Bulls and Bucks with Aaron Hepler

Show Notes

Who doesn’t love a good hunting story? This week, the How to Hunt Deer Podcast takes a break from the normal whitetail strategy talk to focus on some awesome stories of success from the field with a few hiccups along the way. In this episode of the How to Hunt Deer Podcast, Josh talks with Aaron Hepler about his stellar fall when he was able to tag his first elk and a great public land whitetail in Pennsylvania.

Aaron is a diehard public land hunter. He shares his knowledge and experience of chasing public land whitetails on a couple of different outlets including Truth from the Stand and Exodus Outdoor Gear blogs. But he doesn’t just write about it. The proof is in the pudding, and Aaron is incredibly consistent in getting on above average deer on public ground. Last September, Aaron put his skill to the test hunting elk in Colorado and was able to tag a great bull just a few hours into the hunt. A few weeks later, Aaron was also able to take an awesome PA public land buck. Check out this episode to hear how it all went down!

Show Transcript

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Josh Raley: Welcome to the How to Hunt Deer Podcast, which is brought to you by TACTACAM. This podcast aims to educate those who are interested in becoming deer hunters, rushing up on a central skills, or maybe just adding a few new tactics to the toolkit. We cover a variety of topics that will help you be more confident and successful in the field while you're hunting deer.

Thank you so much for tuning in this week. I'm your, Josh Raley, we've got a great episode in store for you today. I catch up with my buddy Aaron Heppler. Uh, if you've been listening to the show for a while, you heard from [00:01:00] Aaron way back before the beginning of the season. We talked a bit about, uh, pre-season scouting and kind of going into the season and he was getting ready to head out for his first ever elk hunt.

Well, he went on the elk hunt, had a fantastic time, ended up tagging a bull like a few hours into the very first day. So pretty epic story. Then he came back to Pennsylvania, back on public land again, chasing Whitetails. Had a couple of really good encounters. Ended up, uh, not making a great shot on one buck that got away and then sealing the deal a few days later on.

A phenomenal buck, he actually tagged out. I didn't realize it until I was going back through my text messages with him. He actually tagged out the same day that I did this year, uh, when I tagged out in Wisconsin. We both killed on November 8th. So really cool. Aaron's a great guy. Like if you're, if you're not following along with some of the stuff that he's doing, Uh, with his writing for, you know, truth from the Stand or the Exodus guys, uh, you need to go check him out.

He's doing some really, really good stuff. [00:02:00] And, uh, yeah, so this podcast episode's gonna be a little bit different from some of our others because it's not necessarily tactics focused, it's more about the story of the hunt and the story of one incredible fall that Aaron enjoyed. But before I can tell you about Aaron's incredible hunting season, we've gotta say a big thanks to our partners.

First of all, TCAM, uh, guys, I love deer hunting. I really, really do. But this time of year, uh, I start to hear phantom gobbles off in the distance. I start to think about and drift, uh, into Turkey season, maybe a little bit prematurely. I'm not gonna get out for Turkey hunting this year until, uh, March 25th and 26th, which will be when we're taking our kids out for Turkey.

But, um, you know, I am already thinking about it. And when I think about Turkey hunting, I think about my tact cam cameras. One of my favorite things to do is to chase turkeys with tact cam cameras on my gun barrel. It is fantastic. They provide great footage. I love having a couple of cameras so that I can have, you know, one out in the decoy [00:03:00] spread one looking back at me to kind of get my reaction.

One looking in different directions, uh, to catch the turkeys that are coming in. And one, you know, obviously right there on the weapon that I'm using. So mant cams are great for that. I'm gonna make sure that I've got my 6.0 ready on my weapon and I'm gonna have a couple of, uh, last year's models, the 5.0 and the 5.0 wide out in the decoy spread and set up on the blind.

But, uh, yeah, go check those out tact to cam.com. Next up, hunt worth. They're running a winter clearance sale right now. Everything on their website is 20 to 50% off, uh, including the gear that I wore this year. I can highly, highly recommend. Their mid-season stuff, the Elkins line, and also the Saskatoon Pants jacket and vest.

That stuff has their new heat boost technology and is incredibly, incredibly warm. Great gear head over there to their website right now and, uh, take advantage of this really awesome winter clearance sale. Again, 20 to 50% off hunt worth gear.com and then finally, OnX. [00:04:00] I've said it a bunch of times already before, but OnX goes with me wherever I'm going.

Whether I'm out hunting, whether I'm out hiking, whether I'm out biking with the family, whether I'm out camping, or even if I'm on a property doing a property consultation. OnX is my tool of choice to make sure, number one, I always know that I'm on land that is legal for me to be on. Number two, I always know exactly where I'm at on that land.

Number three, I can record all of my observations from the field and know that when I pull up my computer at home, everything that I marked is gonna be right there. If you're not using OnX already, you really need to go give it a shot. You can find it in the app store of your choice. And actually, if you go and sign up, you can get a seven day free trial.

If you wanna learn more, you can go to their website, onxmaps.com. Now, with all of those commercials outta the way, let's jump into the conversation with Aaron Heppler. All right, back on the show. With me today is Mr. Aaron Heppler from Pennsylvania. Aaron, what's up buddy? How you doing, man? Doing good. Uh, glad that we can reconnect.

I, I couldn't believe, like, I went back and looked [00:05:00] through our, our texts and I was like, man, the last time I had you on was like, pre-season. Yeah, I, it was summer, summertime, I think, wasn't it? Yeah. I did not think it was that long ago. So it was like, man, I'm kicking myself. Like, why have I not had Aaron on, uh, uh, since then.

But, uh, man, what's going on in your world this time of year? You guys are done in Pennsylvania, right?

Aaron Hepler: Yep. Season's wrapped up. There's, I think there's some special regs, areas still open, but for me, I'm all done in my, my areas. So

Josh Raley: for those special regs areas, are those dough only? Buck or dough? How's that work?

Aaron Hepler: I. I don't really know, honestly. I think, I think they're, I'm gonna get nailed if I, if I say this wrong, but there, the, um, there's, there's a couple special rags areas that, um, archery is open for both. Okay. And I know, I know there's an extended rifle season in one of them, but I've never, I, I don't really, I hunt there in the early part of, in, in one of them in the early part of archery because then you can, you know, get a [00:06:00] jumpstart on, on killing an early dough or something like that.

Um, so that's kind of nice. This year I was elk hunting, so I didn't, I didn't do that this year. Um, but you can, uh, you can get like an early jump on it, but I don't really hunt any of that during the late part. So, yeah.

Josh Raley: Dude. Okay, so this is like jogging my memory here. Last time we talked you were getting ready to go on your elk hunt.

Yeah. And dude, since then you've had an incredible season. Like you Yeah. This is, this is one for the book. So tell me about not only your elk hunt, but also your return home and, uh, had a great season there too.

Aaron Hepler: Yeah, it was awesome. I think one of the cool things was is, you know, being on this podcast, we got to connect a lot during the fall and talk about those things.

Yep. Um, so the, the Elk hunt was awesome, man. We, we did a, um, end of September, uh, to, I, I think we came home October 1st actually. So it was last week of September. Um, it was, [00:07:00] uh, we, we used the drop camp service. Uh, it was, uh, public land hunt, bring you in on horses, drop you off at a, at a, at a, at a wall, like they have, you know, uh, campsites with wall tents or whatever the guide service does.

