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Bowhunting with a Passion

Kelly Colf

If you think archery is a male-only sport, you haven’t met this young lady.

By Kelly Colf

Since I was old enough to get out there, I’ve been hunting with my dad and brother. Years of hunting for rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, deer and coyotes have turned me into quite the addict.

My parents raised me with the mindset that nothing was off limits because I was a girl, and if I worked hard enough, I would be successful. I attribute my upbringing to many successes in my life, and I hope to be able to instill that confidence in my own children someday.

We are family-focused, outdoor-raised and thankful for all we have. I’ve known this is the lifestyle I want for myself, and I’ve always counted on it to ground me and keep my priorities in check.

I’m a general manager of a hotel in a beautiful region of the Finger Lakes, and lucky enough to live and work 15 minutes from my hunting grounds. After a stressful day in the hospitality business, there are few things better than being in the woods, watching the sun set or a pair of fawns play under your stand.

After years of hunting with a shotgun, I was eager for a new challenge. I discovered that challenge and found a way to extend my whitetail hunting season with a bow. I bought a Mathews Passion, and the fire was ignited.

I fell in love with my bow and couldn’t wait to take it out.

I shot a lot and spent a lot of time in the stand. Unfortunately, I had no luck harvesting my first archery deer. I now attribute that to not understanding of importance of scent control, wind direction and strategic stand entry and exit.

It was frustrating at times to have bruisers on camera and not be able to take one, but I was so content to enjoy warmer weather, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets and learn this new sport. Even with the challenges, I never got discouraged.

During winter of 2013, I met my boyfriend Phil. He’s an avid bowhunter and has taught me so much about the sport. We spent the summer planting and tending our food plots, conducting trail cam surveys, setting and trimming stands and enjoying the time spent together outdoors.

Hunting season is a lot like Christmas for us, and we were eager to get out in the woods. Phil was on a mission to see me get my first bow kill and to get it on camera. We had set up and brushed in a blind over our turnip plot which was doing great, and the deer were hammering it.

I was able to take a 20 yard shot on a great doe, and my first archery harvest was complete. I had never been more proud, and that’s a hunt I will never forget. Best of all, Phil got it on camera so I was able to share it with both my family and his. With my first harvest in the books, I was ready to do a little bone hunting.

November 3 was a brisk morning in upstate New York. Phil was headed to Middlesex to take one of his college buddies hunting, and I was headed to Cheshire to spend a little time in my treestand and hunt with my cousin Brent.

The night before, Brent and I’d engaged in a friendly, heated discussion about who would sit over our soybean plot in the morning. It ended with a coin toss, which I lost. In the morning I headed to the corn plot, intending to do a little more flat-head hunting. I’d checked the trail camera setup near this stand and had a pretty good pattern on a group of does, so I was hoping to take one early.

Kelly ColfAs I made it to my stand, I realized I’d left my rangefinder in my Tink’s bag. So I climbed down, kicking myself all the way to my Jeep. I hoped I hadn’t ruined my sit as I made my way back to the stand and settled in.

I sprayed a little Tink’s doe estrus into the air and sat. The morning was cool, and after forgetting my hunting boots, I was glad I had the heated insoles to put in my boots.

About 15 minutes into the hunt, I spotted a spike walking up the side of the cornfield. He was just a little guy and super curious. He walked directly under my stand, and then back toward the field and down the hedgerow.

As I was watching him walk away I noticed leaves flying in the air and saw what looked to be a shooter tending a scrape. By his body characteristics, I was confident he was at least 3 1/2. He was directly downwind but had no idea I was there. I watched him scent mark a few overhanging branches, rip up the ground and smell the air. It was by far the coolest encounter I had experienced with a buck.

The only problem was he was behind my stand and I didn’t have a shot.

My mom always asks us to plant a few rows of sunflowers around our corn plot because she thinks they are pretty. The buck must have agreed because he was wading through the flowers as he made his way to the heavily trafficked deer trail and into the corn. If he continued, he’d walk through one of my shooting lanes.

I waited for what felt like eternity. If he took one step farther into the plot, I’d have no chance at a shot ... but he stayed on his path.

I pulled my bow, stopped him, squeezed my release and watched my arrow fly through the shooting lane, through a sunflower stem, and into the buck. The sunflower stem kicked the arrow back a bit, but it was still a great shot.

The buck turned and ran, stopped and stood for a few seconds, and then continued on. I tracked him through a small gully and up the plateau on top where I found him. I pulled his rack up out of the leaves and I couldn’t believe the amazing events I had just experienced.

As I stood alone in the middle of the woods with a mature whitetail that I had harvested with my own strength, I knew I was hooked on archery hunting. After a moment of serene beauty and calm disbelief, I called my dad as I jumped up and down in the woods, telling him about my experience.

I told him Brent would help me drag my deer out, but by the time I picked up Brent from his stand and we got back to my buck, my mom and dad were pulling in, grinning ear to ear, so proud and eager to help me with my trophy.

This experience was second to none, and I think of it often. I am eager to get this 133 1/2 inch record-book buck from the taxidermist and add him to our beautiful collection.

With deer season over, we’ve moved on to hunting coyotes, then a wild boar hunt in Pennsylvania in March, and we’ll be traveling to Quebec for some bear hunting in early summer.

Then it’ll be back to food plots, stand-setting and gorgeous summer nights spent preparing for when the leaves start to fall again.

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