2006 Archery Harvest
10/28/2006 10: 30AM Spokane, Missouri
IMB Outfitters has my permission to post this story on their website.
Every season a hunter tries and plans the perfect weekend getaway. One plans vacation days around the chase phase or the rut. Some have to take it when they can get it! For my 2006 season, I had a weekend planned for October 27, 28, and 29th. Not only was that the beginning of the infamous Whitetail chase phase but more importantly it was a three-day weekend where my wife and girls were planning a trip to Columbia to see her sister.
Since our little Maci came to us back in April of 2006, she has been the type of baby that scares people into not having more kids, so hunting this season has been a challenge. I usually spend twice as many hours on stand but my fatherly duties have kept me from this and that is ok too.
Therefore, I had to make the most of my worry free three-day hunt. Planning for this hunt started back in September! Before season, I had placed a stand in a little meadow called Dooners Meadow. Every season, I have what I call my primary stand. I think most hunters do this from year to year. It’s the same stand each year for some and for others it can vary somewhat based off of location and sign. This season I felt like Dooners Meadow would be the “key” stand.
Eager to hunt the stand, I waited for the right wind and ended up harvesting a nice doe I called “The Second Chance Doe” in early October. Then the next weekend I let my hunting buddy Gene hunt the stand and he witnessed two nice bucks from the stand that stayed just out of bow range. It was from that point on that we decided to let the stand rest until my planned weekend.
Leading up to the weekend, I had felt good about the possibilities. The first time in a long time, the Ozarks weather was cooperating with favorable conditions. The plan was to put the girls to bed (as they would be leaving early Friday morning on the 27th) on Thursday night and then drive down to meet Gene already in camp. The forecast did call for rain on Friday with a perfect day on Saturday and Sunday. My strategy was simple, hunt a secondary stand on Friday, and hunt Dooners Meadow on Saturday. Reason; Dooners Meadow is prone to scrapes and I thought the Bucks might freshen up the scrapes on Saturday after the rain.
The alarm clock sounded Friday morning signaling time to wake up from my hunting camper and head out into the woods. The forecast was for rain and lots of it. The wind was gusty and I had no confidence for some reason but decided to head out anyway. Gene was to head to a very proven stand and I was heading to a stand that has been solid in years past but not so good in the past few weeks. However, main thought was to stay out of Dooners Meadow area until Saturday.
As I was sitting on stand, I began to notice how the leaves were beginning to thin down and my mind wandered to how exposed I might now be at my Dooners Meadow stand. After sitting for three hours in the light rain and wind, I decided to get down and begin the process of preparing for the Saturday hunt.
Once back at camp, I was greeted by Gene who had a big smile on his face. Gene had harvested a nice 6pt buck that morning so we had work to do. The kind of work I really don’t mind to do! I should mention my friend Gene has been hunting for a very long time and has taken several quality deer, antelope, turkey and other wild game over the past 50 years. Only in the past few years has he taken up the art of bow hunting. He and I help each other out and I just hope when I get his age some young person helps me the same.
After we finished his task, my attention focused towards my Saturday morning hunt. I should note that in the early days of October, Gene had really been struggling with deer sightings. I made a little power point presentation for him highlighting the stand I had placed in Dooners Meadow, pictures of the area and some words of encouragement. I also made a bold prediction that on October 28th at 7:45am, I would harvest a nice buck from that stand. I even made a little graphic to go along with this prediction utilizing a picture I had taken of the stand. I know, a little egotistical but it was all in fun.
As you can imagine, my expectations were very high and I wanted to try my best to fulfill the bold prediction. There were several things to do to prepare for the hunt. First, I had thawed out the tarsal gland from last years buck and prepped it (attach a string and re-package it), also I wanted to get my decoy out and use it. The other thing (because of the falling leaves), I wanted to go and dress up the stand a bit with some branches.
Friday was the perfect day to sneak into a stand and do some quick changes. The weather being rainy and windy would wash away any leftover human scent. At the same time, I would deliver the decoy (I like to hide the decoy in the area I am going to hunt that way its easier to set it up in the morning quietly) and pull the cushion. After about a half an hour of cutting branches with leaves and using zip ties to attach them to my stand I was confident of once again being hidden from a whitetail. I also figured the exact location for the decoy and then hid her and I grabbed the wet cushion from the stand. Once back at camp, I realized I had left all of my gloves at home. I decided to take the 20 minute drive back home to retrieve them. While there, I thought this would be a great time to dry the wet cushion in the dryer and take a scent free shower. Having a good chance the bucks would be chasing a little and favorable weather conditions, having a good, dry, comfortable seat might be that added advantage I needed to hang tough and wait ‘em out.
