While my 2011 deer season ended successfully, it was still a total disaster. I fought trespassers and poachers the whole season long. I seriously contemplated taking a break in 2012. Was it even worth it anymore? What's the point in hunting if it no longer holds any excitement or joy?
However, as the months passed and summer slowly turned into fall, everywhere I looked it seemed deer hunting was the topic of choice. Twitter and Facebook were filled with posts from people out hunting or preparing to do so, the numerous catalogs that started showing up in the mail, and of course, seeing deer every morning and night on my commute (all 3 miles) reminded me of what I loved. As the weather cooled, the excitement of the hunt filled my veins.
|a couple of obnoxious does|
I picked a new spot to sit this year, wedged between a couple of old trees that had fallen. (For those that don't know, I was hunting from the open ground, meaning no blind and no tree stand... because I'm scared to death of heights.) From what I could gather it was an active crossing spot as the deer went to feed and then back to the river and down to bed. The first night at my new spot was incredible! I had deer coming in from all four directions, most of them actually coming from behind me and within 10 yards, some came so close that I could have reached out and touched them. There were several bucks and so many does I couldn't even keep a decent tally, and I did nothing that evening but hold my breath and observe. That first night was exactly what I needed. It reminded me of what hunting was really about, and it renewed my love for the sport.
Every afternoon the deer were as predictable as the setting sun. The only variables were the chasing bucks. One night, just as the sun had set, a large basket rack 8 point and a wide 10 point followed the does into the area. Having limited time to actually hunt this season, and the opportunity in front of me to take a gorgeous deer, I drew my bow back intent on taking the larger 10 point. I pulled the bow back and patiently waited for the buck to step past the tree that was hiding his vitals. Off to my left I saw some movement and caught the sight of moving antlers; actually more like a deer with a walking brush pile on his head. Slightly annoyed that he couldn't have shown up two minutes earlier, I let my bow down and relaxed, waiting to see what would happen. If he continued on the same path, he would be well within range and all I'd have to do is make the shot. Of course, it's never that simple. He stayed just out of range, giving me absolutely no opportunity for a shot. I watched him lumber down the path and across the wide open pasture, the epitome of a monster whitetail.
Initially, I was planning on standing and pulling back when he passed behind a large cottonwood tree. However, as I stood I realized he was coming in at an angle that I wasn't quite prepared for, leaving too many opportunities for things to go wrong. I refuse to take a shot that I'm not completely confident in, and failure is simply not an option. So, I quickly sat back down. Apparently if I wanted this deer, I was going to take this shot while sitting... in the open... at 15 yards.
How many bow hunters do you know that practice sitting and shooting? Probably none to zero... I know I never have. Yet, that was suddenly my new plan. By this time, he had passed the cottonwood tree and was within 15 yards, perfect shooting range. He had his head down and I fought to pull the arrow back from my sitting position. My efforts were somewhere between amusing and completely comical. In fact, as the buck looked up from the slight movement, all his senses on high alert, it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud. I knew I could very easily lose my opportunity at this deer, but I simply didn't have the strength. It never fails that I find myself in the most unexpected and absurd predicaments while hunting. Eventually, though, the buck relaxed and even looked the other way as several does appeared at the top of the ridge. Knowing I had only a few days left before rifle season, and hardly any time to hunt, I told myself I had no choice but to really do this.
With everything I possessed, from the tips of my fingers to the tips of my toes, I gave it my all and grudgingly felt the string give and pulled the arrow back. At the sudden movement, the buck turned and stared me down, trying to decipher the sudden danger. I focused the sights and let the arrow fly, sure that I saw a small spot appear on his side where I had been aiming. He darted up and behind some brush, not more than another 15 yards, and stood there and snorted... then snorted again. My heart started to sink. I just knew I had made a good shot. I knew it, yet I couldn't help the fear that sunk into my bones as I realized he was still standing and acting completely normal.
|my arrow as I found it|
At that moment, I heard him drop... the unmistakable thump of his body hitting the ground. Pure exhilaration raced through my veins, with complete satisfaction knowing that I had taken a beautiful, mature deer, in the complete open, from the ground, and at only 15 yards. (Yes, I'm proud of that.) I waited impatiently as I called for help, trying to enjoy the other deer still roaming about and the last rays of the setting sun.
|my first glimpse|
I know that being an experienced hunter and still fighting many old school ideas that this is a man's sport, I probably should not openly reveal my fear or my mistakes, or that I had seen a monster that most people will never have the opportunity to see with their own eyes while hunting. Most hunters, especially those that people look up to in the hunting industry, will never reveal all the mistakes they made, or even the number of deer they've lost. No one talks about it because no one likes to show their weaknesses or reveal that they aren't perfect. However, that's a whole other blog post.. or series of blog posts. Hunting is not predictable (if it is, it isn't hunting), and it's definitely not about the horns or trying to make yourself out to be a badass. It's a never-ending lesson of discovering yourself and learning about the outdoors.