I couldn’t go out west for an extended elk hunt this year, so I opted for a couple of four-day weekends in Wisconsin to hunt whitetails in the early season. I’d never hunted the western part of the state’s high bluff country before, but its deep ravines and rock ledges quickly reminded my legs of September in the Rockies.
The deer season opened September 14th, and with no prior scouting I was off. Hoping to catch a bachelor group of bucks still together, I looked for deer sign and trails at the corners of soybean fields, and at the headers of deep ravines. I had to resist the urge to explore the dense timber and river bottoms along the areas I intended to hunt for fear of spooking game. Once I’d selected a few spots to hang treestands, I left the area to explore the vast timbered ridges for secure spots to hunt later on during the rut, when food is of less interest to cruising bucks.
On the first evening sit, I saw four does and fawns and two eight-point bucks. The largest I judged to be a three-and-a-half year old who’d score in the mid-130s. He was a nice looking deer, but with only one buck tag, I chose to wait. I passed up a six-pointer and another 8-point buck at 15 yards during the second evening hunt. I would’ve taken a doe, but was only presented with close encounters on two fawns.
On the fourth day I found a spot where a CRP field, thick woods, and standing corn field converged. Acorns were dropping and several apple trees grew nearby. I located a dry ditch running through the timber that created a subtle terrain edge that may’ve gone unnoticed if it weren’t for a line of rubbed saplings. This transition area looked like a great place to hunt during the rut, but I couldn’t resist sitting in the newly hung stand. It was quite warm and I listened to the acorns drop through the canopy striking dry leaves or bouncing loudly off of fallen tree trunks. Of course, there were a few squirrels and mosquitoes to keep me entertained.
As the sun set, I heard the soft crunching of approaching footsteps. Three deer were coming through the woods nibbling on fallen leaves as they walked. I didn’t see any antlers and decided to try for the lead doe if she came close. It seemed like they were downwind of me, but I hoped the warm, rising air would keep my scent above them. They circled my tree and started heading towards the CRP field. Just when I thought they would pass out of range, the lead doe turned and came back toward me. I readied for the shot. She cleared some deadfall, stopped broadside at 18 yards between to saplings and an arrow was on its way. The Woodsman tipped hexshaft slipped between the ribs and in line with her heart. She ran only 80 yards before bedding for the last time. The other deer were confused, and a second doe walked up to me before realizing I was the intruder to their world.
Taking an early season doe is a great way to start the season and put food on the table. I can’t wait to go back and find out what other stories these ridges hold for me.