Over the past few years, I have had some great hunts with both of my children. My son, Samuel, age 14 has harvested a buck with a compound bow and a rifle but never with a crossbow. My daughter Abby, age 12, has had success with the crossbow and the rifle. But one thing we have never accomplished is for the three of us to all fill our tags in the archery season. We all hoped that the upcoming season would be the year to accomplish this goal. Early in the spring, I watched as a local farmer plowed the field across from my house. I walked over to ask what he was putting in for the year. I was hoping for soybeans. He said beans in that field and the other 15-acre field on the property. He asked if I could help control the groundhogs, so the beans would have a chance. I agreed and walked back to my house with a huge smile on my face.
The weather grew warmer, and the beans really took off. Seeing deer in the beans was a nightly occurrence during the warm summer nights. The kids and I kept binoculars near the window where each evening, as the sun was setting, we would sit in the air-conditioned house and watch the different bucks that would come out to eat. As the summer ended and the bucks peeled off their velvet, we saw fewer and fewer bucks hitting the beans. The first day of the archery season was September 29th and neither of my kids really wanted to head out to hunt on the first day so I decided to hunt at a different farm where I was after a large 9-point. Using my new cell camera, I had hundreds of pictures of this buck hitting my mock scrapes. I was convinced that the odds were in my favor to see and possibly get a chance at this buck.
Arriving at the stand an hour before the sun, I waited quietly in the dark and talked with God. The sunrise was beautiful, and the woods came to life quickly. I watched squirrels scurry on the forest floor below me and a Great Horned Owl landed in a tree across from my stand. Turkeys talked as they fed behind me in the thick cover. I left at 11:00, and knowing I would be back by 3:00, in the afternoon, left my pack and bow in the tree. I knew they would be safe as the farm was private property.
Finding my way back to the stand, I added some pre-orbital gland lure to my mock scrape hoping this would help bring the buck to within bow range. I climbed back into the stand and within minutes, the squirrels were back on the search for acorns and other food. The weather was cool and the sky clear. Conditions were perfect for deer to be on their feet early, and I hoped the 9-point would come for a visit.
With little wind, I easily heard a deer coming my way. I turned to look and saw the 9-point heading my way. I grabbed my bow and looked for a shot. The buck had no idea I was there and closed the distance to 10 yards. He stopped and stood there for over 5 minutes and I was unable to get a shot. The buck stood still and watched the squirrels run around the mock scrape he had been hitting daily. My mind raced looking for a way to slip an arrow into the buck. Not wanting to chance a deflection or bad hit I watched as he slowly walked back the way he came. My opening day was absolutely amazing even though a shot was never taken. Fall soccer kept us busy almost every day, and we figured the first time we could hunt would be Columbus Day. I looked at the weather report to see how the conditions would be for an evening hunt and it wasn’t favorable with a high of 92 degrees with humidity. I left it up to the kids on whether they wanted to hunt or not.
Columbus Day finally arrived, and I found out that my daughter didn’t want to sit out in the heat, but my son wanted to hunt the last part of the evening. Arriving home from school around 3:00, I told Samuel that we would head out to the treestand around 5:30. At least by that time the heat and humidity would drop a little bit. Sam and I headed to the basement around 5:15 to dress in our lightest layers of camo and spray down. We decided to take a perimeter path around the 15-acre bean field. It was hot and humid and both of us were sweating pretty badly. We decided to stop and spray down again as we got closer to the stand. As we were spraying down, I saw 5 does come out of the thick woods and head out into the beans, directly in front of our stand. I was surprised the deer were on their feet in this heat so early. Maybe tonight was going to be a good night?
Doing our best to not spook the feeding does did not go good. The two mature does in the group saw us moving along the wood line, and they led the yearlings away, out of the field. We continued to the stand, tucked away in the corner of the field. Sam headed out into the beans and used a stick to put scent about 25 yards away from the stand. Not long after we climbed into the stand, Sam saw movement in the woods. It was a small spike heading our way. More deer filtered out, and I was speechless. It was 90 degrees and humid. The deer must have been very hungry! The sun was dipping further behind the trees, shadows began to cover the field and time was running out. Sam was now thinking about shooting a 7-point that was only 15 yards away but just as he was ready I saw an 8-point come out. The buck was feeding about 25 yards away, perfectly broadside. Sam leveled his crossbow and took the shot. I watched as the arrow blew through the buck. He took off for the woods and just inside the tree line he crashed.
We knew the buck was down, so we waited for the sun to set and the field to get dark. We did not want to spook the other deer in the field that kept eating after the shot. I called my neighbor, who was willing to help us load the buck. It was dark when we climbed down to recover his buck and take pictures. He was so excited and grinning from ear to ear when he found his trophy. The neighbor arrived to help us load up the deer cart and pull it to his house. Sam tagged out on a 90-inch 8-point on a night I never thought that the deer would be moving.
