I have been hunting an area somewhat unsuccessfully this season - it's brand new to me. I've walked all over it, found deer, found sign, found trails, found food, you name it. But life, hunting other areas, and the natural course of the season/weather have all led to me not focusing properly. But, the experience is starting to build, and the last couple of hunts there I'm starting to get deer in range in daylight.
I was really starting to question the "walk to the ends of the earth and repeat, and don't climb a tree unless it's just jam up stuff" mentality I've been working with the last few years.
We had a front blow through Wednesday night, with the rain letting up early morning, and winds forecast for 15-20mph. Perfect I thought, no one will be in woods with rain/wind/christmas eve on the menu. The rain stopped about halfway through my drive, and the trees were really moving around good in the wind. I got parked, took the bike in, and began my walk. Wind and wet leaves provided perfect cover.
I had been walking about a mile into this spot, and every time I walked in or out, I found myself on deer trails, and found rubs and scrapes near access. After a dozen or so unsuccessful hunts over what appeared to be good food/sign/travel from food to bedding, I finally listened to that little voice that told me "maybe the deer aren't doing what you think they are." I elected to set up much closer to access, on a scrape. The scrape wasn't the main attraction, it was more that it was at a transition between types of trees/vegetation, and this transition formed an obtuse "V" where the bottom faced south. Access from the south, and a strong NW wind left me in good shape for any deer that didn't approach from the southeast.
I only had about a 300 yard walk to a tree I had already identified on a previous hunt. When I got to it, I overshot by about 15 yards, and jumped a doe less than 2 yards away from me. We both were quite surprised by each other. She must have been snoozing pretty good, and I had good sound cover. I actually think she smelled me, as I had walked slightly past her. I was excited by this prospect, and thinking I may have made the right call. I firmly believe had I gotten to my tree without overshooting, I could've set up with her never knowing less than 20 yards away.
When I got to height, it was a bit unnerving with the wind blowing. It felt much stronger than 15mph. The other thing I noticed is that the tree I was in topped out about 4' above my tether. I had imagined it much taller from the ground. This meant I was taking part in some real action each time the wind gusted. I decided to look at the weather more in depth, and it said "gusts up to 40mph"...Ah, makes more sense.
At about 8am, I had three does work in from the NNE. They were browsing along, and their path took them south of me about 60 yards. When the lead doe got in my wind, she flagged, and trotted off with the other two in tow. I was happy that I guess right, but a little annoyed I missed by such a small amount. I knew they were generally following that transition, and expected the deer to be/move along that edge. But I was getting blown all over in my tree. I decided I would get down, and work to the west a little, and either find a bigger tree or set up on ground for remainder of the day. I waited until 9, and hit the ground.
I made it about 150 yards, and picked up a heavy trail along the transition. I was looking up at trees to hang in, and at my map on phone, and trying to figure it all out. I found a tree that I thought may work about 30 yards away. I had been stalking through to this point, and continued that pace to the tree. About five yards short of it, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Here comes a really nice buck, in the thick cover paralleling that heavy trail. I drop to a knee and nock an arrow. He's about 40 yards out, nose down on a mission. I hit the grunt call and he didn't hear it. I blew it again much harder, but with the wind he never heard it.
I'm out in the open, so I know if I move, there's a really good chance he sees me even though he's kind of in the thick. I waited until he was out of sight, and backed up to keep him from crossing my wind. I looked at map to get an idea of where he was heading, and got a sick feeling. He was heading directly for that scrape/my morning set.
I waited about an hour, then eased up to the faint trail he was on. I picked up his tracks, and trailed them 150 yards, directly to the scrape I had been sitting over, that he worked. I was disgusted with myself.
I didn't get out of the tree because I was bored or didn't think I was in a good spot. I did it because I felt unsafe. But I should've stuck with my gut, and just made a ground set where I was. I thought about it a good bit before I made the move, but decided I wanted to see if I could improve set slightly. If I had been sitting on the ground south of that scrape, I'd very likely have had an opportunity at him.
I learned some stuff, so all is not lost. I learned to look at the extremes of the wind in the forecast if it calls for heavy winds. 40 is definitely not 15. I learned that I had the deer movement in this area in exact reverse. And that the sign I saw closer to access is the daytime movement, the sign further in is feeding/nighttime movement. I had assumed the deer felt comfortable and stayed in there given thick cover and access to good food. I learned, or rather, reinforced that big bucks will walk directly with the wind in thick cover. I've had a couple of aha moments over the last few years, and it took seeing it to believe it. But they do it. I learned that this spot is better for a direct north, or NE wind.
I don't think the buck ever got my wind. He most definitely crossed my trail at some point - but reading that sign all season - the deer have been doing that anyway. I feel pretty good I can work this spot and get onto this pattern over the next week or two. Hopefully I can pull it together.
I went to a different property, and set up for the evening in a spot I had scouted but hadn't hunted yet. I got set at 330pm, and at 350 had two does trot up out of nowhere and start feeding. I missed the first with a deflection, and stuck the second one on a longer weak side shot. It was a nice consolation prize.
TLDR - when you have a good spot, stick with it.