So they bring you out there and horses, uh, show you a couple things around the camp, uh, how to use their water filter and um, you know, light all their different. heating equipment and stuff like that. And then they're like, all right, Texas, when you get one, you know, , and uh, oh, the elker over here. You know, they'll do one of those.

Um, they, they did pretty good on that kind of thing, you know, like, Hey, you know, we've had people be successful down in this area, that area, and they'll send you a couple weigh points, you know, four, maybe four or five weigh points that they send to us. Um, so it was four of us. Um, and as far as, uh, budget friendly, like if anybody's looking into that, you should look into some kind of drop camp like that, like some kind of [00:08:00] reputable service We used, um, uh, worldwide Trophy adventures.

We booked it through an agent with them. Uh, and that, that's kind of nice cuz those people have to be reputable, you know, like yeah. They're not just picking some kind of random guide who's gonna be like, like, kind of like a bullshit or whatever. They'll, they do a pretty good job at that, so, . We booked this guy, this, this guide service two years ago.

And, um, one of the, one of the guys that we went with, um, had like a lot of work to do before we went. So he flew out and three of us drove. So we left, left our house at like, uh, like nine, nine o'clock at night. And this is kind of probably making the story long, but it was a fun part of the trip, right?

Like that, uh, we drove 24 hours straight. Geez. Uh, to Colorado. Oh man. So we, we left at like 9, 8 30, 9 o'clock at night. And I think that was Wednesday. [00:09:00] Yeah, Wednesday we left at like 8 30, 9 o'clock at night and got there at like six 30, 7:00 PM uh, uh, uh, Mount. I guess that's Mountain Time. So it's two hours behind us here.

Um, But it was a, it was a fun drive, man. Like all the jokes and like laughter, we got out of that. It was, it was a good time. I mean, like stressful at the same time. Cause we're all like thinking about like getting on the horses and the elk and like, uh, all that like, we got, you know, but like, just overall really fun.

And, um, we met, we met our other buddy. Um, all, we all got some dinner, talked about a, a few things and, uh, you know, talked about some of the weigh points that the guide had talked about, who was gonna pair up with who. And, um, you know, we all, we got a hotel room and stayed, uh, stayed the night there. Then, uh, Friday night [00:10:00] we, um, we drove to the Trailhead.

So we, we stayed in Fort Collins, which is, uh, like an hour north of Denver. stayed in Fort Collins, uh, overnight Thursday, and then Friday we drove into the wilderness area. So you're at 5,000 feet in Fort Collins and by the time we got to the trailhead, you're at like ten five and you notice . I was about to say that.

Josh Raley: That's where you get the difference is that five to 10, man. Yeah,

Aaron Hepler: that's a big jump. Like seven, eight. You're fine. When you get above that eight and you're in 9, 10, 11, you're like, holy crap. It's, it's unreal. And we, I, I don't know if you've heard, you can take like diox and stuff like that. Yeah. It's a medicine that helps you, uh, acclimate a little bit better.

Um, but it's a diuretic. So two of the buddies that I had were like, oh, I don't wanna be peeing on the whole car ride home are are on the whole car ride out there, so I'm just gonna take it when we get there. You're supposed to take it like three days beforehand. Oh, okay. So I had started it early and I didn't really notice like a lot of diuresis from like a lot of pain or anything.[00:11:00]

It's pretty mild diuretic, so, um, or, or my body just got used to it. I don't know. But I, I. , I'd like to know if it helped or not. Like I still got pretty short of breath when we were at that 10,000, that ten five, uh, when you're doing stuff, like when you're, yeah, setting up the tent is fine, but then you're like laying down and trying to roll over in your sleeping bag.

You're like, whew. . That's hard. .

Josh Raley: But, uh, roll when rolling over in your sleeping bag is tough. Like, you know, that, you know, you might be in for it

Aaron Hepler: during the hunt. Yeah. Um, but after about two or three days, like you, you notice like when you're walking uphill, it's not the same as when you're at home. Like, it, it's harder, you know, but it's not, you just feel like, oh, it just must be a day where I'm just not feeling it or something.

That, that would be what I would equate it to. Like, it's not like impossible. And you're not, you don't feel like you're gonna pass out. Yeah. Like you're just trying to, you know, you, you've acclimated. . Um, but two of the, the, my [00:12:00] two buddies that I drove out with got, they either got sick from the diamox, or they're gonna argue with me if they listened to this, but, um, I think they got a little bit of altitude sickness and they were complaining about their guts hurting and, oh, that's it.

And they said it was the diamox and they stopped taking it. And then the next, you know, like a little while later they felt better. I'm like, well, you probably just acclimated. And they're like, no, you're gonna acclimate that fast, . But, um, you know, like I said, after two or three days, it was, uh, for the most part better.

Um, there were a couple times, you know, where you'd feel a little bit, um, a little bit winded, but, um, we walked into camp and I've decided that I don't, I like looking at horses. I like petting horses. I think they're cool animals. I do not like to ride them . Oh no. Who? My horse, they were laughing at me the whole ride out.

The, I guess the horse I rode was really a pony on the way out, you know, and that horse. Tried to run me into every single tree [00:13:00] possible. . I mean, it was like, it was tripping over rocks like every five sec. And they, the guys ri, if they were riding behind me, they were just laughing cuz this thing was like trying to bang me into trees, tripping over rocks.

And I told the guide before he went, I was like, he's like, looks at the, the, the guy that flew out, he's the, he was the oldest, he's actually, um, a physician that I worked with and he's, he and I are the ones who kind of like had the idea to go on this hunt together cuz he's been asking me to go for years.

He loves elk cunning. And uh, he, he's like, well I'm gonna put him on this horse cuz he's the most steady. And he's like, you, well you probably, you know, you're one of the bigger guys cuz he's really, you know, he's a pretty tall fella. And he was like, oh, okay. And I'm. , you know, I'm the biggest one, right? And he's like, , well, you're like in the middle, like, you're, you're high.

And I'm like, dude, I'm 210 pounds. I'm like, he's, I've got like 30 pounds on all these [00:14:00] guys, you know? And he, he's like, we don't look that big. And I'm like, I know, but I'm fat man. Like, I'm .

Josh Raley: I got some meat on these bones, man. Get me on

Aaron Hepler: a good horse. Yeah. He's like, I'm like, you're putting me on like the smallest horse.

He's like, nah, nah, nah, it was fine. And they're like, well, yeah, the horse can hold that. But one of the guys was like, well, it might be the rider rather than the horse just trying to get him off, you know, like get him off the . But, um, you know, it started out as a great hunt. We, we hunted the first evening.

We got there, set up the camp, hunted a little bit in the evening, uh, all came back to the camp, had a little powwow or whatever. And, and the next morning, um, you know, we all kind of went, I went with the, with the dock. And the other two guys went our separate ways. and, uh, I mean we, we heard elk right away, like right outside the camp, they put you, they put you pretty close to where the elk are gonna be.

Um, so we didn't have to get more than a half [00:15:00] mile before we could hear, you know, bugling and, uh, heard like some pretty robust bugling and some pretty small snot bugles and got down in between them. And we were working them. And it was odd because we would call these small bugles downhill to us and then the big one would come uphill to us.

And I think what the big one was, I think he was the herd bull. He would, I think he was getting in between us and his cows and rounding them back down. Yeah. And these smaller bulls were coming into us, but when they heard him coming up, they were like, Nope. So they'd go back up and then he'd go back down with his cows.

