South Dakota 2018

Hunt For A South Dakota Giant

Though it would have been nice to be able to kick back, relax and maybe do a bit of bowhunting around our homes, Jake and I instead found ourselves in my pickup headed for a bowhunt in western South Dakota just a week after returning from North Dakota. To be very honest though, both of us were really looking forward to this trip, as we’d be reuniting with our long time friends Pat and Branden West at Dakota Ranch Outfitters. And it was very apparent after our second evening hunt that we’d made the right call. During the final half-hour of daylight, we saw and filmed a giant 7×6 whitetail that eventually made his way to within 35 yards. But although the brute deer was well within bow range, he never offered a decent shot angle before abruptly turning and walking away.

With the wind direction wrong to hunt the giant buck the third evening, Jake and I decided to forego hunting a different area and instead spent the final two hours of daylight shooting some supplemental video footage and taking a few scenic photos.

Even though a steady rain was in the forecast, a perfect wind direction the fourth evening found us right back at the stand where we’d had the close call with the big whitetail. Not long after getting settled two big bucks showed up. One of those deer, a massive bodied 9-point with skyscraper brow tines, was very familiar to us–as my cameraman Matt Tande had laid down some footage of him during a bowhunt with me in this same area a couple years earlier. But even though he’s definitely a 5 1/2 year-old deer, I decided to pass him up once again in hopes that the giant buck would make an appearance.

As it turned out, we didn’t have to wait long to discover that passing the long brow tine buck was a wise choice. Because about 15 minutes after he’d walked out of sight the 7×6 did indeed show up. Initially, he was 75 yards straight out from our stands. But over the next few minutes he slowly cut the distant to 35 yards before stopping to survey his surroundings. Unfortunately for me he was standing at a head-on angle. After a few minutes though, he started walking and actually got to within 25 yards before stopping again. Thinking the big deer would end up doing exactly what the long brow tine buck had done earlier, I got ready to take my shot. But as I soon found out the old deer had no intentions of doing what the other buck had done. Instead of taking that “one more step” into a perfect shot position, he made an abrupt right turn and slowly walked away and out of sight.

With perfect wind conditions in the forecast, and because the giant whitetail hadn’t detected our presence on either of the encounters we ‘d had, we decided to spend the last two evenings hunting him. To sum up the results from those two hunts, I once again passed up a ‘gimme’ 15 yard shot at the long brow tine buck and also let a mature 8-pointer walk.

It wasn’t until we were having dinner with Branden after our final hunt that we discovered why the trophy whitetail had been a no-show the last two evenings. As it turns out, he’d been killed by a bowhunter on an adjoining landowner’s property the morning after we’d had our second close encounter with him. So we’d spent our last two evenings hunting a giant buck that was no longer alive. (FYI–The 7×6 ended up gross scoring in the mid-180’s!)

While Jake and I certainly experienced one of deer hunting’s ultimate disappointments in South Dakota, we’ve  still managed to keep things in perspective. To begin with, we understand how privileged we were to have a true world class whitetail within bow range on two separate occasions. And the fact that Jake was able to lay down some incredible footage of the deer on both occasions makes us feel even more privileged. Stuff like that just doesn’t happen very often!

And now we’re back in our home state of Wisconsin, waiting for conditions to get right for putting the hunt on a couple big bucks we have pinpointed here. I’ll keep you up to date on how things are going in future blogs.