By Michael Stewart
-- Bowhunting in my home state of Mississippi means swatting mosquitoes, keeping a keen eye out for snakes and hoping you don’t dehydrate before you make it back from your deer stand. Needless to say, my first bowhunt in Ohio found me out of my element – slipping on ice, praying for sunrise and hoping that my mother-in-law was cooking chili back at the house.
My scouting trip the day before had left me hopeful that my in-laws had given accurate reports of deer they’d seen in late summer. Down one ravine and up the other were rubs and scrapes of a size that only better-than-average bucks could’ve made. With the temperature falling, my hopes were rising that the animal responsible for those marks would waltz into bow range the next morning.
Out the door and past the dog kennel, I made my way to the woods as quietly as a man dressed for a blizzard can. It had been only about an hour since I gripped the cold metal of that deer stand and made my way up the tree, when I saw a flash of white moving on the ridge across from me. One glimpse of those antlers and I knew that was the deer I was after. He was moving down the ridge straight toward my stand – 100 yards, 90 yards, 80, 75 … and there he stopped, his body behind a tree, but his antlers in plain sight.
“Keep coming, big boy,” I thought. But he wouldn’t budge. He’d gotten a clear view of my in-laws’ dogs pacing the ridge behind me.
“Game over,” I thought. And as quickly as he came, my buck was gone. As he made his way back over the ridge, I got a view of his body that I hadn’t been able to see earlier. What a horse! There was the one I was after, going back from where he’d come, and all of his 8 points and 200-plus pounds with him.
I sat down and rubbed my sore knees that’d been knocking together during the whole ordeal. I looked at my watch and it read 7:30. And for the next 2 ½ hours I sat and thought about those 10 minutes.
I blew on my grunt tube to no avail. I kept my eyes peeled on that ridge where I’d last seen him, all the while thinking that my in-laws really could use one less dog.
As I was about to climb down and call it a morning, five does spooked on a ridge to my left. What unnerved them? Did they pick up my movement? Nope … It would be my luck that now was the time that someone had decided to take a morning stroll near the woods line … with his dog, no less. And as the man and his dog went on their way, so did the does with their tails in the air, flashing white as they dodged through the trees.
As I was muttering something under my breath about why more people should be cat owners, my thoughts were interrupted by the crash coming from my right. Apparently, five does running through the woods is more than a buck in rut can take.
There was no time for knee-knocking now. This 8-pointer had circled the ridge and appeared from behind me. This time, he had does in sight. He headed past my tree like a man on a mission. Thanks to those dogs, that deer had his target in site, and so did I.
I must say that drawing a bow at a target in 70-degree weather won’t prepare you for taking aim at 8 points when it’s 8 degrees. Nevertheless, I mustered the strength to get that string back on my old bow and placed an arrow right where I wanted it.
“Dogs,” I thought … “Man’s best friends.”
Four hours, five men, a horse and a tractor later, we were finally able to get the 250-pound buck out of the hole into which he’d run. It was my first buck in Ohio and the biggest I’d taken anywhere. By the time I got the deer dressed and had headed back in for the evening, my mother-in-law was finished with the chili I’d started the day thinking about. And there was more than enough deer meat to go around.
Worn out, now only half-frozen and as excited as I could be, I put my bow in the corner and sat down to admire the one used arrow in my quiver. I shared every detail to those who would listen, while, outside a happy dog gnawed on a very large deer bone.