direction) and smelling everything blown down to him.
In hindsight I should have set up just before the start of the point with the amount of turds I was seeing but I still had all that human sign in the back of my mind.


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