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WOODS: (Whispering) It’s January 9th and we’re at Knox County, Illinois. West central Illinois. And when I got out of the truck it said six degrees.
We’re on an afternoon hunt. We’re at a place called North Creek Preserve, just private land. No commercial hunting or anything because of free range in the wild.
It’s been below zero every night for several nights in a row. At that stage, metabolism rates of deer are very high. If there’s food available, deer either gonna get up and feed a lot or they’re gonna stay bedded. Deer don’t sit there and think, “Well, gosh I’m gonna burn so many calories if I get up.” Just the way creation made it, they know whether it’s a positive or negative. Stay in your place. It’s less of a gamble; or getting up or going to the buffet field. Here at North Creek, we’ve got enough of a buffet to get them going.
WOODS: And does and fawns were moving through the, our area to feed on some soybean fields. We did see some bucks, some young bucks. Maybe one three and a half-year old. Had a nice encounter with a coyote.
WOODS: (Whispering) He’s very lucky I don’t know what the rules are in Illinois.
You know me and coyotes. If I can take out a competitor coyote, I’m going to. But I didn’t know the license requirements in Illinois for harvesting a coyote, so they would call him in but passed on that opportunity. We now know the license requirements were legal and look to call another one in. We’re going to go out and reset those stands based on M.R.I, the Most Recent Information. We know kind of where the deer are going now. Uh, get back in there. Have a really hot lunch and go out again this afternoon. It’s warming up. Predicted to. Get up, you know, 12, 15 degrees this afternoon, so that’s gonna feel great after negative six climbing down last night.
WOODS: Day two and we were bundling up for this hunt. Now, it’s warmed up a little bit. About 15, 16 above, I believe out there now and we’ve repositioned stands in the valley with corn and soybeans in the bottom. Deer central. I’m telling you tonight folks, so, I’m gonna predict ahead. We’re gonna see a bunch of deer. Hanging the stand, our trail is coming off thickets. Highways, mega highways. Spaghetti intersections. Tonight there’s going to be a traffic jam because there’s going to be wreck between my broadhead and a deer.
WOODS: I found this valley off on the edge of the farm that hadn’t been used, just no tire tracks, no nothing around it in the snow. You’ve gotta kind of drive around the farm to get to it and there’s a acre, acre and a half of standing corn in there which is about 60% consumed. In late season, as a hunter, I like to see that because I know deer are really conditioned, like Pavlov’s dog and they’re coming in there. They’re not being interrupted or bothered or, or scared. Now, as a manager, I want to see as much food as I can to make sure they got plenty of food going all the way through the winter and a little food left over when spring green up occurs. But as a hunter, I want them conditioned to pattern. They’re using food and there’s a little bit more left to keep them coming in there and a little, little competition to get that last morsel, so to speak.
WOODS: (Whispering) We’re overlooking a corn field that still has corn in it. It’s probably 70% consumed, so they’re really patterned to coming here. Hasn’t been hunted in a while. Wind’s pretty favorable, but I’m a little worried, it’s swirling just a little.
WOODS: In not too long, we have seven yearling bucks come off the wood line about 150 yards away to the corn. And they’re coming in thinking, “Boy, this is early. This is great.” It’s a good sign because yearling bucks, year and a half old bucks, are literally the dumbest deer in the woods. They want a date so bad they can’t stand it. They’ve just got out of their original native home range because mommas bite, kick, stomp and boot ‘em out of there. That’s God’s way of making sure there’s no inbreeding. That just doesn’t exist in the whitetail world. Equate it to a high schooler going off to college two states away with a big wallet full of money and not knowing how to stay out of trouble. So, these freshmen come into the corn field and they’re smacking corn. We can hear them and stuff’s going on and, and the wind swirls.
I’m real sensitive to wind and it’s on my nose and all of a sudden it’s on the back of my head. And when it’s, you know, when it’s six or seven degrees outside, you can tell when it leaves your face because it stops burning for a second.
WOODS: Gosh, man. It’s early on. We just spooked a lot of deer out of here and they left that scared scent that deer leave, blah, blah, blah and made noise.
And then, we had a good buddy come out. Our good buddy was a button buck. And he just walked around the field like button bucks do. He’s munching on corn. You can hear him and the wind lays just a little bit and it’s, you know, it’s a frozen bottom. It’s like a frozen bowl so noise is just echoing and we can hear it. I’m sure the other deer can hear it and so they, they pop back out because they’re hungry and they’re looking like, and man, you can see they’re thinking: “Look at that guy; look at that guy; he’s right there eating. How come we’re standing here in the cold and he’s eating?” So, they start kind of easing over there and the braver young ones are coming first. Well, they’re all the same age, but the brave ones come first and they all pile back in the corner, thinking, “This is great.” And then all of a sudden – and I’m watching them. I’m intent. I love to watch deer behavior. Their heads are all down and it’s odd for seven deer heads to be down simultaneously. They’re all down in the corn. Munching, doing, working the husk back so they can get to the grain and all of a sudden, boom, they blow.
I turn to Blake and I say, “Blake, there’s a coyote around here somewhere.” And we’re searching, looking around, looking around and we don’t see the coyote and Blake he’s got; he’s a great guy to pick up game moving. He picks up a coyote about 150, 200 yards away the opposite side.
