By Ben Wilcox
The 2023 deer season was maybe the most anticipated I can remember, and will go down as probably my toughest season yet. I say most anticipated because my 2022 season was really hampered by lack of mobility while recovering from major foot and ankle reconstruction surgery that summer. While I did get a smaller buck, It was a real challenging season.
Fast forward to 2023 and I could not wait for deer season to arrive. I had a few nice local bucks I knew about, a trip to Kentucky to look forward to, and a long weekend with friends up north, hopefully on snow.
Before I go any further, I should back up two seasons to when my streak of killing 1-3 big bucks for over a decade came to an end. I made a big mistake and karma has bitten me in the butt. While dragging a nice Ohio public land 8 pointer out of the woods at midnight, we had a cell cam take our picture. Instead of moving on we posed with the deer in front of the camera and chuckled that someone was getting pics of us in the middle of the night. From that moment on I’ve been paying the price with multiple big buck encounters gone wrong! 2023 was no different.
The 2023 bow season started off well. I had seen a small buck and a decent racked buck both out of bow range, and passed a handful of does in hopes a buck would be near. The latter half of the season was fairly uneventful and I could not quite figure out how to get close to a large buck in October.
November rolled around and my dad and I headed to Kentucky. After a few days of scouting/ hunting, I decided to set up a tree stand on small point of a hillside where I thought a buck would cruise through midday looking for does. At 10:30 the first morning in the stand a nice 8 pointer with a tall rack and big body cruised through and picked up the smell of four does that I had seen earlier. He cut behind my stand and when he was directly behind me, I was able to get a good shot from 7 yards. But when I pulled the trigger, the limb of my bow hit the tree and almost knocked the bow out of my hands. I knew the limb would expand and was consciously trying to keep the bow away from the tree and I still made the terrible mistake. I watched the deer bound away and hoped to hell I missed because there was no way I hit where I was aiming. Unfortunately, I had hit the deer and found a few drops of blood. We waited 4 hours and tracked the deer on marginal blood about 250 yards where we jumped him out of his bed. We decided to wait until morning and tracked on our hands and knees for a 1/2 mile finding a spec of blood here and there. Only because he stayed on a deer trail were we able to stay on him. He crossed a creek and headed straight up hill. We lost his track where other deer had been pawing in acorns during the night. The buck never bedded back down. Based on the broadhead and all of the evidence, I think I hit the deer in the rear end just in the meat of the hind quarter. It was a real shame and I was pretty upset about losing the deer. During the final two days of the hunt I passed up four bucks in the 115-130” range but never saw one I was willing to pull the trigger on.
The remainder of the season in the northeast was fairly uneventful. I had some fun hunting with my kids but we never saw a deer. I made every wrong move possible it seemed. I did get one day on snow up north and tracked a buck most of the day. I saw him once at 40 yards but just couldn’t get him in the crosshairs. Finally, on the last day of the VT muzzleloader season, I was still hunting in the rain. I passed up a small 4 point buck, then got a shot at a doe at 35 yards, and hit a tree. In utter disgust, I kept hunting through the pouring rain when a deer jumped up in the fog and gave me a 15 yard shot while on my way back to the truck. My dad picked up my 4 year old son and helped me drag out the deer. It was a rewarding way to end my most difficult and unsuccessful season I can remember. I really hope karma gets back on my side for 2024.
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