By Ron Less Jr.
-- I didn’t start hunting until a couple years after I graduated from college, which is much later than most of my fellow hunting buddies began. My father didn’t hunt, and my mother didn’t like guns or even the idea of someone shooting a wild animal.
Then one day, 16 years ago, my Uncle Roger asked me if I’d like to go deer hunting with him and, within an hour, I shot a nice 8-pointer. From that day forward, I’ve been hooked on hunting.
In the past six years, I’ve rarely missed a day of gun or muzzleloader seasons, and I bowhunt almost every week.
I mentioned that I’ve been hunting hard for the past six years. The reason it has been only six is because of my son, Hunter, who was born seven years ago. Just like when my daughter, Madison, was born, my wife, Lorie, needed help with the baby. She basically told me, “You'd better spend more time helping and less time hunting.”
It happened again when my son, Luke, was born at the end of August. I knew I’d be lucky to get out only a couple of days during the 2008 bow season.
On Oct. 25, my wife was in a particularly good mood and I asked her if she minded if I went bowhunting for a couple of hours (which is really four or five hours, but I always say “a couple”). Surprisingly, she said yes.
I already had a great spot picked out about 10 yards from a scrape where I’d set out a trail camera. The camera had taken some photographs of a small buck, but I was hoping something bigger might wander through there.
I made my way through the woods and noticed the scrape was still very active and that there was another one about 20 yards from it. I got my climber off my back and started to hook it to a tree. After finally getting the cables locked in place (climbers sure are a pain, but they do come in handy), I bent over to tie my bow to the rope and spotted six turkeys watching me struggle.
As if the turkeys knew I hadn’t bought a fall turkey tag, they just casually walked away. Nevertheless, I decided to have some fun and moved to where I thought I might intercept them. After a couple of minutes, they were 20 yards in front of me scratching in the leaves.
Just for the heck of it, I drew my bow and placed my pin on one. As I quietly let down my draw, I really wished I'd purchased a tag. No doubt, one of those could've been my first turkey with a bow.
I made my way back to my climber thinking if I didn’t see a deer, this still would have been a great day of hunting.
After climbing about 20 feet aloft, I settled in with a smile. It was a beautiful day with the sun shining through the trees and no wind.
After about an hour of concentrating on a trail that came out of a swamp to my left, I noticed some movement in a swampy area about 100 yards in front of me. The buck showed up out of nowhere, walking toward me. This buck was really big, and my heart started racing.
As he stepped out of the brushy swamp into the mature woods, he stopped and started to make a scrape. He was about 75 yards from me when he turned to my right and began walking away. My heart sank.
He stopped after about 15 yards and started to make another scrape. This being only my second time hunting that year, I fumbled for my grunt call. I finally found it deep in one of my 20 pockets and sounded off six soft grunts. It worked; he turned.
While he was moving past some brush at 15 yards, I drew back my Buckmasters PWC . When he turned and walked directly under my stand toward the scrape to my left, he stopped and looked straight up at me.
With my bow at full draw and my body bent straight over, I didn’t move an inch. He then did the old snap-up (that’s what I call it), where he looks back down casually and then snaps his head back up to try and catch you moving. Well, he didn’t catch me.
He moseyed over to the scrape. When he took his last step with his front leg forward, I let the arrow go and heard the thwack (my favorite sound). The shot hit him a little high right behind the shoulder, and I saw him take off into the swamp toward a river with the arrow hanging out. After a little time, I heard a big splash and knew he was down. I was just hoping he wasn’t floating down the river.
I got down and decided to get some help and some waders. Luckily, my neighbor, Tom, was home. This was a big-bodied deer; there was no way I was going to drag it back with just my 7-year-old son.
It was getting dark by the time my son and I returned. Hunter was the designated flashlight man. It was awesome to have him help me track a deer for the first time. After letting Hunter follow the blood trail (which he thought was cool), it stopped near the river. I gazed into the river that was about waist high and 25 feet across and was hoping to see my buck, but it wasn't there.
Hoping I wouldn’t have to cross, Hunter and I started following the riverbank to the right, while Tom went left. A bit later, Tom yelled, “There he is!”
We reversed direction and I saw the nice 8-pointer lying in a little creek flowing into the river.
After dragging the buck back (and stopping to catch my breath every 10 steps), I remembered that my trail camera was aimed right at the scrape the 8-pointer was standing on when I shot him. I decided I’d check the camera the next day after Tom and I celebrated with a couple of beverages.
The next day, I got the memory chip out and couldn’t wait to download it onto the computer. It was awesome. There was a picture of the buck seconds before my arrow found the mark.
What a great hunt! I had it all: turkeys, big buck, trail camera picture and spending time with my son and friend. My wife was even happy. She said now that I’d shot my deer, I wouldn’t have to hunt any more that year.
I reminded her that I still had a doe tag and I needed only “a couple of hours” to fill it.
-- Ron Less Jr.
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