I had pressed the snooze button twice. The night before’s tasks didn’t allow Brian or me to go to bed until almost midnight, but at least we had all of our stuff ready to go near the door. When he realized what time it was, about 5:25, he threw the blankets off of us and started running around the house. I took my time rolling out of bed, played with our dog for a minute and casually walked out into the kitchen to start making breakfast. “There’s no time!” he yelled. “Get your gear on, we have to go!”
“Honey, sunrise isn’t until 7:05. First light won’t be until 6:30, we’re fine.”
“No, I have to walk you up to your stand then get down to mine,” he replied. I hadn’t realized how badly he wanted to make sure I safely got to and up into my stand. As sweet as that was, I really wanted breakfast. But knowing how much of a hurry we were in now I reluctantly put the eggs back in the fridge and put all of my gear on and grabbed my pack and rifle. Brian didn’t even bother putting any of his stuff on since he’d have to come home anyway to get his things to drive to where his stand was.
Getting to my stand I was already sweating, but I didn’t want him to know that. He’d get worried that I’d start to freeze once my body temperature started cooling down. He climbed up the tree first, hanging my pack and rifle on a spike, then came down to let me climb up. It took my about three minutes, finding my footing in the darkness and pulling myself up into my seat. He climbed up to give me a kiss, any last minute advice and a quick “Good luck, I love you.” With that he was gone, and when I couldn’t hear his footsteps anymore I became nervous. I had missed that buck in archery the night before. What would I do if I missed a buck today? I couldn’t bear the thought of it. About ten minutes later I heard the beeping of a car as it zoomed down the road; Brian’s final “good luck” as he drove to his own stand.
Needless to say after the excitement of getting ready and sitting in the stand, I fell asleep. I was probably out for about an hour when I heard footsteps and rustling coming towards me. Slowly looking up I saw a coyote, a huge one, nearing my stand. Before long it was ten yards away with no idea I was twenty feet above it. This was at 6:55 am, sunrise was in ten minutes and the anticipation brewed inside of me.
About a half hour after sunrise I saw the first deer. A huge doe grazed about one hundred yards in front of me. I grabbed my rifle and practiced with the scope, zooming it in and out, figuring out the best way to angle my face to look in it to have a full lit view of a target. About an hour after that a button buck came by, and I considered shooting him. But the night before’s scenario told me not to, that more deer and more bucks came later in the day.
Over the course of the ten and half hours sitting in the stand, I fell asleep about seven times. Three of which were deep sleeps at least forty-five minutes long. The rest were just innocent dozes. At one point while I was awake I had accidentally knocked my muck boot to the ground while I was changing my socks to dry ones from sweating so bad. That was an awful feeling. I couldn’t go without a boot on for the rest of the day, but I also didn’t know if I could climb out and back up my stand without Brian’s help. After a couple minutes of contemplating, I decided I needed my boot so climbed down with only one boot on. I think the fact that I climbed down basically only using my arms and one protected foot gave me the confidence to be able to climb back up with both boots on, and I did it. Safely back in my stand I managed to stay awake for the rest of the day. But I was beginning to wonder if I should just be done for the day. I had so much homework to do and work around the house to get done. Surely I could come out the next weekend to hunt.
At this point it was about one o’clock. Sunset was at 4:58, I believe, and I was getting restless. I hadn’t seen the deer from the night before, which wasn’t too surprising since Opening Day is always such a random day for deer appearances due to getting spooked non stop. Brian’s phone had just died too, so there was no way for me to ask him what he thought I should do. I ended up deciding to wait it out. It became a countdown: three hours left, two hours left, two and a half hours left, two hours and fifteen minutes left. It was dragging!
It was just nearing four o’clock, I was about to stand up and stretch when I saw a patch of brown move about 150 yards away. Three patches were moving, no, four! I grabbed my rifle to look through the scope, but the first three deer I knew right away were the doe I had been seeing the past two days; it was a momma and her two babies. Behind them, however, was a buck. I could see the white of his antlers. I rested the barrel of the rifle on the bar of my stand and looked through the scope. Yup, it’s definitely a buck! I thought. Without even bothering to count the points, only knowing it was at least a four point or just a really tall spike, I lined up my lines of the scope on his chest; he was standing broadside. He was moving slowly, casually chasing the does. I looked up from my scope to see where the next big space between trees were and spotted where my next chance would be; I lined my scope up with that area and brought it back to him. I followed his path, waiting for him to be in that space. As his body moved into the space I wanted, I grunted loudly which made him stop in his tracks. With a deep breath, I slowly let it out and began to squeeze the trigger.
