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By Ray Barnard

Whitetails Plentiful

Tony Albiero is pictured with his Illinois buck taken with archery equipment in Illinois.
Tony Albiero is pictured with his Illinois buck taken with archery equipment in Illinois.

The young buck appeared suddenly behind me. I just happened to see the buck because I had turned around on my ladder stand and was facing to the rear.

This particular buck was a very young deer sporting three small points on each side making him a six pointer in the state of Kentucky. He came right under the tree my ladder stand was leaning against and at least three times looked straight up at me. Because I was camouflaged from head to foot, even wearing a face mask, at no time did the buck pick me out as something to be alarmed about and proceeded to feed in the winter wheat food plot in front of me. I have a certain criteria that a buck must meet before I will even consider a shot. The antlers have to sport eight points and extend beyond the tips of the ears on each side. If the antlers do not meet these guidelines, then I let the animal walk away, preferably without spooking it. My luck held this night; and the buck never knew I was there, although I had my bow and arrow at the ready and had at least a dozen opportunities to take a shot at him.

Each year around the first of September the archery season for whitetail deer opens in Kentucky.

Usually it is too hot to do much serious hunting in the first weeks of September in this state. If an animal is harvested in summer weather, immediate attention must be given to handling the carcass when the animal is located. If a meat locker is close, one should transport it to the locker posthaste after the animal has been field-dressed. It doesn’t take too long for the meat to spoil if not properly cared for. If a locker is not close, then I would suggest stopping at any available “spit ‘n git,” as I’ve heard small stores called, to purchase bags of ice to stuff into the body cavity. Cooling the meat is of utmost importance at this stage. Removing the hide helps in this regard, too. Just cool the meat as soon as possible to preserve it. When the deer is properly hung in a cooler, then one can let the meat “age” a little bit before butchering. Also, many folks say that butchering the animal yourself is the best way to insure the meat doesn’t have a chance to spoil.

If one is an archery hunter, that person must make sure that they have the proper equipment. There is an old adage that says: “You can take the best bow in the world and shoot bad arrows and not be able to hit anything. However, you can take the worst bow in the world and use good arrows and still be able to hit the target.” A good bow, proper arrows for your draw weight and with the arrows cut to the right length, plus a razor sharp point is the way to go. Practice with these combinations is of utmost importance. If one has access to a 3-D range of different animal species, practice is really enjoyable, even if you lose a few arrows in the process. 3-D ranges are the best possible scenario one can use to learn how to judge distance from themselves to an animal. None of this, of course, will help you assuage “buck fever.” Hunters just have to learn to control their emotions when they decide to try and harvest an animal, whatever the species they are hunting. A good strong heart is also recommended to help harness the suspense involved when one decides that “this is the animal I want!”

Each archer must by necessity experiment with a good conscientious retailer to pick out the equipment that is right for them. Accessories are always a personal choice. Because there are so many choices, it brings to mind the old saying of “That’s the reason there is more than one color of paint.” Everybody doesn’t necessarily like the same thing.

Do you hunt from a tree stand? The hunting catalogs are full of this type of accessory. These stands range from hang-ons using a climbing stick or steps, to ladder stands, and not least are the self-climbers. Some of the ladder stands can be purchased as stand-alone units not requiring a tree to install them. Up until the last couple of years, I used the self-climbers. With this stand you pack it in, and you pack it out. There is always the possibility that someone might come by your erected ladder stand or hang-on and decide that they would like to own it themselves. This scenario happened to me last deer season. When I went back to get in my stand, it was gone, even though I had it cable-locked to the tree. Some enterprising thief had used bolt cutters to cut the cable, lower my stand to the ground, disassemble it and pack it out to parts unknown. Since the price on this ladder stand was around $250, I was out quite a chunk of change to replace it.

Blinds are another way to hide you from the wary eyes of any game animal, whether it is a deer, a puma, a turkey, an antelope, elk or anything else one might be waiting to harvest. These blinds also are many in number and types. There are large ones, small ones, medium-sized ones, and even one that used to be sold by Arctic Cat that would fold over your ATV whenever you arrived at your hunting spot, hiding you and your ATV.

Sonny Evans is shown with a very nice 12-09nt (eastern count) buck taken in Casey County, KY.
Sonny Evans is shown with a very nice 12-09nt (eastern count) buck taken in Casey County, KY.

Those readers in the west, southwest, Midwest, and northwest might be surprised to learn that in the last ten years or so Kentucky has established quite an elk herd. Located in the eastern part of the state, the elk range usually is located in the reclaimed strip-mine areas of the eastern Kentucky coal fields. The elk are doing fine in this habitat. There have been quite a number of good bulls harvested since the elk reached a viable number that would allow hunting.

