You never forget your first archery buck, even if it happens after you’re a veteran hunter.
There aren't a lot of “firsts” when you get to be my age and have been hunting for years, so harvesting my first buck with a bow this past season was extra special.
I've been shooting bows for more than 20 years, and during that time I have taken hogs, coyotes, turkeys and does. I've been shooting 3-D tournaments and NFAA spot tournaments, but until the evening of Thursday Oct. 29, 2015, I had been unsuccessful at bagging a buck.
I recently moved to coastal Georgia, but I hunted a trophy club in west-central Georgia for many years and just couldn't just shoot anything with horns.
I’ve since decided that holding out for a really big buck isn’t always the best idea when trying to get your first with a bow. I encourage people who are just starting out to forget about the tape measure and just pull the trigger. Get some kills under your belt, regardless of your weapon. That way when a trophy buck steps out you can keep it together to make the shot.
I had made it my 2015 goal to take a buck with my bow, but archery season came and went with no luck.
It seemed like the rut activity was happening later than usual, and the bucks were hard to pattern. This part of South Georgia is so dense that the deer can bed, eat and get water where you can't get to them without blowing them out of the area. And once the seasons open, hunting pressure makes seeing a buck in daylight unheard of unless they’re rutting.
One way to beat their defenses is with scent and food. My boyfriend Buster and I decided to push the envelope and put up a stand on the edge of a thick bedding area. Buster hunted it and was able to shoot a nice buck, so we stayed out of there for awhile. The plan was to stay out of there until we saw signs that bucks were getting antsy.
On the morning of my day off, I hunted another part of the property and saw a few does but nothing to shoot. All morning I had a feeling I should've been hunting the new spot.
That afternoon, I was getting ready when Buster said, “I think you should hunt the Bone Yard (our name for the stand). I have a feeling...”
Considering my own thoughts from the morning, that was all I needed to hear.
Since firearms season opened, I had been toting my rifle as well as my bow, but that afternoon I said, “Nope. If I'm going to kill one with my bow, that’s all I’m taking.” So I left my rifle on the ATV.
I went in early and put some doe-in-heat scent out. I climbed the 20 feet up to the lock-on stand, buckled myself to the tree and settled in for the afternoon.
Our lease is in kind of an urban area, so I heard all the usual neighborhood sounds including vehicles, people coming and going, trains and dogs — but no deer.
The sun was behind me, and shortly before it sank behind the pines I caught movement at about 70 yards out on the edge of a block of 3-year-old pines. I watched as the deer threw his nose up in the air to smell and then eased into the open. He made a wide half circle in front of me and came back toward me until he stopped at 30 yards.
My heart felt like it was about to pound out of my chest.
The light was fading quickly, so when I tried to range him. I couldn't see the numbers in my rangefinder, but I had made a mental note of the distance to several trees out in front of me. The deer was closer than the 35-yard tree, so I guessed he was about 30 yards away. I've also been shooting a lot of 3-D tournaments where you have to guess the yardage, so I felt confident in the estimation.
The 7-pointer was eating with his head down behind some palmettos, so I reached for my bow. I was trying to move slowly and gently, but my bow wouldn’t budge. It was stuck!
The deer kept raising its head to look around before it would go back to eating.
Finally, after a few seconds that seemed like an eternity, I managed to wiggle my bow off the hanger and got ready for a shot.
The buck was quartering away slightly, and when I saw his head go down again, I drew the bow. Then I put into practice everything I had learned last summer while overcoming a bout of target panic.
I watched my pin move down to my aiming point and talked to myself, saying, “Not yet, not yet.”
When the pin finally settled on the spot, I released the arrow, following all the way through with my shot.
The buck did a big mule kick and ran off in the direction he had come in.
I have taken a lot of deer with my rifle and knew what that mule kick meant, but there's always that moment of doubt until you put your hands on your deer.
I called Buster and said, “I shot one of the sevens!”
He was at the house visiting with his cousin, so they hopped in the truck and came over to help me.
I stayed in the stand until they got there, partly to make sure I could direct them to the blood trail and also because it's just so darned thick in there.
At first, I pointed to the wrong clump of palmettos, so it freaked us all out when the boys didn't see anything.
Buster said, "That's like 40 yards!"
I said, “Okay, then come toward me 10 yards, because I know he was at 30.”
Buster turned and took several steps before finding my bloody arrow. He said, “Oh yeah, you hit him! Good, red blood!”
I climbed down, and then we started on the trail. We found some good blood spots, and then nothing.
I had put tissue on the bushes everywhere we found blood and could look back and see a perfect line, but there was no more blood to be found.
I knew where the deer had entered the chop because it was the only place open enough that I could've seen it, so Rex said, “Let me just go in a little way and look.”
He was only gone a few seconds before he yelled, “Krissy, I got your deer right here!”
I cleared those palmettos just like the buck had when I shot him. There he lay with a perfect heart shot. He hadn't bled much because he had probably been dead walking.
Talk about emotion! We all three said thanks to God, and then celebrated while videoing and taking a million photos.
That was definitely an all-time highlight of my hunting experiences. I'm sure I still have a few “firsts” left, but right now, it doesn't get any better than this.
Read More Articles by Krissy Jean Zimmer:
• Blustery Day Buck: The day ended up awesomely, but it didn’t start out that way.
• Turkey for Two: I love it when a plan ... falls apart.