North Dakota - A negative forty degree night in December with blowing snow; sounds like a nice night to be sitting by a fire in a cabin, and drinking a hot cup of hot chocolate. To some, the thought of stepping outside in conditions like those could seem downright insane. To me? Well, let’s flash back to an evening this past December to find out.
It was Friday, December 9th in eastern North Dakota. I was sitting in a ground blind in the conditions described above. To say it was cold would be a major understatement. It was downright miserable. I was sitting over a standing cornfield, ready for the deer to start moving at any second. But let’s take a step back for a second so you can understand how I got into this position in the first place.
In the summer of 2015, I transferred colleges, requiring me to move from Northern Minnesota, across the state and into North Dakota. The type of deer hunting was night and day different. I went from hunting an urban area combined with big northern forests, to vast public lands with hardly any terrain. The 2015 season was full of learning the landscape, and understanding how deer moved in my new hunting environment. Though I was not successful, my hunting partner Tyler was able to arrow a 180” monster we had found on a small piece of public land. I might not have harvested a buck in my new home state, but I was able to learn a lot about how the deer moved, and there was a great success with Tyler putting down our top target buck.
Fast forward to the summer of 2016 – going into our second season in North Dakota, we had high aspirations. More than anything, I wanted to harvest an early season mature buck. I ran fifteen to twenty trail cameras in the summer, spent a lot of time glassing bean fields in the evenings, and ended up getting schooled by any and every mature buck I went after. It wasn’t until the rut that I had frequent mature buck encounters. On November 17th, I even arrowed a mature nine pointer I had been after, but unfortunately hit the buck square in the shoulder and never found him (I later confirmed he survived). After the rut came and went, December brought nasty weather, and I knew deer would be transitioning to food sources in a hurry.
The first week of December I spent a lot of time searching for a food source that I thought would be holding a mature buck. After receiving some intel from a buddy, I was able to locate a piece of land on December 9th that anybody could hunt, and the cornfield that was on it hadn’t been harvested by the farmer. Right away, I knew this would be a great spot, as it was the best food source for miles. I threw up a ground blind as quickly as I could, and settled in for the hunt.
As I said at the top, it was frigidly cold. With the wind chill, it was pushing negative forty degrees, and the blowing snow didn’t make it any more enjoyable. After an hour or so of sitting, deer started to move. I looked to my left, and before I knew it, I had over thirty deer approaching me. It was unlike anything I had ever witnessed before.
A screenshot from the video, as a number of deer head towards me.
As I watched all of the deer head my direction through the viewfinder on my camera, I noticed two big bucks in the group. This is when the shakes started to set in. Combined with the cold, I was shaking worse than a leaf about to fall off a tree.
The deer started to close the distance when all of the sudden, I caught movement to my right. There stood a big mature buck less than five yards from me. We locked eyes for a split second, and the buck took off. This is where he made his mistake. After running about thirty yards, he stopped to look back at me. This was ultimately his demise. I nestled my pin on the center of his body, took a deep breath, and let the arrow fly. The buck took off in a mad dash, only to make it to where all of the other deer stood and watched. The buck collapsed in sight, and I instantly lost my mind in the blind. I literally sprinted back to the truck, called a buddy, and had to take off my boots so I could put my feet by the vents to warm them up before going out to recover the buck.
So much work went into this hunt. It might have been my first hunt in this area, but an unprecedented amount of work preceded the night. Somewhere around 70-80 sits in a treestand. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of hours spent scouting, shed hunting, hanging stands and trail cameras, and hunting went into this hunt. This buck truly means so much to me. As a whitetail hunter, moments like these are what we live for. The struggle and hardship make the success so much sweeter. It was a lot of work to put down my first North Dakota whitetail, but when it finally came together, it couldn’t have been any better.
Alex Comstock is the founder of www.whitetaildna.com To see more from him visit his website, and follow him on social media. Facebook.com/Whitetaildna, Twitter @WhitetailDNA, and Instagram @Whitetail_DNA