November 18, 2012

Hunting: Almost heaven, W.Va. deer hunt

By Bob Humphrey

There's an old saying that you should be careful what you wish for because it might come true. Climbing into my stand on a balmy West Virginia morning I was wishing for cooler temperatures. It was already in the 60s and forecasted to nudge 80 later in the day -- hardly good weather for deer hunting. I went out just the same, and was rewarded with a nice doe.

I was hunting with Bruce Ryan of Ryan Outdoors in Elkins. He was gracious enough to invite me down for a bowhunt on land he owns, leases and has permission to hunt.

Bruce had meticulously scouted for me and strategically set several treestands and ground blinds for deer, bear and turkey. I usually prefer an elevated perch but blinds have their advantages, something I would soon appreciate.

I finally got my wish when the clouds rolled in, the temps dropped and the rain started. Conditions were ideal but with Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the Northeast, things figured to change for the worse.

Hunting in the steep mountains, Bruce uses terrain when determining where to place his stands and blinds. For the next day's hunt he suggested a ground blind in a bottom where three finger ridges intersected. Deer like to follow the ridges down and the junction seemed a likely intercept point.

With conditions deteriorating and time running short I planned to sit all day, which made the blind even more appealing. At least I'd be out of the wind and rain.

Shortly after sunrise the rain turned to snow, then began piling up. I had occasional visits from does and young bucks, but not the big bucks I was after. Things took a decided turn for the better when I was visited by a group of super jakes -- adult males approaching their second year. As they scratched through the leaves looking for fallen acorns I drew my Bear Anarchy and loosed an arrow, anchoring one of the big birds.

By the next day three feet of snow had fallen and the forecast called for another foot and a half so I packed up my rig and headed over to Ohio to hunt with another friend, Jeff Neal of Heartland Wildlife Institute.

If I could pick ideal conditions for hunting the rut, I'd ask for light rain and temps in the low 40s. Deer will move all day in those conditions. The tough part is being able to withstand them. Another ground blind came to the rescue. Jeff and Brian Richard had set a Banks Blind overlooking my favorite food plot, and even had trail-cam pictures of the bucks I should be looking for, including one big bruiser I nicknamed Stickers.

Scarcely an hour went by that I didn't see a deer. As the afternoon wore on, the food plot filled up with does, until a yearling 5-point buck came in and spooked them off. The rut was kicking in and does were becoming increasingly antsy.

The 5-point was displaced by a 3-year-old 8-point that in another time and place would have been very tempting; but not here. Ohio has a reputation for producing big bucks and after the Covert pics I'd seen, I planned on being very selective.

One down side of hunting from a blind is you can't see and hear all that's going on around you. Fortunately, you don't need to if there are other deer around. You simply watch them and their reactions.

With less than 30 minutes of shooting light remaining. the 8-point suddenly jerked his head up and stared into the woods behind and to my right. Something definitely had his attention, and I had a suspicion what it might be so I propped my Ten Point Carbon Elite XLT crossbow up on the shooting sticks and got ready.

It's a good thing I did because moments later Stickers sauntered into the plot like he owned it and, in a sense, he did. I quickly picked him up in the scope and followed his progress toward the younger, subordinate buck.

In a few more yards I'd run out of open window so I risked stopping the buck with a "blat." When he froze and turned my way, I sent an arrow on its way. The big buck piled up less than 100 yards away, concluding another successful hunt thanks in no small part to the shelter and comfort of a ground blind.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

bhhunt@maine.rr.com

 

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