I opened the door and smiled, affirming what I had hoped for. It was one of those few days a year in Georgia that I get to wear my preferred fiber to the woods. It was a wool day. Ah, my favorite. I get to wear the fiber that keeps the bills paid. Being in the wool carpet business, I have quite affection for wool clothing. It also meant a nice blustery day to keep the animals frisky. Being that it was Thanksgiving morning was a bonus, as that alone always gives high expectations here in the south.
I thought I would try my hand again at rattling since the rut was in. I had tried rattling only a half a dozen times before, in a dozen years or so. I never called anything in as far as I knew. I didn't have that much confidence in this aggressive type of technique because it seemed to go totally against my normal hunting method. Lots of movement, and making a racket is not normally in the bowhunter's favor. We are supposed to be silent, and still. Rattling is definitely against the grain, at least from my point of view.
In my previous rattling attempts, I always felt as though I was announcing my presence with a bullhorn, all the while flagging them down with all my arm movement. I hunt a lot of thick places, so I figured if I ever had called in a buck, he made me before I even had a chance to see him. However, today I would add a twist to this technique that seemed to be so successful for others on the tube and in publications. The day before I had picked up one of those rattle bags that came out a few years ago from the local hunting hang out. After fiddling with if for a moment in the store, I realized this could actually work. Rattling with maybe 10 to 15 percent of the motion just might be the ticket.
I set up on the ground 25 yards down wind of a thicket wall I was very familiar with. Behind a blowdown at the trunk’s split would be my hide out. This spot had been pre scouted, pre selected, and cleared about 2 weeks before. I normally hunt this area about 60 yards north from a tree, and about 10 yards from the thicket. I was hoping to catch a buck on the trail paralleling the thicket. He would be running down wind of the wall scent checking for sweethearts. But what I really wanted to do was control the hunt, and make the buck come to me. Something I had only done before with grunt calls.
On the rays of the first quality shooting light, I tickled the keys. I used the bag to mimic a friendly spar, and to get myself familiar with the volumes and tones I thought would work. This rattling session lasted maybe only a minute. I then stood my ground for another twenty minutes. On session number two, I really cut loose on the bag simulating a full-blown ruckus, but with much less physical motion than antlers require.
About 8 minutes later, I couldn't believe my eyes. Yes, it was a buck, and he was looking for trouble. Not a monster by any stretch of the imagination, but a definite trophy to a traditional bowhunter rattling from the ground. I can't really describe the feeling I had, but most of you have a pretty good idea. He was coming right down the trail looking right and left, head held high with a swelled neck. In fact, his neck looked wider than his rack. Dang near was. As he passed behind the root system of another blow down, I readied for the showdown. He emerged as I had hoped, continuing south on the trail. Lots of anticipation at this point. Still overjoyed that I had rattled this buck into range, I had to jerk myself back to reality. I had more important things to think about.
Uh’ O,....he seemed to have spotted me. I still felt confident since one of his eyes was blocked by a hickory. I paid no mind as I one eyed him back around my black palm riser. Then he backed up a half a step, and now both his eyes were trying to pick apart my predator wool. That's it! Busted! Game over! The fat lady is doing her doe-ray-me's. Those were just a few quotes going though my head at warp speed.
What? How can that be? He's continuing down the trail as planned? You mean I won that battle? I'm that invisible? Those phrases were going though my brain at mach 5 when I suddenly realized I was actually going to get a shot in about 3 more seconds down the shortest lane. Broadside as planned, and into the lane, I started my draw. Halfway to anchor he stopped and looked directly at me again. I froze at mid draw. I instantly came to the realization of all the positives that had gotten me this far. And with a quote from G. Fred Asbell cruising though my mind, I continued my draw. "The hunting Gods were with me".
Perfect shot, or so I thought, he wheeled at the last moment. I had just witnessed the worst shot placement of my two decades of bowhunting. Too far back, way too far for an entrance. But there was a chance of a better exit due to the angle he managed to create during his bound. That's what I kept telling myself, and that was the image my mind kept replaying over and over. I was positive that the angle at impact was great enough to include a vital hit through the liver with the exit being much farther forward. Yet I was still concerned.
Bucky bolted directly away from me due west, seeking the security of the thicket immediately. I waited longer than I ever had before picking up a trail, or most times just walking to the sight, or sound of the crash. No audio or visual confirmation this time. After an hour, I eased down the lane to the trail and found my arrow lying 7 yards away. It wasn't very encouraging either. Looked as though I had shot though a bushel of half cooked English peas.....more concern.
About 15 yards of scuffled leaves led me to a quarter size spot of blood, then another, and another. Not like the usual crimson tide I am use to. Forty yards into the thicket, he took a left on a buck trail, one I knew about. This trail is littered with but rubs every few yards, and it leads to a small branch coming out of a little pond that you can cast a Zara Spook across. This thicket is tough to walk in, and it would be hard to get a shot off even if I did see Bucky ahead. Blood was getting sparse, and I was running out of marking paper, so I laid my last bit down at a tiny speck. As I paused to think, I looked ahead and saw the blood trail was getting better. I decided to go back to my rover to get more paper, and my dad to help if I had to revert to drag netting the thicket. I had a good line on him, and figured he would be headed for the branch. I met up with my dad, and told him I wanted to check the pond and the small branch that ran out of it first, since it could be approached from a meadow. No luck with that search, so back around to the beginning we went. Blood was good, then bad. Luckily enough we found the last turn he made before the blood was totally gone. He was headed west again. Thankfully I had been all though this thicket before, and the last specks of blood left were straight in line with an area I had seen before. A 15 by 15 yard honeysuckle patch. I started sneaking to the patch after telling my dad to hold, figuring Bucky would be bedded in the middle of it. If not, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
He was there.
Like I stated, he was no bruiser. A little six point, but he must have been a bar room brawler. Three of his points had already been broken off, and he was still looking for a fight.
I learned long ago, it really pays to know your terrain well. My best memory wasn't what I expected it to be. The rattling in of Bucky is only second to knowing his secluded bed. Pay attention to all the details while you are out and about. It may pay off in ways you don't expect it to, like turning a grim scenario into back straps.
May all your Thanksgiving holidays be blessed with a bonus, just as mine was this year.
[ October 16, 2009, 03:57 PM: Message edited by: Terry Green ]
Posts: 24772 | From: GA | Registered: Mar 2003
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