The “second rut” is occurring in southwestern Kentucky right now. I know this because the grunt of a rutting mature buck turned me inside out Saturday evening. “Nomad” hung out merely 10 yards behind me, almost certainly dogging a doe fawn in heat, and there was nothing I could do except sit and pray that he would reveal himself within sight of my Nikon-scoped muzzleloader.
It never happened.
Adam Keith, field producer for GrowingDeer.TV, saw the 150-class whitetail from his hang-on camera stand, which was positioned slightly above me and to my right on the same tree where I sat motionless in a ladder stand. “Don’t … move!” Adam screamed those two words to me at whisper volume as the last hour of light—the “witching hour” as I call it—faded into the western horizon. After a few tense moments, Adam shared more critical information through another noticeably rattled whisper: “There’s a shooter buck 10 yards behind you. Do not move. There are three fawns directly below us.” After 2 minutes that seemed more like 30, a foot stomp followed by audible trampling signaled our lost opportunity. The situation was so tense that Adam, a seasoned camo-clad camera operator, never even had a chance to move his camera and touch the record button.
The buck was gone. But not forever.
Adam, Grant Woods and the other GrowingDeer.TV guys headed back to Missouri the following morning to wrap up the final days of deer season on their home turf. I stayed and joined land manager Andrew Clifton on the western edge of the Trigg County property—a significant distance from the previous evening’s setup—and slickheads began showing up from all directions as the cold dawn air was warmed ever so slightly by the first rays of sunlight.
Eventually, we were pinned down by a fawn and two does that stood 15 yards from our treestand; one of the does gave us the customary “I know something isn’t right” bluffing head nod that every whitetail hunter hopes to avoid. As we were pinned down, movement from a far food plot caught my eye. Instantly, at first glance, I knew it was a giant buck bee-lining across the plot. Andrew simultaneously saw the buck and rolled film, but captured only 2 seconds of the beast on camera. It was 2 seconds long enough to realize it was Nomad—a buck aptly nicknamed for his diverse travel patterns.
After 4 days of hunting at The Kentucky Proving Grounds, I wasn’t able to connect on a mature buck. While I could’ve easily and happily tagged a pile of does to contribute to the herd’s balance, I opted to wait for my chance at a Bluegrass bruiser. If my freezer wasn’t already almost completely full, my strategy would’ve surely differed.
Terry Hamby, my friend and landowner of The Kentucky Proving Grounds, is developing his own piece of whitetail heaven. It’s my pleasure to watch the progression of his property and join with GrowingDeer.TV in sharing its story as it unravels. Without question, big things are in store for Terry and his team.
After hunting one of the most well-managed tracts of land in the country for mature whitetails, it has been proven once again that these elusive trophies aren’t easy to come by. As whitetail hunters—whether our pursuits lie mainly on public or private ground—every antler needs to be earned. Never stop working.