I love hunting cutovers that are between three and five years old, offer plenty of browse for deer and afford them security to feed openly during the day while never leaving the thick browse. Hunters who set up in elevated stands are able to spot deer — and pick out a good buck every once in a while — without ever being spotted. 

That’s exactly the situation I chose last Thanksgiving.

It was a morning hunt on the edge of a cutover, and my Millennium ladder stand was on the edge of a streamside management zone, facing west toward a series of ridges sloping off a hill.

Once in the comfortable seat, I turned around and quickly realized my plan was working perfectly. I was greeted with deer movement along the crest of the ridge about 225 yards away. 

A nice buck with his tall antlers glowing in the early morning sun was leading the group. I had one opening to shoot before he went over the crest, so I put the crosshairs in the middle of the opening, and when he passed though, I squeezed off a shot. 

The roar of the rifle sent the deer over the crest of the ridge. About 30 seconds later, the lead buck came running back towards me, about 80 yards further south. He stopped on a knoll to look in my direction.

I held off a second, preferring to let him get closer before taking a shot; however, it was unnecessary. The buck took two jumps, and then toppled over, disappearing into a drainage ditch. 

The smaller bucks ran past where he’d dived off the cliff, stopping for a second to look before running within 30 yards of me. After a long 15-minute wait, I climbed down and walked up the hill to where I’d last seen him. I found him dead, facing head-first down the hill. He had run until he bled out and collapsed, the victim of a well-placed heart shot. 

He never knew what hit him.

It was surely a day to be thankful for this hunter.