North Dakota 2020 Public Land Hunt Recap | Tyler Smokes “Twin-Towers”

From the time I could tie my boots I was always intrigued with the outdoors.  I never knew how important doing things a certain way could play into the success of a hunt until I found myself at the age of seven, out of my comfort of a heated shooting house, and sitting on the cold, frosty ground in the hills of Tennessee just so my dad could be downwind of a prime bedding area in the middle of the rut.  Growing up and learning how my father would do things and read whitetail like a book gave me an advantage that led to the success I have had hunting whitetail on Public Land.

Enlisting in the United States Air Force was one of the proudest moments of my life.  I have had the opportunity to hunt several states and pursue game I never imagined. From hunting Caribou in the treacherous mountains of Alaska to hunting the windy plains of North Dakota, one of the biggest attributes to my success has definitely been OnX maps.  Being an active-duty military, I am constantly on the move.  OnX has made finding public land hunting opportunities so much easier.  Upon notification that I received orders to Minot, North Dakota I wasted no time in scanning the area on OnX to figure out where I was going to try my luck.  If you have never been to North Dakota, it is definitely a different hunting experience than the endless hardwoods and rolling hills I was comfortable with.  Scanning the Northern part of North Dakota was like looking at a topographic map that just seemed to never change.  Endless fields of wheat and canola covered the screen of my phone.  In an area like this, my only thought was bedding.

Upon deeper investigation of the area, I started to notice small portions of forestry around some of the crop fields.  The portion that I became interested in, was a portion of approximately 400 acres of thick North Dakota bush.  Food opportunity was endless, but not on public grounds.  To my South West was a cornfield on private property just on the other side of the road from the public grounds.  With an abundance of vehicle traffic near, I knew the deer were feeding there under the cover of darkness early in the morning or, right at dark. To my West, on private property, was a pond in the middle of a group of trees that provided the only visible source of water in a searchable distance.  With the information I had, I decided to scout the west property line of the area to find where the deer were crossing onto private property from bedding to food and water.  

The property line on the west side was met with an old roadbed running along the fence that provided a perfect travel route for deer getting to their resources, or even maybe the bucks cruising for does during the rut. I decided to place my ground blind and camera in an open area near some well-used trails in a location that would give me plenty of shooting space. The wind played a huge factor in the success of this location.  Anything South, and your scent coming in traveled right through prime bedding.  Anything North, it was game on.  After placing my game camera on a well-used trail, I immediately started to get pictures of shooter bucks.  One of the deer that caught my attention, was a perfectly symmetrical 8 point, with brow tines that seemed to never end.  I decided a fitting name to call him was “Twin Towers”. I had very few pictures of him, but he seemed to show up at 6:30 PM every time he granted my cameras with his selfie.  With a lot of consistency, and the help of the ever-calm bomb from conquest scents to battle an un-decisive wind direction, Twin Towers finally made a fatal mistake on October 2, 2020.  He walked right down the trail and presented me with a 20 yard broadside shot.  

The success of this hunt brought me right back to watching my father as a child.  Even in the hunting world, we all face adversity.  We all have seen that property line that kept you from going where you really wanted to be.  In the public land game, your response to it is what will determine your success.  One of the things my dad always told me was to always trust your gut.  I sat in that blind for many hours with no luck, but my gut and my trail camera always reminded me that one day, he would come.  If I had to offer any advice to a new public land hunter it would be to always trust your gut, and do your research with a map before you step foot on a property.  In the end, I can assure you that your opportunity for success will be right before you.

You can watch the Hunt here:

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