4:00 AM came much too quickly for me this morning. Awakened by my alarm from the deepest sleep I’ve had in weeks.
Sometimes it is so tempting just to lay there and dream. Dream about that big buck. Dream about the morning sky, the sunrise, and a chance, just a chance, to trick that buck into bow range.
I reluctantly rolled out of my warm bed and hunched over to grab my screaming phone. I snoozed it. I said to myself “Gotta be sitting by 5:30, ill just lay down for 10 more minutes.”
Nine minutes later, fear woke me before my alarm did. Isn’t it always like that with hunting? Your reluctant to actually get out of bed but you wouldn’t dare miss it by sleeping in. So we snooze, then lay down and spend a few restless minutes worrying about not waking back up. Maybe that’s just me.
My gear was already in my truck from yesterday so I only had one thing to do. Make coffee. I Filled my cup and hit the road. Only to forget something, rush back home, and then hit the road again!
15 minutes later I parked my truck. I’m fortunate to live so close to my favorite deer hunting spot.
The morning was brisk, and the sky was clear as I slid out of my truck. Though I was groggy, I was anxious to get out. It has been hard hunting lately. A lot of sign, sightings, and hours, but I haven’t even drawn my bow yet. I know deer are back there, it’s just a matter of getting in front of them during their habitual travels, which are now being interrupted by the mating season. Hunters love this time of the year and I’m no different. I got dressed, chugged as much scalding hot coffee as I could, sat my cup on my tail gate, grabbed the bow, and started walking.
The moon lit my way, every step sounding louder than the last. I just couldn’t help but feel like a dork, the moon glaring at me as I was traipsing along the edge of a field, sounding like a baboon! I finally arrived. I was hunting from the ground this morning, in a spot about 150 yards away from my tree stand. The location I picked was a well-traveled route. A pinch point that forced deer to use it, or abandon their cover and sprint across the open field. I had seen four bucks in this area since the beginning of October. One very large and beautiful 8-point.
The spot I was hunting was in the corner of a large field. The area was not used for anything but a travel route for tractors accessing the neighboring crop lands. Two large trees stood alone dividing a hayfield from the field I was hunting. Thick young forest stretched to my right and a solid hedge row snaked out in front of me. The large trees, about 20 yards apart, made up most of this “half row” dividing the two fields, and sat about 3 feet higher than the hay field behind me. The tree I sat against was up on a little mound and was the closest spot to the thickest area on the property. To my direct left was the half row, 30 yards past that, nothing but open field surrounded by mature woods. If deer would show up this morning, they would be right on top of me.
The sky was brilliant this morning. Absolutely flawless. The black of the expanse was so crisp, each and every star was piercing through. I swear, I saw every star that ever existed. The moon laid in the barren branches of the tree I sat under like a lonely decoration, left there and forgotten. I lounged there, hands warm in my pockets and my back against the tree, gazing up into the sky. An icy breeze flowed over my face and into my lungs. Mornings like this are what keep me outside.
Legal light was 10 minutes after 6 am. Legal light is one half hour before sunrise, so it is still not very light out. I checked the wind direction last night, and found it would be blowing from the north-east, a terrible wind for the spot I hunted yesterday, and not very good for the spot I picked this morning. I have heard that if we have a warm ground and cold air, the rising heat will lift your scent, we had a very warm day yesterday, so I decided to chance it, and play the wind as best as I could. This is why I love hunting from the ground.
The wind blew across my face from the north. The wind blew across my face from the south, then from the east, and then from the west. The wind blew everywhere! Day light was creeping up on me, the orange highlight along the horizon was getting brighter, and if I did not figure this out soon, I’d be locked in motionlessness by daylight.
