By Rory Crowley
As a new hunter, my very first season hunting was amazing, and more so because I've been able to share my newly found passion with some of my closest buddies and bond even more with them.
I've also been blessed to have a few 30-year veteran hunters take me under their wings. They've been an invaluable resource for me. It definitely helps to have experienced coaches, and I encourage veteran hunters to continue to help us new guys.
One cold December evening, I'd obtained permission to hunt on property that had been nearly untouched by hunters for ten years. Needless to say, I was optimistic there would be some great deer activity, even after the rut.
The first two times I hunted there was from a blind about 50 yards from a greenfield. Several heavily used game trails surrounded the field, so I knew it was a matter of time before the deer would show somewhere on the field.
The third time I hunted it, I moved the blind back about 80 yards. That night, I shot a spike buck, mistaking it for a big doe. I learned later this is a typical rookie mistake.
The next day, one of the veteran hunters I know, Glenn, accompanied me for an evening hunt.
He was obviously very knowledgeable. I showed him the spot where I took the small buck and asked him if he thought it was a good spot to ambush a mature buck.
"Let's take a quick walk and see what else there is out there," Glenn said.
We scouted a long tree line and he suddenly stopped. He raised his binoculars. "There it is."
I didn't know what he was talking about at first, but he showed me an extremely thick bedding area about 100 or so yards farther down the field, a likely entry point into the field.
We hastily constructed a new ground blind downwind from the spot, using old tree limbs and brush. Then we settled in and began our wait.
About an hour after we sat down, a white truck came barreling down the road near the tree line. No one was supposed to be on the property!
A stranger got out of the truck and started banging on some metal drainage pipes that were dumped there about a week earlier. I was horrified.
With the racket, I figured anything in the area would obviously be spooked into the next county. As cordially as I could, I approached the man and asked him what he was doing.
"Oh, I'm sorry man," he said. "I had no idea you were there. I'm just getting these drain pipes counted and ready. We're supposed to lay them next week, but I will be gone in a few minutes."
I told him no problem, and walked away.
"By the way," he asked, "have you seen a big buck around here that's been limping?"
This got my curiosity up because I hadn't.
He explained, "My buddy bowhunted here once last year and shot a monster 8-pointer in the leg, but he never found it."
I thanked him for the info and went back to the blind with renewed enthusiasm.
As the man finished working and drove away, I asked Glenn what we should do. He thought we should just stay put to see what happened, since there was only about 40 more minutes of shooting light remaining.
Just before dark, and exactly where Glenn predicted, a monster buck stepped out of the thick bedding area. I couldn't believe it!
My heart started pounding, and I could barely grab my gun.
"He's a shooter! He's a shooter!" Glenn whispered as he observed the buck through his binoculars.
I'd only seen bucks like this on hunting shows and in magazines. Glenn told me to calm down, take a deep breath and take my time.
I was shaking so badly I could barely hold the gun steady. I used a small stick to stabilize my rifle, like a makeshift shooting stick. Again, Glenn calmly reassured me to take my time.
Finally, I was able to reduce the shaking to the point I could put the crosshairs on the buck and have a confident, 80-yard shot. I let out half of my breath, just as Glenn instructed, aimed and fired. Buck down!
I high-fived Glenn and hugged him. It was all smiles from there on out as we approached my first trophy buck.
I couldn't wait to grab those antlers and join the brotherhood of those who know what that feels like. There are no words to explain the sheer happiness that came over me at that moment.
As I counted and re-counted the points, something caught my eye. The front, right hoof was swollen but healing from a wound, obviously from a broadhead. This was the buck that guy had talked about. The man I thought was going to ruin my hunt actually became part of my story.
Then I noticed something else, like a drop tine, growing on the bottom half of the left antler. Glenn told me the abnormal growth was probably a result of the arrow wound received from the previous year.
Thanks, Glenn, and thanks Buckmasters, for helping me share the story of my fantastic first year of hunting!