A Day With The Shenandoah Bowhunter

Written by: Mark Hurley


Its a early November morning  and the first rays of sun hit the bench that I was hugged against. I waited ten minutes and drop my first milkweed to make sure I have my setup absolutely on point. As I watched the fluff of plant fiber start to bounce around I knew that I hit the sweet spot. Where the thermal current and wind collide and create a eddy. Just then I notice movement as a group of seven does start picking at the leftover acorns on there way to bed. I was tucked just down wind of there bedding area.

How the land features work here is almost as if god created  the steep ridge and rock formation just for a bowhunter. Every deer that hits this bench has to filter in front of my stand. That puts them within 25 yards and makes it impossible for them to hit my scent wall.  

Just as the lady’s were starting to get settled in and picking there beds. I heard the sound all deer hunter know to well. The sound of a buck trolling and grunting every step. It was a two and a half year old basket rack eight pointer. He read the script to a tee. As he tiptoed by I could tell he was on edge. The first thing that came to mind is he had his butt handed to him not to long ago. I knew there was a big boy in this area he was trying to avoid. As the young buck slipped off to run another ridge that drops down into the thousands of public land acres. Know as the Shenandoah Valley mountains. I focus my gave back on the does, studding the body language. 

One of the most beautiful things about bowhunting is, the opportunity to watch and learn. For instance the sounds that different animals make that will alert deer or put them at ease. As I’m enjoying the show and paying close attention to the does. I notice one perk its ears up. Its now 11:30 in the morning and I catch a glimpse of a buck using a thicket of Mt. Laurel as cover to scent check the does I’m set up on. 

As I’m watching the does and trying not to get busted as I settle my hand on my bow. Its time to initiate the ancient dance between hunter and game. The buck started to hug tight to the downwind side of the does, not 15 yards away from my position. The next few moments felt like a eternity. As the buck took every step with purpose and precision as he is feeling the situation out. Every bowhunter dreams of him stopping perfectly broadside as my arrow glides straight through both his lungs.

This same situation has played out for me over the years with great success. There is a magical short window where multiple bucks are checking these doe bedding areas. They become like clock work, becoming slaves to the need to ensure there survival. As the last weeks of October hits I am focusing on pattering bucks and there bedding habits to down wind side of does bedding. Putting myself as close as possible to them beaded does. Then in late November I start to finally focus on pinch points for the simple reason most does have gotten bread already and the big bucks are trolling for the next lady whos down to party. Depending on the deer density some bucks will travel miles. Something I’ve noticed in the later part of November, your small bucks activity starts to drop dramatically. The touch of gray is this is when I see my biggest bucks of the season up on there feet.

I do want to add that this seems like a very strict and to the point game plan. Maybe foolproof but trust me everyday in the pursuit of mature bucks is the furthest thing from foolproof. Any time I see some sign that screams big buck I will abandon the game plan at a drop of the hat. A lot of people love the rut and I share the energy and excitement. You never know what might walk by and who doesn’t like to see full on chasing action. Plus its a great time to hammer the buck of a lifetime. 

But in my style of hunting the time period that excites me most is the month before and the month after the rut. I love setting traps for mature bucks on there patterns and there beds. The rut is so unpredictable and its a lottery of being in the right spot at the right time. 

This is my first blog type of writing and I’m still trying to figure it out. So work with me lol. I love sharing tips and information on things I have seen or experienced on my page Shenandoah Bowhunter . I use it to document my pursuit for mature bucks in the mountains. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to step into the world of the whitetail deer and fail but learn, be successful and celebrate.

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