He was a heavy 8-pointer, one my hunting partner and I had numerous pictures of. His maturity didn’t play into the shoot-or-don’t-shoot equation — he was ancient! He was also the spitting image of a 130-plus-inch 8-pointer I had plucked off the lease the previous season. That buck was 5 ½ years old and had the biggest body I had ever seen. This one was a tick bigger.
The bruiser jumped the fence and started toward my stand. My wind meter read zero, and sweetening the pot was a pair of downwind does that had been browsing on shoots of winter grass. It was my first night on stand, and as the buck’s gait lengthened and he came bowhunting-close, images of other shooters on the property leapt to the forefront of my brain.
That, for me, was a first. When I have a shooter close by, an arrow is normally getting released. This time, I was torn, and by the time I opted to press my Prime into action, the buck was standing four — four — yards from my stand. Zero wind combined with a brushed-by-my-elbow branch sent the buck scrambling before I could blink.
I wasn’t mad about the missed opportunity; I wasn’t even sure if I had wanted to shoot that buck on my first evening on my Nebraska lease. What did cause me to slam my bow back on the hanger was the fact that I had lost focus. You can’t lose focus in the whitetail woods, and as the days on the November calendar began to flip and my on-the-lease sightings dipped, frustration set in.
Off to Kriesels
My hunting buddy and whitetail mega-mind Terron Bauer could sense my frustration, and when we sat down to dinner on the eve of Nov. 5, he made a suggestion.
“I don’t have a lot going on at Dad’s right now,” Terron said. “My main hit-list buck has disappeared. We should go to Kriesels in the morning and sit in the Banks Blind. We’ve never actually hunted together for deer, and there are a pair of solid bucks up there. If nothing else, we will have some fun.”
Let me rewind. Terron’s family farm, operated by his father, Terry, sits on 1,000 acres of prime Nebraska whitetail real estate. However, only 150 acres are huntable timber. Over the years, Terron has put a tremendous amount of work into the farm, doing everything from planting winter destination plots to hinge-cutting to building buck beds. He runs mineral sites and cameras, of course, and he does countless other management practices during the off-season to make the property a true honey hole.
The Kriesel Farm is exactly 17 acres of timber and CRP that is disconnected from what Terron refers to as “Dad’s farm.” A few years back, when Terry purchased the dirt, deer numbers were few. Terron saw a diamond in the rough, though — what could be — and went to work. In 2018, Terron arrowed a pair of brutes on the Kriesel Farm. One was a 130-inch 7 ½-year-old with double drop tines; the other, a 145-inch 4 ½-year-old stud with heavy mass. Terron had history with both deer.
I wasn’t surprised at the invite. Terron is one of my best friends, and he loves to see others succeed. Plus, he knows the reason they succeed when hunting on his dirt is because of the work he puts into it. He likes that.
Terron started showing me photographs on his computer of possible shooters. Wow!
“This is the deer we may kill,” said Terron. “He is a regular on the plot, and I have lots of history with him.” The buck was a beautiful 8-pointer, and from Terron’s years of property management and shed hunting, we knew the buck to be at least 4 ½ years old.
“Then, there’s this guy,” Terron said with a sly grin. I knew the picture well. Terron had showed me the deer multiple times, and I remembered when, during the previous season, Terron had sent me videos of the then-3 ½-year-old deer on Kriesel’s alfalfa plot. He was magnificent. No, wait; he was more than that. He was the deer of a lifetime.
“We call him Triple Brow,” Terron said. “I know he looks like a giant and his mass is insane, but I just don’t think he’s as big as what your expression is suggesting. He’s a mature deer, but we found his right-side shed this spring and, if the left matched, he would have grossed just over 125 inches. Plus, he’s been very sporadic on the plot. I used to see him on almost every sit last year, but this year, I’ve only got him on camera. I doubt he will show, but he could, and if he does, you’re killing him.”
Snakebit, But Not
The wind was wrong, but it didn’t matter. Over the years, Terron has sent me numerous videos of deer on the small alfalfa plot that surrounds the Banks Blind with the wind blowing right at the plot — that’s the beauty of a quality enclosed blind. When you’re hunting a small property, you need to hunt that property when it’s hot. A week of bad winds can cripple you when hunting tiny acreages, but with an enclosed blind and proper scent control, you can hunt any location with any wind.
“If we keep the windows closed, we are golden,” Terron said. “We got in here clean. I didn’t expect the does to be on the plot yet. They typically like to hit the alfalfa a little later in the morning as they’re coming off the bigger ag fields.”
An hour went by. Nothing. Terron wasn’t happy.
“This is ridiculous,” he whispered. “We should have seen some does or a small buck by now. I’ve got deer freaking living on this farm. I can’t believe this. You must be jinxed at this spot.”
Terron was referring to my Kriesels sit three years before. Terron had let me hunt the blind on the last evening of my 2017 Nebraska bowhunt. The plan was to shoot a doe so I could take home some meat and rebound from a bad miss. I blanked on the sit. Terron was shocked.
