By Shawn Collins
-- You’ve all heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Well my story is just that.
I’m 34 years old and have taken a few deer, but none were wall-hangers. I would hunt here and there in places that looked good. An uneducated hunter will typically hunt in places that are easy to get to, not too far from the road and are very familiar. I almost aways hunted the edge of fields, green or not. About 200 yards was the farthest I would walk. That’s not because I didn’t want to walk. I just didn’t feel that I needed to be so far into the woods. More importantly, I didn’t know what to look for when choosing a stand site.
A few years ago, a friend took me bowhunting in south Alabama. After putting me in a tree, he said, “A buck will come through here about dark.” Then he left me. He didn’t tell me why the deer would come there, and I didn’t ask. Sure enough, about 30 minutes before dark, a decent 5-point buck came within 15 yards of my stand, and I made a great shot. It was the biggest buck of my life.
Several years went by with me hunting alone. Occasionally a doe or a spike buck would cross my path, but nothing to brag about.
I took a new job and made a great friend there. Inevitably when you start a new job, someone will ask, “Do you hunt?” I always answered, “Yes, but I don’t have any trophies on the wall.”
“That’s going to change,” my new friend said.
Before the next hunting season rolled around, he began teaching me what to look for and why, what the best shots are, and so on. We watched countless hours of hunting videos and while we watched, he pointed out things to look for.
When the hunting season finally arrived, we were ready. My friend took me to his property several times, and each time he told me why he wanted me there and the direction the deer would travel.
As any hunter knows, you don’t see deer every time you go hunting. But I began to doubt my friend’s hunting knowledge. I was seeing very few deer. We went inside his home to get a drink, and all my doubt disappeared. On every wall I could see from the front door were huge bucks that he’d taken over the years. Even though there were many in his living room, it floored me when he said “Let’s go to my trophy room.” In the next room were even more huge racked deer along with several large bass, turkeys and turkey beards. I was in awe. I had never seen so many trophies in one man’s home.
After that, I hung on every word he said. I went back home armed with the knowledge he’d shared and managed to kill a doe and a spike on back-to-back hunts.
My friend then invited me to go hunting at a lodge. After we arrived, we rode our ATVs for about 2 hours and then stopped for no apparent reason close to a swamp edge. My friend got off his ATV and pointed.
“Put your stand on that tree,” he advised, “and watch for deer on the other side of the swamp.”
Doing what he said, I watched that swamp all afternoon, but only saw a lone doe too far to shoot. Upon hearing my poor hunting report, my friend said, “Just wait until the morning. I’ll bet you’ll shoot a good one.”
I’d only been in the stand two hours the following day when my friend beeped me on the two-way radio to ask if I’d seen anything. I told him not yet, and that I was getting frustrated. Soon, he radioed again to say he had killed a doe, and for me to stay put. While we were talking, a huge buck came out exactly where he said it would. I shot, and he went down hard and then ran into the thick cover.
Searching for the buck later, I told my friend I thought it was a large 6-pointer. When we found it, I was surprised and elated to learn it was a very nice 9-pointer. It was the best hunt of my life.
Since then, I have been able to locate good spots and find deer on my own. The same is true of turkey hunting. I had never been turkey hunting when the same friend took me. He taught me how to use a slate call and when and where to look for gobblers. With him, I was able to kill my first turkey, a jake with about a 4-inch beard.
Armed with my new knowledge and some slate calls, I went to my property about a week later. The first morning, I called up a huge bird, made the shot and the kill on my own. The turkey had not one, but two beards! The main beard was a tad over 10 inches, with another about 6 inches long. I can’t begin to describe my emotions at the time.
I hope this story conveys the importance of taking and teaching others how to hunt. My friend taught me a great deal more than just hunting. He taught me to have patience with people who don’t have a clue about hunting and to just have fun.
Thank you, Randy, for all you’ve taught me, and God bless.
-- Shawn Collins
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