So then we were just kind of like, Seesaw calling these bulls. Oh yeah. Right. So we couldn't, we couldn't work them in. So we just kind of kept working out that ridge line. and we were gonna try to drop below that herd bull, but then we heard him go way out. So we were like, oh, we're just kind of like scout around bugle here and there the rest of the morning.

And I was, I was doing most of the calling as, as far as bugling goes. Um, [00:16:00] you know, the other guys, uh, the other group of guys could bugle a little bit and the cow calls are fine or whatever. So, and the elk were bugling so good the entire week. It was great. But that first day we kept working along that ridge and we, we found like, you know, some sign where they were probably fighting along like a creek bed and, uh, it was near a meadow, but like these strips of timber in, in, in, that went in between this meadow.

Um, and they, it was in a kind of like a burn area. . So on OnX, we could see there was like another small meadow in the middle of this big piece of the burn. And we were like, oh, we're gonna check that out. And it's like, it's small. Like it was, you know, 70 yards wide and a hundred, maybe a hundred yards tops up and down, like an oval kind of looking meadow.

And we got, right before we got to the meadow, there was kind of like a little shelf and there was some wallows in there and it didn't look like it was used yet, like overnight or anything. Lot of, [00:17:00] lot of, uh, couple day old tracks. And there was some ice on top of the, this wallow. And uh, we got to the edge of that little opening there.

And you know, he's like, well, why don't you, why don't you let off a bugle and let's see what happened. And I bugled and just this like small came back and I was like, oh, that thing was close, like less than probably like 150, 200 yards. Nice. and we're like, oh, okay. We gotta, we gotta capitalize on that. Like, this is, this is a bull that's like ready to answer.

And he bugled on his own again. And we kind of like, okay, well, he's like, well, let's go down and sit up on that meadow. And I'm like, Hmm. He might be in there. Like, he sounded like he was like right there. And he's like, I think he's a little further than you think. I'm like, I don't know. It's pretty open. So the, what our plan was, was to have him sit up high on the meadow and have me go down low and have them try to catch my thermals that were going [00:18:00] upwards.

So he would, it would come in front of him and he'd get the shot. Yep. So I dropped him off. I dropped about 65, 70 yards below him, and I took my pack off and grabbed my bow and I bugled and this thing was like, it like cut me off. , it was full blown, like pissed off bugle, like snarling and everything, you know.

And uh, I was like, oh shoot. And I like knocked an arrow. I didn't even have an arrow knocked. I knock an arrow and I look up and here's two six by six bowls just like coming out from the other side of this meadow and just like full bore running to me through this, through the woods. And they kind of like stop halfway through and I'm like, they're not even gonna go straight up to him.

And I'm like, hoping he can see him cuz it was like a little bit of a, a rise. And he, and he could, you know, hindsight he could, but he was too far for a, like a pretty good shot. [00:19:00] And these bulls kind of like stop halfway into the meadow. So they're like 50 yards and they just start walking real slow to me.

And like, you know, that like, I don't see a bull, something's not right, but I know I heard one, so I'm gonna find it. And they're like, I mean, the big, the bigger one was up front and the smaller, the, there was smaller six by six behind it. And he, they're just like stiff leg walking hair bristled up, you know?

And I'm like, I'm gonna have to make a frontal shot like this. Thing's coming straight at me, you know, like it knows where I'm at, you know, and frontal shots on elk, you know, some peop there's a lot of good information out about frontal shots and I've researched them a lot. And honestly, like if you make that shot, it, it's like a dead elk almost every time.

Yeah. And uh, I'm like, there's nowhere to draw. Like, it's all open now. Like I'm, I'm like a sitting duck here and the sun's like blaring on me, you know, and I'm like, oh no, I [00:20:00] see like these like couple little trees. And I'm like, if I draw right when he gets behind that, the other one will be behind a log and I'll be set.

And he got close to that and I drew back really fast and he kind of like, Did one of these, like heard the little, I don't know if my bow made a little tick or whatever, but he kind of was like, not right. And I'm like, two more steps. Come on. And he takes the two more steps and I settled my pin. Uh, he was about 25 or 30 yards.

I settled my pin and I just, I remember just squeezing that release and um, he dropped like a lead bullet because what happened was is I went, he was uphill a little bit from me, right? Like just a little bit. And he was slightly quarter two. So I went in that opening in the front of the chest. Yep. I went into that opening and I got.

about three quarters of, I have, I shoot a 29 and a half inch arrow. I, my three quarters of my arrow was inside the elk, so it went straight in into that opening, but was angled up just a little [00:21:00] bit. So it hit the spine behind his shoulders. Oh, nice. And he just like dropped over. And of course, you know, he's like doing one of the head things and I'm like, oh no.

So I like draw, I knocked another arrow and there's blood pouring out of his chest. Like, could have just waited, but like, I hate, I don't like, you know, everybody doesn't really like to watch that and Yeah. Uh, I think the other thing too is his first elk, you're like, get more arrows into him. He's not dead, you know?

Yep. So I went to shoot him again and he was moving his head around so much. He just like hit that arrow with his antlers and it went flying. I don't even know where it went. And, uh, freaking ninja elk man. Yeah. . So , I ended up, I got, I got another arrow into him and. and the, the dock was like, we were both like, holy shit, like

And he comes down, he's like, you need to get another arrow at him. And I'm like, I was kind of scared to get close to him cuz he was next to a log, like a, [00:22:00] like a full like, you know, 22 inch diameter tree. And he was picking this log up with his antlers just like, oh my gosh. And I'm like, just the power of that thing.

I was scared to get close to him. Yeah. But I, I did get another arrow into him from like 10 yards and, and uh, and he, he, he died pretty quick then. Um, so it was like all hoots and hollers and like, I can't believe it. First day like six by six First elk, you know, that's not What time of the day was it? I think it was eight.

I think it was eight or eight 30 on the, no, it was eight o'clock on the nose in the

Josh Raley: morning. Yeah. So you're like a solid two hours into your first elk hunt and you've got one on the ground. Yeah. Was that, wait, was that your first

Aaron Hepler: elk hunt? That was my first elk outcome. Okay, dude, that's nuts. It was, it was pretty awesome.

I'd like to say I replicated that through the week we had a lot of opportunities to call elk and work elk pretty close. Um, but didn't, didn't get [00:23:00] another shot opportunity like that. The other guys got pretty close to a, a bigger bull than mine. Um, but he winded them inside of like 50 yards, man. Uh, yeah.

But it was, it was really a great hunt. We were all in elk the whole time. But one of the crazy things, and again, if they, if my buddies listen to this, they're gonna make fun of me for talking about it again. But, um, I, my eyes had been bothering me since we got out of the hotel, like real dry or whatever, and my dominant eyes, my right eye, and that was really bothering me.

It was watering every day. So I was wearing sunglasses a lot and I like go to fill out my tag. , we take pictures and I go to fill out my tag. And the whole time I had no real, no clue. Like I knew it was water and I knew it was bothering me, but while we were taking pictures, I was shaking like a leaf, like inside.

I, I'm pretty sure you noticed in some of the pictures I look like just ja like, just like [00:24:00] I can't, in the pictures people are like, oh, they're, they look like staged. I'm, they're not at all. I'm like, just beyond like, I don't even know what to say cause I just killed a elk and I'm like just kind of in awe of it all.