Wait, what just happened? The three doe took off which was what I expected. But the buck took off too, in the opposite direction. And he was booking it big time. Jumping along like nothing touched him. I was 90% sure that I heard him crash about fifty yards from where I hit him, but I wasn’t positive. For about three minutes I just sat there, mouth agape, wondering what I did wrong. How did he take off so quickly?
I had to have missed. There was no other explanation.
But, no, I couldn’t have missed. I lined everything up. I even recreated the scene for the next couple minutes: lining up my firing lane with where he was standing, looking through my scope, practicing pulling the trigger again. Everything should have been perfect.
Since Brian’s phone was dead, and mine was close, I texted my sister to call my dad to ask him what I should do. He said that I should wait fifteen minutes then go look. By this time it was nearing 4:15pm, so I decided to wait until about sunset to get out of my stand and look around. On the chance that I did miss, I didn’t want to spook anything else, particularly that big buck that Brian and I saw the night before which came out around 4:45.
The time ticked by slowly. I just kept replaying the scene in my head. Around 4:30, another buck did come but it was a button buck again with no clue of the scene that just occurred. Finally 4:45 rolled around. I unloaded my gun, lowered it and my pack to the ground, then climbed down the tree myself. Walking over where I was sure I hit him, I began searching for blood. My sister and mom were anxiously awaiting my call or text that I hit it, and my sister’s boyfriend was getting packed up in his stand ten minutes away to come help me look for it.
My excitement started to turn to panic. There wasn’t any blood. I searched a five foot radius, then a ten foot radius. Nothing. I seriously missed him. My disappointment was getting the best of me and I was about to give up, but taking one more step and turning around I saw red. A two foot circle of red splattered blood.
I started to cry I was so happy. My first reaction was to call Brian to leave him a voicemail, I don’t know how understandable the voicemail was since I was a blubbering fool at that point, but I was just overcome with joy. I had shot a buck! Now it was just a matter of finding him. Never having tracked by myself before, I wanted to give it a go. Each drop of blood added to my adrenaline rush of actually shooting a deer, but after thirty feet the trail went cold. I searched for five minutes longer before I walked down to the house and waited for my sister’s boyfriend and Brian.
The three of us started searching where the trail had ended. It took us about ten minutes to find the next blood droplet, then Brian decided a couple notches in the ground were actually from the deer running/jumping away. We followed those for about fifteen feet until we found another spot of blood. At this point the brush was becoming thicker, so we had to start looking on branches and twigs for blood instead of on the leaves. The guys found a drop of blood on a broken branch, and followed that into thick brush where my sister’s boyfriend found another twig with blood on it. We were getting closer, I just knew it; I knew he had crashed someplace close it was just a matter of where.
Before I knew it, my sister’s boyfriend yelled, “He’s over here!” I sprinted as best I could over logs and mounds of dirt to where he was laying. And again, I started crying. Brian hugged and kissed me; I was so happy. He immediately made me get next to it for pictures. I was ecstatic.
After gutting it, we dragged it out of the woods, and Brian loaded it on the three-wheeler to bring down to the house. My family came for pictures and to see it for themselves. They were so happy for me. Phone calls and texts came all through the night; the word had spread fast between family members and close friends congratulating me on my first deer and a buck at that matter.
The buck ended up being a five point, bigger than I thought although he had a little body. Either way it was neat to know that at some point this winter Brian and I would be eating steak from my harvested deer, rather than his. His mom joked around that I was the one putting food on the table now since he hadn’t harvested anything yet.
Brian, being the type of jokester he is, kept busting on me all night and all the next day, “I really thought it was the huge buck from the last night of archery, Babe. When I listened to your voicemail I was really hoping it was.” He then went on to “complain” about having to be the one to get the big buck now. After his jokes he always made a point to tell me how proud of me he was, that my deer was an awesome first deer, bigger than his first deer and a couple other ones he had harvested even after hunting for years.
It felt good to be on the flipside of things. This whole experience never would have happened without him. Brian taught me how to be patient and calm in a stand or any situation. He taught me the basics of hunting. He taught me how to love hunting.
If someone would have told me five years ago that I would have sat in a stand for ten and half hours before shooting a five point buck, I would have laughed in their face in disbelief. But now, I am an active hunter. I do love the sport. It was an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and I’m so blessed to have had the privilege of getting the chance to be out there, and the chance to shoot such a beautiful creature. I couldn’t have asked for a better day either; I lucked out in every area there was and am so grateful for all of the support I’ve gotten from family and friends over my first harvest. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and I’m eager to start practicing bow again to hopefully harvest one in archery next year.