By Malcolm Whyte
-- That season of the year is drawing near - a time when all whitetail hunters in Maryland begin the big count down to Sept. 15.
Well, during this season, that day finally got here and to my dismay, while trekking through the woods, all I could smell was death. It seemed that the deer in Northern Harford County had come down with a virus. Much needed rain had not fallen this year and the creek beds were running low with water or not running at all. While the deer were searching for water, they contracted a virus instead.
DNR released an article informing the public that once the deer contract this virus, they would die within 10-12 days. It also stated that after the first heavy frost, the virus would die off and the deer would be free from this sickness. Unfortunately, the 70 acres I hunt was hit moderately hard. So I waited. Then it happened the first week of November. To my delight, I woke to a thick, cold, crunchy frost covered the ground. It was now time to start my trek back into the woods.
It was a Tuesday morning. The cold wind blew gently and the leaves crunched underneath my ATV, as I slowly made my way to my designated hunting location. You see I am a paraplegic. I have been since Dec. 11, 1987. I was a logger and had been for a good 5 years. As I was finishing up the day on that Friday afternoon, the last tree on the hill fell against a dead tree that came back and landed on me. This left me paralyzed from the waist down. I started hunting with my father on our land 16 years ago. Though I have been very successful in this sport, the BIG ONE is still lurking in those woods.
This particular day I went out by myself. I put on my favorite Rancho shaggy ghillie suit, appropriate attire for hunting, got on my ATV and drove slowly out to my point of interest. As I got out to my treestand, which is only 6 feet off the ground, I realized that I had forgotten my flashlight. So I had to use my cell phone as a flashlight to unlock my treestand.
As I was unlocking it, I lost my balance, which I do not have much of anyway, and slid off the ATV. It had rained for a couple of days prior and filled the pipes on the treestand with water. Unfortunately not realizing this, I used the stand to hoist myself up off the ground and got soaking wet.
Needless to say, the morning was not going well. However, while grumbling under my breath, I made it back onto my ATV. As I was preparing to give this another try, I kept telling myself, "Malcolm, don't forget your arrows." Forty-five minutes later, when I finally got all snug and settled into my treestand, I picked up my crossbow to cock it, and wouldn't you know it, my arrows were not there.
I looked over the edge and, yes indeed, there they were, sitting right where I left them, on the running board of the ATV. Now, from my stand I can reach the seat, but not the running board from 6 feet off the ground. It took me about 10 minutes to get the strap of my quiver to hook onto the crossbow limbs, hoist the arrows up the tree, and cocked my bow. Then I waited.
By this time, daybreak had come, and the warm sun on my face was not what I planned for so early. Between the daybreak and all the noise I made this chilly morning, there was no way anything should have been moving in those woods. But I thought, I'm here, and I am not giving up. I said a prayer to the Lord to let me see something.
For 10-15 minute intervals, I used my game rattle and tried grunting. This went on for about an hour. As the sun rose higher in the big blue sky, out came a beautiful red fox. I sat watching him watch me, when all of a sudden a young deer came tearing out of the woods as if its tail was on fire. I observed the deer frolic and play in the field for another 10 minutes. A mature doe then came out to eat in a patch of bright grass that was left from the previous morning's thick frost. The doe stood about 20 yards away from me for several minutes.
As she turned my way, I noticed that our eyes met. I hoped and prayed that she would not give me away by snorting and stomping at the hard ground. Then it happened, the BIG ONE. The stature of this beautiful, lean 10-point buck came from the wood edge in search of the sleek beautiful doe grazing in the field.
I slowly and quietly raised my crossbow, looked down through the crosshairs, filled with excitement, pulled the trigger and watch the buck jolt. Then I heard a loud thud as the buck fell to the ground. I started shaking in my skin and shouted, "I got him! I got him! Perfect shot! Thank you God! My prayers were answered!"
I got down out of my stand, back on the ATV and road toward the spot where I shot the beautiful buck. I did not see any blood on the ground, but as I continued 20 more yards in the direction he ran, I saw one drop of blood. As my eyes scoped the area, the blood trail became 8 inches wide and went for about 150 yards. It was as though the buck painted a big red line as wide as a highway strip right to where he lay. It was time for me to retrieve my game. The buck's gross measurement was 158 3/4 and after deductions ended up being 144 1/2. Thank you, God, for a bad day gone perfect.