Yeah. And my face in 'em is just like, holy shit. . And, uh, I started filling out my tag and I like look down and, you know, it's starting, starting to get a little hot out or whatever, and I'm like, ah, my, my sunglasses are all foggy. And I put my sunglasses up and I like look at the tag and I'm like, Still foggy.

And I was like, uhoh, I like look up at the doc I'm with. And I look at him with my left eye and I'm like, oh, you're clear with that eye. Look at him with my right eye. And I can only see the outline of a person standing in front. I can't see his face. Oh my gosh, this is making

Josh Raley: my eyes water with you talking about it.

David .

Aaron Hepler: I couldn't see anything and I was like, I, I can't see you at all. Like other than knowing that you're standing there and there's a person in front of me, like I [00:25:00] wouldn't, I wouldn't know who you were if I didn't know you. And he's like, well, we're gonna have to take a look when we get back to the tent or whatever and clean your hand and clean my hands or whatever and we'll take a look.

So we, we did all that and you know, we got the elk quartered out and texted the guide and our other buddies met us there. And um, it was just, it was a really great day. I didn't get to see the guy take it out on the horses cuz I was waiting for him on the trail. And I guess when the other guys. went out, they saw him and like, oh, is Elks down there?

And he like packed it out without me getting to know about it. But, um, either way, they, they brought it back to a processor and they stored it in their, their walk-in freezer for me for the week. Nice. And I brought it home. I brought it home in a U-Haul and processed it on my own. You brought it home in a U-haul.

Yeah. We rent. So it was like, you can, you can have them process it and I'll, uh, I will tell you [00:26:00] that I'm very happy I didn't do that because that w it was like the processor that they used was like, it was dep, it was disgust, it was deplorable. It was so gross. Mm-hmm. And I would've had it processed and shipped and would've never known that.

Yeah. Yeah. So the other thing was is like, you can't take spine and brains across state lines. Right? Yeah. So, uh, we had a tax, they have a taxidermic that they take the head to and he just blew the brains out for me. Nice. , but it was, it cost, it was like pretty expensive to do a euro amount with him. And then it was gonna cost like 400 bucks to ship it.

This was gonna cost me like 700 bucks for a Euro amount. Ooh. Plus then the processing, if I was gonna leave the meat there, the processing fee. So I was like, I'm just gonna get a U-Haul cuz that's 400 bucks. And then, and we drove across the state with the meat and everything. Yeah. Fortunate they, I thought it was gonna be a walkin cooler, but they actually flash froze it and I actually got to process it like semi frozen, [00:27:00] which is kind of nice.

Yeah. Uh, it makes processing a little easier. Um, but it stayed, they keep their freezer like minus 40. Oh my. So it stayed goodness frozen for like, I couldn't even start processing it for two days after I got home cuz it was still rock solid. So you didn't

Josh Raley: have to ice it or anything?

Aaron Hepler: You're just, I put it in a fridge at home, like a, I have a extra fridge that I use for processing deer and stuff like that.

So I put it in the fridge and kind of just let it thaw in the fridge.

Josh Raley: So what ended up being wrong with your

Aaron Hepler: eye? Uh, right, so he, he just looked in my eye and he's like, you know, it looks like a st to me. Um, I must have had a st that he thought he, he, he was thinking that it probably scratched my corneal layer.

And I, I looked up some of that and that's possible. Um, but, uh, we, you know, we let the guide know like, hey, like I can't see outta my right eye. And he was, the guide was pretty concerned. So he actually had a, um, a uh, an optometrist that he got [00:28:00] in touch with and the optometrist said, you know, if he has a sky, could be that, but could be altitude.

So make sure that he's drinking more water and that kind of thing. And, um, you know, just use eyedrop. And fortunately we did have eyedrops with us. Uh, the, the doc that I was with did, cuz I didn't, I, I should have thought to bring them, but I didn't. , but he wears contacts and stuff, so, you know, contact solution and he ended up having some eyedrops in his kit.

Um, you know, I think of everything else like the tourniquet and sutures and that kind of thing. , we had plenty of that with us, but none of the, you know, none of the simple stuff. Um, so, you know, I just used eyedrops for the week and it took, it took until, it took until Friday for it to start feeling better.

So this was Monday, took until Friday for it to start feeling a little bit better. And then it got better, like real quick, you know? And you know, by Saturday afternoon I was ready to drive. By the time we got back to the trucks and stuff, I was pretty much ready to drive and that kind of thing, [00:29:00] which was good cuz I didn't think I was gonna be able to.

Um, but, uh, it didn't, didn't stop like I, I kept hunting, you know? I kept, uh, I took him out every day. You know, we work bulls every day. The evening hunts were a little harder. The elk were a lot more, they, they're not as talkative in the afternoons, and it tended to get pretty windy in the, you know, in the midday and the evenings were pretty windy, so it was really difficult to hear things in the evening.

Um, but, you know, we hunted pretty much all day, every day. He would come back to the tent for lunch most days and, um, you know, work those bowls in the morning. Um, there were a couple times where he, we got, there was one bull that we got really close to, to working, to working into range, and, you know, he was, , he was, uh, really coming more to, um, to, to raking on a tree than anything, uh, that was [00:30:00] really taking him off.

But I think the one problem was, is we had to cr call him across the trail, and he didn't like that very much. Hey guys,

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Interesting. You don't, you don't think about an animal that big being like, ah, there's a trail there. I don't wanna cross that. You know, like a Turkey. Okay, I get it, I get it. But I don't know, it seems like that would be such a micro thing on, you know, scale wise for an elk, but yeah. Yeah, weird. So, dude, the fun didn't stop there though.

Like you had an excellent elk hunt. You come home and, um, We texted a little bit back and forth, and I get a text from you, you're like, dude, I'm not gonna lie to you. You may see me shoot a not so big buck this year, , because yeah, I want to try to get a, an elk and a whitetail in the same year. But you ended up with, uh, a pretty stellar deer and, uh, had a great hunt.

So tell me a little bit about, you know, kind of the return to pa. How long did you wait, man, like I, I know for me personally coming back from an elk hunt, I would probably have to like, uh, [00:32:00] let a significant amount of time pass before my brownie points had like re-upped. You know what I mean? To get back to the point where I'm like, okay, now I can go whitetail hunting.

Aaron Hepler: Yeah, I, I would say that in the past for me, um, my wife is extra supportive of all this stuff that, you know, all the writing that I'm doing and all the hunting that I'm doing, and, um, I'd, I'd really like to do it full-time one day if I could. And that's, you know, an ultimate goal for us or at least, um, , if not full-time, I can still drop my other job to part-time and that kind of

Josh Raley: thing.

See, I'm a, I'm a bum. And so my wife supports me. Totally. And so that's why I got the brownie point thing going cuz I'm just like, all right, bye hun. Go to work. And I just sit at home and podcast all day. So, yeah.

Aaron Hepler: Uh, we, I think we're, I would say we're kind of equal, equal parts in the job. She's a nurse at the same hospital that I work at.

Oh, nice. Okay. Um, you know, we have a really good thing going there and, uh, but she's extra supportive of all this stuff. So, you know, [00:33:00] I, I told her, we, you know, we talked about it in summer and she's like, Hey, listen, like that's your time of the season. Like, she's a, she's a runner and she runs all year, you know, and she's like, I run all year.

