By Dan Pickell
-- It all started when I was 12 years old. My father, Bob, had bought me and my twin brother each a compound bow. My first hunting encounter was with a yearling doe that I will never forget. The doe was only 10 yards away, and I was shaking so bad that I could not draw the bow.
Finally, after full draw and looking at my sights, all I could see was brown. I figured I couldn't miss. I released and had clearly shot under the deer. I drew a second time, only to shoot over her this time. With my final and last arrow, I missed again.
I watched this deer circle and wonder what I was doing up in that tree. Then the hunter behind me made a perfect shot. From that point on, I was hooked.
I have to thank my father for introducing me and my brother, Don, to deer hunting at such a young age.
After 25 years, I have bagged over 60 deer - some are very respectable bucks. Then my dream season occurred.
It was Oct. 30, 2006. The weather had warmed to 70 degrees, and the wind was gusting up to 40 miles per hour. These conditions did not exactly make for an ideal day of bowhunting but I went anyway.
I was in the stand at 4:05 p.m., and as I was sitting there, the wind was gusting so hard that at one time it blew my hat right off my head. I swatted to catch the wayward hat, which resulted in my release smacking my head.
I remember briefly thinking to myself that I should have stayed home, but with the rut coming on I knew anything could happen.
At 4:55, I scanned the area, knowing I would have to rely on sight and not sound during this evening hunt. As I slowly turned to look behind my tree, I was in awe at what was standing less than 10 yards from my stand. To say that my heart skipped a beat is an understatement.
With the buck at the backside of my tree, I reached for my bow. I carefully looked back at the motionless buck from the corner of my eye. Then I froze. If I tried to get in position for the shot, the buck would bust me. I waited for the buck to pass before I changed positions.
It stopped directly underneath me and then took a couple steps. I knew it was time to draw.
The buck stopped just 8 yards away as I drew my Bowtech Bow. At full draw, I settled the pin just behind its shoulder. I released and watched my fletching and lighted nock disappear right behind the shoulder. The buck ran out of sight. I knew from the shot placement the buck was not going to go very far. Just then, I told myself that I had shot the biggest buck of my life. Man, I was pumped!
I hung my bow and reached for my cell phone and called my brother. By this time, my heart rate was high, and I had trouble dialing my brother's number. When the call connected, I told him that I just killed the biggest buck of my life. He didn't know I would be in the woods that day, but after he heard me say it again, he realized from the tone of my voice I wasn't joking. Don had figured that I would not go hunting with the wind being so strong.
It didn't take long for my brother to jump in the truck and meet me in the woods. I called my mom, my other brother in Atlanta, and then my dad, who was in a treestand 60 miles north of me, to tell them the news.
After the phone calls, I was ready to get my hands on this buck-of-a-lifetime. I walked about 80 yards when I saw him piled up just beyond where he'd disappeared from sight. The feeling of walking up on this downed deer was overwhelming. I called my brother back to tell him, "Big buck down." He was there shortly after my call. We counted 16 points - 11 on its mainframe and five stickers on its base that were 1 to 2 1/2 inches long. The buck dressed out at 224 pounds.
Bringing down a buck like this was a lifelong dream. To take the buck with my bow was even sweeter. My luck did not end there. My bow buck was shot in an urban zone, which does not count against my statewide buck tag, thus allowing me to take another buck during the gun season.
And on opening day of muzzleloader season, I did just that. I shot a big 8-pointer. This made this season a true dream for me.
Some guys wonder how we bag respectful bucks year after year. We think about deer hunting 24/7 and have for the past 25 years. We hunt three counties and have approximately 60 stands out on multiple properties. We let the little ones walk, and we spend countless hours on stand waiting for that one moment. It's our passion and it's what we like to do.