Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lessons Learned: Things have to go really well when bowhunting!

As someone fairly new to bowhunting I know it is tough, and that things have to go really well to close the deal. Well, recently I had a lesson taught to me about how truly easy it is for even a sure thing to go wrong when you have a bow in your hand.

I started off the morning by getting up nice and early. I knew the basics of the area I was going to be hunting but I didn’t know exactly where I was going to hang my stand. I wanted to get to the spot at least 30 minutes before sunrise so that I could find a tree and be up in it before the sun came up. Everything went well that morning except for the sky started getting light 30 minutes before it was supposed to. For some reason it always works that way when I’m hunting by myself, however if I’m hunting with others the sun always seems to come up later than it is supposed to. As soon as I got up in the tree and had my bow and pack hung up, the woods came alive! I quietly stood up and grabbed my bow while trying to see if I could see what was causing the noises. There were different areas of movement all around me and every pocket of noise seemed to be coming from the thick cover areas that surrounded me. I was really excited as I was hoping it was deer returning to bed down. I felt pretty sure that even if I didn’t get a view of them first thing. then I certainly would as they did a little late morning browsing later on. The longer I sat there though the more I started to think it was probably squirrels instead of deer. After a while I finally started seeing squirrels and my fears were realized. I knew though that I was in a good spot and I was going to sit there until I had to go pick up my son later in the morning. The spot was surrounded by trails and bedding areas and I was very confident that, given the time, a hunter would see something there. My only worry was that I would have to leave the woods too early that day, but there was no way I was leaving any earlier than I had to! I stood up most of the morning because I was so cold and so anxious about getting ready in case some of the noise turned out to be deer. Around 9AM I sat down to rest my legs for a bit, but I started hearing some noise around one of the many laurel thickets surrounding me. I looked up and I finally saw what I was waiting for, deer moving my way! I eased my hand back and grabbed my bow. I brought it to me as slowly and quietly as I could but I caught my broadhead on a leaf by my tree. I was able to extract it without too much noise or movement but my heart started racing even faster due to the near error. Looking back toward the trail, the deer were coming down, I was able to verify that it was two nice size does. The first was the biggest, and they were heading down a trail that would pass right by me at around 12yds. By now my heart was thundering and my blood was pumping but I was still shivering from the bitter cold. The deer continued casually toward me and I waited until they got their heads behind a tree and I tried to draw my bow. To my surprise I couldn’t draw it straight back the way I wanted to because I was just to cold and to be honest hadn’t been practicing as much as I should have been. As disappointed as I was in myself I knew I still had a great chance and I decided to wait until the first doe went by and then draw the bow by pointing it up and bringing it down on the second animal. I would still have a great shot on the second doe and it may have been the safer choice from the start. However when the lead deer got about 20yds away from me, she was behind a tree and I had no shot, she smelled something on the ground and jumped up in the air. She landed back a few feet from whatever she smelled and she eyed the spot for a few moments. She then looked up the trail like she was considering going ahead, but after a bit she started heading back the way she came.

As I watched the two of them slowly make their way out of there I was thoroughly disappointed. I was excited to have a chance to be so close to them, and be able to watch them, but I had really wanted to put some meat in the freezer that day. The one thing I wondered about is what did she smell? The land I was hunting was private so no one should have crossed the path they were on and I hadn’t been up that far in the woods for weeks. The only thing I could figure out is that someone had trespassed or a predatory animal had been through recently, either way I was eating tag soup that day. I sat there for about 45 more minutes and then I slowly climbed down and made my way back out of the woods. As I climbed back in to my truck I realized I was smiling and thinking about what a great morning I had been a part of!

Bowhunting is an incredibly rewarding experience and I thoroughly enjoy doing it, however you have to be willing to go in to the woods knowing that if things don’t go right you will not be bringing any animals out of the woods with you. There are great challenges with any type of hunting, anyone who thinks otherwise should try it, but bowhunting certainly provides challenges like nothing else. I have heard it said before that anything killed with a bow is a trophy, and I for one agree!

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