NAME: Justin Reineke
SADDLE GEAR: Tethrd Mantis, predator, muddy sticks
LOCATION: South Dakota
Rutcation 2022 brought me back to SD for the 2nd year in a row chasing public land whitetails in hill country. On the 5th day of our trip, November 9th, I went to a spot I had seen a big buck a few days earlier. I got to the parking lot early while it was still good and dark and pushed 1.5 miles into a river bottom. This type of scenario is what the Tethrd saddle and mobile setup was made for. I bumped a handful of deer on my way in, not far from the bedding area, but stayed positive because it was still very dark and they didn’t smell me. I got to a small clearing that I could barely make out through the darkness and waited until gray light to pick a tree. I climbed a tree not far from the river edge with the wind carrying my scent over the water. As the sun slowly got higher, I noticed the rubs and scrapes all around this small opening in the thick brush that I was set up in. I knew bucks were spending a lot of time here and anxiously waited to see how the day would play out.
The morning was quiet until I heard something running through the brush ahead of me around 11 AM. A big coyote. He ran right into the bedding area and I didn’t know if that would be good or bad at the time. I could hear more animals moving around in the brush and then the coyotes howled, barked and growled. They couldn’t have been more than 100 yards away and were making a racket. It wasn’t 15 minutes later, a fork buck walked out of the bedding area followed by a doe and then a small 8 chased a doe out of there a short while after. The coyotes got some deer in this bedding area on their feet. For the next 5 or 6 hours I saw deer consistently, most of them moving through the thick brush so I couldn’t get a good look at them. About 40 minutes before dark, I heard a deer approaching from behind me, so I grabbed my bow just in case and saw a lone doe moving towards the base of my tree. As I was watching her, I heard another deer exiting the bedding area from the opposite direction in front of me. The doe and I both turned to watch and listen.
The deer was moving on the other side of a thicket so I couldn’t see what it was. The deer stopped and started raking brush and making a scrape so I knew it was a buck. I’ve never heard a buck make so much noise. He was angry. He moved another 10 yards almost turning the corner of the thicket to rake more brush and hit another scrape. I peeked back over my shoulder to see what the doe was doing. She was still looking at the buck. I slowly grabbed my grunt tube hanging in front of me which I knew was risky, but I also knew this buck was angry and I wanted to make him think there was another buck in his bedroom. I let out one short, soft grunt and let the grunt tube down. It seemed like the world stood still at that moment. The buck was frozen, and the doe was now looking directly at me less than 10 yards away. The buck turned the corner of the thicket and began working right towards my tree. I could finally see him. All I thought to myself was “Shooter. Get ready.” The buck was closing in quick, and I knew the doe was going to bust the second a drew back. The buck’s head got behind the last little bit of brush before one of my shooting lanes and I quickly drew back. The doe immediately spun around and ran so 28 the buck whipped his head up to see what the commotion was, turned and started to angle away. I picked a gap in the brush and did the classic “meh” to stop him in a window. Not only did he stop, he did me one better and turned his shoulders towards me which made him almost perfectly broadside just shy of 20 yards. I squeezed the trigger on my release and sent an arrow clean through him right in the triangle. He took a few big leaps into the brush and tipped over 30 yards away. At that point I couldn’t believe what had just happened and was shaking uncontrollably. Only my fellow hunters understand that feeling. Shortly after releasing my arrow, the weather turned, and it started raining steadily. My buddy made it down from his tree and we walked up to the buck for a few pictures, but we knew we had to get out of that river bottom. A lot of the access roads in SD turn to grease when they get wet and time was ticking. There was no way we were going to get that buck 1.5 miles to the truck at this point. We decided to leave him overnight knowing it would be in the 20s and come back the next morning, hoping the coyotes wouldn’t get to him. We hoofed it back to the truck in the dark, pouring rain and started making our way up the slick, greasy hill. The truck was moving sideways in the opposite direction of the steering wheel a couple times, but we were able to give’er just enough to make it back to flatter ground. The following morning, we made the trek back into the river bottom with a cart and a couple extra pairs of hands to get him out. I was pumped to see that the coyotes hadn’t gotten to him that night. My dad couldn’t believe the overall size of the buck. He had a huge body to go along with an impressive rack. It was a trip I’ll never forget, not only because I harvested my biggest buck, but because of the experience shared with my dad and friends. That’s what hunting is all about.