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Beyond the Harvest

James Catalano
James Catalano of St. Charles, Mo., with a buck he harvested during the 2007 Mississippi rifle season.
By James Catalano

-- I moved from Mississippi to Missouri several years ago for work reasons and have enjoyed the hunting opportunities my new location has to offer. Coming from a state that has an extended rifle season to one that only allows 10 days to hunt with a rifle was really difficult because I am accustomed to being in the woods for more than 10 days.

Four years ago, a good friend suggested I try hunting with a bow. Following his advice and researching the industry, I went to a local bow shop and purchased a BowTech bow and a Summit climbing stand. Not only did I know very little about archery hunting, but I had never used a climbing stand.

That afternoon, I hit the woods with my new gear and within three hours shot my first doe. Looking back, I realize it was really blind luck that landed me the early success, but the addictive feeling experienced that day is what now dominates my thoughts almost every waking moment when bow season arrives.

Last season, I spent 45 days in the woods chasing deer. My season was a success because I managed to harvest several does with my bow and took a young 11-point buck with a rifle. However, the biggest success and most excitement came late in the year, when my 7-year-old son, Cole, harvested his first deer on a Mississippi hunt in late December. 

I usually go back to Mississippi and hunt with family and friends for a few days each year, and on the last day my family joined me at the camp just before leaving for the afternoon hunt. Cole had been asking to go to the woods with me for the past few years and now he would get his chance. 

Cole jumped on the ATV and off to the food plot we went. To make this even more special, another young hunter named Jackson, a friend of the family, wanted to go with us. So, we picked a large box blind overlooking an alfalfa field.

I turned on the video camera and all three of us sat in the plastic box blind, talking about what each would do when the "big one" showed up.  After about 45 minutes, the first deer arrived in the field and Cole immediately became excited. Moving into shooting position, we waited until a larger doe followed the smaller doe and a button buck into the field at about 85 yards away. 

Cole was sitting on my lap, while I looked through the scope and he looked down the barrel. I moved the safety into the firing position and Cole was already ready to squeeze the trigger. I made him wait and slowly pull the trigger when everything was aligned. The loud shot caused a surprised look on both our faces. Jackson had been smart enough to put his fingers in his ears.  The doe was hit and did a big circle right in front of us and ran into the wood line. 

I turned the camera on Cole, and he provided a great recap of the situation. We waited about 30 minutes and went to track the deer. With the camera running, Cole and Jackson tracked the doe, which had not gone 50 yards. This by far was the most exciting day of hunting for me in my life and has provided me with priceless footage of my son's first deer.   

The challenge of hunting an allusive creature and the amount of focus and dedication required to be successful, is what makes bowhunting rewarding. There is a sense of accomplishment in every hunt and is something I hope can be handed down to my son and my grandchildren.

Hunting is a passion and sometimes an obsession, but the process leading up to the actual season is just as appealing as the hunt itself. The season will come and go. The end will be here way too soon and this cycle for the deer hunter will begin again.

James Catalano
St. Charles, Missouri

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