March 16, 2016
At my age, there aren't a lot of "firsts" left to achieve. I've been shooting bows for over 20 years now and recently took up competing in 3-D and NFAA spot tournaments, and as a bowhunter I've killed several species of animals, including feral hogs, coyotes, turkeys and whitetails. But going into last season, all of my whitetail bow kills had been does. For one reason or another, it simply had never happened on a buck.
I'd made it my goal for the 2015 season to take a buck with my bow, but archery season came and went with no luck. It seemed the scraping, rubbing and chasing happened way later than usual, making the bucks hard to pattern.
We decided to push the envelope, though, and put up a stand right on the edge of a thick bedding area. Buster hunted it and was able to kill a nice buck, so we stayed out of there for a while and waited until there were signs of pre-rut action and the right wind before I hunted it.
On the morning of my day off, I hunted another part of the property and saw a few does, but nothing to shoot at. All morning I had a feeling I should've been hunting the new spot. That afternoon I got ready and Buster said, "I think you ought to hunt The Boneyard. I've got a feeling€¦"
Well, considering my own feeling from the morning, that was all I had to hear. It now was firearms season, and I'd been toting my rifle as well as my bow, but this afternoon I said, "Nope. If I'm going to kill one with my bow, I'm just carrying it. No safety net." So I left my rifle on the 4-wheeler.
I went in early and put out some doe-in-heat scent from and sprinkled a little apple corn, hoping if a buck got a whiff of lady love and came cruising through there, he'd stop and give me a shot. I climbed the 20 feet to the lock-on stand, buckled up and settled in for the afternoon.
Our lease is in kind of an urban area, so I heard all the usual neighborhood sounds: vehicles, people coming and going, trains, dogs, etc. — but no deer. The sun was behind me, and shortly before it sank behind the tall pines, I caught movement at about 70 yards on the edge of the block of pines and thick chop to my left. I watched the buck throw his nose up in the air to smell and then ease out. He made a wide half-circle in front of me and came back until he stopped at 30 yards.
My heart felt as if it were about to pound out of my chest! The light was fading quickly, so when I tried to range him, I couldn't see the number. Fortunately, I'd ranged and made a mental note of several trees, so I studied the 35-yard tree, compassed visually from there to where the deer was standing and guessed 30 yards. I'd also been shooting a lot of 3-D tournaments in which I'd had to estimate yardage, which helped me feel more confident in making this call.
The 7-pointer was feeding with his front end behind some palmettos and his back end behind a big pine, so I reached for my bow. I was trying to move slowly and gently, but the bow wouldn't move. It was stuck!
The deer would raise his head, look around and then go back to eating. Finally after a few seconds that seemed like an eternity, I managed to wiggle my bow off the hanger and readied myself for the shot.
The deer was quartering away slightly, and when I saw his head go down again I drew, making sure in the low light that I could still see him and my yardage pins through my peep. Then I put into practice what I had learned the previous 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 I settled on my spot I released the arrow, following all the way through with my shot. The deer did a big mule kick, and with my arms still extended from the release, I watched him run off the way in which he'd come. I've killed a lot of deer with my rifle and knew what that mule kick meant, but there's always doubt until you put your hands on the dead animal.
I called my fiancé, Buster, and said, "I shot one of the 7s!"
He was at the house visiting with his cousin, Rex, so they hopped in the truck and came over to help me. I stayed in the stand until they got there, because the cover was so thick Buster wanted me to shine my light right at where the deer had been standing.
At first I pointed to the wrong clump of palmettos, so it freaked us all out when they didn't find anything. Buster said, "That's like 40 yards!"
I said, "OK, then come toward me 10 yards, because I know he was at 30."
Buster turned and walked back, finding my bloody arrow on the way. "Oh, yeah, you hit him! Good, red blood!"
I breathed, "Yes!"
I climbed down, and we started trailing him. We found some good blood spots, but then kind of nothing. I'd put tissue on the bushes everywhere we found blood and could look back and see a perfect line — but there was no more! I knew where he'd entered the chop, and it had to be right there. It was the only place open enough that I could've seen him.
Rex said, "Let me just go a little ways and look." Almost immediately I heard those beautiful words, "Krissy, I've got your deer right here!"
I cleared the palmettos just as easily as the buck had, and there he lay, dead after a perfect heart shot.
Talk about emotion! We all three uttered, "Thank you, God," then celebrated while shooting video and taking a million photos. It was definitely a highlight of my hunting experience. I'm sure I still have some "firsts" left — but it just doesn't get any better than this!