Now it gave Abby and me time to look for a buck for her. We spent a few evenings in the stand and had great encounters with a small 7-point and a 4-point. I promised Abby that I would take her out on October 22nd. The weather was perfect for us to sit in the same stand where Sam had killed his buck. The deer were still hitting the beans, and Abby was excited. We both hurried home from school, dressed in our warm clothes as it was in the low 40’s with a high-pressure system overhead. It was going to be a perfect evening.
Abby talked a mile a minute about a buck she hoped would pay us a visit. We arrived at the stand, Abby got herself situated, and I put buck and doe urine out in the beans. I then headed to the stand, climbed up, set up the video camera, and waited for the deer to move. Action came quickly as Abby spotted a mature doe making her way toward the corner stand. Turning the camera on, I hoped the doe would come closer for a nice shot. The doe came directly to the stand and stopped 10 yards away. The crossbow went off and the Grim Reaper did its job as the doe ran a short distance and crashed. I captured the event on video, and there was still a lot of daylight left. Returning to the stand after tagging the doe, Abby asked me if it was big. I told her “very big” as I re-loaded her crossbow. The video turned out great, and Abby wanted to watch it over and over. I told her we needed to watch the bean field. Sitting quietly in the stand, we could hear a deer coming through the woods to our left.
I could see a small buck heading our way. “I don’t care how big it is! I am going to shoot him if I get the chance!” She seemed to be serious, so I turned on the camera. The buck came to the tree line, worked a scrape and then headed into the beans. He never made it as Abby shot and hit the buck who went down. The buck got back on his feet and headed for the woods. I heard him crash soon after that. Abby was shaking and saying, “I just doubled, I just doubled!” I laughed, she kept shaking.
Two deer down in less than an hour was quite a feat for Abby. She called her mom and Sam to spread the great news. We packed our gear and went to find thebuck’s blood trail. Abby found the first spot of blood and took the lead on the trail. She wanted me to hold her hand and help her take the trail so I did. Together we followed the blood to her buck. The buck was the tall spike that Sam and I had seen the night he killed his 8-point. Abby was excited and now tagged out. I had a few weeks left to hunt my target buck. The remainder of the archery season was pretty rainy. It seemed like any time I could get into the stand, it was raining. I don’t mind hunting in the rain, and I did hunt as much as I could. I never did see that 9-point again, so I started to hunt more around my home. As October ended and November began, I wondered if I would get a shot at a mature buck.
November 5th through the 10th would be the last full week of the archery season. Looking at my schedule, it was clear, I was going to be very busy. On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I had to coach soccer. The only bright spot was that my practice on Thursday didn’t start until 6:30 pm. With the time change, I could easily get out for at least an hour to hunt on Thursday. The only issue was it was going to be impossible for me to hunt the 9-point that evening. At least, I had a few days to think of a great place to hunt. Through the week it rained Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but Thursday was going to be in the mid 40’s and no rain! Thursday, November 8th I kept looking out the window and about 10:00 the rain stopped. I wrapped up my conferences and headed home to get into the woods for at least 2 hours. I grabbed my gear and made the short drive to the property. Once dressed, I sprayed down with cover spray, hoisted my climber and headed to my lucky tree. The ground was still wet from the morning rain and the air was cool. Twenty yards into the wood lot, I saw six tails ahead of me heading deeper into the timber. I continued my slow walk to my lucky tree and my heart dropped. Loggers had cut it down. With time winding down, I picked another tree located close by, attached my climber, and then set up some scent. I had a pretty good feeling bucks would be cruising looking for receptive does. I returned to my climber and went up about 15 feet. Once settled in, I said a prayer for safety and peace. For about a half hour, I sat and watched the woods quietly soaking up all the sounds. It was so peaceful to just relax and listen to everything around me. Around 4:30, I did a rattling sequence with a few grunts. I could hear deer coming my way and saw a few doe skirting the edge of the swamp behind me. I also saw horns coming my way. I stood, picked up my bow, switched on the camera and waited for the buck to present a good shot. The buck worked his way toward me, downwind and had no clue I was watching him. When he was about 15 yards away, he turned right and headed toward the scent I’d put out. I followed his every move and waited patiently for him to turn broadside. When he reached the scent he turned to his right and stopped. As he did, I noticed an open wound behind his front shoulder. I had ranged the yardage at 23 yards. Setting my sight I prepared for the shot. Making sure to keep the buck in the camera, I slowly drew to anchor. My pin hovered behind the buck’s shoulder and I released. The arrow found its mark and penetrated deep. I watched the buck drop at about 40 yards in some tall grass. I could not believe everything had happened so quickly. My phone showed 4:45. With the buck down, I packed up my gear. When my feet were back on the ground I used my cell phone and made a video of the blood trail. The Grim Reaper had done a wonderful job. The blood trail was easy to see and follow right to my buck. I couldn’t wait to put my hands on him.
The buck laid motionless as I knelt beside him and gave a prayer of thanks. Looking him over I couldn’t help but wonder what had caused the wound on his side. The closer I looked at it I came to the conclusion someone had tried to shoot him and the arrow just glanced his side. Another interesting feature to this buck was the jet black mane running down the back of his neck. This buck was ripe and smelled like he had been rutting hard. He had great mass, dark antlers, and 10-points.