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Bow Bender
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6,306 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
My Toughest Year
&
My hardest earned buck

Wow….it’s so hard to even really know where to begin. At the beginning I guess. Archery season. To me opening day is the one day I have reserved every year for the rest of my life. So I prepare all year for the next to come. As a matter of fact, I am already working on next years opening day.

Let me tell you about myself. I am a 42 year old family man, who has been bow hunting since he could draw one back. I even shot squirrels with the little suction cupped arrows I had when I was just a sprout. I did not get “serious” (I could not have been any more serious when I shot those suction cupped shafts) until I was 18. At that point, I met my best friend who still hunts with me today, and he handed me an old Indian brand compound, and said “let’s shoot!” Been doing it ever since. That first bow was about a mile too long in draw length, but shot it I did, not knowing why on earth I couldn’t hit anything with it. But before season rolled in that year, I traded it for a Bear “Brown bear” which was sort of a youth bow, but it maxed out at 50 pounds and still got the job done, and it fit me perfect. Took my first deer with it that year and have been hooked ever since.

Now I have been fortunate to harvest at least one deer every year since I turned 18, with the exception of one year about 15-16 years back. I hunted hard, but just never could get one within my effective range, that being what I knew I could cleanly harvest a deer with a minimal margin for error. But other years I have taken 3 or 4, one year I even shot 7! So I have some experience under my belt, and always enjoy the chase with a bow in hand.

This year was different. I did not practice nearly as much as I normally did, but still plenty enough to feel 100% confident. Arrows newly fletched, bow well tuned, accessories all tight and working well; I felt ready.

But about one month before season, I woke up with an idea for a new tree stand in my head. Actually, I had 7 cheap stands I had bought at Wal-mart a number of years back. They were fine for a quick hunt, but very uncomfortable for more than an hour or so. So I decided to modify them to make them an all-day stand. I have a nice shop with iron workers and welders and such, so I took them apart, made them better and set my mind to getting them all hung prior to season. I normally have my stands hung at least a month in advance, so I was already two weeks late by my standards.

But hang them I did, and got them all ready for season with new paint and all. I even concocted a canopy to go over these stands so I might have a better chance of staying dry in those downpour sort of days. All in all I thought I was ready. Little did I know, but I was about to meet head on with Mr. Murphy……

After sitting in my “new” stand for the first half of day opening day, I realized my modifications were good, but needed some improvements still yet. Over the next day or two, another idea came to me and hit me like a ton of bricks. I just HAD to build this new stand, and this time, from scratch.

I normally never miss a Sunday at church, but I did that day. I just felt overwhelmed to get this idea out of my head and made into metal. So 8 hours later, I have a rough prototype hanging on a pole in the shop, and it is looking good. I picked up a few things I needed over the next day or two, finalized my design and got it in the paint booth.

Soon we were up in a tree hanging the prototype for my best friend’s dad. It only took us 8 hours…..yes, 8 hours, but we had to take last years stand down, place a new ladder we built to replace the steps which were so hard for him to get up. Heck, it was tough for us to climb the thing! We had to get the chainsaw out and trim branches, and then hang the new stand and put it all together. We called him and he thought it was just awesome….

Now we have to complete the other 3, and I got enough material to make 4 stands at once. We got them done and then took them to hang down on the farm we lease in Franklin County. Now back to archery season….

The day before opening day I decided to check the shooting lanes on a couple of my stands, and found I needed to remove some small sticks and branches to insure a cleaner shot path. While doing so, a small branch flies up and strikes my open right eye and lodges under the lid for second. I reel from the pain and dislodge the branch, but the crud in my eye is almost overwhelming. I hold my lid and try to get my eye clean. There is damage to the surface of the eye, making it feel as if there is a pile of rocks under my lid. So tomorrow is opening day, am I going to be able to see out of my right eye? I am right handed and right eye dominant, I NEED that eye!!

