I love hunting early season bucks. For one thing, there’s always the slight chance you might catch one in velvet, and for another – growing up in Texas I never was used to being able to hunt much until November, if for no other reason than it’s 100 degrees down there with winds that feel like you’re taking a blow-dryer to the face. The first time I hunted the opener of Kansas muzzleloader I couldn’t believe we were already pulling out a smoke pole in mid-September. This year I was very much looking forward to going back, as we’ve had great success on this hunt on The Bucks of Tecomate TV show in the past few years.
I’m not going to say it’s as exciting or thorough of a hunt as the rut can be, but its fun nonetheless. Always a race against legal shooting light, it typically will boil down to the last 30 minutes of the day, or at least it has for me. There’s a lot of downtime during this hunt during the middle of the day, which is nice every once in a while – I’ll throw on my S2V Trail-Runners and get a good jog and get some work done, and we still always end up getting in the stand hours too early in the afternoon just because we can’t help ourselves.
I killed a buck on this hunt two years ago called “Coke Bottle” on the first day, and I was hoping to have some repeat success. He was an absolute brute with 6+ inch bases, and I was hopeful that we’d get on one quick again. Not the case this year, this was the slowest hunt we’ve ever had at this property. Full moon and winds shifting directions almost daily didn’t help the matter, as well as standing corn and beans everywhere. We had to change spots about 4 times. Throughout the hunt we saw handfuls of does on almost every sit, with the occasional younger buck. The main thing to remember about hunting an Ag heavy Midwest property is that the deer are on their terms, and will usually be nocturnal. Good optics definitely are going to come in play- as the last 15 min of legal light is when 90 percent of your action will be.
The main lesson I learned on this hunt was to go to the spot that has the most shooters in the area, rather than trying to hunt an area with only one shooter, even if he’s a little bigger. You’re counting on a buck to mess up- and I started off hunting the biggest buck on the property, but he was the only target buck showing up in that area. The spot I ended up in did not have the biggest bucks on the property but it did have the highest number of mature bucks of any place in the property. This is key when you’ve got a set number of days to hunt and you don’t want to go home empty handed. That dynamic totally changes when you’re hunting a property you live near and can hunt all year long. In that case you have the luxury of going after one specific buck. In our case, we’re trying to hunt the biggest mature buck we can find within a certain amount of days. The main thing that got him killed was Reconyx intel. Always go after the daylight deer in pre-rut feeding pattern. You can waste a ton of time otherwise on a deer that will not see the light of day until the rut.
With day 6 coming to an end, we finally got it done with a 160 yard shot on a gnarly 7 year old buck called “Nuckles”, which had some really unique character. A challenging hunt means a bigger reward when you finally get it done, and I definitely feel blessed to have taken a mature buck in adverse conditions.
My buddy TJ Stenger the CEO of Reconyx was also on the hunt with me, so we got some tips from the expert on running cameras and their software for tracking bucks as well. TJ was able to harvest a beautiful 13 point buck after putting in a bunch of time, which was so fun to see.
Primary Rocky Gear used: SilentHunter SiQ Atomic Pant, RAM fleece Jacket, Rocky Broadhead boots, Rocky Silent Hunter Longsleeve performance shirt, RAM Level 2 Adaptagrip gloves.
TJ couldn’t believe how comfortable the RAM fleece and Silenthunter SIQ pants were!
Written by Jordan Shipley