By Kerry Wix
Having a successful hunt in the Whitetail woods of the southern states can always be a little tricky. As the 2022 deer season has begun for most Southeastern region, I’ll be sharing some of my strategies to find success through the experiences I've had the opportunity to have over the years of being an avid whitetail hunter.
This season has already started out strong for me by connecting on my top two hit lister bucks, one in my home state of Tennessee and the other in Kentucky. I harvested not only my number 1 in Tennessee buck for the season but my biggest buck to date. He ended up taping out at 165 inches in full velvet. With the state of Tennessee offering a 3-day buck only velvet hunt in August, I prepared myself for success by taking advantage of some early season buck behaviors and doing my homework. I had started getting trail cam pics of this buck early on a mineral site in the antler growth stage this year in May, and quickly identified what buck it actually was and could tell he was going to be special. Knowing the history of this buck and what he typically liked to do in the early months, I knew I was going to have a great shot at connecting with him on this particular hunt because of the farm having soybeans on it this year. In my opinion, you just cannot beat early season whitetail hunting over a bean field. You about guarantee 9 times out of 10 if you have beans nearby, you’ll find the buck you are looking for. After the beans matured in July and going into early August, I began turning my focus to the nearby bean field close to where my buck had been summering and on a mineral lick. I could tell he was transitioning to another area because I noticed him appearing on the trail cam less and less at the mineral site. After a few evenings of glassing the bean field, I finally spotted him and the bachelor group of bucks he was running with. I knew he would be staying on this particular field, so I elected to back off of it and not disturb it until closer to time for the 3-day Tennessee velvet hunt. As the time approached, I began getting my gear ready, to me preparation is everything! An old saying goes, “The one that stays ready, doesn’t ever have to get ready.” I’ve always tried to live by those words no matter what it is I’m trying to accomplish. To scout mature whitetails on soybean fields, you’ll need a few things. Now I’m not saying this is what you must have, there are plenty of great options at different price points on the market, but number one is Glass. I tend to take a good set of binos and a great spotting scope! The binos I use are Vortex Diamondback 10x42 and my spotter is a Vortex Viper 15-45x65. I think these are a midpoint set in the Vortex line up but I’ve had truly amazing luck with them both so far and love the range I get out of both. Another very interesting and useful tool I found this summer was the MagView Digiscoping system for my binos and spotting scope that allows me to connect my iPhone to them and record videos and take photos. Logging your bucks' behavior in the early months is crucial for setting yourself up for success on these early season hunts.
I spent countless hours that week before the hunt and the week of the hunt, spending time from a comfortable distance and putting a pattern to this particular deer. I'll very rarely hunt a morning set in the early season because of the high risk of blowing your deer out of its food source. So being patient and waiting for those evenings will help put more luck in your favor. This particular buck liked to make his entrance to the field between 6:50 pm-7:05 pm every day. Another useful tool that’s helped me become very successful is hunting out of a tree saddle. Now, this is a whole other topic on its own and I’ll blog about it later on in the season. But the Tethrd saddle system has changed my game up in the whitetail world without a doubt. It’s such a useful tool by being able to get on any tree practically, hunt any wind direction you need, and almost seem completely elusive to the area you decide to set up in. After documenting my buck, I had picked out a tree I knew I’d be set up for a possible 15yrd to a 50yrd shot depending on how he came by it while eating in the beans. I got my Tethrd platform in the tree that Monday before my first sit around Noon of that day. I went back that evening like I had been doing to watch and see if I had gotten away without disturbing my buck and if he would notice I had placed my stand there. As 6:50 pm approached my anticipation grew stronger, I knew if he showed and wasn’t spooked then I would probably get a shot at him on that first sit in the coming days. At 6:57 pm like clockwork he stepped out and he fed right past my stand like nothing had ever happened. The amount of excitement grew as I checked off one more thing to potentially get a shot at him. I glassed the next few days, and nothing changed. The Thursday evening before the hunt I didn’t go glass because I figured there was no sense in it, and I didn’t want to risk some fluke accident happening and busting him out of there.
