After years of hard work and trial and error, I've finally stumbled onto a pattern that has been successful for me. I have been fortunate enough to harvest a mature whitetail buck in Ohio for the past 5 years on this theory which happens within a small window leading up and shortly after to the October New Moon.
Last year it happened to be on Sept 30th which was 2 days after the Sept. New Moon but the same methods were applied. I attempt to give deer everything they could possibly want in a close proximity to hold them on the property I'm hunting. I only hunt 140ac of reclaimed strip mine ground and only 40% of that is woods. To give them a good variety of choice I plant Clover, Alfalfa, Turnips, Rape, Oats and sugar beets. I also take the time trim and fertilize select mature oaks on the edge of the wood line for Acorn production.
Also I like to trim and fertilized Apple and Pear trees along with other supplemental feed in the area. I've created water holes between the bedding areas and food sources and established mineral sights close to those water holes as well. You name it I've probably tried it... Heck this year with the drought, I randomly dumped 400gal of water on my plots every day. Then most importantly, I leave the small amount of woods that I have, mostly untouched during summer and early season which I would call sanctuaries. I know that by keeping the deer on my property as well as unpressured that sooner or later they would show up on my food plots in early season with shooting light.
Once I've identified my "shooters" in the area, I try to establish some type of pattern on them by utilizing trail cameras along with field scouting from a distance. Many of the cameras I have on food plots are setup to automatically take pictures every 3-4 minutes. It’s amazing what you can learn about the way deer enter food plots by doing this. As I keep a good inventory of the deer by studying the photos, I watch the times they show up and leave the food plots. I also keep a log of daily wind directions and cross reference where they enter the plots in different winds. Usually as the full moon approaches their arrival times move closer to shooting light. I “WILL NOT” hunt in the morning during early season due to the fact that the deer are on their early season feeding patterns. I don’t want to take the chance of going in and spooking them off of their daily routine in the dark which could change everything... Instead I wait for what I feel is the right time.
As I start to get photos of a "shooter" on the food plots in or just after shooting light during the evening and leaving just before or after sun rise, This usually tells me that he is still close by and I will hunt the stands I have set for whatever wind direction I have that day.
This year was no different! With the New Moon approaching on October 15th the bucks seemed to be following the same pattern as they have in the past. I was starting to get more and more photos on my trail cameras over the food plots pushing shooting light. This day we had pretty cool temps, 33 degrees in the morning with light rain till about noon then only warming up to low 50's. My girlfriend Dana had a teachers meeting after school so I called the best cameraman I know and good friend Larry Scheetz (shameless plug) to see if he would be able to film for me that evening. As the evening progressed we had two yearling bucks, a mature doe and button buck feeding in the food plot. The doe was very nervous and every time the wind would gust/swirl she would catch a little whiff of something she didn't like (US) and would go on high alert... Not being able to pin point what she smelled she would begin to feed again as if we were not even there. With about 5 minutes of filming light left the doe seemed to get spooked and she ran about 20 yards and stopped as she looked to our left. I thought to myself "Oh man, we're done for!" Just then Larry looked to our Left and out of our blind spot walked three bucks, two nice mature bucks and an awesome 3yr old up and comer.
The rest of the deer pushed to the back side of the food plot as these bullies made their entrance. Two of the bucks turned and started to the downhill side of the food plot but one bruiser kept on coming right out into the middle and started feeding as if he owned the place. I slowly ranged him at 42 yards and then clipped my release on my string. I drew my bow and tried to get on the buck but had to modify my shooting form and bend my elbow out to get on him... Even doing so I still felt steady and comfortable as i settled my 40yd pin on the buck and touched off the trigger... as I watched the arrow flying I knew immediately it wasn't headed for where I had my pin. As it struck the buck my heart crashed.... The arrow had hit him back and high. The buck instantly spun and ran for cover visually not in good shape. I was really crushed; by far the worst shot I've ever made on an animal.
I was shooting the new “Killzone” broad head from NAP with a big 2" cutting diameter so I was just hoping it did its job since I failed to do mine. From the shot placement I was determined to leave this buck lay overnight but as we sat there watching the video over and over I started to question my doubt. While reviewing the video we could see instantly as the arrow hit the buck a large amount of blood started pumping out as he ran off. We decided we would slowly and quietly pack our gear and take it back to the truck and grab some lights giving him some additional time. From the replay of the footage it looked as if I hit the Aortic Artery that runs down the spin so we decided to look in the field to determine if it looked promising or not. If it look good then we would continue tracking. It was a very easy decision to make as soon as we found where the buck had stood in the field. There was enough blood in the field anyone could jog and follow even with a flash light. As we walked down the trail amazed by the amount of blood left behind, I found my arrow about 60yds from where I shot him. Then just 20 short yards past the arrow laid my prize! A great mature 142" main frame 8pt with a few extra points! Totally relieved that the NAP KILLZONE broad head was able to make up for the poor shot I had made. I know less than perfect shots happen but it had been a long time since I’ve made one. So I was very happy to know that there was no suffering and it was a quick clean kill and the buck only went 80yds.