Nothing is more frustrating, or more rewarding, than hunting with a bow.
I have lived my whole life in Louisiana, and ever since I was in diapers, I have loved the outdoors. I started bowhunting six years ago and found it to be the most rewarding and frustrating hunting of my life. In other words, I’m hooked.
Three years ago, my friend Whit Applegate and I decided to find a lease in Kansas. It took us a year and a half, but after countless hours, multiple road trips and knocking on hundreds of doors, we found a piece of property that looked promising.
Our first hunt on the new lease was in September of 2011. With the exception of a few does and one encounter with a shooter, the hunting was pretty slow. We had some cameras out and got pictures of a few bucks, but nothing exceptional.
Our next trip was in late October. I planned to spend most of the evening glassing and was in a stand we set up to observe a field.
About an hour before dark, a doe stepped into the field 350 yards away. I was watching her through binoculars when a giant buck came into view. He was a mainframe 8-pointer with a club drop tine on his right side.
I couldn’t believe it when she ran my way with the buck following a few yards behind.
When the doe got to a stream that bordered the stand, she turned and came directly under me and stopped. My heart was trying to pound out of my chest as I realized I was about to get a shot at this monster buck.
He got to within 30 yards but kept to the thick stuff where I couldn’t get a shot. He stood there looking back across the field, but there was no way I could squeeze an arrow through the branches. Next, a small 8-pointer walked into the field.
The buck must have been more concerned with competition than the doe, because he left her and went after the smaller buck.
I didn’t see the drop-tined buck again until November.
We had another stand on the field and had been saving it for the rut. It was closer to the bedding area, and I was anxious to see if the big boy would show up.
Right at daybreak, I saw movement. A quick look through the binoculars confirmed it was the drop-tined buck coming my way.
I picked up my bow and prepared for a shot, but the buck skirted the stand at 60 yards and walked into the woods. He made a quick pass through the bedding area and left the way he came in.
Two days later, the wind was right for that stand again. Right at daybreak, there was the buck, only this time he had company: two does and a 130-class 8-pointer, all headed straight for me.
The does came within 20 yards, but the bucks circled around them to the north. The 8-pointer walked into the woods and got directly downwind.
I had taken careful scent precautions, but he knew something wasn’t right. Just 10 yards away, he stuck his nose in the air and looked straight at me.
Meanwhile, the big buck walked into the open and stood broadside with his head behind a big cottonwood tree.
Despite the perfect shot opportunity, I knew I couldn’t move or the 8-pointer would come unglued. I decided to pass and hope for another chance.
Instead, the drop-tined buck walked back across the field while the 8-pointer pushed the does deeper into the woods.
That was the second time the buck saved himself by walking away from does, but I guess that’s why some live long enough to get really big.
I was back in the stand the next morning, and the drop-tined buck was right on schedule. He had a different young buck with him, but no does. They skirted the stand again, but this time bedded just inside the woods at exactly 93 yards. I know it was 93 yards because I zapped him with my rangefinder at least 20 times that morning.
And that’s where he stayed.
By 4 p.m., my eyes were raw from watching the buck through the binoculars. It was a long day in the stand, but the prospect of a shot at this bruiser made it go by rather quickly. I figured he would get up shortly before dark, and there was a good chance he’d stay in the woods and come right by the stand.
At 4:30, I heard something running across the creek. Two does came in and went straight to the bucks.
One of the does walked up to the drop-tined buck, then turned and ran out of sight across the middle of the field. This time, going with a doe saved the buck’s life.
That was the last time I saw the buck in 2011. Did I mention how frustrating bowhunting can be?
As Whit and I prepared for the 2012 season, all I could think about was the drop-tined buck. We ran cameras and set up the observation stand again, but there was no sign of the deer. We figured he must have been killed on a neighboring farm during the rifle season.
To add insult to injury, the hunting was very slow. After three days in the stand, I hadn’t seen even an average buck.
On Tuesday, Nov. 6, I almost didn’t hunt. I started to run a fever the night before but decided to go out for a few hours in the morning.
The wind was supposed to shift to the north about two hours after daybreak, so I headed to a new stand on the big field, intending to stay until the wind changed.
I bumped a deer on the way in just before daylight. It blew once and ran off, splashing as it crossed the creek. That’s about my luck, I thought.
Just as it was getting light, I heard leaves crunching. Four does were directly downwind and walking in my very footsteps. If they smelled anything, it didn’t bother them. They started grazing just 25 yards away.
I heard movement across the creek. Something slid down the bank, and I was pretty sure it was a deer about to cross, so I got ready.
It was still somewhat dark in the woods, making it impossible to see past the creek. The effect made the deer look like a ghost as it started up the bank on the near side. When it began to grunt, I knew it was a buck.
I didn’t know it was a shooter until it stepped into a lane 5 yards from the edge of the field. I drew my bow and waited until it stepped out into the field where there was more light.
When it did, I saw the drop tine and almost had a heart attack!
Luckily, I didn’t have time to get nervous. When the buck took two steps into the field, I settled my pin and squeezed the trigger on my release.
The buck ran about 100 yards before stopping to see what happened. I almost tested my safety harness when I saw a second drop tine. The buck fell right there.
I can’t begin to relate how many hours I spent thinking about that deer over the summer, along with all the could-haves and should-haves that wouldn’t leave my brain.
We didn’t have a single trail camera picture of that deer. It was a buck I was sure was hanging on somebody else’s wall, a buck that was going to haunt me the rest of my life. It was the one animal I wanted more than any other, and when I was finally convinced I would never see it again, 90 seconds later, it was lying in the field, killed by my arrow.
That was the most gratifying, fulfilling moment I have ever experienced in the woods. From the high of seeing him the first time, to the thrill of thinking I was going to get a shot, to the absolute lows of watching it walk away three different times was an emotional roller coaster. Looking back, it couldn’t have worked out better!
I got the deer of my dreams and gave him another year to grow, gaining another drop tine and an extra point along the way.
I don’t know if that will be the high point of my hunting career, but I can’t see how anything could top it.
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This article was published in the July 2013 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.