That next day was like gameday for me, although I wouldn’t hunt until the evening, I hardly slept a wink the night before. That Friday I spent the day hanging out and shooting my bow from 40-60 yards like I had been doing all summer. One thing to keep in mind when hunting a bean field like this is to be prepared for a potential long shot. At around 3:00 pm I eased my way into my stand taking my time not to disturb anything. I got in my Tethrd stand and settled in for the hunt. As the evening progressed, I began to see a lot of deer I had been seeing over the past few weeks, making their way to the field. This particular evening, I had also got set up a little earlier because of a high-pressure storm front that had moved in during day. Anytime this happens, I know deer movement will generally be about 30-45mins earlier than what it usually is. As 6:00 pm rolled around I began heavily focusing on the area the bucks had been coming out from and listening for any bit of noise that could be them. Sure enough, at 6:30 or so, I heard something walking through the timber that wasn’t a squirrel. My heart began to race as I knew it was probably the bachelor group of bucks I was waiting for. A few minutes of silence and then the first buck of the group stepped out of the tree line. I began controlling my nerves to not get overly excited and screw something up! Buck after buck appeared, it was almost like a scripted movie, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing honestly. I ranged the bucks with my range finder where they stepped out and it was 40yards. Bow in hand I was ready for the one I had my eye on all summer long. And then, not missing a beat, out stepped my buck. At this point, most of the other bucks had already made their way past me or were currently feeding in front of me following the others. He was making his way to me following behind the group but at an angle that was quartering away from me. This is exactly what I had spoken on earlier and not knowing exactly how far of a shot it might be for you so practice further distances. By the time he had gotten to me and was starting to present a good ethical shot, he was about 45-50 yards. With my bow in hand and my release on my string, I was just waiting for the perfect opportunity to let my arrow fly. Then I noticed a smaller buck starting to make his way towards him, and even though mature bucks run together this time of year they still like to keep their distance from one another. My buck began to walk towards the smaller buck to rid him of the area he was currently feeding in. Now at this point, he is at 50yrds, maybe a few yards further. I elected to come to full draw and settle my pin on him and try not to black out. Taking my time, I squeezed the shot off. In what felt like slow motion, I could see my arrow in its path, and I felt great about the shot! I had held a little low just in case he dropped like deer tend to do. As he did indeed drop, I quickly realized he just kept dropping. Something I had never done before as a bowhunter had happened, I hit him directly in the spine, causing him to drop instantly. Quickly to draw another arrow I settled my pin again, this time making a great and ethical shot in the vitals.
Talk about a flow of emotions exiting my body, I couldn’t believe what had just happened and how quickly it had all gone down. I immediately called my two great friends Dustin Reels and Garrett Tucker to tell them the news. Though I repeatedly mentioned to them it was a textbook hunt, I had lost the thought process that it was like that because I had done my homework. Walking up to that buck I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, he was definitely bigger than I had given him credit for. It’s a buck that will be tough to beat for some time for me as well as other hunters in my home state of Tennessee!
Stay tuned as I’ll be writing another early season blog on a completely different type of setup where I found success in Kentucky a few weeks later on a 141-inch full velvet 8-pointer. -KB
Photos taken by Dustin Reels and Kerry B. Wix
About the Author
My name is Kerry B Wix, and most know me by either KB or Kerry B. I work alongside with the marketing team here at Drake Waterfowl. I primarily help with the in house content and social media management. I live in the great state of Tennessee, and in these hard wood covered hills and deep spring creek hollows is where I was born and raised, just north of Nashville. It’s here that I was introduced to hunting and fishing by my father and late grandfather at an early age. Deer and ducks were the primary game we pursued. There weren’t many turkeys in the area when I was a boy, but I became fascinated with the birds while watching old hunting tapes and TV shows featuring turkey hunts. I’ll never forget the first time I heard a gobbler in the woods one morning and eventually bagged my first wild turkey at the age of 14 all by myself. It was an experience that hooked me on turkey hunting for life and inspired me to study the birds and perfect my calling techniques. I’ve been blessed to have been able to make a living in the outdoor industry as a photographer and videographer over the last 20+ years. The experience has allowed me to work with some of the biggest names in the outdoor industry, including some of the people I idolized as a young boy. My work has appeared in venerated outdoor publications such as Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Peterson’s Hunting, and many others.
While I still enjoy the pursuit of whitetail deer, waterfowl hunting, and catching big smallmouth bass, turkey season is what I look forward to the most. When I’m not hunting or fishing, I’m more than likely taking shots of it all with my camera.