The importation of new animals into Kentucky has been stopped. Kentucky will not allow any more cervids to be brought across state lines into Kentucky. The reason for this is to prevent an outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD. I might also define cervid. A cervid is any cloven-hoofed animal that sheds its horns or antlers on a yearly basis. Deer and elk obviously fall into this category.

A problem that Kentucky has had with our deer herd is Epizootic Hemorrhagic Fever. This particular malady is an infection that is taken from animal to animal with, of all things, a “midge,” or gnat. When an infected gnat bites a healthy animal, that healthy animal will be dead in around seventy-two hours. The local common title for this disease is “Blue Tongue.” Animals will seek out water and usually the expired carcasses will be found around water. The state agency says that this malady has only infected at least one percent of the deer population this year, so there will not be a curtailment of hunting. The folks at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources say that this is a naturally occurring phenomenon and usually runs in cycles of every three or four years. I have not done any research into other states as to whether they have the same problem. I have just concentrated on my state of Kentucky. Hemorrhagic Fever is usually defeated with the first hard frost of the season which kills the gnats that carry the disease.

This year I have had the opportunity to ride my Can-Am ATV to and from my deer stands. Because the stands are usually located at the top of ridges in this area, it is expedient for me to ride the ATV to the top of the ridge and then walk to my stand. Of course, if someone else is hunting close to the area you want to hunt, to be considerate you do not want to ride your ATV through their hunting area. Just ride it as far as you can and then park it. That way you get to cut out most of the uphill stuff and usually can walk to your stand on the flat ground at the top of the hill. Because of my age, this is a real advantage. Plus, you can carry a lot of extra gear that you might possibly need on the ATV for use if you need it.

My normal procedure is to put my fanny pack on the front rack of the ATV along with my bow or rifle, whichever weapon I intend to use, ride to the top of the hill, take the bow or rifle and only take what I expect to have to use on the stand. The rest of the equipment I can leave on the ATV, and will utilize it if I am fortunate enough to harvest an animal. Because I have a winch on the front of the ATV, I don’t worry too much about getting an animal out of the woods if it travels down the ridge. It always pays to have an extra length of rope with you in case the winch cable isn’t long enough to reach the animal from the top of the ridge. That way you can tie the rope to the outstretched cable, rewind the cable as far as possible; tie off the animal; bring the cable back out and tie it back to the shortened rope length, and rewind it again. Repeat this until the animal can be tied directly to the winch cable. When you can do that, your problem is solved. You then just simply winch the animal back to the ATV, load it onto the ATV and head back to the house.  No problem.

So, whatever your quarry, you can help yourself with an ATV if it can be feasibly used in your particular situation. Good Luck.

As an example of the quality of deer one might take here in central Kentucky, I am attaching a letter I received along with a picture of the deer a local young lady took with a crossbow. This is one of the most balanced racks I have seen. The letter is as follows:

Shawnee Higginbothams is shown with her every nice buck taken with a crossbow in Mercer County, KY.
Shawnee Higginbothams is shown with her every nice buck taken with a crossbow in Mercer County, KY.

I am Shawnee Higginbotham, age 10, of Harrodsburg, KY.

This is my first year of deer hunting. Early summer Pa-paw started working with me using a .17 Mach II rifle. When the deer regulations came out, we could see that crossbow season was much longer than the youth gun season.

I had never shot a crossbow before. It was so heavy that I couldn't even hold it up! Pa-paw and dad installed a bipod on my bow and I started shooting off a table at 20 yards. I practiced as often as I could.

In mid August I saw my trophy buck in front of my house and I took a picture of it with my cell phone. I showed the picture to Pa-paw and told him there is the one that I want. He said, “If you want this deer you have a lot of work to do. First you have to beat his eyes, nose, and ears. He said you also have to learn to shoot straight.” I practiced shooting out of the blind on a bench where I was to hunt. I saw him twice. We set a blind near an oak tree in a funnel between his bedding and an alfalfa field. Pa-paw and I hunted a few times and got busted by does both times. That day it was way too hot for the bucks to come out.

A cold front was moving in, and the temperature dropped to 30°F.

Pa-paw said that this would be a good night, so I took a bath in unscented soap and got ready.  We arrived at the blind at about 5:00 p.m.

Around 7:00 p.m. he and two other bucks came down the funnel to munch on some acorns before going to the alfalfa field. He showed himself broadside at 12 yards. I put the red dot on his chest and squeezed the trigger. He bolted and only ran 50 yards. What a hunt!!!

Shawnee Higginbotham

So what will she do for an encore? Pa-paw says she will top it in the future.


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