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Crab Claw Returns

Pete CavallaroBy Pete Cavallaro

-- I started bowhunting three years ago on some property I lease in Summit County, Ohio. I tried to hunt a majority of the property until I found an ideal location situated next to a small orchard. This particular day had been a mixed bag of weather. Early in the morning the weather was cool and moist; as time passed the clouds rolled in. The clouds turned into a steady rain by early afternoon.

At work, I was convinced that my 2006 bow season, which started the next morning, would be wet, and only we "diehards" would sit in the rain. However, by the time I was ready to go hunting, the sun had come out and the temperature had risen quickly to nearly 70 degrees.

Having arrived at my stand a little after 4 p.m., I felt like I was at the beach getting a suntan. I wore some of the lightest camo clothing I have, including a short-sleeve, button-down shirt and zip pants made of lightweight polyester. It proved to be comfortable through the entire hunt. I also brought along a long-sleeve, velour camo shirt. I knew as soon as the sun began to set on the horizon, it would become cooler, and the velour proved to be a good extra layer for that night.

While waiting for my first deer of the new season, I began to think about my hunts from the year before. I had logged some info on a board that I use for my bow rest. On it, I have listed a few dates with the number of deer sighted on that day. Most of the dates scrolled on this two by four from last year were in late October and early November. I counted seven deer sightings on this piece of wood.

A few weeks ago, I took my rangefinder and ranged in a few locations below my stand. I marked the thicket and a few small trees with some tracking tape and identified them on my board. The closest range was somewhat to my right, but only 15 yards below. That one proved to be the best location.

Last year was the second time in my three years of hunting that I actually had taken full draw and let a few arrows fly. Unfortunately, I missed the mark each time I shot. During my second year, I missed a huge buck twice, on the same hunt. I named the buck Crab Claw for the two pronounced claws at the end of its rack. I saw the buck once more during the 2005 season, and another hunting buddy spotted Crab Claw last year, as well.

Tonight would be different. I had practiced some during fall, and I knew that when I took more than 20 practice shots I started to lose my form and did not shoot as well as when I practiced with a few mechanical broadheads each practice session. Earlier in the day, I had told Mike, my hunting buddy, that I felt confident with my shot this season.

On the stand, I checked my e-mails as they started to roll in after 5 p.m., mainly from my boss. Nothing too important that couldn't wait for a response until the morning. I was looking forward to this season and being able to get on stand at least an hour earlier because I had a system and the technology that allowed me to get away from the office, but still be in touch if anything urgent came up at work. Technology is spreading to the woods. Of course, I keep it on vibrate and no ringtones for the phone, while on stand.

Last year's memories of successfully rattling in two bucks will always be fresh in my mind. It's something when you see a deer come full trot from well over 300 yards away because it thinks it is going to be the king of its domain and take on the other sparing bucks. I had it happen twice during the 2005 season, and it will be forever etched in my memory as one of the highlights of my hunting experience.

I lightly rattled a few times through the evening. At one point, I got aggressive because I saw two dogs bounding on and off a main road that runs through the area I was hunting. The dogs finally gave way to the rattling; they must have known that a few big bucks were no contest for them, and they exited the field and headed home. This occurred about 5:30 p.m., and I was pretty sure that their presence in the field would ruin this hunt. Because the sun was scheduled to set at 7:08, I decided to stay put. I had seen deer come into the field after an ATV rider stirred things up late in the season the previous year.

I threw in an occasional grunt call from my grunt tube and a few doe bleats now and then, nothing very aggressive, and not much effort on my part. I thought most of these calls were a little too early for the season. As the time passed, I started to think about Tuesday night hunts. Because of obligations at home on Tuesday, I had considered waiting until the weekend to start this year's bow season. However, I decided to hunt Monday night, and it was an excellent decision.

After sitting in my stand for three hours without a shot, I threw my long-sleeve shirt on. The winds had finally begun to soften, but the air had become much cooler. I started packing up most of my gear. I figured the night was pretty much over, and I had not seen a thing, not even a doe all evening. I started planning my next trip to my stand, and how I might possibly work a Tuesday night hunt into my schedule.

Within about 10 minutes of packing, I saw him. He came onto the trail about 125 yards ahead. All I could think was that he will never make it up to within bow range within the legal light limit for Ohio. In Ohio, a hunter is allowed a half-hour after the official sunset time to take a safe shot.

It was getting dark quickly.

The buck wandered up the trail toward me and came to stop about 23 yards directly in front of me. As it bent to feed on the forage, I took full draw, only to have to hold it for what felt like at least 5 minutes (most likely it was about 2-3 minutes). Through my peep, all I could catch was its silhouette because the upper branches of a white pine blocked my shot. I slowly let out my draw and relaxed for about 30 seconds. I was really surprised that my arrow didn't fall.

Gaining some composure, I knew I had to get him to move about 5 yards to the right or to the left to get him out of the path of the white pine. I decided it was so late in the game already, so I grunted on my own twice. To my surprise, he quartered right into my line of fire, about 15 yards below me. Drawing and placing my 20-yard pin on the buck's body, I released and heard the sound I had wanted to hear for three years. "Smack!" I new I had arrowed him well.

I wasn't exactly sure how big my first deer and my first buck would be. I was sure I delivered the arrow into its kill zone. I was pumped. I knew I had a nice buck, but I wasn't sure if it was the one I missed twice last season from the very same stand. 

As I walked up to the buck and saw this 10-point animal, I was ecstatic. I knew this was the Crab Claw buck I had missed twice the previous year. This was really special. What was even better was the reaction of my hunting buddies. My friends were genuinely excited for me and also very proud of me. That was really the best feeling I had about this hunt. There is nothing that compares to the friendship that exists among hunters.

Pete Cavallaro
North Ridgeville, Ohio

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