Sep 9, 2017

LONG VERSION 

The moment he appeared I knew it was him. I had seen him before, but only in trail camera photos and mainly in my dreams. He was now merely 20 yards away across a deep ditch, half his body curled around a tree looking straight at me. As he spun away and started to head down the hollow right where he came from, I drew back and took aim at the incredible 12-point buck we had nicknamed ‘Splitter 2.’ I had one opportunity, a 35 yard quartering away shot between some brush. When the arrow hit, I stood in shock at the events that had just unfolded. I was standing on the ground at the base of my treestand...never having a chance to even climb up the first ladder sticks. 

Despite not seeing a deer during a sun-up to sundown sit the day before, I was energized by the brisk morning air and frosty glaze across the grass that greeted November 12th. By 8:30, I had seen over 10 deer, including two nice bucks chasing does across the field of my ridge-top stand. I had a hunch, however, that I needed to switch locations and get further down the bluff into the timber. I climbed down and slowly crept towards a stand we call ‘Junction,’ as its location intersects travel routes from two ridge-point bedding areas.   

Despite my hunch, I decided to climb up a different treestand that was on the way to ‘Junction’ because I could still see the field in which I had seen the early action. Immediately, I regretted that decision and began to battle in my mind whether to climb down or sit it out for an hour. After a mere 5 minutes I made up my mind and lowered my bow and was slowly back in route to ‘Junction’. 

By 9:15, I had finally come to the base of the treestand. I had just clipped my bow on the pull-up rope, and taken one step onto the ladder when a dandy 10-point buck came crashing and grunting his way up the hollow just across the ditch. Scrambling to get my bow unhooked and an arrow nocked, the buck worked his way up the ridge and out of sight. Dejected, I put my arrow back in the quiver and reattached my bow to the pull-up rope. Before I could take a step back onto the ladder, more crashing and the deepest, roaring grunts I’ve ever heard in the woods followed. Up came a small 4-point buck out of the hollow, followed by the massive buck I immediately knew to be ‘Splitter 2’. After the giant buck bullied and chased the 4-point up the ridge, he made his way back towards me and stood merely 20 yards away. 

I had just arrowed the deer of a lifetime, but the four hours that followed were gut wrenching. I decided to back out and give the deer some time and wait for my friend and hunting partner, Eli Jackson to travel over from Minnesota, where he had been gun hunting. My nerves were met with fear of disappointment when we checked where I hit the deer and found no arrow and no blood. Further down the hollow, no sign of blood. Fearing the worst, I started to work back up the bluff to take another view...when Eli yelled that he found him! Down he was, in reality a mere 70 yards from where I shot him. It was only fitting Eli found the buck, as two weeks earlier in a similar scenario with no sign of an arrow or blood, I happened to find the 10-point buck Eli arrowed just as we were fearing the worst. 

After many high fives, fist bumps and hugs, I sat in admiration, thankfulness and appreciation of such an incredible opportunity. Maybe dumb luck, maybe great decision making, but certainly being in the right place at the right time. A bowhunter’s dream, definitely a hunt and story I’ll never forget. 

I cannot put an end to this story without thanking two great people and great friends that made this opportunity possible. The landowners of the property we hunt, Greg and Ellen took a chance twelve years ago on two college kids that were looking for a place to pursue their evolving passion to chase whitetail deer. Eli and I had spent weeks and countless hours scouring plat books and going door-to-door looking for permission to hunt, when Greg and Ellen graciously accepted our request. In the years that have passed, they have become dear friends and we have enjoyed great conversations, good fellowship and many hearty meals together each fall.