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Never Too Old to Learn

WilsonBy Mark Wilson

-- A lot of my friends at work are deer hunters, and I would often here their stories of seeing deer, being in the woods, the solitude, and the reflection that happens when you're out there sitting in a treestand. It seemed to me that I was missing something very special.

So at the young age of 41, I decided that I would buy a bow, a treestand, and all the necessary equipment needed to stay comfortable in the fall and winter months. Then I started practicing.

After four years of perfecting my shooting and sitting in my treestand or ground blind for many, many hours I had not shot once at a live target. But I had always seen deer, so I remained positive.

On Nov. 9, the day before rifle season was to begin, I woke at 4:30 that morning and got ready to sit in my treestand. The weather was supposed to start getting cooler that weekend. So far, the fall had been pretty warm. It had rained the night before, so I knew that it would be a quiet walk to the stand, and I was looking forward to getting out.

I got to my stand about an hour before daylight. There was a slight breeze blowing in my face and the day looked like it was going to be clear and cool. It was going to be a nice day to be in the woods.  I was facing east, overlooking a muddy creek bed with a heavily used deer trail above it at the base of a hill. I've seen many bucks use this trail in previous years, but I just never had a good shot presented to me.

After about an hour in the stand, everything was quiet, and I was reflecting about life in general and feeling pretty good. Suddenly, the forest exploded. I nearly jumped out of my stand. About 15 to 20 turkeys sounded like they had fallen from nowhere and made such a racket that they nearly scared the stuffing right out of me.

I took a few deep breaths, and I swallowed my heart back into its rightful place. I watched the turkeys pass through the area. A couple of those turkeys looked right at me but seemed to just go about their business until the forest was suddenly quiet again. Every now and then I would hear the turkeys off in the distance, and then the squirrels were out looking for nuts. It was fairly calm again.

It was about 9:00 in the morning, and the day was beautiful. I heard something walking down the hill just southwest of my treestand. I couldn't see anything yet, but I could hear something walking, the bushes would rattle, and still I couldn't see anything. It got really quiet. Fifteen minutes had passed and the forest was still.

For some unknown reason, I looked to the north and saw a buck crossing the creek bed. The buck stopped 35 yards just over it. Time stopped. It had really long P2s and P3s. I stopped looking at the rack and focused on the body. It was in a small clearing. The deer bent its head down to eat. I twisted in my seat and drew my bow, put the 30-yard pin on the buck and shot.

The arrow seemed to take forever to fly the distance to the buck, but it struck home. The buck ran across the deer trail and then hooked straight up the hill in front of me. I heard a crash. The buck had gone down. I couldn't believe it. My cheeks were starting to hurt and I realized that I was smiling.

It was 9:20 by that time, but I thought that was impossible. Hours had gone by in the time between when the buck had stopped in the small clearing and I had watched him run up the hill in front of me ... right? Nope! I checked my watch again and decided to give the buck 15 minutes to pass.

I took off my hat and climbed out my stand. I lit a cigar. I started to walk to an area to get across the creek bed. I ended up crossing right where the deer had, and I stood on the spot the deer had been and looked back at my stand. That was a nice shot. Smiling to myself, I turned and followed the tracks up where I had watched the deer go. I saw the buck. It had only gone about 60 yards from where it had been shot. The buck was perfect. It had 10 points and a bunch of small kickers. Looking up, I gave thanks.

This was my first deer, first buck, and my first time shooting at a live target. It was a beautiful day and one I will never forget.

Mark Wilson
Bellevue, Nebraska

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