Next morning finds my eye swollen and red, and still very, very scratchy. I can see decent but don’t know how long that will last. I get ready, meet my buddy and we head into the trees. Not long after first light, 4 does are headed across the field right to my stand. I decide I am going to take one should I have the chance to fill my earn-a-buck “tag” (or doe tag). They come in to my right, which is the worst case since I need to back away from the tree and my safety strap is holding me back too far. I loosen the strap till I can make the shot, draw my bow and try to take aim. Guess what? Yep, the bow holder was in the wrong place. So now I have to squat a little to make the shot. No problem, but as I do the doe towards the rear sees my movement but doesn’t blow, but the gig is just about up. The lead and biggest doe is at 18 yards and I am settling my 20 yard pin low on her chest. Just as I release, the doe in the rear blows, sending the foursome scattering across the field. The shaft buries in the ground without so much as cutting a hair.

Now tell me this. The release triggered at the exact moment the doe in the rear blew. My Switchback XT is shooting a smokin’ (yes, that is sarcastic) 241 fps. That doe not only dodged my arrow, but had turned 180 degrees and was a full body-length away when the shaft hit the ground. Just amazing. How do they do that?

Now my eye is really starting to bug me. I’m getting the slime every other blink, and rubbing it has made it very irritated. We decided to move to fresh stands for the evening hunt, and do so. After a short while in the new stands, some turkey filter through and I have the chance to make a 30 yard shot. I get ready, draw, blink, and then can’t see for the slime covering my eye. I blink again; roll my eye, trying to move the gunk well enough to see. Now I can see pretty well, I ready myself for the shot, only to have the gunk move over my eye right as I shoot. I miss cleanly, and want to take a garden hose to my eye to get the crud out. Talk about frustrating!!!!!!!! I go to the eye doc that Sunday (he met me on the way to church, friend of a friend sort of thing) and he tells me he sees the damage the branch did, and gave me some drops to help, which I feel working immediately. I had tried some eye drops and flushes earlier but they just did not seem to help much. At least I feel like I can shoot now… We shall see.

Now guess what. The eye doc I had seen about a month ago says I need glasses, so I had ordered a pair. I got them Wednesday, 4 days into archery season. Well the good news is I can see much better with them on, the bad news is that my brain isn’t used to seeing with them on and my depth perception is waaaay off. I did not know this. I shot at my target at the house and I hit better than ever, but that was at known distances on flat ground. I proceeded to get back in the tree stand where I had missed the doe on opening morning, and shoot at a young buck. 18 yards, broadside “gimme” shot any other year. I draw, he has no idea I am on the same planet with him, settle the pin in on his vitals, release, only to see the arrow strike high and near his spine with almost zero penetration. OH NO!!!! That is a sight I hate to see more than any other. He runs off with the shaft sticking high out of his back. We track his foot steps since there is no blood, only to quit looking 5 hours later with no deer, sign, or anything. I felt sick.

So now what do I do, it’s is going to be tree stand practice till I can get it right with my new specs. I do so, and finally am ready to pull a bow back up in a tree. Now I blow several other opportunities with shots deflected by unseen tiny limbs, and shots I would not take due some obstruction I thought would cause just what I had already experienced. Let me tell you, normally when I release an arrow, I walk up to a dead deer shortly after. Not because I am some awesome archer who never misses, but because I practice, practice, and practice some more, have 100% confidence in my setup, and only release when I feel like I have the best shot possible. Doing this has put plenty of deer on the ground. This year, I had the hardest time kicking Mr. Murphy out of the tree. He was hanging on tight, or had one of the Hunters Specialties harnesses on. I just couldn’t seem to get him out of the tree with me.

I even hunt side by side with my best friend, and was able to watch him take several deer, while I watched through binos. That is super cool to be able to do, but added to my frustration of not being able to seal the deal myself.

Well, early muzzleloading season began, and I muzzleload as well, so I hit the woods with a vengeance. I was able to fill the freezer with a number of deer, and enjoyed getting a few on the ground. But in the back of my mind, taking one with a bow was gnawing at my mind.

So late archery kicks in, and I make up my mind I am going to hunt one stand behind my house due to the ability to get into it quickly after work for an hour or so, and to hit it in the am before work as well. I’m going to hunt every day till I see something. I am becoming exhausted at this point, hunting every morning and every evening. I hit the stand in the morning, and nearly fell out (even though I am tethered in with a safety strap) several times due to falling asleep standing up. I decide I had better sit down so I don’t fall out. I was asleep for 5 minutes; wake up to two does 18-19 yards from the stand. They have me pegged as soon as I moved my head. My bow is hanging to the left and I cannot get it from the position I am in. I can’t stand, they already are on alert. They start to move off and I stand, grab my bow, and I try to make a shot I should never have taken at a very doable 35 yards. But the shot is deflected by yet another of Murphy’s branches, and I am relieved I make a clean miss and did not wound an animal.

