It's not over till ... a never-give-up attitude is often the difference between success and failure in the whitetail woods.
They range from the casual hunters to the guys who want to shoot mature bucks and will do anything in their power that's legal to do so. I consider myself one of the latter. In order to be a part of that group of hunters, being able to persist through the ups and downs is crucial. Don't let a bad sit or even a bad week deter the drive to go out in the woods whenever possible. Being mentally tough and trusting in your preparation can lead to great success.
This is exactly what happened to me last season. I made a conscious decision that I was going to harvest a buck over 140 inches, and nothing was going to stop me from doing so. Granted, my biggest buck to date with my bow was about a 30-inch eight-pointer, so this was a big step for a young 18-year-old bowhunter like myself.
My season started off great. Within the first three days of the season I shot two does and passed on four bucks, including a 13-pointer I figured would score about 130 inches. Talk about a confidence booster. However, as soon as the October lull hit, I started second-guessing my decision on passing up such a nice buck. The only buck I saw between October 1 and October 25 was a lonely spike. Not seeing any mature bucks didn't kill my confidence, though, because the sign in the area told me that I was hunting in a good spot.
October was finally behind me, and on November 41 got a surprise that made me change my hunting goals in a big way. I got a trail camera picture of a buck I later named Skyscraper, a 160-class 12-pointer with a split brow tine. I set my sights on this buck and made a decision that he was the only buck I was going to hunt. When you single out a specific buck, it can be more difficult to get the desired end result. It requires a little extra patience, but the reward can be hugely gratifying.
After I decided to go after Skyscraper, I hunted the area I knew he called home almost every day for 25 days. During those 25 days, I passed on 16 different bucks, just waiting for Skyscraper to make an appearance. He never showed himself, not even on my trail camera. This was the most frustrating part of the season for me. After getting my hopes up so high, and truly believing I was going to send an arrow through a rutting Skyscraper, the rut came and went and November was over without a single appearance from Skyscraper.
After three months of hard hunting, I wasn't ready to give up on Skyscraper just yet. Where I live, December is cold and snowy, and packing it in for the season can often sound appealing. There's nothing wrong with that for some bowhunters, but the hunter who really wants to shoot a big buck weathers the storm and keeps at it no matter what.
Things Get Worse
We got two feet of snow the first weekend in December, and then the temperature plummeted into the negative teens. This made for an even stronger case to not hunt. Most people would rather stay inside and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and watch hunting shows on TV, but not me. I knew I was running short on time, as I was preparing myself for basic training.
After seeing no sign of Skyscraper for over a month, I decided to go against my gut and focus on another area for a few weeks. Every time I hunted the area away from where Skyscraper lived, I always envisioned him walking by my unoccupied stand. There were only two weeks left in the season, which would be cut short four days early for me because I had to leave for basic training, so I made the decision to go back to hunting the buck I wanted so badly.
As the last couple days of my season rapidly approached, I wanted to get into the woods, but due to basic training preparation I was finding this difficult. After finally getting everything squared away, I was able to get out on my last available day to hunt. And it's a good thing I did.
My plan was to hunt that evening, take my stands down the next day, and then ship off to Texas for basic training. December 27 was a different type of day. The weather had gone from minus 40 degrees to 35 degrees in just a couple of days. It was the warmest day we had that month.
I went back to my favorite stand where I thought I had the best chance of finally running into the buck that had been eluding me all season. I got into the stand nice and early, about four hours before sunset. But as the hours went by, all I saw were hikers and cross-country skiers on the public trails off in the distance. As sunset came and went, I started accepting the fact that my season was over. It was tough to take. Then, with about 10 minutes left in my season, everything suddenly changed.
The woods sprung to life. Out of nowhere, a doe and two fawns popped out of the cedar thicket directly behind me. With mere minutes of legal shooting light left, I considered shooting the doe so I would have venison in my freezer. I slowly reached for my bow, and right as I clipped on my release I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. As I turned my head and saw what it was, I almost passed out. I couldn't believe what was unfolding in front of me. It was as if God had answered my prayers. Skyscraper stepped out of the cedar thicket right behind the does with what appeared to be a shed-antlered buck right behind him. My heart skipped a beat, but I knew I had to beat buck fever. I quickly fought to focus my gaze not on his antlers but where I wanted my arrow to go through him. I had hunted 60 days over the course of the season, and it was finally showtime.
Skyscraper began following the does on the well-beaten trail through" the waist-deep snow. When he went behind a large maple tree, I drew my bow. The instant he cleared the tree, I gave him a soft grunt and nestled my pin right on the spot where I wanted my arrow to make impact. I settled in for the shot and squeezed the release.
I knew Skyscraper was done from the moment I touched off the release. I decided to play it safe and backed out to go call for reinforcements. After working so hard all season, the two hours I waited to go blood trail Skyscraper were the longest two hours of my season.
I got my blood-trailing team together and we went in after Skyscraper. The emotions running through my body as we walked up to the point of impact were indescribable. I could barely keep my composure. Following the blood trail in the two feet of fresh powder was an experience I'll never forget. Blood was sprayed everywhere, and it made me confident that Skyscraper could not have gone far. After about 50-60 yards, I shined my flashlight ahead of me and saw a white belly. I sprang up with emotion and sprinted towards the downed buck. My eyes lit up as I wrapped my hands around Skyscraper's antlers. I tried explaining to my friends what killing this buck meant to me, but I just couldn't find the right words to do so.
This was the moment that all bowhunters crave, and the one that I had hoped would happen to me after pursuing Skyscraper for an entire season. As I posed with my buck for pictures, I thought back to all the time I had spent shooting my bow, scouting and hanging stands, and sitting in those stands patiently waiting for an opportunity at Skyscraper.
Killing Skyscraper in the last few moments of my season definitely required a little luck, but it never would have happened had I thrown in the towel after not seeing him for weeks on end, or when the weather turned cold and snowy. Ultimately, that is the lesson I learned in my 2013 season, and it's the message I'm passing on to you. Don't give up when things aren't going your way. Keep going out and try to make something happen. Don't sit back and hope hunting a couple days here and there will magically bring a mature buck your way. Work hard, hunt hard, never give up, and only good things can happen.
The author is a dedicated, and persistent, young bowhunter currently serving in the Air National Guard from Duluth, Minnesota.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My equipment on this hunt included a Diamond Razor Edge set at 60 lbs., Beman ICS Hunter arrows, Rage Hypodermic broadheads, Knight & Hale deer calls, Wildgame Innovations trail camera, GlenDel Full Rut target, Bushnell rangefinder, and Under Armour clothing.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2015|
|Previous Article:||One cool cat: taking your first big game animal with traditional tackle is a thrill but throwing Fred Eichler into the mix takes the experience to an...|
|Next Article:||Musk ox on ice: chasing a prehistoric beast with bow and arrow at the top of the world at 20-below zero is as hardcore as it gets!|