Your season is three months out of the year. Like, you, you know, I want, I want some of your time, but I understand that that's your time of year. And like, you, you gotta go, you know, you know. You know, farmers have the may hay when the sun's shining kind of thing. She's like, that's, you know, if you, if you have a day that looks good and you need to go, you just tell me you need to go.

Like, and, and she's very supportive of that. So I think we got home October 1st. I finished processing the elk on like October 5th, and I was in a tree on October 8th. Nice. So I spent, it took me like four days to cut that thing up, you know, like Yeah. A because it was like a little bit frozen, so it makes the detail of butchering [00:34:00] easier, but like you're sharpening your knives a lot more, you know, um, not really sharpening in her knives, but like, it's, it's a little harder to cut just because of the, um, the friction or whatever.

Um, so it took me like four days to process it and it was like, you know, she's good about that too. I processed in our dining room . Oh, nice. Uh, so that was good. Um, . So did all that. And then I went to work for, or actually I didn't work until the ninth. I had off from like September 22nd till October 9th.

And, um, you know, I, I was in a tree October 8th, uh, seventh or eighth. And, um, oh, I don't even remember what that, what we did that hunt. I think I saw, I know, I saw a deer. Oh yeah. I remember we were hunting, um, like a strip of timber between some cuts and uh, you know, had a pretty good hunt. [00:35:00] Nice hike in. It was, you know, good to get your feet wet and do the thing where you're like, kind like a little shaky with your saddle, which I, I didn't feel that as much this year.

Maybe because like, um, the, in the woods thing, you know, keeping May being quiet and that kind of thing. I had some of that built up from the elk hunt. And then, um, , you know, all summer, I, uh, I don't climb every time that I shoot. Like I don't shoot outta my saddle every, you know, with every practice. But I did a, I did a decent amount of practicing outta the saddle, so I was, you know, pretty well versed in like how I wanted my sticks to work and, uh, you know, in and out of the pack and that kind of thing.

Um, so that was, that was great. So it was pretty good hunt. And, um, you know, I think I probably hunted, I hunted at least two days every week, if not three. Um, and then as the season went on, I, I've got more, cuz I, I do a good job of, uh, spreading my vacation time out. So I'll take like, um, you know, I [00:36:00] work three days a week.

It's full-time. And I take, uh, the first l let's say the second week of October, I took one day off. Um, so I only had to work two days that week. The third week, um, I took one day off. The fourth week I had. Two day I only had to work one day and then through September the first two, or the first two weeks of November, I only worked one day a week.

Nice. So I had like a lot of time, you know, that end of October into the rut phase, I had like a decent amount of time to hunt. Um, and then I have a decent amount of time built in to be with my wife and my daughter and that kind of thing too. So, um, you know, that's kind of where I get my little, I don't want to call it brownie points cuz she doesn't like keeping score.

So I was, it's just, you know, it's just a give and take. But she's, like I said, she's very supportive of it and she wants me to just go full bore into it. So she was like, listen, when I when you get home from your Alcon, I know that you have to go deer hunting to like,[00:37:00]

make the content you want with your writing and that kind of thing. So she's like, you know, go for it. And um, and I did and I had, I had some really good encounters, um, I, I saw lots of doughs. I had a lot of good dough encounters. Um, but I think the first real good buck encounter that I had was mid-October, I think it was like the 15th, something like 15th, 14th, 15th, somewhere in there.

And I, um, I got in this, uh, knob that we had noticed, like a lot of deer. We had a cell cam on it, and it was kind of a new, it was kind of like a flyer spot, but I knew deer were like using it in the mornings and the evenings pretty consistently, at least, if not every day, every other day for the most part.

And, um, the time always was varied. So it was like you either just doing morning hunt or an evening hunt and it was never really the same buck, but it just was a nice travel area. [00:38:00] So I, um, Got down in that area and I, I spooked all kinds of deer off that knob. Oh no. . Oh boy, it's not good. It took me like an hour and 45 minutes to get to it.

Right. Geez. And, uh, I'm just like, man, it's not good. And um, I ended up getting, I was like, just set up, you're good. Like, just see what happens. You know, these deer wanna be in here. And it tended to be that there were deer. Some doze would be there occasionally, like real early in the dark in the morning. I was like, you never really got in a buck on and just, just hunt it.

So I saw some deer. But, uh, the, the nice thing about that spot is as soon as it got light, I could hear one coming down this ridge like traveling. And I'm like, oh, so I'm good. And I see the antlers and I'm like, holy [00:39:00] crap. Like mid-October. Here comes 120 inch, I don't even know what, like seven. There was a seven pointer there pretty often and a nice eight pointer, but both were like around 115, 120 inches.

And I'm like, that'll do , because like you said, , my, my goal was, was to shoot two antler animals. Like I've never done that. So I was like, I shot a really good bull. It was my first bull. He's a pope bull. Like, I don't care what kind of buck I shoot. Yeah. And, um, you know, I, I tried everything I could to get this deer was like 50 yards and I tried everything.

I, you know, I did like the light grunts, I did the grows and he just was not, he was eating white oak acorns and just cru, like, just not interested, dude not giving. And generally they come over that hump, but he just didn't want to do it for whatever reason. He was just kind of following the edge of this bowl that I was in.

Um, but it was cool to have that encounter, like, uh, that early in the [00:40:00] season. . Um, so, you know, after that I had a, i, I did pass on a little six pointer that I snort wheezed in a couple days later. And it was because I was seeing so many deer that morning. Um, I, I mean, there, this, the one day I remember, I think this was, uh, actually I missed, you know, I had a couple other good buck encounters on an evening, evening hunt.

I had a, like a 1 15 8 pointer bust me. But the, towards the end, the last week in October, I had a really good hunt and I had one of those mental days where just like, don't want to get out of bed. I'm tired. I've hunted a lot now, and it was r it was like 15 mile an hour winds with 25 mile an hour gusts.

And I'm like, oh, this sucks. Like, in the tree and it's gonna be blowing the whole day, . And you're like, oh. All

Josh Raley: the reasons you shouldn't [00:41:00] go. So yeah, before you go, before you go too far, I, I'm wanna know, like, cuz I did the whole revocation thing this year and I got to the point where I was worn out and I've talked to several guys about like, the importance of keeping your mind sharp and like things that you can do to like, overcome those times or just like, pick a strategic day and like totally give into it.

Just be like, okay, today's a reset day. I need to sleep in, eat a good breakfast, drink a cup of coffee, maybe go out this afternoon kind of thing. Where do you fall on that scale? Are you the guy that's just like, Nope, I'm gonna grab myself by the bootstraps and I'm going? Or are you gonna take those days and be like, I, I need to reset, man, I'm tired if I go in, I'm not on my A game and it's not worth it.

Aaron Hepler: Ss I would say that some i, I take breaks. Okay. You know? All right. I think you ha I think you have to, yeah. . Uh, if you don't, it's not really fun. Right. Yeah. And I, I tend to look forward to breaks on a rainy [00:42:00] day, cuz I know people say you can kill a deer in the rain, but I absolutely hate hunting in the rain.

Yeah. Like,

Josh Raley: hate it. Do you, do you really want to do it with a bow too? Like, for me, man, I, I hunted in the rain this year and in, I, I'm texting a buddy of mine and I'm like, you know, it's miserable, but I'm in a spot where I could see mostly I was there for observation and, you know, he was kind of dogging me a little bit.

