I ordered aerial photos of the Michigan area where I planned to hunt. After studying the aerial photos for a few hours, I found a few great hunting spots. Using a loupe for magnification, deer trails were just visible enough to reveal travel routes through the forest. My main focus was where many deer trails intersected each other; more deer crossed these spots than any other areas in the forest. Lucky for me, I found a handful of these spots in my hunting area.
I arrived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a day before the firearm deer season opened. I decided to spend the day scouting out a few spots I had found on the aerial photos. I planned to start with the farthest spot and hit two more spots on my way back to my truck. The farthest spot was about 1 ½ miles deep in the forest. I followed a power line clearcut for about 1 ¼ miles. The last ¼ mile was a very thick part of the forest. My destination hunting spot was a swamp that backed up to the base of a hill. Many deer trails merged together and intersected at this point.
After hiking for about forty minutes, I made my final approach to the swamp. I was only a few hundred yards from my final destination. The forest in front of me suddenly exploded with movement. Jackpot! I had inadvertently stumbled into a herd of deer that were bedded on the sunny hill next to the swamp. Deer quickly bounded away in the direction I was headed. This area was even better than I thought, so I quickly turned around and start heading back. I didn’t want to risk spooking any more deer in this area. This would be my primary hunting spot the next day. I had hoped to pick out which tree I would hunt from, but that would have to wait until morning. I stuck some glow tacks onto a few trees as I made my way back to the power lines. The glow tacks would make finding my hunting spot much easier the following morning when I walked in with a flashlight.
I was excited to return early the following morning with my rifle and backpack. With my flashlight beaming through the trees, I quickly returned to the spot where I had kicked up the bedded deer. Another short 300 yard walk and I was at my destination spot. I had a choice of sitting up on the side of the hill or sitting down on the edge of the swamp. I chose the edge of the swamp because it was more open for longer shots.
I found a large, old, rotting tree stump about 30 yards into the swamp. The start of shooting hours was only fifteen minutes away, so I quickly set up my hunting spot. The tree stump was lying sideways. It was just tall enough so that when I leaned against it the roots were a few inches above my head. The tree stump broke up my outline perfectly. The spot was also slightly elevated, so I could see over most of the swamp grass. I positioned myself facing the hill because the main deer trail was at the base of the hill where it met the swamp.
It wasn’t long until I heard shooting off in the distance. Then I heard a closer shot. It came from the direction of the main road where my truck was parked. I hoped the hunters closer to the road would inadvertently push deer in my direction.
Thirty minutes after shooting began, the sun started to rise. I was able to get a good look at my surroundings. My gut told me that this was a good hunting spot.
Finally, I caught some movement off to my right. A few does and fawns emerged from the tall grass about 50 yards away. They walked down the edge of the swamp and right up to my position. The deer were only about 15 yards away. I slowly leaned back into the tree stump and depended on my camouflage clothing to hide me among the roots. The lead doe seemed a little suspicious and was nervously looking around. She gazed toward me and the tree stump, but failed to pick me out against the roots. I think she smelled my scent on the ground where I had walked in. The doe then slowly lead the deer up onto the hill and they disappeared into the trees. I let the deer pass because I only had a Michigan buck tag, no doe tags.
I kept watch in the direction where the deer first appeared. Five minutes later I saw two more deer moving across the swamp in the distance, about 150 yards away. I could only see the upper portions of their torsos, but I had a feeling that the trailing deer was a buck. They disappeared before I could get my binoculars up. My eyes may have been playing tricks on me, but I could swear I caught a glimpse of a rack on that second deer.
I looked down at my watch. It had been an hour since shooting hours began. I was starting to get antsy. I was seeing deer, but I hadn’t closed a deal with a buck yet. At that moment, I heard a twig snap up on the hill. A few seconds later, a rack appeared from the trees. A buck walked down the hill, only 50 yards away. He was going down the same deer trail as the previous deer, but in the opposite direction.
I slowly raised my rifle and followed him with my scope. I didn’t want to shoot yet because the buck’s lower body was still behind some thick brush. The buck walked down to the base of the hill and stepped out into the open swamp. He was walking behind a few saplings, but I felt confident that I could make the shot. My adrenaline was pumping! I placed my scope’s crosshairs on his chest and fired. The buck instantly disappeared. I didn’t even see him fall. In the split second that I had fired and recovered from my rifle’s recoil, the buck was down. I walked over and found my buck lying in the swamp grass.