The minutes continued to tick by, and still, nothing.
“There, out in the CRP,” Terron said suddenly. “A buck is chasing a few does around. Look where they’re at. The sun crept across the landscape, and as soon as it hit that spot, those deer emerged. The sun is going to be on this plot soon. Then a buck is going to show up, and you’re going to kill it.”
We laughed half-heartedly and swapped a few more stories about family, work and life. A few minutes later, I looked out the east window. I wasn’t at all prepared for what I saw.
Let’s Finish This
It was him — Triple Brow was standing 15 yards away from the blind, alone and nibbling on the alfalfa. I’m not sure how long he’d been there, but panic quickly set in. After gathering our wits, Terron eased the window open just as I reached full draw. The arrow wasn’t perfect, but it was good, and we knew the deer would soon expire. We high-fived and hugged, and then, of course, put our fingers to our mouths, reminding each other to be quiet. So dumb.
We gave the deer two hours. During that time, three other bucks — all up-and-comers — came and left the plot. A number of does filtered in and out of the alfalfa as well. What an awesome location Terron has built!
I’ll never forget the feeling of walking up on that buck in the native grass. He was massive — so much bigger than Terron and I had thought. We sat with that deer for a long time, just Terron and I somewhere in a sea of CRP. We wanted to take in the moment, and I wanted to be sure and let Terron know just how grateful I was. I had taken the buck of a lifetime, and other than making a decent shot, had done nothing special. I had reaped the benefits of my buddy’s efforts, and I felt — and still feel — so incredibly blessed.
Later, with the deer propped up in the middle of a corn field, we were joined by Terry, Terron’s wife, Brooke, and his son, Liam. (Liam and I are best buds!) Photos were taken and the hunt retold over and over again. As I pen this, I realize I may never be fortunate enough to sit next to a 160-inch deer again, but I promise you, that won’t stop Terron or I from trying. Property-improvement plans are already underway for the 2020-21 season. I suggest you start yours now, too. You now have the playbook to do it with.
10 Land Hacks
You can put these into practice on your small whitetail property, all of them Bauer-approved!
- Create more doe bedding areas by hinge-cutting. Select a small pocket of timber and go to work. Drop trees at a 45-degree angle to allow the tree to continue to produce foliage and place the hinge-cut trees five to 10 yards apart. This will spread your does out and allow bucks to better maneuver through the hinge-cuts.
- You need food on your small acreage if possible. Bauer notes that if a property is located in an area of high deer density, sowing a perennial that can withstand heavy browse pressure such as alfalfa or clover is the way to go.
- Bauer uses a chainsaw and a disc pulled behind an ATV to create travel corridors that connect bedding areas to food sources. Deer like the path of least resistance, and if they can rise out of their beds and take a manicured trail to the grocery store, they’ll do it.
- It’s hard to hold deer on small acreages. Bauer increases his odds of keeping deer on his property by killing cool-season grasses and replacing them with switchgrass. Switchgrass stands tall and doesn’t cripple during the winter months or periods of heavy moisture. To add a little icing to the cake, he sprays small sections in areas of the switchgrass to allow broadleaf browse to grow. This means bedded deer can snack a few times during the day while remaining hidden.
- In addition to building doe bedding areas, Bauer selects small rises in topography and builds buck beds. The process is simple: He creates an entrance and exit for the buck, levels the ground and places a nice log for the buck to rest against. Last spring, I checked nine buck beds with Terron, all filled with white belly hair.
- Bauer puts bucks where he wants them on his small kill plot by adding a cedar rubbing post and a licking branch. He buries the posts deep, roughs them up a little to get the cedar aroma going and hangs makeshift licking branches right in a deer’s face.
- While Bauer loves treestands, he knows nothing is 100 percent when it comes to beating a whitetail’s nose when hunting out in the open. Before he invested the money and put up the Banks Blind, the days he could hunt the Kriesel Farm were limited. With an enclosed blind in place and extreme scent control practiced, Bauer can hunt this plot in any wind and whenever his trail cameras tell him the action is rocking.
- While Bauer’s 17 acres has a water source, he recommends putting in a refreshment stand if your whitetail property doesn’t have one. Deer have to drink, and if a cruising buck knows he can grab a quick swig while searching for does, he will.
- Bauer went as far as laying down in his hinge-cuts and then had a buddy walk into the blind. He wanted to put himself at a bedded deer’s level, and though it was slight, he was able to catch a glimpse of his companion a time or two. A chainsaw and some dropped cedars fixed that. It’s the little things.
- Bauer notes that, although it’s thrilling to kill deer on a property you’ve worked so hard on, passing immature deer is a must, even on ultra-small properties. Yes, they may get killed on another property, but Bauer figures if he can give them everything they need, they will visit, and often live, on his acreage.