The Story of RED It came easy this year. There was no grind, no hard to get out of bed mornings and no pressure to make things happen. It was one of those years that makes you wonder why most years it’s so hard. My “rut vacation” from work started August 27th and consisted of two weeks off, but only 2 or 3 mornings a week that I could actually hunt. Those mornings I sent my kids to a baby sitter. I could also hunt any evening that I had the house cleaned and dinner cooked, when my wife (a full-time teacher) came home from work. A deal my wife and I have made for the past few deer seasons. I was totally OK with the schedule because I do, and always have, preferred morning hunts and I like a clean house. I personally believe big bucks are on their feet more in the mornings (compared to evenings) and I feel that the areas big bucks live in are certainly easier to penetrate under darkness. In recent years, I’ve also found that mornings are best for my wife and I’s schedule. Thus, I was totally Ok with the above-mentioned hunt schedule. Even still...hunting season is very taxing for my wife and without her support the story below wouldn’t exist. So, I must say thank you to my amazing wife foremost. A hunt for me typically starts the night prior via looking at weather.com, the Huntstand app on my phone, mentally processing trail camera pictures for the days prior and lastly looking at temperatures and moon phases (overhead/underfoot times) to guesstimate “how good of a movement day” will likely be ahead. The later, helps me decide if I’ll hunt perimeter stands where my chances of bumping deer are less or going all in and hunting high risk/high reward stands. On the night of Nov. 11th, weather.com called for East winds with low temps and high barometric pressures. I also knew of several good bucks that were harvested by other local hunters in recent days and felt the rut was at a good breaking up point (lockdown was predominantly over). Most importantly, I knew my number #1 hitlist buck, RED, a 6-year-old home grown Ohio whitetail, that I estimated at 170 inches had recently been very daylight active. So, daylight active, one of my hunt club members missed him only a week prior. I decided the conditions were right for me to spend some time in one of the best areas of my farm. I was going to a place referred to as THE GAP. An approximate 100-yard-wide travel corridor, with two paralleling logging trails, between a deep cut ravine and a food plot edge at the rear of my farm. THE GAP is also almost directly positioned in the middle of my farm and is a good place for deer to cut through when going from one large chunk of timber to another large tract of timber. THE GAP also borders a 10-acre thick sanctuary, that I only enter during shed season. It really is the kind of spot that you should kill a monster on every sit. I do not however have a fixed stand for East winds in the GAP, mostly because it runs predominately EAST to West. But if the wind would have just a little north in it (which was predicted for later in the day) and IMO I’ve found that if a wind is predicted to shift later in the day.... many times, the wind will many times “kick that way” or even “slant that way” in previous hours. Also, If I shifted just a little south of the actual GAP...... I thought I could make it work. So, an hour and a half before legal shooting light, I made my way to the area with my trusty Lonewolf Hand Climber and a backpack full of goodies to make an all-day sit. I also must add that I’ve had some recent back pains and my Lone Wolf Hand Climber is one of my most comfortable stands, so the climber was a good plan. I made my way to the gap by walking right out my back door and going 900 yards past/through a large CRP field, a once acre clover plot and two brassica food plots. Almost the whole walk is screened with 4-5 foot tall switch grass I planted 4 years ago. I made the entry without bumping any deer! I was shocked I was able to accomplish this because it was dead calm and as crunchy as a bad of Doritos from the frost. I picked a tree, without using a flashlight, knowing I’d looked this particular small Poplar Tree in the past and climbed up as fast as I could. I then buckled in my safety harness and started screwing in my pack holder hook and bow holder arm. Before I could even pull up my bow, I heard critters moving around me. I doubted they were deer and chalked to noise up to raccoons because I didn't think there was any way I would have gotten into this spot without tipping off every deer in a square mile. But soon after first light, I found a couple fawns bedded in a thick spot of brush only 50-60 yards away. About an hour after light, the fawns left their beds and started milling around. Soon a button buck was directly underneath me eating Poplar leaves and a doe fawn 20 yards to my left. The wind turned out to be perfect for everything that was going on. It was mostly calm, but when the milkweed did float, it was a perfect ENE. That’s when things started to get uncomfortable. When I’m on stand, I try to be a nose breather. It’s my opinion that it lessens your downwind odor. But with a recent runny nose, the flem had built up in my throat and I was starting to get a tickle. I fought it off as long as I could but then I erupted! A big old cough/hack that felt ohhhh so good! And the fawns never flinched! But momma doe, who had been apparently hidden in the forest below quickly came to investigate. She stomped up the hill and started cautiously looking all over for the cause of the suspicious noise. That’s when a miracle happened. The button buck fawn started coughing and hacking! I do not lie when I say after that, me and the button buck fawn took turns coughing for the next half hour and not a single deer became alerted to my presence. Those deer soon wondered off and my attention turned to some sparing deep in the sanctuary. And from the sounds of the sparing.... not little deer. These sounded like big racks! Deep and heavy thuds. But bucks just playing around.... not an all-out brawl. Being Red is the only big mature buck I’ve seen in the area, I figured it was him and another buck that I had no knowledge of. The sparing stopped but not before catching the attention of a couple small bucks that made their way through the GAP, right under my stand location and disappeared into the sanctuary to investigate. Soon after those bucks disappeared, I caught a quick glimpse of a doe being chased by a big buck 200 yards to my right. But before I could grab my bino’s and I.D. the buck they disappeared into the CRP. At that time, I decided the prospects were high for the rest of the morning and that I needed to be a little more prepared. The wind also has picked up and was a steady ENE now and I could get away with some movement and noise. Directly in front of me was a tree limb that was crowding my space. It was preventing me from shooting nearly 30% of my front radius. And although shooting through the tree tops in that direction was minimal, I decided I wanted it gone. I stood up, pulled out my tree saw and grunt tube and got ready. I made a couple long, loud tending grunts and then quickly sawed off the limb and then tried to throw it on top of some branches to my left that were almost “to high” for my best and most likely shooting lane. The whole ordeal made a good bit of noise, but I did everything with intention of it sounding like a buck that was tending a doe and taking out his sexual frustrations on the young Maple tree. The only part of my mock scenario that didn't go as planned was the branch I cut off and threw made my suspected shooting lane worse! I now only had 2 or 3 very small windows to the GAP logging trail. I put my saw and grunt tube away and then remained standing and tried to figure out my best stance to get a shot through the branches......when.........SNAP! A twig broke 20 yards behind me. I turn and instantly recognize the blaze red forehead, grey muzzle and fully mature body features of RED! His antlers soon confirmed it was Red and I went into auto pilot. He was moving at a good clip and coming straight to the noise he had just heard. I leaned back, lifted my bow off the holder and started drawing my bow within seconds. Before I knew it, I was finding my landmarks and the thoughts “he’s mine” and “don't mess this up” were the only thoughts going through my head. The angle was steep, 15 yards from the bottom of my tree he stood sniffing the ground, I buried the pin center mass, leaned back into the tree to get my best TIGHT shooting lane and punched the release.