Arkansas 2018 “Buck Blocked”
by Eric Hall
When Darren Taylor invited me to hunt with him in Arkansas I was grateful and excited. I had never hunted outside of Ohio. Over the past three years, I began to dream of hunting whitetails in other states with other weapons. Ohio is a one buck state, and the opportunity to harvest multiple bucks in the same year drove my desire to travel. Thanks to Darren’s generosity that dream was coming true.
|Crossing over into Arkansas
November 15th, 2018 we left North East Ohio and the icy conditions behind and headed south towards Arkansas. My friend Jim had to work, so we left at 6:30 PM and drove through the night. We arrived at Darren’s home in Arkansas around 10 AM. After settling in, we looked at trail camera photos and discussed our strategy for the quick trip. We planned to hunt Friday afternoon, Saturday morning and afternoon, and Sunday morning before heading back to Ohio. It would be a whirlwind trip 4 hunts over 3 days and 28 plus hours of driving. After our strategy session, we grabbed a quick nap before heading out for the afternoon hunt.
Darren and his hunting partner Brad Leggett chose to hunt Cabot farm because their other property (Scott farm) was mostly underwater due to the rain and their continued struggle with beavers. The beavers dam up a portion of their creek and cause flooding in their hunting ground on the Scott farm. The battle with the beavers is ongoing and for now, the beavers are winning.
The Cabot farm is a 400 plus acre mix of fields, blocks of timber and a 95-acre lake. The property abuts a wildlife refuge with limited open deer hunting seasons. They have several stands placed throughout the property including many box blinds and ladder stands. Food plots were put in around the farm, shooting lanes cut, access in and out of the stands is planned and managed. In short, it is a paradise for wildlife and those who pursue them.
|Jim and I in the Elizabeth stand
Friday evening and Saturday Morning we hunted a stand they called the Elizabeth stand. It is situated at the corner of a large block of pine trees and hardwoods with 800-yard food plots to the left and the right. Although this is Brad’s favorite stand, he was gracious enough to allow Jim and I to hunt this stand. The temperatures were above normal Friday evening with highs near 70 degrees and the movement was slow. We saw one deer across the food plot in a block of timber they call the 40. It was walking in the woods but never broke cover. Daylight faded into darkness without seeing any more deer.
|Food Plot on North Stand
Saturday at 5 AM we made our way back to the Elizabeth stand. We had just settled in and we heard a deer sloshing through the water headed straight for us. It was still dark, but the deer walked directly under our stand and into the block of timber. Unfortunately, that was the only deer that morning and it was well before daylight.
Saturday afternoon at 2:30 PM we moved to the North stand overlooking a nice food plot on the north end of the property. The stand sets up at with the food plot in front of the stand and timber to the left and the right. Daren’s son Cole dropped us off at the North stand and proceeded down the trail to our left 250 yards to the Zebra stand. This is the “Scene Of The Crime”!
Darren put us in that stand because they had a nice buck on camera visiting that food plot almost every evening. Prior to climbing in the stand, I sprayed some Doe in Heat in the food plot edge to help cover
our scent and draw out the deer. I had just climbed back into the stand and settled into my chair when the report of Cole’s .270 echoed through the woods. I immediately texted Darren asking if that was Cole. Sure enough, it was!
ThermoScent (click link here to find out more)
Cole walked down the trail and hung his pink ThermoScent in the tree. ThermoScent was developed by Darren as a way to solve scent delivery in the field. 1) it keeps rain and snow from diluting the scent. 2) It keeps you from contaminating yourself with scent. 3) ThermoScent is 100% reusable including the heat pack. 4) It heats the scent making for a more realistic presentation. As Darren puts it, “What smells better hot pizza or cold pizza?” I sprayed Doe In Heat, but the addition of heat in Coles’ ThermoScent was the difference maker! I was about to be “BUCKBLOCKED”!!!
|Darren and Cole with 11 pt
Cole hung his ThermoScent and climbed into the stand. Minutes later, a buck appeared and headed straight to his ThermoScent attractant. The whitetail made his way quickly through the timber and stopped at the ThermoScent a mere 40 yards away. Cole shouldered his .270 and took the shot. The buck ran 20 yards and Cole heard him fall. Cole had his buck! The 17-year-old Taylor and his ThermoScent had ” BUCK BLOCKED” me on my hunt. This was the deer that Darren had set me up for, and Cole had him down 15 minutes into his first hunt of the season. Obviously, we were all happy for Cole but also frustrated that we had been hunting hard and he killed one within 15 minutes of his first sit. Cole even skipped the morning hunt to sleep in which added insult to injury to the rest of us! In my 20 years of hunting, this is the first time I can say I was “BUCK BLOCKED” on a hunt, but it couldn’t have happened to a better young man!
Our hunt ended at dark with two doe moving through the plot at 200 yards. I had my gun up checking if I could see through it with the low light. I missed seeing them come in. My cameraman thought I was on them and set in to film the shot. Mis-communication during the hunt is a common error of filming hunts and we definitely fell victim to it that day. When we finally communicated, it was very dark and finding the deer in the Nikon was difficult. We let the deer pass without taking an unethical shot and potentially wounding the deer.
|Rifle ready at Green Stand
Sunday morning I hunted alone in another stand called the Green stand. It is an enclosed blind on the corner of the South end of timber just off the wildlife refuge. This stand provided a 150 yard shot in either the left or right. There is a small clearing in the timber 30 yards wide and 80 yards in front of the stand. Just after daylight, a doe made her way up the edge of the timber from the refuge. I had my rifle positioned to shoot quickly at a deer in the timber gap because I felt they could get past it very quickly. She was coming on a string up the edge of the timber and was at 90 yards. I chose to let her come and would shoot her in front of the stand. Unfortunately, the deer had other plans and ducked into the timber at 80 yards and never resurfaced. The morning ended without any more deer sightings and it was time to pack up and head to Ohio.
|Darren and me
I told Darren “hunting is not harvesting” and meant every word. Although I was leaving Arkansas without filling a tag, I felt fulfilled in the hunts we had. The movement was slower than normal, Arkansas duck season opened Saturday but we still had great sits in the field. Being afield with good friends and enjoying mother nature is why I choose to hunt whitetail deer. Harvesting is a bonus to the experience, not the experience itself. I left Arkansas with the same mindset I had when we discussed making the trip last winter. I was grateful for the opportunity to meet new hunters who have Whitetail OCD! Grateful to Darren and Brad for opening their property to me. Grateful to be able to experience the beautiful landscape, the crisp mornings and calm evenings. Grateful that Cole harvested a wall hanger while we were in camp. Grateful that we all were going home safe and sound. Grateful that Jim made the trip with me and was willing to film the hunts. Grateful that Mother Nature provides in such bounty and that people like Darren and Brad are the stewards of the land they are. I left excited too. Excited to come back next year, Thompson Center in hand and sit this amazing property.
Darren and Brad, thank you for being who you are and welcoming us to Arkansas. I look forward to our next hunt together and appreciate your hospitality.