By Jason Poreda
-- The weekend started out as every good hunting adventure should - by relaxing and catching up with my hunting buddies. With bows in hand, it was to be a three-day weekend trek to Kentucky for us Illinois boys to shake out the cobwebs from a long off-season. The property we were heading to was new to everyone, which would make for a challenging hunt, but we also knew the potential of this ground so our spirits were high.
The next morning, after checking a couple game cams on our Illinois property, we loaded up the truck, picked up some supplies and hit the road for our three-hour tour. As we pulled into town, we met up with a local friend at the best motel for 50 miles. Well, the only motel for 50 miles. After arguing with the clerk that he was trying to gouge us "out-of-towners" $60 a night for a nasty room that was quoted at $29 to our friend earlier that week, our spirits were slightly tarnished, but we managed to push on.
Since the motel selection was bleak we finally ate crow and took the rooms. Of course, the rooms were not yet clean, so we dropped the trailer and headed to the property for a quick drive-by scouting trip. The farm certainly looked promising, with rolling cropland of split beans and corn, and spotted with fence rows and small timber blocks. With our high spirits rejuvenated, we returned to the motel (I use that term loosely) to get cleaned up.
To no one's surprise, only one room had been cleaned and very poorly I might add. We loaded some gear into the room and discussed who would shower up first and what time we needed to head out. While the bathroom was in use, I walked over to our other room to check on its status only to find the clerk remaking the beds with the sheets used by the room's previous occupants. Needless to say, upon asking him about it he got very defensive and combative.
After he started yelling and calling me names for questioning his business practices, the rest of the guys came running. At first he refused to give us our money back, but with a lot of yelling and bluff calls to the police, he finally coughed it up and we went to shower at our friend's house. The hotel monger was not going to keep us from hunting, period.
The Old Man
We arrived at the farm, freshly showered but still pretty pumped from our altercation. On our way around the property to drop off two of the guys closer to where they were hunting, we came upon an old man with torn jeans and bloody knees standing in the middle of the road and a pickup truck wedged into the embankment. Apparently the man had broken off his shift lever on the truck and tried to manually shift it from underneath with the emergency brake on. Of course the brake didn't hold and he ran himself over. He seemed to be okay, so we helped him out of the ditch and sent him on his way.
Our First Evening
After a little discussion, we all headed into the woods in different directions to find trees to climb. My first evening of the year was pretty uneventful compared to what the day had brought us. Luckily, there were not too many bugs, unfortunately even less deer. About 5:30 p.m., I heard a voice from inside my pack. It was one of my buddies. The excitement of getting good news turned south with the words, "I shaved his back!!!" In the excitement between the first hunt and a nice velvet buck, his 30-yard pin sent an arrow high on a 20-yard deer. After some good badgering, we all calmed down for the rest of the evening.
Now it was off to find a place to stay. The closest town that might have a motel was 45 minutes away. So after dinner at the local Dairy Queen, we headed off in search of lodging. To our surprise, the place we found was great. The rooms were clean and big enough for all four of us. The rest of the evening unfolded as it should, with stories shared with friends. This was a nice end to a crazy day.
The Lost Arrow
The next morning I found myself in the same tree as the evening before. Although not packed with action, I did see my first velvet buck from a treestand, a spike with a doe running by at about 50 yards away. We finished out the morning hunt and decided to scout out another part of the farm.
The spot I chose was a small block of woods on a grassy hillside butting up to a huge standing cornfield at the top. There was a deer trail at the edge of the field. Unfortunately, the area was not much for tree selection. It still felt right, so I was going to give it a try that evening. Back at the truck, two of my buddies decided to target shoot for a bit while we waited for the last guy to return from his hunt.
Even though I know I should, I never practice shoot during a long hunt. All it takes is one bad shot and you ruin your confidence for the hunt. After watching them for a while and talking about a sound my bow had been making, I could not help it. "I'll shoot one arrow," I said. I guess I tense up when my peers are watching and choke, and that's what I did. The arrow glanced off the top of the target, which sat just 30 yards away!