I began the morning facing southeast, comfortably with my back against the tree. If life is what happens when you’re trying to make plans, wind is what happens when you get comfortable. At the very last minute I had to change my direction. The wind was chilling the back of my neck and had been for a few minutes. With only seconds before legal light I got up, spun around, and sat down facing the tree. The bucket I was sitting on had a swivel seat but I couldn’t just swivel around or there would be no room for my feet. I had to pick the bucket up and move it a foot or so from the tree. With the wind in my face and my bucket moved into place, I was ready to sit and wait.
I was doing my best to sit down quietlywhen a big 6 point buck comes out of nowhere, absolutely silent, right in front of me.
I wasn’t ready! My bow was leaning against a log to my right. It was within arms reach, but I hadn’t had the time to pick it up and put it in my lap. I did have the foresight to nock an arrow however, this gave me the precious seconds I needed and kept me from moving. If I hadn’t, this would have been over before it even began.
The buck moved closer and glazed over his surroundings. I stood there, half crouched, one hand on my bucket, and the other hand reaching for my bow. He perked up, and stared directly at me, all that was visible to me were 6 points and two ” Yoda from Star Wars” looking ears above the brush. His stocky body was impressive and he intimidated me the way a jock intimidates a nerd. He reminded me of a mans man. He was the kind of guy that drove the truck, had the girl, and was the quarterback of the football team. I respected him, and I embraced the challenge he set. I didn’t move a muscle. He watched me, or at least focused in my direction for a few minutes, then, abruptly pointed his snout exactly where I knew he would. He could come through the little deer trail in the half row, or make a hard left and dart through an open field. It was getting light however, and despite his macho demeanor,whitetail deer aren’t very daring.
When he slid behind the brush directly in front of me, I slipped my hand into my bow strap. I knew I had to be careful, he was less than 15 yards away from me, and it was dead silent aside from the chirping of the birds. I lifted the bow as I stood up, I had been crouched for quite some time, so standing was, to say the least, awkward. At full height, leaning partially against the tree, I clipped my release onto my bow string. I watched his silhouette through the tiny openings in the brush. He was coming in for a perfect 15 yard broadside shot.
I mentioned deer are cautious, so true to that and his apparent cockiness, he took his time. My heart was pounding so hard I knew he had to hear it. My breath fogged up in front of me, and if he looked my way he would have thought a stove pipe was nestled behind the bushes. I heard his footsteps, shush, shush, shush, on the frosty grass. He was only inches from entering the clearing. In a few seconds I would be releasing an arrow destined to put an end to this buck. I began to draw, slow and steady. The arrow slid across the rest and made just enough noise to make me wince. Almost at full draw, his nose visible through the bushes, I realized how big he was.
75% draw, I was ready. My heart raced. I felt sick, and I was shaking terribly. I shifted my weight one last time to prepare to shoot. My focus was intense. I did not blink, and I held my breath. My bow at nearly full draw, it was time, he was moving in for the shot.
Out of nowhere, amidst the quiet chirping of the birds, my beating heart, and the sloshing of my prey, a loud THUD behind me startled both me and the deer! At nearly full draw, on a big, confident 6 point buck, a crash behind me was the last thing I was counting on. In a split second, in attempt to stay trained on the deer, and inspect my offender, I glanced back.
My bucket seat was laying upside down, 3 feet below where I had put it. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! My bucket rolled off of the little mound I was seated on and crashed into a protruding tree root stopping its descent with a loud and hollow thud. When I had turned around to face the tree in the last seconds of darkness, I had not inspected the ground beneath the seat. I had sat the bucket on a patch of thickly woven grass that still had a little spring to it. As I rose to make the shot, the grass rose as well. Under my top heavy hunting seat, sending it down the little slope. My heart sank. I cursed under my breath and tried to ignore it. I still had hope. I hadn’t heard the deer run off. In a last ditch effort I quickly grabbed my grunt call in attempt to play it off as another buck making the commotion.
As I lifted the call to my mouth, I leaned into the tree to get a glimpse of the field. In the dim morning light, out in the middle of the field, cutting through the fog and bounding towards the woods were 6 points and a little white tail.
Stay outside. Live your adventure.