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Ten Lessons from My First Ten Point

April 11, 2017
By Ralph Scherder - PA Field Editor , Ohio Valley Outdoors

In the world of whitetails, there's something special about a 10-point buck. When you tell people you got an 8-point, they may congratulate you, but tell them you got a 10-point and they'll raise their eyebrows and say, "Wow!" The spread or tine length doesn't really even matter. The fact that it had 10 points is impressive enough. Killing my first 10-point, though, was about more than just the number of points. Hunting for that buck provided a host of learning opportunities.

According to my trail camera, the 10-point was visiting a group of apple trees located in a thick funnel almost every night. That could very well have been lesson number one. Food sources can be great hubs for deer movement, but in high pressure areas, mature bucks don't often visit them until after dark.

Usually my preference would be to get closer to the bedding area and set up a stand. The main problem with that, though, was that the bedding area was a large tract of timbered woods deer seemed to bed randomly throughout the entire area. Narrowing it down to a small patch was almost impossible, which led to lesson number two: mature bucks often use several bedding areas throughout their core area. I had pictures of this buck at all corners of the timbered area. The only constant was that some time after midnight, it found its way to the apple trees.

Article Photos

The author with his 10-point buck. “My heart was pounding. All those lessons had culminated in this moment, and I was prepared.” Photo courtesy of Ralph Scherder

To further complicate the situation, because of the recent logging, there were very few trees big enough to support a tree stand. I settled on the thickest tree I could find even though I could only hang a stand about eight feet off the ground. Therein lies lesson number three. As bowhunters, we believe a tree stand has to be at least 20 feet high to be effective. Most hunters think that higher elevation will keep their scent up off the ground. That's not completely true. In fact, anywhere there are hills or hollows there will be tricky air currents to carry your scent every which way. Truth is, the wind is either in your favor or it's not.

Lesson number four: during early season, storm fronts are your friend because they get deer up on their feet earlier than usual. That's especially important when dealing with mature whitetails in high pressure areas. They're cautious and the older they get, the more nocturnal they get. My first sighting of the 10-point came right after a rainstorm moved through. The buck crossed the tractor trail about 60 yards away and went to the first apple tree.

The sky went practically dark with storm clouds by the time the buck came out from under the first apple tree and walked straight up the tractor trail toward me. All I could see was its silhouette and its rack.

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Lesson number six: keep hunting. I moved my stand closer to the first apple tree and returned to that funnel the next three evenings.

When I settled down to take the shot, I had difficulty distinguishing body features on the deer. I couldn't tell where its front shoulder began or ended, or even distinguish the legs.

Finally I put my bow down. If this was the only opportunity I'd ever have at this buck, then so be it. I wasn't going to risk wounding the animal and not recovering it.

And so, lesson number five was all about me. During my teenage years, when killing a big buck meant everything and I would've done anything to do so, I may have taken a less than ideal shot, even under those conditions. Most of the bucks I've killed the past 15 years have been recovered within a hundred yards. That can probably be attributed to two things I'm a better shot now than I was as a teenager and I simply don't take those risky shots any more. I realized I'd come too far to revert to old habits.

Lesson number six: keep hunting. I moved my stand closer to the first apple tree and returned to that funnel the next three evenings.

That leads me to lesson number seven, which is that if you know the location of a nice buck, don't give up, especially when the weather conditions are in your favor.

On the third evening, two does stepped out onto the tractor trail shortly before dark. They walked right passed the apple trees without so much as a sniff. One of them stopped only five yards away and stared straight up at me and my heart sunk and I thought that was it. Lesson number eight could very be this: have faith in what you've learned so far. The wind direction was good and my treestand was well camouflaged. The deer seemed satisfied by all of this, too, and slowly resumed its trot to the crop field.

When I looked back toward the apple tree, the 10-point was working its way through the high brush onto the same tractor trail. All I could see was its antlers sticking above the weeds.

Lesson number nine: persistence pays off. Rather than follow the does to the crop field, the buck stopped on the trail in front of the first apple tree and seemed to debate whether or not to it was hungry. Its belly won out and it dropped its head to start feeding.

I was already in position and ready to shoot. My heart was pounding. All those lessons had culminated in this moment, and I was prepared. All I needed was for the buck to take one more step and it would be in the wide open under the apple tree, only 15 yards away. One more step and I'd let the arrow fly and then the buck took that step.

Lesson number 10you got it. There's just something mighty special about your first 10 point.



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