I need to get into a better mental state. I am fatigued, frustrated and making poor decisions. I rest up a couple of days, and head out one cool, crisp morning….

I feel great, its 28 degrees out, calm and just feels like a good day to see and harvest a deer. Not long after first light, still too dark to see well, I catch a flick of an ear up on the hill in the thicket. Soon, I see a wag of a tail and know several deer are milling around, browsing on the last few leaves they are finding. They take their time, which is great because I need more light to make a good shot. 15-20 minutes goes by, giving me just enough light to see 50 yards well. The two “does” make their way down and now are at 43 yards in an opening. Last year there would have been an arrow already in the air. I took a nice 8 pointer last year at 46 yards and thought nothing of it as I had practiced out to 80 every day. I was prepping myself for a Colorado hunt I went on last year. I normally do not shoot over 30-35 yards here in the East, but last year I felt great out to 50 without question, and could keep my groups inside a 3” circle up to 60 with broadheads EVERY time.

Soon the smaller “doe” starts down a trail that comes 15 yards in front of my stand. “She” gets to 18 yards, is broadside with no vegetation between us and I draw back. For a second “she” stops as “she” sees something move, but doesn’t not know where it was. “She” looks at the base of my ladder stand, starts to look up toward me, while I am moving the pin to “her” vitals. As “she” makes eye contact, I release the arrow. I hear the tell-tale thump of the Magnus Stinger as it hits the hollow sounding rib cage. The deer bolts back through the thicket, carrying the other deer with “her”. I don’t hear a crash, I do not see the deer anymore, and I do not know what has happened. Have I lost yet another deer? I had started to shake before “she” got to the spot where I released my arrow. I was torn up worse than any big buck, or any other deer I have ever shot at. I had to talk myself through the shot and calm myself down as I could barely hold the bow.

I tell myself, get your binos up and check the shaft. I do, and I look and look but cannot see the arrow. Hold on, what is that right there……..YES!!!!!!!!! A brightly red covered arrow!!!!! I decide to get down and at least track the deer for 20 yards, and then back out depending on the sign. After all, I had waited a whole 15 minutes.......




Now there is a heavy frost on the ground. The blood on the shaft is frozen solid. I start to track the deer, but the blood is very sparse, not like what I was expecting to see. I go 5 yards, then 10, then 15, then 20, then just as I am about to turn back and wait, I see “her”!!!! I run over to “her”, only to find it’s a large button buck with no antlers above the hairline at all. I don’t like to shoot button bucks if I can tell that is what they are, but I am as proud of this buck as I would be of a 200 incher. I look up to the sky and say a word of thanks…….



One other note, I left the deer and headed back to the house to get my knife and so forth. The day was warming up and as I returned with my gear to process the deer, the blood trail I found so sparse at the beginning ended up being HUGE!! I guess when the blood hit the frost covered leaves they would curl up and hide the blood. I had thought the trail was sparse since the Stingers normally do a fine job at leaving a nice blood trail. There was plenty of blood, but just hidden due to the frost.

Anyway, it has been one hard, tough season, but in the end, staying at it and not giving up gave me the chance to redeem myself, and let the air out of my biggest trophy yet, a 115 pound button buck.
 

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XX78 User
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It has been tough for me as well. Good Job!!
 

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Bowhunting is tough.
 

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Bow Bender
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Discussion Starter #5
Sorry for the long read. Bowhunting is tough, no doubt, but most fulfilling as well I think.
 

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enjoyed the story. i would be proud of the button buck trophy as well considering all you went through. congrats on a fine trophy and for sticking with it. :)
 

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save the decoys!!!!!!!!!!
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not a darn thing wrong with that deer, i shot one myself this year looks about the same. great eatin!
 

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I shot a small spike buck this year that I thought was a doe. Very small horns. I was surprised. I thought it was a mom with two yearlings, turns out he was a triplet. Anyway I'm sure your family will enjoy that Buck. Good Job
 

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congrats on putting an end to a tough season
 
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