As the Associate Editor of North American Whitetail, Haynes spends all year covering stories about hunters across North America that have taken incredible whitetails. When fall finally rolls around, Haynes says he's always eager to get out, hunt and seek that kind of success for himself and this fall didn't disappoint. From September to November, Haynes killed three great whitetails, two of which he recaps here. First he takes us to Adams County, Ohio which is historic big buck territory. Haynes says he was hunting a mature 6 ½ year old bruiser with a warrior's disposition. In 2019 this buck broke off his right beam entirely, right down to the base and lost one of his eyes in a fight. In early November of this year, the buck again broke his right beam, although not the entire antler this time. Haynes was able to get the shot on the old warrior and ended up with his first crossbow harvest on the massive 300-pound buck. In late November, Haynes headed to Missouri for a rifle hunt. Set up in a box blind over a standing bean field, he says he had the ability to shoot out to 300-yards with his rifle. However, despite that longer range capability, his 5 ½ year old target buck came out right beside the blind at about 8 yards. He notes that there was a brief moment of chaos in the blind as he and a cameraman readjusted, opened windows and got dialed in for a split second shot opportunity. In the end, he knocked down a big 8-point at only 12 yards. "It was a rut rifle encounter that was in bow range," Haynes says.
Unlike Haynes, not every shot you make will be 12 yards and not every shot will be perfect, that's why all hunters need to have a good understanding of reading sign after the shot and blood trailing deer. Immediately after the shot it's important to try to identify where you shot your deer and also watch for body language to tell you where you hit and potentially how long it will take for the animal to expire. In addition, Haynes says that getting an accurate visual marker of where the animal is standing before sending your bullet or arrow is important. Any time you get down from a treestand or get out of a blind and begin to walk to where you think the animal was standing, things can look different than they did from your blind or tree stand vantage. By picking a landmark or using a rangefinder to get an exact distance on the animal, you make it easier to find first blood which ultimately is crucial in recovering your animal. Once you find first blood, be sure to mark it and every other indication of blood, hair and even depressions in the ground or hoof prints made by the animal running away. By marking all of these signs it gives you the ability to back trail if necessary. Another critical part of blood trailing, Haynes says, is being careful not to walk on the actual trail. This can be difficult when you're in a tight spot with a lot of brush, however anything you can do to leave the trail undisturbed will make it easier to find and recover the animal, especially when blood is minimal. Much of what determines a successful recovery is making sure you give the animal an adequate time to expire without bumping them. You can never be too safe if you are even the least bit unsure of how accurate your shot placement was, Haynes says. It's always to your advantage to back out and give the animal a little time before you take up the trail. How long you wait depends a lot on where you hit the animal and Haynes emphasizes the importance of being smart about analyzing the blood you encounter to help you determine what kind of hit you made. By rushing in too soon a hunter could create a nightmare situation where they spook the animal and send them running with a shot of adrenaline that will have them covering a lot of ground, more than they ever would have if they were left alone for long enough to expire in the first place. At this point, the animal could cross property lines or a blood trail could go cold and leave a hunter with their hands tied and greatly diminish the chances of recovery. Being able to read sign on the ground, analyze blood and give an animal enough time to expire are all crucial factors in successful recovery.
Finally, Haynes talks about the most recent issue of North American Whitetail magazine that features a historic buck on the cover taken over 60 years ago by a hunter named Fredrick Kyress in Pennsylvania. This buck is one of the top ten typical whitetails of all time with a gross score of 219 2/8 and a net score of 202 ⅞. There is a lot of mystery involved with this story and as such, a lot of the details about this deer are unknown, Haynes says, but it's a really cool story that people need to read. At one point this historic rack that nobody knew about was tucked away in a barn, then it went to an antique store and flea market where it sold for just $40. From there, Haynes says, it finally made it into the public space and now it has a chance to be honored and appreciated. You can find the story in the December/January issue of North American Whitetail. It's just a really outstanding story about a sleeper buck that nobody knew about, Haynes says.
Be sure to pick up a subscription of North American Whitetail. A one year subscription is less than $10.00 right now and that includes digital access along with the print edition. You should also watch the big buck action going down on North American Whitetail TV on Sportsman Channel, Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET or anytime on MyOutdoorTV.