What a fall season we had here at RKE Afield! Our online store has launched and we have been fortunate enough to do some vendor events to help spread the word and get our name out. Also, I was able to harvest his biggest buck to date this year. It has truly been a great year.
Since the birth of RKE Afield in August, we have been blessed far more than I could have ever imagined and we have been able to reach people through multiple platforms. Through our live vendor events and social media outlets (follow us on Instagram and Facebook if you haven't already) we have reached out to Christ-loving outdoorsmen from multiple states. As of now, we know that RKE Afield gear is in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, and Arkansas and we hope to see that list grow in 2018.
This has also been a great year spent in the woods as I was able to harvest a nice 9-point Kentucky buck, the biggest that he has harvested yet.
On November 12, the woods were alive with deer activity and movement and I could tell that today was going to be the day that something was going to happen. I got into the stand around 5:30 that morning, about an hour and a half before sunrise. As quietly and quickly as I could, I lightly sprayed doe estrus on vegetation and small trees at about waist height as I walked to my stand. As I settled into my seat 20 feet in the air, I noticed the incredible silence of the woods. It was so quiet that the only thing I heard was the light ringing of my ears. There was a very slight calm wind at my face. Perfect. After about 45 minutes of sitting in the dark, silent woods, I began to hear light repetitive steps on the leaves behind my position. This lasted only a few seconds, I'm sure, but it felt like forever as the steps drew closer. It was still dark at this point but I was able to start to see the early morning glow in the air right before the sun rises. The kind of bluish, gray filter that seems to cover everything you look at this early in the morning.
Then the steps stopped around, if I had to guess, 30-40 yards behind me. And they stopped just long enough for me to chance a glimpse of a nice buck storming through the brush, with his nose to the ground, about 100 yards away from me to my left. It was about 6:30 am at this time, so all I could see was a nice bodied buck with something impressive headgear but still too dark for details. He continued to storm through at a quick prance staying around 100 yards, so I let out a few loud hail grunts with my grunt call to try to get him to change his course and head my way just in time for proper shooting light. This was risky because I still had this unknown deer behind me and I wasn't exactly sure where it was or what it was doing and I didn't want to spook it. But the buck ignored my call and continued on out of sight.
Then everything grew silent again and I began to feel like I may have just missed an opportunity at a nice buck because he simply had other plans. But I fought that feel and forced myself to stay optimistic because it was still very early in the hunt and a high of 36 degrees was in the forecast for the day. I mean the sun wasn't even up yet! As I sat in the stand, now able to see in the blue and gray glow of early morning, I relaxed and began looking and listening for movement again, not sure what happened to the mysterious deer behind me.
Twenty five more minutes passed with no noise or movement.
Then suddenly, a crash came from the treeline about 75 yards from my position. Three does followed by a young 6-point buck. The rut was on! It was official. I watched this young buck frantically harass these does for a few minutes when I noticed something moving slowly to the right. There he was. One of my "hitlist" bucks for the year! I had nicknamed him "Funky" (yeah, a weird name but it served its purpose) when I first saw him on camera in August. I called him Funky, well, because his antlers were very atypical and abnormal. He was standing tall and making his way toward the does and young buck. I only had a small window between the branches of surrounding trees to have a clear shot. I raised my gun to my shoulder and found him in my scope, still slowly walking. About the time he made his way to the "window" in between the trees, he turned toward me and was facing my direction. He hadn't detected me and had no clue that I was in his world but I knew he was interested in those does so I had to act quickly before he decided to start chasing. I feared that he would run off before offering a broadside shot. So I took it.
My Savage Axis 30-06 rang out and broke up the calm morning. He ran toward me into the thick brush that separated my stand and where he was standing. He knew he had been hit and was running toward cover. The other deer reacted to the sound of the shot but were confused at what had happened. Once he hit the thick cover, he quickly slowed down and then I saw him drop. He was down. I shot him at about 75 yards and he dropped about 50 yards from me. Easy recovery.
This was certainly the highlight of the hunting season up to this point but between dove hunts, some unsuccessful fall turkey hunts, taking my son on squirrel hunts, taking my brother-in-law out to help him take his first deer, and taking a doe with a bow, it was definitely an exciting season. Every season I learn something new in my pursuit for wild meat and this year was no exception. This knowledge is what drives future hunts. The experience of being in the woods and drawing closer to God and His Creation is always beneficial regardless of the result. Hunting is one of those great things in life that teaches you lessons despite the outcome. Past seasons have produced some quality does and other seasons have produced some basically empty freezers. But this year was different. My freezer is now full and I have antlers hanging on the wall. My hope is that next year is more exciting and eventful with more meat in this freezer. But that's the thing about hunting, you just never know.
Either way, I'll be in pursuit.
By: Tyler Pruitt
Co-Owner, RKE Afield