Like, man, you shouldn't even be out there with your bow, you know, you're gonna wound a deer and never find it and all this stuff. I'm like, eh, maybe you're right. But, um, yeah, so I'm, I'm not a huge fan of, of shooting a deer in the rain, but I like 'em for observation or like you said, taking a. .

Aaron Hepler: Yeah. And you know, if I'm like hunting one day, I'm like, Hey, the forecast is calling for rain the next, you know, even though, so like that day I was telling you, like, that day was actually forecasted for rain, like three days after that that I had off.

Oh, okay. And I was like, if I don't go this day, I reme, I literally stopped half. So it takes me, it's like three and a [00:43:00] half miles to get to this spot. I bike some of it, and then I hike the rest of it. And I s I stop my bike. I'm like a mile into this. I stop my bike and the wind is blowing. And I'm like, I, what do you do?

Like, I don't want to hunt. This sucks. And I'm like, I'm so tired. I'm like, I want to go to bed. And I turned the bike around and I got on the bike and I was like, just go. You're already out. Like you're already outta bed. You're already a mile into this. And like, I was dog tired, man. Like I was like, it was hard biking that day, you know?

And then we. People think that biking is easier. It's not, it like, it's hard. Yeah. It gets you there quicker, but it's hard, especially when you got, you know, your pack on your back and that kind of thing. And I, I was like, no, just go. If it's windy as crap, you can leave early, whatever. So I, I wrote out, and honestly like I, [00:44:00] once I started walking in the woods, I was like, this, it's not that bad.

Like, okay. And I got in so clean and I pulled a card from the camp, from a, from a camera before I got in the tree. That a camera that I hadn't checked, I put it on a horizontal rub that had some scrapes under it and I was like, I'm really excited. I haven't checked this camera yet. And it's, uh, like October 24th or fifth, something like that.

I'm like, this is, this is really cool. Like I'm, you know, I feel good about this. Got in real clean. I'm here, I'm in the tree like an hour and a half before daily. Like it was a, it was perfect. And I was like, this is great. So then I was starting to feel good and um, I uh, you know, did the hide your phone and your jacket kind of thing so light doesn't go off.

And I had so much time. So I started looking through these pictures and the one buck that I wanted to shoot real bad, and I think I sent you plenty of pictures of that [00:45:00] big eight pointer. He was on that camera like, oh, the freaking time. Oh. Not anything in daylight, but he was getting close to daylight.

Yeah. And I'm like, oh, this is good. Right. . So then as soon as it got light, there were just deer piling into the, I think I saw 16 deer bef before eight o'clock, you know, groups of four. You know, all these do just everywhere, like coming in from all directions. Like I expected 'em to come one way and they didn't.

They were just from every direction and for whatever reason, my thermal started to just go straight up out of the tree right away. I was like, oh, this is great. Like, everything's gonna go over their heads. And nothing was spooky at all. I mean, they were like a little on edge cuz it was, you know, deer get a little funny when it's windy like that.

Sure. Um, but they weren't like, look in my direction or anything, they were just kind of doing the, make sure everything's good, look around and, um, I blind snort wheezed and this little six [00:46:00] pointer comes trotting in and I'm like, mm. And I was like, all right, here we go. And I'm like, no, no, no, no, don't do that.

Like he was real little like . If he was, if he was 60 inches, I would , I would be surprised. Nice. But I thought, I thought about it. Yeah. I was like, .

Josh Raley: So what made you decide to to like blind snort wheeze? Because I hear, you know, guys, blind grunt. Blind rattle. It's not every day I hear like, ah, I just threw a snort.

We out there just to see.

Aaron Hepler: Uh, I've had luck with it when I was inexperienced once or twice and it just kinda like, I don't know, I all these doughs in the area, I thought like, um, I was sitting pretty close to some bedding cover and I thought anything that is in that bedding cover are outside the zone.

All these doughs are coming into it. Like they know all those doughs are going into that every day. So I was just kind of like, well the terrain is kind of. I, I call this area a little folded, right? Like there's a lot of ditches and crags and stuff [00:47:00] that they can really hide in. And like, even though the covers in some spots you can see a distance, but then in a lot of, in a lot of spots there you can't see.

And then the train, you really can't see if there's a buck 80 yards away from you there down in the ditch. You can't see it. Yeah. And because my thermals were so good, right where I was sitting, I was like, Hey, like I'm kind of safe unless one can see me and I can't see. It's a good opportunity for some blind calling.

Yeah. So I, you know, I, I did a little snort wheeze and this thing came like tring and he was pissed off, you know, and it, that was cool, you know, I was like, and that's one reason I contemplated, anytime you can call a deer in like that I think is really cool. And I, um, I occasionally really have a hard time, uh, if I have the opportunity passing up a deer that comes in, I, I.

I just, it's just part of the fun, man. Yeah. Like, you know, so I thought about shooting that deer, and I didn't, [00:48:00] and I could have, uh, drawn my bow very easily. Well, I did draw my bow, but I was like, eh, so I, I could have killed that deer. And, um, and I didn't because I was like, well, you know, it's like 7, 7 30, 8 o'clock in the morning.

There's a good opportunity for something else to walk through here. And I think I saw a few more doze after that. But it, o overall it was a fun hunt. And I remember getting down outta the tree and feeling so satisfied and being like, you didn't, you stopped a mile into this and turned your bike around to go home and you didn't, and you had one of the best hunts that you've had, like, as far as deer sightings and, uh, clean access and exit and all, all the things you want, right?

And it makes you feel, uh, really solid and confident. in those moments when you have a hunt like that. Yep. Everything just worked right. Even though you didn't kill the deer. Like, I mean to me that I, the arrow didn't go through the deer, but I won that hunt. Right? [00:49:00] Like I could have killed that deer. And it's easy for somebody to say, oh, I passed the deer up.

But I was drawn on that deer. I had my pin on the deer. I didn't pull the, I didn't pull the trigger on the release. Yeah. So obviously something could have happened, but in my mind I, I could have killed that deer. So that was a real good hunt. Especially, especially cuz I think it was, you know, now I had three buck encounters in a row and two of 'em were, were good ones.

Um, or, or ones that I would've shot here. You know, I, everybody says that they wanna shoot like a good representation. Um, I think a Pope Deer here is probably a good, uh, representation of at least where I was hunting of, uh, of a buck that I could have shot, but I, I have like a, I like the, uh, the 110 inch area, you know, one a hundred, 110 inches.

I'm probably gonna pull the pull, pull back and shoot it. Unless it's, [00:50:00] I don't know, it just depends I guess. But mostly that's what I'm okay with somewhere around that because they make me happy still. So

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Yeah, dude. Absolutely man. I hunt, you know, did a lot of hunting in southern Wisconsin. Still do plan to do a lot of hunting in Southern Wisconsin for as long as I can drive up and. , you know, realistically, if I was to say every year I'm gonna hold out for what is a good representation of like a mature buck here, then you could probably hold out for one 30 or one 40.[00:51:00]

But a hundred inch deer walks by and he's getting it every time. Like, and this season there was a 95 inch deer that walked past and I was like, E, you're close buddy. Like you're real close. But I could tell he, I mean he, when I looked at the deer, he looked young. And, uh, in this same area, there was one that's, uh, is I, I think so.

