Last year, for the first time in over 15 years, I had failed to fill a single deer tag. A week-long trip to Pike County Illinois as well as several weekend hunts in Ohio and Indiana yielded very few deer sightings. By the time mid December rolled around, I had lost hope of finding success in the field and was ready to put the season behind me.
As winter gave way to spring and then to summer, trail camera checks were showing a definite increase in deer numbers. Almost as if all the deer had simply gone into hiding the previous year, things looked to be back to normal. In typical fashion, the farm we have hunted the last 18 years was loaded with does. The bucks typically hang out down in a big creek bottom and call the surrounding agriculture fields their home until the rut rolls around. Like most other hunters, we have made it a habit of doing our herd management in the early season. Several of our early season stands have proven to be more productive than others over the years, and one stand in particular is always more productive than the others. With that in mind, I decided to perch in my favorite maple tree overlooking an old pond and clover plot for my first hunt of the year in Indiana.
When I say “more productive” in regards to this stand, I mean more successful as presenting shot opportunities. To date, I have only killed one deer out of this stand, yet as the landowner was kind enough to put it, “I have shot the woods down” when hunting here. Call it a curse or whatever you want, but I have sent many arrows out of that single maple tree and each has failed to find anything but dirt. I was determined to end that streak this year. No more than 45 minutes into my evening hunt, I had once again sent an arrow sailing over the back of an unsuspected, yet now very cautious doe. As much as I’d like to pretend it didn’t happen, I had once again missed from the cursed maple tree. Luckily for me, it was early in the hunt and there was plenty of time to redeem myself.
As the evening wore on, the wind slowly started to die down. Several times I had does come in sight, however this year’s plentiful mast crop kept them just inside the wood line, and just outside of bow range. I had a few shot opportunities at 40 plus yards, but I knew if I was patient, I was likely to get a good shot opportunity before dark. As is so often the case, the woods seemed to come alive as the sun slipped behind the distant hills. Deer began to materialize as if someone flipped on a switch. Several deer now fed on the vetch growing on the backside of the old pond. A few more headed off towards the cornfields to my east. Finally, I spotted a lone doe making her way down a path that led directly into my food plot.
When she first hit the field, I could tell she was a little wary. She was directly down wind of me, but the combination of using Carbon Synergy body wash before my hunt and having my Ozonics in the tree above me, I had plenty of faith I wouldn’t get busted. After taking a last look around, she slowly began feeding into the field. She came out into the field perfectly allowing me to get great footage as she crossed the field and made her way into bow range. I kept ranging her to make certain I was ready to shoot when an opportunity eventually presented itself. 42 yards…37 yards…31 yards…finally, there was no more need for the range finder. She was now well within 20 yards and I decided it was time to take the shot. I glanced at the viewfinder on my XA20 a few times to make sure she was in frame. As she cleared a few limbs, I slowly drew my bow. I settled the single pin on my Hoggfather just behind her shoulder, but a little high, as the shot angle was fairly steep. Slowly I began to apply pressure on my Carter release. At last, I sent the arrow racing forward and the Grim Reaper found its mark. Immediately she was down. I had pulled my shot slightly and spined her. Quickly I nocked another arrow and let it loose to put the finishing touches on her. Within seconds of its impact, my first deer of the year was down, finito!
I was overcome with joy. It had been almost 2 years since I had tagged a deer. All of the time preparing had been well worth the wait. It may have only been a doe, but I swear to you I was just as happy as I was for my first deer. I slowly made my way back to the house to get my Dad and the landowner and then the real work began. It feels good to be on the board for 2014, and Lord willing, we will find more success this fall and put our hands on some antlers before it’s all over.