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Ben Harshyne | 11.1.2021

Sweet November

  • Pursuit: Whitetail

Vast crop fields, rolling pastures, brushy fencelines, and thick timber blend into a bowhunter’s version of heaven. Farm country is one of the ultimate places for whitetail hunters to challenge their abilities. Come fall, harvest time gives us a ticket to enter the deer’s domain, where changes in weather, landscape, and terrain push us to learn and adapt.

Last November, a weather pattern in the heart of the rut stalled three straight weeks of heat and south winds over the heartland. Stale conditions and non-existent deer movement brought doubt. What many of us have learned, though, is that if you dig deep this time of year, you’ll experience incredible moments when you least expect it.

In the preseason I scouted this part of the farm for rut travel, between a stand of pines and a knob of briars; two doe bedding areas. Southerly wind would blow my scent into the open cattle pasture, and I knew the deer preferred to stay in the thick cover next to it. The stream bent at the fence corner, creating a power funnel as they moved through the creek bottom. Twelve yards back stood a double trunked Soft Maple, perfect for breaking my silhouette. Twenty feet up, I leveled out “The Dead Cow Stand” platform and said adios! until November.

The Monday before Thanksgiving, a morning client meeting pushed my hunt into midday. Seeing a 180-degree wind switch around that time made me call an audible into what would be a virgin sit at The Dead Cow Stand. I took my time, snaking through the creek. Rolling my boot along the wet edge where the water meets the creek sand was the most quiet way to approach. Thirty minutes later, I clipped my harness in.

On cue, the wind reflected from north to south, impeding the bedded buck’s ability to smell what he couldn’t see. He never knew I was there. His wide and busted up crown ascended from the thorns, worn by a deer with a similar build to one of the bulls that lived across the fence. A cadence of grunts made him aware of my existence, but the patient veteran wasn’t in a rush. An hour later, he sipped the creek puddle below where I perched at full draw. Time slowed down, and a minute passed until his vitals opened to the top pin. My arrow flew true, and he faded seven steps away.

This November story is just one of the many that we—as a community of hunters—have told for eons. We read the land, we play the conditions that we’re dealt, and we push ourselves to capture that next incredible moment, digging deep through sweet November.