By Ronald Payne
-- This past year was tough on hunters. With all the rainfall we had in East Texas, the deer just didn’t have a lot of incentive to get up and move around, except, of course, at night.
That said, my friend Jeff Cunningham and I got on a small lease, about 130 acres, in Morris County, about two hours east of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, in late August and began to scratch out some sort of plan to hold and maintain the deer that might be in the area.
Jeff was definitely the workhorse of the two, and he, along with his brother, Trent, put hours into food plotting and scouting. I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t the most diligent in lease preparation, and I really wasn’t sure about the number of deer that were on our property.
We began the bow season hunting over feeders and open food plots in hopes of catching deer moving through, knowing that they were still eating the acorns and green forage that were abundant during the early season. After hunting several times during the first few weeks of bow season, I had yet to see a doe, let alone a harvestable buck. Still, I remained guardedly optimistic that I would get to fling an arrow with my new PSE toy before all the gunshots started in November.
On the last weekend of the archery season, I talked my dad into making the redeye from his house north of Dallas to our lease. We met early one morning and hurried to the lease, but I didn’t get him in his stand until about 7:15 a.m. When I finally settled in my AmeriStep Bully Blind, I was already thinking about the evening hunt.
I had laid out a trail of Code Blue Doe Estrous scent, and within five minutes a small deer wandered in from around a large brushpile. It took me about 30 seconds to determine whether it was a small buck or a doe. I’d already decided to take a lone doe if I saw one.
But when I picked up my bow, my broadhead caught on the blind’s shoot-through window, which was unzipped. This small detail is the most important part of the whole story, because it delayed me coming to full draw long enough for another deer to walk right in front, and when I say that, I mean 15 FEET!
I immediately knew the second deer was a shooter. The funniest thing about it, I actually said out loud, “Oh, big buck!” like I was on hunting show and being filmed. I’m still not sure why I did that. Then I came to full draw and loosed the arrow.
The funny thing about practice – yes, Allen Iverson, I said practice -- is that sometimes we get into a rut of practicing the same shot over and over. That’s that what I’d been doing for three months. Needless to say, when a deer is 15 feet from you and you’re sitting in a ground blind, you need to aim a little low because the shot will be a little high.
Mine was, and all I heard was the sound of the arrow bouncing off of the ground.
I had no idea that the arrow had passed completely through the animal. The buck must not have known it, either, because he continued to walk towards the smaller deer, which was still standing at 45 yards with no clue anything had happened. By the time I nocked another arrow and was back at full draw, the big buck was 50 yards from me and quartering away. For some odd reason, he’d stopped beside the scent wick and turned back towards me. Without hesitating, I let another arrow fly, and it found its mark.
The shot got me my first Pope and Young deer. The buck officially scored 138 P&Y, which makes him a book deer. He also was my first deer taken with a bow.
I know a lot of people say that seeing a buck like this on a small lease might just be pure luck, but I believe that there are three things that have to happen to have a chance at a buck like this one. The first is preparation, the second is being in the field (you can’t shoot a deer from your office, house or bed), and the last is the foundation laid by hunters before us, like my dad and uncle, to whom I am grateful for introducing me to deer hunting.
I tell my wife, Jamie, all the time that deer hunting is a close second to my family, and now I know that it doesn’t have to be, because it is just part of who my family is!