I went back over to Duluth last Tuesday evening to get ready for one last try. I hit the woods about a hour before light, it was 17 degrees. I was hunting a stand that I had hung before Thanksgiving but had yet to hunt. All was pretty quite until about 8 a.m when I noticed a buck working from right to left, but working away from me. I grabbed my grunt call and grunted until I saw him lift his head and acknowledge that he heard me. He kept moving the way he was. I grunted a few more times. At this point I lost sight of him behind some trees. All of a sudden he emerged from the trees and was only about 25 yds away and on a string. It was a nice 10pt, but only a bit bigger than a basket. In Dec. he was good enough to fill my tag and freezer.
There was a bit of a clearing directly in front of my stand, as you can see from the picture. He stopped to look around 15 yrds out. I needed him to move 2 more steps so his head was behind a tree. He took the steps and I drew. I could see his ears perk as I drew. I quickly found his chest with my pin, and usually at this point I let it fly. This time I am not sure why, a feeling or something, but I didn't. I wanted to make sure I was where I needed to be. At this point the buck got spooky and quickly turned hard quarter away and took a few leaps to be out of range. I have never had the pin on a chest and not got a arrow off! I can still see that in my head and it will haunt me for awhile.
Later that day around 1:30 I noticed 3 deer heading my way. A doe, a spike and a decent 8pt. I tried grunting at them but the doe headed for thicker cover as the bucks trailed. As they were moving away I tried grunting again, but it didn't seem to have a effect. About ten minutes later I tried some rattling. It was just like on TV. I had horns in hand and here came that 8pt back in a hurry. He circled around behind me to try and get my wind, but I lost sight of him. I had thought he had slipped over the ridge. As I stood in my big pine tree I couldn't see the way he had gone due to branches. As I slowly sat I noticed he was looking right at me only 35 yds away on top of a large rock, that put him on eye level. I don't think he saw me since he didn't bolt, but his nose was in the air for several minutes. I don't think he winded me either, but when he didn't smell a buck he climbed off the rock and walked back from where he came. Foiled again!
About 10 mins after he had gone, I thought maybe he would come back to the horns. So I rattled again. I noticed movement off to my left, opposite of where the 8 had gone. It looked like another doe being chased by 2 bucks again, maybe the same ones had looped around. It didn't take long to realize these were different deer. There was a really nice, tall 8 that I could see out about 70 yds. So I tried grunting and I did get there attention. It looked like the doe was heading my way. As it turned out the doe turned out to be a spike with a kicker on his base. That deer walk 10 feet from the base of my stand and looped around me. I noticed a 2nd deer moving my way. This one was about a 125 10pt with a kicker on his base. This one was a bit more cautious. He was in front of my stand about 17 yds out. He was standing in some brush and I needed him to take 2 steps so I could draw without being seen. Well, I thought the spike had drifted over the ridge since I could see or hear him and longer. As I waited for the 10 to move, he got nervous. On a dime he turned straight away and walked off. I grabbed the grunt call and hit it a few soft times, but he kept going, back to the bigger buck, that never came closer than 70 yds. When I couldn't see the 10 anymore, I thought some light rattling may pull him back. As I hit the horn the spike jumped into view 10 yds behind me! I was as surprised as he was. He didn't blow out and was really confused, but he walked away as I tried to get the antlers back on the peg. Needless to say I never got a shot at any of them again. It was almost like to 2 bigger bucks were going to offer up the spike, or at least send him as a scout!
I had a plan for the next morning that included breaking out the buck decoy to keep their interest if they came around again. I got set up early allowing extra time for set-up. Just after daybreak I noticed a deer walking with it's nose down following my trail I walked in on. I had put Deer Herd in a Stick on my boots as I always do, and it was working perfectly. He turned out to be a different spike than the day before. He was 25 feet away from the decoy and headed right for it. I was waiting for him to be scared when he lifted his head. When he finally saw it he didn't freak out in the least bit. Actually I had 2 decoys for about 15 minutes! He walked right up behind it, 10 feet away, giving distance to this bigger buck. He would scratch, then his ears would perk and face the direction the decoy was looking, as if he was missing something! It was very funny to watch. Well this went on for a bit, but then he got bored with it and moved off. Later I had 2 does spot the decoy, but they wanted no part of it and blew off before I even saw that they were close. I only saw flags after they blew. I thought they had seen me move, but a bit later when I knew I was motionless a doe came but about 80yds, saw the decoy, stomped a foot and blew and jumped. My hunt and my time to hunt in Duluth had come to a end.
All fall I have been using my pull behind camper as my hunting shack, and with temps falling into the teens at night, it was time to winterize it for the year, plus the miles and time away from my family was starting to take it's toll. At times this fall, my season was really slow, but that week around the rut was outstanding! In 3 days I must have had 30 deer come by and 7 of them were does. One I harvested. I saw 2 very nice 10's this year, and big, chocolate racked 8, and several other very nice deer. I was close on several occasions but couldn't quite get it done. At least I know if I can get that zone again, there are some very nice deer around.
As for hunting around home, I am not sure I will get a chance. We found out the other day that my wife will probably have to have back surgery and I will have to be around to help out, like she did when I had mine 2 years ago.
If you are still hitting the woods, best of luck to you!