That one coyote 200 yards away from seven big Illinois yearling bucks, blew them out of the field. So, I’m thinking: “All right. That coyote’s going to pay the price of sacrifice for this gig.” And I do a little (sound), put the release on there and I’m just waiting for the coyote to come. Whew. Wind shifts again; back to my nose. Face is burning, coyote blows out of there. Like, man, we’re getting busted in two ways here.
WOODS: (Whispering) We had seven yearling bucks within 50 yards of us. All of a sudden, they busted and we knew it wasn’t us. I kept asking Blake. “Is there a coyote? Is there a coyote?” Finally, we spotted him back in there. He was working his way up. So, we hang the bow back up; cameraman gets his fingers back in his pockets; I’m back in my pockets and, and all of a sudden, deer start coming back out. They’re hungry. They want to feed. Some does and fawns and some of the yearling bucks come back out and they’re feeding and they’re making it into the corn and all of a sudden, I look on that wood line about 150 yards away and, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo. See a couple of ole’ antlers busting out of the woods.
WOODS: (Whispering) Which one? On the right or left?
WOODS: They looked pretty good from a distance, but as they start closing the gap to us, you can look at the body. You’re always safer to age or estimate the age of a deer by body shape than you are antlers. Antlers are extremely misleading. There’s not a good correlation of antler size and age at all. It’s very general. And right away I can tell no buffalo chest, real skinny rear end. These are three year-old bucks. Great three year-olds. But, three year old bucks.
WOODS: And they make it to the corn and they eat, I had a couple of openings. I had already used my range finder and knew the yardage and they get in one of those spots. And they’re not really facing right. And I said, “Blake, they’re three year-olds. They’re three year-olds.” Of course, cameramen want to make footage. You know, they want me to take the shot. “Are you sure? Are you sure?” Kinda dogging Blake a little bit. And I went, “No, I think they’re three year-olds. We gotta pass these, or we want to pass them.” And they get broad side. Big temptation. And the wind’s holding pretty steady at the moment and these three year-olds now are right there in front of us. You know, three year-olds express about 75% at best of their antler growth potential. Let’s say he scores 140, 150 like these bucks we’re looking at. Well, now you’re adding 25. That’s 35 inches. You’re looking at 170, 180 inch deer. Big difference between a 150 and a 180. So, I’m gonna leave those deer out there. I’ll come back here to North Creek and hunt next year.
WOODS: But, I look over on the wood line edge again and see that ole’ buffalo coming through the woods. And you, you just see right off the bat. When you know it’s, if you have to ask yourself, “Is that a shooter?” It’s probably not a shooter.
But, when you can see a deer even before you make out the antlers and you know it’s a shooter, then you feel great about it. And this four year-old buck, big eight or nine-point comes out. He just comes right across the field. Pretty steady. Gets into the corn. Well, I need him to make 20 yards to me; to present a better shot.
WOODS: The four year-old’s getting closer and I’ve got bow in hand; you know, release on the string. Whew. My face stops burning. I know the wind went to my back again. Deer blow.
WOODS: (Whispering) …Where did he come from..one right there near the corn.
Wind shifted about two steps. Two steps and saved that one buck’s life. These deer over here, 40 yards, don’t know we’re in the world. Those deer got wind of us. Once they got wind us it’s tough to beat the wind. My cameras and batteries and all the scent that goes with all the gear. Whew.
WOODS: So, now we’ve been debating this morning. Do we move the stand? Try to get on that wood line where three of the four bucks come out of. The more mature bucks. And that’s more disturbance and I don’t know how far off the field they’re bedded. I suspect not too far because what that high metabolism needs right now, they’ve got to feed often. Or, do we leave the stand where it is? Slide in again. The wind should be northwest. Should be great for the stand location. Yesterday, we had a southwest, light and variable. Today, northwest at 15. So we’ve made the decision to leave it where it is.
WOODS: (Whispering) Day three of our hunt at Knox County, Illinois, here at North Creek. A little warmer this afternoon. You know, we’ll take anything. But, you know, 18 to 20 degrees. Yesterday it got to a high of like 14. So, a little bit warmer, but we’ve got about a 15 mile an hour wind out of the north right now. Coming just like this. And yesterday to, to shoot a deer, of course, came out over there. So, if the wind holds, it’s fine. If it switches any to the east, it’s bad. Last night it was light and variable. Predicted and that’s what it was. We had wind out of the East, out of the West, out of the North, out of the South. We got busted by scent a few times. You know, we got a camera and battery, an extra battery and two people, so scent control for a camera team is a whole lot tougher than one hunter without all the batteries and gear.
WOODS: Well, it’s time to put the bow back in the case and the arrows up and head on. I’m going to the ATA show from here. We had a good hunt tonight. But, not shots fired. We were in the bottom field again and the bottoms are pretty rough for swirling winds and we had a pretty constant wind tonight that wasn’t as big a problem. We had some decoys, yearling bucks and does come out early. And then, we had a, another coyote come in from a distance and busted those deer and ran the exact direction of where the mature deer come last night. And whatever happened over in those woods, we didn’t see the mature deer tonight. But had a great hunt, saw deer every hunt and survived the cold. The gear worked out great. And we’re off to the ATA show to see what’s new. So, we will be back with you next week and look forward to seeing you again.