The Blacktail season opened for rifle hunters on the 10th of September, but busy with work, I had very little time to hunt or do much scouting in the early season. Having been unsuccessful for Moose this year, the freezer was getting a little lean as well, so when the October rains began to fall, I kicked it into high gear to try and put a buck or two on the ground.
It’s a popular area that I am hunting and it’s been getting quite a bit of hunting pressure, so if I was going to have a chance at a decent blacktail, I was going to have to work a little harder and smarter than the rest. It wasn’t until the first week of November when the action started getting a little hotter and I was starting to see deer everyday.
On the logging roads, and sitting in my ambush spots by 6:00am was the key, as I was beating everyone into the area, and getting first crack at hopefully seeing something. There was a whack of sign on two of the lower roads in the area and there is literally fresh deer tracks every night, all over the road, fresh rubs and by the sign there was there has definitely been some good bucks running around.
On Wednesday morning, about 6:00 I pulled up to the slash, I was going to hunt in the dark still, and shut off the bike. Slowly the sounds of early morning in the forest start to take over again and all was pretty still and quite. 5 minutes had gone by when I heard some twigs snapping up the road ahead of me… I waited patiently, and all of a sudden two deer jumped out onto the road about 150 yards ahead of me… My instincts had me immediately watching the trailing deer with my Binos and he was definitely a buck, not huge but a decent 2 or 3 point (too dark too tell) and the deer in front was another 2 point as well. The deer were on the road for about 15 seconds or so and then hopped into the slash. I slowly snuck off my quad and into the slash behind an old stump to see if I could get a better view of these two bucks.
Fast forward the next day, Thursday morning, same deal…. Out of bed and in the area I want to hunt by 6:00am. I’ve beaten all the hunters again, and pretty much have first choice where I want to go. I parked my quad a few yards back from the section of road where all the deer are crossing, and started slowly walking in. It was near pitch dark as I slowly walked down the logging road where all of the deer action seemed to be happening and with a controlled burst of my headlamp was able to confirm, that once again the road was littered with fresh tracks.
As I slowly and quietly rounded the first corner to where I had a little bit of visibility, I heard a crash in the brush up ahead… Throwing up the glasses I had a deer in the frames right away. It looked like a buck, but still too dark to make out what his head gear was let alone try and shoot, so I patiently waited for a bit more light….
The buck wasn’t in a hurry and slowly crept out of the ditch, and onto the road where I could get a better look… Confirming he was definitely a buck, but still no idea on size/points in the low light. He slowly meandered down the edge of the road from me, and I tried to keep up with him as quietly as I could. But he had rounded the corner and out of my sight… I had been following these deer for a while, and knew where he was likely going to cross out of the timber again to get to his bedding area….
It took a minute or two, but I finally arrived to where the buck was standing when I first saw him and could see by the looks of his tracks he was a pretty big bodied deer. A few more minutes down the road and I was just about to where they cross again and into the timber, when I see a Doe up ahead just jumping into the thick stuff, so up the go glasses and there he is! The buck is in the middle of the road, really big bodied deer but not much for headgear and in the early light he looked like a big 2 or a really small 3 point… After watching him for a minute or two, once again I decided there had to be a better buck around and reluctantly let the deer go. The rest of the morning was once again, uneventful.
6:00 Friday morning rolled around pretty quickly and I found myself back on the logging road under the guiding light of my headlamp slowly working my way into the same spot where I’d been seeing all the deer the last few days. Parking the quad and starting to walk in the dark, I wanted to get back as far down the road as I could, so at first light I’d be in their crossing zone for an ambush. After about 45 minutes I’d covered the entire section of road, and now the morning light was upon me. Contemplating, turning around and going back to the quad, or walking another mile or so of road and looping through the slash to my quad… Seeing there was nobody else out, and I hadn’t heard anyone else running about I decided to finish my walk, maybe, just maybe I’d luck out on a buck.
As luck would have it… About another 1/2 mile into my hike I was coming into another area where slash meets heavy timber, and low and behold caught movement up the road, and slightly downhill from my position. Throwing up the glasses, I confirmed it was a good buck right away, well at least better than anything I’d seen yet. Only about 150 yards away, he had his nose right up this does butt and was really trying hard to get her back into the timber…
I had about 5 seconds to study the buck and then made the decision I’d be a fool to pass up this gimme so I jacked a shell into my gun, up went the crosshairs onto his chest and just before he decided to jump the ditch in pursuit of the doe I squeezed my finger and the .270 let out a bark. Pretty sure I hit him, I briskly walked down the road expecting to see him lying there, as I got a little closer I could see he wasn’t there… SHIT, I thought, maybe I hit him too far back…? Sure enough as I got closer, he was there in the ditch trying to get his feet back under him for an escape, so quickly, I jacked another shell into the chamber and finished him off with a clean shot to the vitals.
Really nice idea. hoping that I can try this one too. I am now engaging on whitetail hunting. Nice sharing of ideas. I really like it.
awesome i just moved to the island and i have a 243 tikka. very nice deer how much did he weigh cuz the dear in my front yard are no bigger than a dog. and where in Vancouver island.
Thanks for your comment. A .243 Tikka will make a great Island deer gun. The big deer in the post maybe weighed 130-150 lbs or so. They are not very big deer but they taste good. These deer are from Parksville/Qualicum area.
I just moved here to French creek and I would like to go deer hunting. There are a lot of gates closing off roads to get into the mountains. Can u tell me how to get into the back roads?