One year old. And he was probably that in that 90 inch range too. So I was like, okay, this, this spot in the next couple years has got some real. potential. So we'll see what lives. But yeah, man, a hundred inch deer make me happy too.

Aaron Hepler: Yeah. And it's not, you know, the other thing you gotta think about, so if you're on an out-of-state hunt and you're going for five days, like maybe you wanna pass up that 80 inch deer on the first day.

Unless your goal is just to shoot it an out-of-state buck and you don't care. But if you're like, Hey, I'm really out here for the experience and I wanna spend my whole five days out here, and if I go home without a deer and I pass that 80 inch deer up and that's okay with me, then do it. Yeah, that's right.

You know, you're there for the experience. So if you think that you have an opportunity [00:52:00] at something else and it's not ultra important to you to, to kill something, then yeah, spend your five days out there. Um, or you could shoot it and spend your five day scouting for next year. But, um, you know, for me at home, if I have, the first opportunity I have is something a hundred, a hundred inches.

If I kill that early, that means I get to go to a different state. Yeah. . Um, I can buy a license for an over-the-counter state and I get to go spend that other time off that I have hunting that area, um, you know, in the surrounding states to me. So that, that's important too. Um, cuz then you build those experiences.

Yeah, absolutely. Um, but, you know, moving on from that, you know, I had all those good encounters and, um, October 29th I hunted. We've had a cell cam in an area for three years now. I had one there this year. And, um, I put it out pretty early, like I think I put it out in Turkey season. So I put [00:53:00] it out in May and I didn't get back to it to change batteries and I should have, and it died October 10th.

Mm. And now it's the 29th. And there were doze using it. Like all like doze used that. We have it on a scrape. They use it all the time. , but I'm like, you know that scrape has a period from like the 14th to the 17th where it's bucks are using it in the daylight, and then you get that end of October spurt and then you have like rut cruising all through the first two weeks of November.

And I was like, you know, I know I don't have that. Camera's not working right now, but ul ul ultimately that doesn't matter to me. Like I've built history there. I know last year, um, one of my buddies had hit a pretty big deer there that we had on camera and then a week later a buddy went out and killed a, a, his first public land buck there.

Nice. [00:54:00] And, and and saw a lot of bucks. So I was like, I'm gonna go to that spot cuz this is, this is the time of year that it really, you'll get really good daylight stuff. And it's always like, . So again, I'm not working off cell data, I'm working off of history at this point. Right. But I'm always like, I know, like you could set your watch like bucks are there seven between seven 30 and eight 30 every morning.

So I went in there and they were moving different than I thought they would. Hmm. And um, they were coming across, they were coming across the ridge, but my wind was just off. So if the deer were, uh, working, let's just say they're working east to west, my wind was blowing in their direction, but it was blowing like just, uh, from the southwest.

So it was like, just off enough that they were like, you know, it was keeping it out of their scent. We'll call it a saint cone. It was [00:55:00] keeping it out of their nose. And first, like four dos come through and then I see a big body deer come through. and, uh, pretty sure that one was a buck just by the way it was acting, you know, like I could see the deer's nose to the ground, but it was thick, so I couldn't see the antlers or anything.

And it was going in the direction of the do by itself. I could see its back legs. It had dark tarsals and stuff, so probably, probably a buck. And, uh, thinking, well yous, that's kind of early for deer movement in here. We'll see what happens. And, uh, eight 30, here comes a, here comes a buck, and I'm like, oh man, here comes deer.

I could see like tips of the tines at first, and then it's coming through and I'm like, oh, that's a good one. Like, he's getting it. He comes in here, he's getting it, and I'm like, oh, he's following those. And they were 75, somewhere between 65 and 75 yards away. And his butt comes up and he, he gets to a [00:56:00] scrape that they had up, up that direction that the do had hit in the morning.

And he puts his nose in the scrape and I. Grunted once at him and snort wheezed and he just, he just turned on a dime and just comes walking straight down this ridge to me. Like, you know, all this diff like looking for me, you know, and he curves out. I'm like, he's gonna come right under my tree and I'm not gonna have any kind of shot cuz it's too thick for any kind of frontal shot.

And he would also be too much like at a downward angle. Like he wouldn't be where I could even get it is brisket or anything. So he goes out around, um, he goes out around me though and I'm like, oh, now he's gonna be broadside. And I'm like, oh man, he's gonna be 10 yards. And I was like, every, every little bit like I was shaking like a leaf cuz you know, you, you're all pumped up cuz it's, and it was, he was a good deer.

I tried to stop looking at his rack when he started coming in and uh, I'm like, just wait, just. . [00:57:00] All right. Draw your bow. Okay. Just wait. Let him let him turn. Like, take your time. He doesn't even know you're there. He's not gonna get your wind. My wind was perfect because he ended up turning too early to give himself an advantage.

Oh. So I, I snort wheezed downhill from him. Yeah, like turned my head and snort wheezed. So he turned early instead of going downwind of me, he thought he was downwind of me and wasn't, and he turns and goes broadside, and I should have let him take one more step, but I was like, oh, I was a little jacked up, but he was still broadside.

I was still a good shot, but I wasn't, because when I drew my bow, he was behind some real thick stuff and as he, it started getting less thick and less thick and less thick. And when he was broad, , I thought he was in the clear open and I ended up hitting the stick and I watched the arrow go sideways and hit him in the back leg.

And I was like, oh my goodness. Like I [00:58:00] can't believe I did that. And I'm thinking like, you know, all my buddies are like, it's okay man. You know, I hit a deer in a back leg and it hit the femoral artery, you know, you might be okay. And it wasn't man, like I called dog trackers and they were not even interested.

I had very little blood. What happened was is I, I ended up looking reinspecting my arrow a couple of times, and the broadhead and the insert came out of the arrow. Oh, okay. I think what happened was is I made it into the part of his femur bone That's right. Under the skin. Yeah. And never hit anything important.

Yeah. And that broadhead stayed in there and I think he bled like a, you know, he b. Little teeny drops here and there. Yeah. Nothing, nothing wild. And I remember being on the phone with Chad a bunch and being like, dude, what? Because he knows a lot. Chad, uh, Chad Sylvester from Exodus just knows all, he's got all kinds of good information on blood tracking and stuff.

And he's like, ah, he's, you know, he's encouraging me and [00:59:00] I'm trying to be optimistic and I, I look for four or five hours and nothing. Mm-hmm. . And I was, I was pretty torn up about it. I think I hunted later that week. I can't remember where or when, but I hunted later that week once, and then, um,

I think a week and a half after that. So, uh, November I did hunt in between there, but, um, November 4th, two of my buddies, we, we, I hunted November 4th, and two of my buddies ended up, Uh, killing really good bucks. Two, two public land bucks. They doubled. They're, they're like, uh, dare to buddies. They hunt together or whatever.

And, um, they killed two really good public bucks, one that we all had on camera. Uh, little, little non-typical kind of thing with little kicker o like drop time kicker. He was 150 something inches and the, the other guy shot one that was like 106 and they just [01:00:00] awesome pump for them. Um, so, you know, it was kind of encouraging cuz you know, bucks are starting to move and stuff and getting to see them kill their deer.

And I'm like a little more encouraged and starting to feel a little bit better. Like, it's a week and a half away from our, I guess just a week from when I hit that buck. And, um, October 8th or November 8th, I went out and I'm like, I'm going. I'm going back because now it's been, you know, nine days since I hunted that tree.

