As I reflected back on many hunting adventures, one two-week period stood out over all others. I have hunted a wide range of locations throughout several states but, none of those will ever top the memories of 2013. In August 2013, feeders were topped off and trail cameras were checked. My mind raced to the thought of, "Maybe this season will be different." After hunting a piece of family property in West Texas for nearly two decades, the 2013 bow season was indeed destined to be one for the books, titled "Tried & True, Two-in-Two".
In all my years hunting this particular place, all the time spent in preparation each year, thinking and dreaming, whitetail does were the only notches under my belt from that special land…until December 23, 2013. That evening, I made my way to the stand and settled in three hours earlier than normal. My mind ran through my personal bowhunting playbook, making sure to double check the initial steps.
The clock ticked minute after minute, approaching the prime time of the day. My eyes caught movement and my heart rate increased. I immediately proceeded to attach my release as I noticed a bobcat about to pounce on a quail under the feeder. I stood at full draw as the bobcat flew out of the brush chasing the quail. By the time he stopped, the roughly fifty-yard shot was not one I wanted to take. After a few moments passed, the woods settled back down allowing my eyes to catch movement again. Sitting still, I stared deep into the brush and realized the buck I had named Shorty was approaching fast. There he was, standing a mere twenty-one yards away from me. It was go time. I was now at full draw on my first buck on this land that had been hunted by my grandfather and my father before me - my land. The waiting game was on, me at full draw and Shorty standing straight on to me. With no shot, the next two minutes stretched into what seemed like an eternity, leading to a shaky draw down. Luckily, another younger buck also became interested in what was going on in the area and Shorty quickly became disgruntled. While Shorty chased him out, I drew my bow again. My heart was about to beat out of my chest and my palms were sweating as Shorty presented a twenty-six yard quartering away opportunity and I released my arrow. I heard that satisfying sound…WHACK…his back legs did the donkey kick and I knew the lungs had been penetrated.
Slowly I approached the spot of impact to find my arrow covered in lung blood from broadhead to fletching.
The excitement set in deep within my soul. First, I made a call to my father to share the good news. He asked if I could wait for him to get there. Without hesitation I answered, “I’ll be waiting,” knowing that he and I would share the journey of this blood trail for my first buck on this place. Once he arrived, I filled him in on the necessary details and we started blood trailing. When we found no blood at the start of the path Shorty took, I asked myself, “Where will this journey lead?” Scratching my head, I got down on my hands and knees looking for any specs of blood. That was when I remembered to tell my father about the last tree I noticed Shorty run past. My Dad went to that tree while I stayed on the trail. It was not long before I heard my father say three of my favorite words, “There he is.” The big buck was laying a short forty yards away from the point of impact. We shared a lot of high fives, fist bumps and hugs while fighting back the tears of joy, each of us knowing exactly what we had just shared together.
Fast forward twelve days to January 4, 2014. With the perfect wind for my stand, I elected to give it another try. Again I arrived three hours early. The weather was much warmer that day and knowing a cold front was due to arrive later that night, I expected late arrivals. As usual, an abundant amount of dove arrived about an hour before the dinner bell and I thought to myself, “Perfect, Mother Nature’s alarm is here.” While sitting still, I continued to check the wind, knowing it was supposed to switch directions at any time. I sat out my time marveling in all of God’s creations. A few minutes passed and to my surprise the dove scattered. I glanced up and noticed a deer…and it had horns! The thousands of thoughts that always race through every hunter’s head filled mine. I found myself focusing on the “calming” stage first -knowing that I had failed more times than not to execute “the shot.” Again my strategic planning allowed me to draw my bow unbeknownst to the buck I called “Split Finger.” Here we go. Deja vu set in as Split Finger stepped into the feeder, facing me at full draw, much like Shorty had done two weeks earlier. With yet another shaky draw down, we began to play the waiting game. Split Finger worked his way out of the shooting lane. Daylight was fading quickly. Finally, his head rose up with his ears alert. He started the nose high action, trying to figure out exactly what the smell was in the air. Right then I knew there was a good chance he was catching wind of me and something had to happen quickly. I reached full draw for the fourth time in two weeks. He took two steps out, acting as though he was leaving. I slowly brought down my thirty-yard pin to the money spot, gave a slight yelp to stop him, and let my arrow fly. That satisfying sound…WHACK. He vanished in a moment flat. After agonizing over the replay in my head, I felt it might have been a low shot.
A short while longer, I got down and tried to find some signs. In the mist of the darkness, I spotted my arrow lying in the dirt a short distance away. Just as all hunters, I experienced that heart-sinking feeling during the short period when I did not know whether the arrow was covered in blood or not. I was thrilled to get to the arrow and find it coated from beginning to end with foamy lung blood. What a fantastic feeling that was. After I waited the standard length of time, it was completely dark outside and I was on a blood trail, smiling from ear to ear. My father was on his way to help, just as he had been a short time before, so I backed off the trail and waited for him. It wasn’t long before we were both on the trail. As we neared the end of the longest blood trail endeavor I had ever experienced, I heard my dad say the same words he had said 12 days earlier, “There he is.” We found old Split Finger with a perfect arrow entrance. I rolled him over and saw a perfect quartering away exit too. I had double-lunged him! The silence of the woods was once again quickly replaced with continuous high fives, hugs and “Atta’ boys!”
As I reminisced on those two kills, I realized just how special it was to share those nights with my dad. I look forward to one day introducing my own children to the thrill of hunting on that property the same way my dad and grandfather did for me so many years ago.