The chance to call whitetail bucks is one of the main reasons I so enjoy bowhunting. Rather it’s with buck grunts, doe bleats or rattled antlers I get a charge out of pulling some rut-crazed buck into a few yards. I’ve watched them make scrapes, attack trees and posture-up with their backs bowed and eyes bulging with drool dripping from their mouths.
I always thought decoying was secondary to calling for getting bucks to come close. Wednesday afternoon a doe decoy gave me an unforgettable show.
Last week I placed a buck decoy in front of my pop-up blind in Stafford County and watched three bucks come in for a closer look. All three put their ears back, pawed the ground and walked side-ways at the decoy trying to make themselves look bigger. Two of the bucks were shooters but it was snowing so hard I was afraid the recovery could be difficult after a shot.
About 1 p.m. Wednesday I was back with the decoy’s antlers removed so it looked like a doe. I placed the decoy about 20 yards upwind of the blind, sprayed it with scent-killer and settled in to wait.
About two hours later I heard the sound of pounding hooves and looked out to see a buck with busted antlers streaking across the field directly at the doe decoy.
Normally bucks approach cautiously downwind of a doe decoy to see if the doe’s in estrous. Not Mr. Broken Horns, he charged right up to the decoy’s side, slammed to a halt and started licking the decoy’s back.
I’d propped the decoy up with two steel electric fence posts so it was pretty solid but as it started to wobble the buck seemed to hang on tighter and hurry more and more as things tilted.
Eventually the decoy fell over with an ear and back leg flying off. The buck bolted about 50 yards then slowed to a walk. He looked back at his lost love three or four times as he left the field.
Still chuckling at the show I hustled to get the decoy together and between the fence posts and took a few seconds to spray some doe scent between the decoy and the blind.
A half-hour later, shortly after banging some antlers together to simulate a fight, I saw a big-bodied buck coming from the west, angling downwind of the doe decoy.
I quickly recognized the buck as one of the ones that had come to the buck decoy in the snow. He was old and had antlers that turned up at the end. His rack carried nice mass and eight main points plus a sticker. His body carried the tattoos of many past battles.
I made the shot when he stopped to sniff some of the doe scent 14 yards away. Within a few seconds he was down on a farm road 60 yards away.
He was perfect. I’d gone into the season wanting a buck that was old and with unique antlers. Several bucks with more points had been within bow range and I’d let the young deer walk hoping they’d some day turn into some high-scoring trophy for the landowner.
It was one of the best days in more than 30 years of bowhunting.
No doubt long after we’ve eaten the last package of the buck’s venison and the antlers are thick with dust in our basement I’ll still be thinking about that love-struck buck that mauled the decoy.
I wonder what he was thinking when he was walking away.