Yeah, gates are a problem we all run into… If you have a dirt bike, quad or even a bicycle you can use that. The further north on the Island you go the less gates you’ll encounter. You also have the option of parking at the bottom and walking up. That’s actually the better option. Spend a half day going for a walk up some spurs around Horne Lake… The biggest thing with these deer I have found is you need to be up and in your area well before first light. You should also pickup a backroads map book.
Good luck this season!
Were you hunting at night? Isn’t that illegal in BC?
No, I was not hunting at night.
Sounds like great tactics. I am going to go north on the island this fall and try to out-distance other hunters and put myself in a denser deer population. I shot a cougar inside 25yds a couple of years ago while deer hunting but he was good too!
Sounds like a good plan. I’ve ran into a couple people on the Island now who’ve shot cougars at very close range, while hunting other game.
Great story. I live in French creek and me and my dad are planning on going up Horne lake and bring the bikes to see if there’s any deer around there. Where else do you think would be good for deer hunting up northern island maybe Duncan or nanaimo?
I’ve had decent luck using scent attractant during the rut on the Island. A half dozen bears or so have fallen to spot and stalk hunts in the mid Island area. From Nanaimo Lakes to Cameron River I’ve only seen three does, no bears and no chickens. It’s been a tough year for me.
Thanks Travis! Horne Lake is a good area with tons of spur roads and areas to park the bikes and go for a hike. I don’t know much about the deer hunting around Duncan or Nanaimo as I’ve never hunted there.
We don’t really play with scents too much we just watch the wind and hunt accordingly. I’ve lost count of how many deer I’ve seen this year. My son shot his first buck after passing on a few spikes and two points, we’ve seen a few good bucks we never had opportunities at too and another good buck we should have shot but he outsmarted us. We just focus on 1-3 year old slashes and any of the creeks/cliffs that surround them. Walk in early morning, late afternoon. Last season was a frustrating one for me, seemed like everyone was seeing deer but me!
Howdy, not sure if you’ll see this. Or where to properly write you but in a second year hunter, basically my first year I just hunted with drivers last year. Anyway this year I made it my goal to get a buck. So I bought books, studied them cover to cover over and over write notes, circled things and underlined things, I talked to older experienced hunters in the area and scouted a lot by hiking the timber/ ridges meadows and still hunting.
What I’ve found is an area up a mountain, it’s a meadowy/swampy/pond area surrounded by thick timber and a few quiet logging roads. Elevation is real high and getting cold. I found tracks on the roads leading to game trails leading to a lot a lot a lot of sign. Every time I take a quiet walk through the area I see a lot of deer. 20+ does in 3 days. No bucks yet. I usually head up after work and scout/hunt till dark and on weekends before sunrise. MY question is this, it’s only late September but if doe like this area that much would bucks too? Do you imagine there’s bucks around? I thought I found a rub but not positive. Or is the only sign I can gather from the amount of doe sightings that I’ve got myself a dynamite spot in the pre-rut and rut? Looking forward to my first buck and hoping it’ll be a good one!
Any advice and wisdom and knowledge would be greatly appreciated
If you’ve found a good spot with lots of Doe activity, you bet there will be bucks coming around. They are there now, but it’s a little early for them to be acting real stupid. Keep looking for sign. Still hunt it for a few hours early morning and till dark if you can get a good vantage with visibility. Blacktails are tough to hunt, best of luck to you!
This is my first year hunting. I’ve been going to an area between Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan. It’s a rugged road that takes me up a mountain to a lake and a larger network of active logging roads. I’ve come across a couple deer more towards the base of the mountain, but no sightings of deer around the lake. I see bear signs everywhere and have spooked a couple during my exploring. There haven’t been a ton of deer signs in the area other than what look like beds and one unique rock ledge/platform that had quite a lot of scat.
Reaching the ledge is test in persistence. The thick forest is nearly impossible to push through, so I’ve trekked along the ridge of the old growth and second growth. Even the second growth is rough with old downed trees littering the ground, the remnants of logging work. The attempt at being stealthy in the terrain is pointless as every step comes with either snapping branches underfoot or the harsh scrapes and brushing of foliage against my clothing. Am I making this endeavor harder than it needs to be? The elevation of the lake is 2200ft or so. Should I be focusing on lower elevation? Or would the presence of bear push the deer away from area? Should I drop down to where I’ve actually seen deer in the past?
Any thoughts would be great!
Thank you for taking the time to leave a detailed comment. Being stealthy in some of the country these deer live in is pretty tough. I always try and find a good vantage point and still hunt it for a few hours, always trying to arrive to my spot before first light. If it’s windy or rainy it can be a lot better for hiking through the thick stuff as there won’t be as much noise. If you are seeing deer lower down then that is where I would be hanging around. The does are going to have bucks in tow really soon. Regarding the bears I’ve watched blacktails and bears feeding in the same cut before within 100 yards of each other and they didn’t seem to mind. I think some cats in the area would have more effect.
It sounds like you have a good area with fresh deer sign and obvious activity. Keep at it. This is one of the harder parts of hunting, having the patience and perseverance to keep going when it’s not producing. If you’ve pounded that area hard for a few days, try somewhere else to break it up or come at it from a different angle. Sometimes the switch-up in areas leads to connecting or has for me in the past. There will be a buck that makes a mistake when you are in his vicinity.
Let us know if you put one down.