South Dakota Spot and Stalk Whitetail
South Dakota Spot and Stalk Whitetail
A story of Public land Hunting archery hunting
I was talking with Marc Smith on my podcast yesterday and we were talking about not getting hung up on hunting a certain way or in a certain area which reminded me of a story of my South Dakota Whitetail from 2015 and I realized I had never released a film or even an article about this hunt. It was my first spot and stalk “Midwest whitetail”. I have spent a lot of time stalking Coues whitetail here in my home state of Arizona and have done my fair share of “still hunting” back east for whitetail but never did a true spot and stalk hunt for Midwest or Eastern whitetail.
I had set out to hunt during the rifle season in south Dakota on an OTC archery tag, with my main focus to be on mule deer. My last few outings to SD had been for whitetail out of tree stands in the black hills, so I was looking to change it up. My line of thinking was that rifle season opened in the black hills and the prairie was still closed to rifle hunters so I would have run of the place. After pouring over maps in conjunction with prior knowledge of the area I chose to hunt the outskirts or the badlands adjacent the black hills.
My time was limited I had 4 days to hunt and I wanted to utilize the opportunity. So when I first arrived we head straight out to where I wanted to start for the next morning’s hunt to check access. As I feared most of the public land I had cyber scouted was landlocked by private with zero access. We were glassing up deer from the county road on public but couldn’t get to them. I knew I had to start thing outside the box a bit.
So the next morning I decided to hit the grasslands outside of the blackhills it was almost all public and we got into deer almost immediately. However, I spent the whole day looking at 2 points and immature deer. 30% of my hunt was already over and I still didn’t really have a place to focus my efforts on. I knew I needed to find a place that was conducive to bowhunting spot and stalk and that held deer. I kept going back to the idea of hunting the cedar breaks just outside the balckhills. But how would I access that?
After spending the better part of the evening pouring over maps and satellite I realized there was a burn area in the black hills that we could glass and hunt through that would take us to a secluded breaks areas that was just off the blackhills national forest. We spent the first part of the morning still hunting through the burn and down off the top into the timber and eventually made it to where we could see the breaks from a high vantage point. Still hunting the Hills turned up lots of buck sign tracks, rubs and scrapes I knew we were in a good area, and I felt that since there was a lot of bang, bang, pow, pow going on that these deer would seek sanctuary in those breaks. I was right! that afternoon we turned up several deer including a mule deer that was on the edge of what I was willing to shoot on that trip.
The evening came to a close and we finally had a direction so the next morning in the cover of dark we headed straight for the breaks and spent the morning glassing for the right buck. I had seen a few shooter whitetail cruising by the creek bottoms, but no mule deer I wanted to hang my tag on. So that evening I made up my mind I was going to try and stalk one of these creek bottom whitetail bucks.
Last full day of hunting we woke up to snow in the hills so we decided to glass the burn from the road before we headed to out hidey hole because I knew deer would be more visible. I was only able to turn up one small buck so we quickly made our way to a vantage point that over looked the creek bottom and the hills where the deer would come out of. I had watched several deer and how they used the creek and had located several “S” bends in the creek via satellite that I knew would have creek crossings. And like a well written story that afternoon a group of does worked their way out of the cedars and down to the creek followed by a buck several hundred yards behind them scent trailing. We were on the short side of the triangle if that makes sense the distance from us to them was the B side “2nd longest” the distance from them to the creek was the C side “the longest” the distance form us to the creek was the A side the shortest( Pythagorean theorem ). Well I knew from watching the day before where they were going so when the buck popped up high on the ridge in the breaks I knew I had to beat him down to the creek or at least try.
As luck would have it we arrived at the creek crossing and congregation area shortly after the deer got there. Preoccupied by the does we were able to slip into 95 yards and wait out the buck to give me a shot. After 10 mins or so the does finally cleared and he was standing broadside slightly quartering to, when I drew back anchored and sent an arrow in his direction. Unfortunately I hit him high and clipped his spine. He had taken a few steps forward since I had last ranged him at 95 and was more like 91 yards he immediately hit the ground but I knew we needed to get another one in him. We dashed crossed the creek to the shot site to put the finishing shot on him. We had done it! My cameraman and I shot a Midwest whitetail spot and stalk on film all in 4 days on ground I never hunted before. It felt good to be presented with so many obstacles and still be able to come out on top.
I wrote this story to share a lesson and to help remind myself that thinking outside the box and not being married to one idea to make it happen is critical to being successful. Had I stuck with my original plans and not been mobile and adapt to my situation I would have ate that tag for sure.