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A Long Time Coming

By Juddie Burgess

 -- Opening day of the West Virginia archery season is a time that every bowhunter anticipates, from the time the previous season closes until the new one opens.

Bowhunters have been busy practicing, tuning their bows and sharpening broadheads all summer long, getting ready for this day. Members of the West Virginia Bowhunters Association (WVBA) have been attending 3-D archery shoots to hone their skills. I don't think there is any other time of the year that the excitement for a hunter is greater -- unless it's when that mythical buck steps within range of an archer.

I recently joined the WVBA and attended my very first shoot at the Hideaway Hills 3D Archery Shoot on Sept. 9, 2006. I had a blast at the shoot, and it gave me the extra practice I needed.

All this preparation led to the harvest of my first bow buck.

PhotoI did it! Finally!

At 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14, I got my very first buck with a bow. I have taken does before, but never a buck. In fact, years ago I lost a 6-point buck due to bad shot placement. I learned the hard way that patience and the right shot opportunity are vital parts of this style of hunting.

But, the deer gods have forgiven me and let me take a buck this year. Nothing spectacular enough to have mounted and hang on the wall, but it is a buck -- and a trophy to me.

That morning my son, Jerod, and I were up at 4:30 getting dressed and downing a good hearty breakfast before we left the house to go hunting.

We left at 5:30 to get to our hunting lease. Once there, we put on our safety harnesses, uncased our bows, locked up the truck and headed to our stands.

I arrived at my ladder stand at 6 a.m., climbed up and immediately hooked up my safety harness. I was set up to hunt by 6:15. I radioed Jerod and told him that I was in my stand, ready to hunt and wished him good luck.

The woods were quiet, and the stars and a half moon were still bright. I heard something that sounded like a deer go over the hill. Then, as light broke, I saw some squirrels running around on the ground looking for their morning breakfast. The birds were beginning to sing their wakeup calls to the world.

At about 7:45, I heard another noise in the leaves that sounded a lot like someone walking to my right. I looked up the hill and saw a deer coming toward me from the adjacent hill. I slowly stood up in my ladder stand and got positioned so I could be ready for a shot. For a right-hand shooter like I am, shooting to the right can be difficult if you're not in a good position.

As the deer drew closer, I was finally able to make out that it was a buck with a rack. I drew my bow just before he got in front of me. He was only 20 yards away. (The day before I had been in the stand with my rangefinder checking distances.)

PhotoThen the buck stopped suddenly and looked right up at me. I thought, "Dang! I have been made!" He looked at me for what seemed like an eternity, then made a 180-degree turn and started walking back the way he came.

I was still at full draw and got the pin on the mark, but the deer was still walking. I was afraid to grunt to get it to stop. I took careful aim and then shot. I heard a loud THUD as the arrow hit the buck. Then I saw the deer jump and start back up the trail it had come down. The whole time I watched my arrow bounce up and down as it headed back up the hillside. The deer made it to the top before I lost sight of it.

I radioed Jerod and told him I got one, and that I was going to give it about 30 minutes. I also let him know I was going to get down and check the spot the deer had been standing, and if I needed help I would radio again.

I lowered my bow and backpack to the ground, unhooked my safety harness and got down. Grabbing my gear, I went to where I had hit him. I looked around for hair and blood but didn't find any at that spot. Then I glanced in the direction where he'd left the area and saw impressions in the leaves. Slowly, I moved to look for blood. Again, I didn't see any, and I was getting worried. I searched a little farther and there it was -- blood! There was just a little drop or two on top of some leaves.

At that point, I was really worried about the shot.

I started to look for more blood and then began tracking. I noticed the farther I went, the more blood I saw. He had gone up the hill, and I guess the arrow was still cutting, because the further he went up the hill the more blood I found. It appeared to be spraying now.

Just as I topped the hill, I found my arrow. It was covered with red, and there was a whole lot more on the ground. I picked it up, examined it and put it in the quiver. Then I pulled another arrow out of the quiver and placed it on the string.

I knew I must be close. I hadn't taken more than three steps when saw him lying on the ground. I had found him!

The buck hadn't gone more than 10 yards from where I found the arrow. In all, he only went maybe 75 yards from where I shot him.

I immediately looked up at the sky and thanked God for providing this deer. Then I radioed Jerod and told him that I had found the deer and it was the 7-pointer that we had on camera. Again, he congratulated me and wanted to know if I would need help. I told him, "No, just stay there and hunt." I had all day to drag him out.

I took out my digital camera and positioned the deer's head on my backpack and took a photo of him. Then I filled out my tag and attached it to him -- that's when the hard work started.

This 7-pointer isn't really anything for the record books, but this is my first 7-pointer ever and the first buck with a bow. His inside spread is only 7 inches, and the longest tine is only about 2 1/2 inches. So, it is a small rack, but I am proud of this buck just because it is my first one with the bow.

One great thing is that I have pictures of the buck before I harvested him. There are pictures of him sparring with a 6-pointer with a bent P-2, as well as images of him at mine and my brother-in-law's stands. This buck made his rounds between the two.

This will be a hunt that I won't soon forget. It seems that the first buck taken, whether with a gun or a bow, is something you remember for quite some time.

I have been bowhunting for about 20 years and hunting overall for 26 years. Jerod started hunting with me about seven years ago and has been my hunting partner ever since. He is my good luck charm. It seems that since he began hunting with me, I have been able to harvest a deer every year.

Juddie Burgess
Fayetteville, West Virginia

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