And I'm like, I know last year deer we're still moving through there. I know that area is, is good for it. I'm just, I'm going back. So I went back and this time there were deer everywhere on this ridge in the dark. And I remember getting to getting ready to go into my tree and seeing deer that were up under that tree and being like, oh, I don't know.

This might not be good. And I backed out to the trail that I was walking in on and kind of let them move [01:01:00] through. And I went into that tree and I, I repositioned a little bit. I moved 30 yards so I wouldn't have to try to call a deer in from the way they were moving. So those observations that you make during hunting are important?

Yeah. Cause you. . Calling a deer is cool, but if you don't have to, because you know where they're going, it's better cuz they're on less of a, you know, they're just, they're just doing their thing and you're not making them do their thing. So, you know, everybody's like, how's, how's it going? Are you shoot seeing anything?

Are you seeing anything? And I, I, I want to say, give a shout out to my buddy Troy Dietrich, because the day that I hit that buck, he killed his biggest buck on his own property that he managed this year. And that was 150 something inch, uh, uh, 10 pointer with the drop time. It was, it was cool. So he was really encouraging, man, don't worry man.

You, you got this. Like you, it's good. Perfect day. You know, conditions are right. It's rut, they're cruising, and. My, my [01:02:00] buddy Rich Yoder too, just like, come on man, you got this. Like you, they're coming through you any minute now. I'm like, I'm good man. I'm, I'm ready. I'm, I'm good. eight 30. Eight 30. There will be a deer here.

I haven't seen anything yet, but eight 30, there's going to be a deer here and you can look. I actually saved the stories on my Instagram, on my highlight reel because it was cool. I took a picture of my bow in the dark, I think, and I said, today's the day. And I posted like a couple things, like up to killing that deer.

Like, today I'm gonna kill a deer. And um, I texted my wife, she texted me, asked me something. I texted her back and it was eight thirty two. And I put my phone in my pocket and I hear deer coming and I look and I see antlers coming up this ridge straight at me. And I'm like, oh man, here comes. And I like, do the slow, like, pick your bow up.

I can't believe this is happening. Put my release on the bow. And I'm like, all right, here you come on. There's nowhere to draw yet. And the deer comes around the tree, his [01:03:00] chest is behind a tree. And he looks right up at me and I'm like, oh no, . Like he's six yards, eight yards away. And I'm like, oh no. And I think, I don't know what happened, but he didn't spook.

And I think what happened was the sun was right behind me and he was kind of like blinking, you know, like the sun was in his eyes. So I think he knew something wasn't right, but the sun was in his eyes and he got behind a tree and I a bush, he kept, he just put his head back down and we put his head down.

I drew my bow and he was nibbling on something and he takes two more steps and his six yards and he starts moving and I grunt at him, sap him, and I remember thinking part shots only. And I put it right there, six yards. Took the shot and he runs up the hill where I called that other buck from. And he turns around and runs straight at me and falls over at 50 yards.

Geez. And I was like, holy crap. [01:04:00] And I like call my wife and I'm like, I killed a buck. There's, there's a pointer laying on the ground. I killed him. And she's like, what? She's like, you just texted me. And I'm like, she's like, what do you mean you killed a buck? And she looks at her phone, she tells me, you text me at 8 32 and you called me at 8 34.

Josh Raley: Oh my gosh. , dude, how fast things can change,

Aaron Hepler: right? Like that whole thing, like him coming up the edge, picking my bull up, doing all that stuff, watching him fall over and die in sight. And I'm just like, I am, I am revved. I am shaking so bad. And I'm like, tip, I, you know, called Troy. I called, I called Troy and I called Rich and my, I called my buddy Jared, who hunts locally with me a lot.

also such an awesome dude. And I was like, I got, I got him, man. He's like, he was gonna go with me that morning, but he had a lot of stuff to do at home and he had gone the day before. He is like, you know, I'm gonna sit this one out. And, uh, he's like, well, I'm home and I got [01:05:00] most of my stuff done, so you want me to run up there and help you get him out?

And I was like, oh, that would be great, you know? And um, he doesn't have like a vehicle to get up there. He is like, well, why don't you come in, get me out, like come get me. And then, uh, we'll, we'll go in and get him out. And I'm like, oh, well my wife is home. She'll drive you up the mountain and then you can just hike on back here.

Cuz he knew where I was. And uh,

you know, he's like, yeah, yeah, we'll do that. And my wife is like, well, she calls me. She's like, well, Jared wants to know how much crap he has to go through to get to you and. , he knows where I'm at and she, I'm like, it's fine here. I was like, this is like where I said, oh honey, this is where you helped me hang a camera here this one time.

And she's like, oh, oh yeah, yeah, I remember. That's not bad. And she like, oh, you know, we'll come help. Uh, I'll, I'll bring him up to you and let him know where you're at. Okay. So Jared comes back and we're like cutting the deer up and deboning him cuz it's, you know, a mile and a half, [01:06:00] two mile hike back to the truck.

So we, we pack out from there and, um, he's whistling and I'm like, what are, what are you, is there deer over there? And he goes, Nope. And I like, turn around and here comes my wife walking through the woods . She's like, that's awesome. I'm here to help. And she's like, you know, she's all pumped cuz she never got to see that part of an archery hunt, like getting to, you know, cut up and uh, pack it out and stuff.

And she thought that was really cool and she was there to help me do it. So that was kind of special. Um, special time for me to get to see that. But you know, he was a, he was 110 inch eight point, and that made me super happy. I was super happy with him. Um, and then hindsight, I'm like, you know, that other buck that I hit was a lot bigger.

Um, he was probably 130 inch eight point, uh, but overall, couldn't, couldn't have been happier with the outcome of that season. So, yeah, I'm

Josh Raley: sitting here looking at the, the pictures right now. And when you were ta telling [01:07:00] the story, I'm sitting here looking at that heart shot, which is like, it is like the, the most perfect hot heart shot that you could, that you could hope for.

Dude. One thing, one thing I didn't know is we killed on the same day. Oh, did we? Yeah. I thought you had text me the day before. So you sent me the pictures at 3 35 and then I sent you a picture of my buck at 6 42. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So literally three hours apart. I thought you'd killed the day before. That's how long of a sit I thought I'd had

I thought I'd basically been in that stand for two days. No, I, um, . Yeah, man, that's crazy. November 8th was a good day. It was a good day. Holy cow. What a good day. So, man, well, sweet dude. What a stellar season that you've had. Uh, any big lesson that you're like, man, this is my takeaway from the 2022 season.

Aaron Hepler: Well, you know, I think we talked a little bit about this off air, and I think the, um, the important thing is for me is always that post-season scouting and, um, you know, you asked me how many [01:08:00] miles I like to cover or what kind of goal I have there, and I told you that it's really about the detail that's in those miles.

You know, I, I probably cover 125 to 175 miles every year, but it's not really how fast you walk through that mileage. It's really about, um, when you find the detail, uh, picking it apart and learning that and figuring things

Josh Raley: out from there. Yeah. Sweet man. I wanna pick your brain about, uh, about postseason stuff.

Um, let's plan to have you on again real soon and we'll talk postseason scouting. We'll cover, uh, kind of. From beginning to end your approach day one after season's over, and then on through the spring, and kind of how you begin to formulate a plan for fall. Let's do it. Awesome. Thanks buddy. Yeah, ma'am.

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