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I had not bow hunted for several years until this year. During an open house at Fenton High School where my two teenagers attend, I was talking to one of the parents and found out that he was new to bow hunting this year and was looking for a partner to hunt with. Most of my hunting friends had either lost interest or moved away so I jumped on this opportunity to start hunting again.
To prepare for this hunt I needed to purchase a few items. I needed a tree stand (portable platform) that I could easily carry in the woods as well as a portable ladder for aid in climbing the tree so I could install my stand. After I bought these items, I knew I was ready for the hunt. We met at my house on several occasions to practice our shooting skills and decided on a weekend in mid-October to go bow hunting for deer.
The night before we left I was so excited I couldn't sleep. Ever happen to you? We left for our hunt around 7AM on Saturday morning. We only had a 3-hour drive so that would give us plenty of time to set up camp and hunt the afternoon. We arrived at the campground about 10AM, checked in and started to put up our tents. Soon after we started, the wind shifted, a front came through, and it started to rain…not at all what I would consider good camping weather, or hunting weather for that matter. Not to worry - we were there to hunt, and what's a little rain?
Soon our luck changed and the rain stopped so we gathered our gear and headed off to the woods. Now, on my past bow hunting excursions, all I had was my bow and a small pack to carry. I would find an acceptable tree to climb with good branches to aid in climbing and sitting. When bow hunting the idea is to be as quiet as possible and move as little as possible. Try sitting on a knotty branch for three hours and not move or make a sound! Very difficult to do. No wonder I never brought home a deer. After trudging though the high grass with my gear, bow, portable stand, backpack and other so-called necessities of modern day bow hunting I finally was able to pick out the "perfect tree" to set my stand in. The only problem was that I was so tuckered out from the hike up and down hills with all of my gear that I did not think I had the energy to climb the tree, haul my stand up and safely install it so I could hunt. Although I was only carrying 35 pounds, I wasn't used to it and I was bushed. After about an hour of using muscles I had not used for awhile, I was safely standing on my platform, 25 ft off the ground. My stand had a small seat on it, so I sat down to wait for a deer to wander near, and to ponder the wonders of nature.
Then, it started to rain. Not just rain. It down-poured. Here I was, 25 ft in a tree sitting on an 8" x 10" seat attached to an 18" x 24' platform, its 35 degrees and its pouring rain! Sound like fun? All I could think about was dry clothes and a hot cup of coffee…until I remembered…my portable tree stand umbrella that I bought from Galyan's a few days before. I pulled it out of my backpack and quickly installed it above my head and around the tree. Now the rain only hit my boots…I was in heaven…but without warm clothes and hot coffee. Oh well, that could wait. After all, I was hunting. By this time I really was tired. It did not matter that I was wet and cold. After all I had been through that afternoon, no way was I going to let a little cold, wet weather ruin my afternoon of hunting. I leaned my head against the tree trunk behind me, closed my eyes and drifted off to slumber land.
I am not sure why I woke up. It may have been because the rain finally stopped and I no longer could hear the heavy raindrops on my umbrella, or maybe it was that sixth sense, that sense that hunters have when game is near. In any event, I looked to my left and saw a large doe kind of hop out of the pine trees in my direction about 80 yards away. Was this my day? She meandered closer. She stopped and stood broadside about 55 yards away, 20 yards out of range. I slowly stood up. She did not sense me. I raised my bow. She did not see me. The breeze was in my face. She did not smell me. So…why was my heart pounding so hard that I thought she would hear it! Why was I shaking so hard? Buck fever can strike at any time and that time was now! There was no way in my heart pounding, limb-shaking condition could I ever shoot straight. After a few minutes, my buck fever subsided and I was as still as a statue. I tired of standing and needed to sit, so I sat down ever so slowly. She still did not see me. She was interested in other things. She turned her head away and looked back from where she came as if signaling to other deer from those pines that "all was clear" and they could all follow her lead. I anticipated the others following her trail out into the open, but no deer came. She just stood there looking into the brush. Then she whipped her head to her right, my left, and bounding through the field behind me came another doe. Holy cow! "Gary! Remain calm!" I whispered to myself. The other doe passed by and I renewed the focus on MY doe.
I decide to try calling her in with my new "deer caller" which when used sounds a lot like a cow mooing. "MOO…MOO…MOO". She looked my direction. She didn't see me. She looked back to the brush. "MOO…MOO…MOO". No response. Heck, the book said that they are supposed to come toward you. "MOO…MOO…MOO". Nothing. So much for my deer caller. Another 15-20 minutes went by. I continued to stand and sit…stand and sit. I was calm but discouraged at her lack of movement. Why wouldn't she come closer? All of a sudden, out of the trees in front of me about 20 yards away scampers another doe. Now is my chance. I turn and raised my bow…darn limb. I could not turn enough with the tree branch in my way to get a shot. I guess I should have bought that Gerber saw from Wal-Mart and trimmed those branches. Oh well, time to focus back on MY doe. She was still standing in the same position. How long is this going to take? What am I going to do? Stand…sit…stand…sit…stand…sit…an hour must have gone by, three deer near me and no shot.
Then, things changed. MY doe, although still standing in the same spot, stomped her front hoofs on the ground several times. She looked excited, but why? Then she snorted. I could see the steam from her nostrils. What was she doing? Then all of a sudden out of the brush in front of MY doe lumbers out the largest white tail buck I had ever seen. His rack was minimum ten points, one of those racks where the main beams sweep back behind the head with vertical points off the beams like a big comb. His body was huge, well over 200 pounds. He was 50-55 yards away, standing broadside, but out of range. I took my trusty deer caller out of my pocket, "MOO…MOO…MOO". He just looked at me and then looked away, "MOO…MOO…MOO". Nothing. He was interested in something else. He stepped towards MY doe. She immediately jumped 6 feet away from his advances. He was still standing broadside. By this time it was near dark and I knew that if I did not take a shot now I would lose this chance at a deer of a lifetime. Where he was positioned, however, did not give me the clear shot that I wanted. The branches of the tree I was in were in the way allowing me only a 2 foot window to shoot through and would required me to flex my knees a bit to aim and shoot. I never practiced shooting in a crouch, only standing or sitting. I drew back and let my arrow fly. My trajectory was perfect… but ONLY three feet wide. The two deer heard my arrow land in the tall grass, looked in my direction, and then scampered off into the pines.
A long hike, four tiring hours in a tree stand, soaking wet, freezing, and missing a trophy deer? Is it all worth it? I'm going next weekend!
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