Tips from The Hunting Public: Chasing Open Country Whitetails in North Dakota
Jake Huebschman got access to thousands of acres of private land by stopping in at the local diner
For the eighth stop of The Hunting Public’s Deer Tour, Jake Huebschman and his two cameramen, Zach Ferenbaugh and Nick Andrews, headed back to North Dakota for a second shot at closing the gap on an open country whitetail. Huebschman had a couple of close calls on his first trip back in September, and felt confident he had found an area where he could get another opportunity with his bow.
With the weather being about 50 degrees colder and high winds in the forecast, Huebschman and the crew knew they would be set up perfectly for a spot and stalk hunt. Here’s what you can learn from their successful North Dakota trip.
How to Find Big Bucks in High Winds
After a grueling drive, Huebschman and the crew arrived at their campsite in North Dakota. Upon stepping out of the truck, they realized quickly that they weren’t in Iowa anymore. With incredibly cold temperatures and 50-mph winds, their work was cut out for them.
For the first day of the hunt, they decided to dive right into the area they had hunted in September. After a few close calls just a month prior, they knew the deer were in the area and had a good idea of their travel patterns. Huebschman anticipated the deer to be running the bottoms to avoid the brunt of the wind.
“We still think the deer were in the area, it just felt a lot like mid-October type movement, they weren’t moving a lot during daylight hours,” said Huebschman. “The deer were bedding down in the coulees and bottoms in any depression they could find to get out of the heavy winds.”
After an uneventful first day, Huebschman and the crew decided to give the area another shot for the second day to see if the deer movement would change. As they set up to glass the next morning, they watched deer come out of the crop fields and go right back down into the cattails, where they remained for the rest of the morning. After confirming that pattern, Huebschman knew he needed to switch it up during the middle of the day.
Huebschman returned to the truck to come up with a new plan. The Hunting Public
The crew hit a new area that was full of drainages and coulees. With the wind still ripping through the open country, they thought they’d have an opportunity to sneak up on a buck that was using the wind breaks in the terrain during a mid-day bed.
They were able to come across a few deer by covering ground, but unfortunately, they didn’t find any bucks they were interested in. At the end of the second day, Huebschman and the crew were a bit concerned with the lack of bucks they were seeing, but determined to make the next few days count.
Using windy conditions to your advantage can work across the country. Those windy conditions will concentrate deer in areas where they can find cover. Plus, the wind will also mask your noise as you stalk.
Use Local Intel
To kick off the third morning of their trip, the crew decided to hunt the same area for the first half-hour of daylight to see if the deer coming from the private crop fields would change their pattern. After watching the deer follow the same pattern as before, the crew quickly shot over to another area nearby.
After hunting there until mid-day with no action, they decided to head to a local diner for some lunch and to edit some footage. This is where their hunt took a turn for the best. While at the diner, they introduced themselves to a local man who was enjoying some coffee. He happened to be a landowner in the area and after a short conversation, invited Huebschman and the crew to come check out his land.
“He took us on a drive to show us where he thought we should hunt,” said Huebschman. “While we were riding around, he called a few of his friends as well who also gave us permission to hunt their farms.”
By the time they had finished the drive, Huebschman ended up getting permission for about 30,000 acres of private land in the area. Huebschman assumes most of the landowners gave them permission to hunt deer because many of them primarily hunt upland game in the area.
“Everyone was so excited for us to come hunt their deer, they barely even thought about it before giving us permission. We know it’s not like that everywhere you’ll go to hunt, but man, it was such a cool experience.”
That afternoon, the local landowner from the diner took them to a 9-man playoff football game to introduce the crew to even more landowners. At the game, they met the individual who owned the crop fields next to the public land they had been hunting the days prior, and they gained access to hunt his land adjacent to the public.
“He showed us on a map where he had been seeing a decent buck bedding pretty regularly, so we decided that the next morning, we’d be chasing that buck,” said Huebschman.
As the sun came up the next morning, Huebschman was headed right to that bedding area. They had decided beforehand how to approach going through the coulees to close the gap without spooking any other deer that might be in the area. They went in with the wind in their faces. This allowed them to work through the terrain without their scent blowing their stalk. As they approached the area they expected the buck to be, they slowed down and began to glass the coulees.
“We went right to that spot the landowner had shown us and glassed small trees,” recalled Huebschman. “Just like that, we saw a nice buck bedded right behind the trees in front of us.”
Huebschman was able to use the terrain to move into position on the downwind side of the buck, and within 15-minutes, the buck stood up from his bed and presented a shot at 22-yards.
“The buck was quartering towards me pretty hard, I put the pin on him and settled it, then squeezed it off… I was stunned when he dropped in his tracks,” said Huebschman.
Huebschman credits the windy conditions to his success. With the wind blowing at 30 to 40 mph, which was easily enough to cover their ground noise. With the buck bedding in a small depression with the wind and a bush to his back. He was looking down into the draw, but tucked into a spot that made him pretty vulnerable for a side hill approach from Huebschman.
Obviously, he also owes his success to the landowners who graciously welcomed Huebschman and the crew to hunt their land with open arms. Huebschman said that meeting the friendly landowners was the most memorable part of his trip.
Have Realistic Expectations
With his North Dakota tag filled, Huebschman and the crew packed up camp and began the trek back to Iowa. On the drive, Huebschman reflected on the trip and came to a conclusion that he wishes more hunters could learn and focus on: Shoot the biggest buck you can find.
Huebschman has shot bigger bucks, sure, but his mentality on this trip was to go after the biggest buck he could find. There may have been bigger bucks in the area, but Huebschman wasn’t able to locate them. After seeing the buck he ended up tagging, his heart was racing and body full of adrenaline, he knew right then and there that he wanted to take that buck.
Whether you’re going on a week-long vacation for a hunting trip out of state, or you’re hunting your home ground, don’t get caught up in what you see on TV shows or social media. Head into the trip or the season with realistic expectations for the bucks you’d be willing to tag.
The next buck to come by that gets your heart racing and adrenaline pumping should be one that you’re proud to put a tag on.