My arrow sailed up and back another 20 yards into the lush bean field. Since a lost arrow in the beans tipped with a broadhead is nothing to shrug your shoulders at, we began the search. After 45 minutes on our hands and knees in the beans, we found the arrow. It was my turn to hang my head and take some badgering that I certainly deserved.
The Velvet Buck
That evening I was dropped off at the base of a grassy hill on a farmer's path only about 150 yards from my spot. The high temperatures were pushing into the 90s, so I was really putting the Dead Down Wind products to the test. When I got to the top of the hill and the tree I was going to climb, I realized that there was a limb I could not get around without cutting it but had given my saw to one of the other guys that afternoon.
I paced back and forth trying to find another tree suitable for climbing. I settled on a tree about 20 yards down the hill from the first tree but still only 10 feet from the edge of the woods and now 25 yards from the corn. The problem was the tree was only 6 inches in diameter and covered in what I thought was poison ivy. I climbed one foot at a time using my little clippers to cut away the vines, but I could only go up about 10 feet before the tree began to bend and sway. This would have to do.
For the first 20 minutes, the wind was perfect then for the next three and a half hours the wind blew the wrong direction straight into the corn. Like a gift from above, at about 6:20 p.m., a storm rolled in with strong winds and a touch of rain that carried my scent away from the corn. As I scanned the edges of the cornfield for something to step out, I heard what sounded like two squirrels barking and fighting over by the first tree I was going to sit in. Although only 20 yards or so, I had to use my binoculars to scan through the foliage. I spotted movement and after a few seconds realized it was a young doe. I readied for a shot.
"We're going to be eating tender backstraps tonight," I thought to myself. Then came more movement. It was a big doe. I imagined even bigger backstraps. As I was looking at the doe through the tree limbs something caught my eye. Something I didn't believe at first, so with the smaller doe now just yards in front of me, I slowly reached for my binoculars and eased them up to my face. As I focused in on the deer, it picked its head up. I saw the unmistakable upsweeping beam of a mature buck. This was a shooter buck, so I decided to not look at its rack anymore.
The buck moved along the edge of the corn, stopping at one point and sticking its head back into the first row. The buck made its way into my shooting lane just 17 yards away and quartering away. As I drew my bow and steadied the pin, the buck paused and turned its head my way. That's when I released. The immediate blood showed a solid shot but was a bit too high for comfort. The buck ran down the hill for about 40 yards before stopping and looking back.
As the light began to fade fast, I scrambled to dig out my radio and called the other guys. "Big Buck Down, Big Buck Down," I said.
"We're on our way," they replied. I wanted to get a look out into the field before I lost all light so I shimmied down the tree and tiptoed to the edge of the woods with my bow and binoculars. I glassed back and forth but saw nothing. I stepped out farther and farther, glassing back and forth with each step. There was my buck lying 10 feet from where I had seen it last.
I readied my bow and cautiously walked toward the downed beast. As I eased up next to it, I realized that I had shot a mature buck in full velvet. As my hunting buddies showed up one by one from all sides of the farm, you would have thought they had shot this buck. We greeted each other with high-fives and cheers, laughter and hugs. This was their deer as much as mine. After taking tons of photos and dressing out my deer, we loaded it up on the quad and headed slowly back to the truck and then off to the butcher.
A friend of a friend directed us to an old homestead in the hills of a man who has a small processing shed and freezer space of which we were in desperate need. He instructed us to pull around back and he would let us use his hoist to cape the buck. As we backed the trailer into place, no one seemed to notice the old plow blade hidden in the tall grass. However, we all noticed the unmistakable hiss of air escaping from the trailer tire as the plow blade tore though the side wall.
The processor and I caped the buck while the other guys unhitched the trailer and pushed it back into the weeds. Even a blown tire could not dampen our spirits that night.
The memories of this time shared with friends will far outlive the trophy on the wall. Thanks for everything guys!
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