Once back to camp, Gene decided one deer a day was plenty for him. He would try to fill his doe tag on Saturday. I decided to do a simple stalk, scout mission, and look for fresh sign. I have to say, the weather was perfect for this mission but I came up with absolutely no results. However, this did not deter me from the next days hunt.
That night, Gene and I sat in my camper and watched our beloved St. Louis Cardinals win the 2006 World Series on an old black and white TV. Something about watching the game on that TV sitting in a camper at deer camp really made it special. What a great game and a great series our Cardinals had. After the game, Gene retired to his quarters and I began final preparations for the morning hunt.
Final preparations included preparing the backpack, laying out bags of clothes (I keep all articles of clothing in airtight zip-lok bags or scent free bags), preparing the tarsal gland, packing the Camcorder and laying out breakfast. Soon it was time to retire for the night and I felt confident I was ready to try to make my prediction come true.
It did not seem like much time had passed when I heard the alarm clock sounding. I hit the snooze in the warm camper and tried to go back to sleep for just a few more minutes. Soon the anticipation of the hunt had me wide-awake. Gene was already up and almost ready to go. On this morning, I too wanted to get an early jump to the stand. As predicted the morning weather was perfect. Dooners Meadow requires a North, Northwest or a Northeast wind and we had a Northwest wind. It was 35 degrees and the wind was calm. Ideal!
One thing I felt this hunt required was face paint. I was going to battle and just like our Native American ancestors did before they hunted or went into battle; I wanted to honor their spirits with Warrior Paint. I took extra time that morning and painted my face. I am not sure it really makes a difference; it is just something I like to do. I stepped out of that camper literally pumped up and with a mission on my mind. Gene took one look at me and he said, “You’re serious today aren’t you?” The chase phase only happens once a year and when it does, one has to be ready. In my hunting world, this was my 4th down, 2 seconds to go and we need a Touchdown to win. I had done everything I could possibly do or knew to do to prepare for this hunt. It was GO TIME!
My plan was simple, walk to about the 100-yard mark and then finish getting ready. Here I would put my finishing articles on, head cover, safety harness, binoculars and grunt call. I also grabbed the tarsal gland (freshly heated in the microwave to liven it up) and my extra gloves. I then began the final walk into my stand. Along the path, I would take the tarsal gland and rub it on exposed overhanging branches. Once at my stand, I placed the tarsal gland in an elevated branch to hopefully help with scent dispersion. I then disposed of the gloves into some leaves and began my ascent up the tree. I placed my backpack on a hook and placed the bow on its appropriate hanger as well, took out the camcorder and mounted it to the prepared camera mount in the stand, positioned the quiver and grabbed my number one arrow and placed it on the arrow rest. Hung the rattling bag, grabbed “The Can”, and put it into its proper pocket. The one thing I did not need this day was the range finder. Before season, I had taken my 3D target out to this location, placed it in various spots, and practiced shooting. Therefore, I knew the shot distances and was very confident. Soon I was ready with about ten minutes to spare before it would be light enough to see.
As I sat there, waiting for first light, I began to question the position my camcorder was in. I desperately wanted to try to catch any action on film but not if it was going to jeopardize the hunt. After fooling with it for a minute or two, I opted to pull the camera and hang it from a hook instead. Finally, I was ready to hunt.
All week long, I had been reading from my pal’s on the internet about techniques that had been working and reports on various deer activity across the state. I was confident the bucks were in the chase phase; therefore, my “be the doe” technique was on! “Be the Doe” involves the decoy and using calls that simulate a doe in heat. I use “The Can,” “Rattle Bag,” and “Buck Grunts.” The entire calling process is to simulate a “hot” doe is in the area or has been found. Therefore, I began the hunt with several calls on “The Can.” In seasons past, I have had several deer respond to the call and I was confident in its abilities.
However, this morning, calling did not produce any results. I did continue sequences of calls throughout the morning. I am a firm believer in being proactive with calls. Yet, nothing seemed to be stirring this morning. Another factor that I believe has a big effect on wildlife is the Lunar effect. I believe the moon has a definite pull or draw that activates wildlife activity. That morning, it would not be until about 9:30am until it was at least in a more favorable position.
As I sat there pondering life and time and enjoying a beautiful morning, I began to second-guess my stand position (as we hunters do from time to time). The odd thing this season was the lack of viable buck sign. No rubs or scrapes to speak of hardly. We had some fresh sign at a stand area called Cooper 40. It such and open area, we normally reserve this area for rifle hunting, but my buddy Gene and I think we have a plan to place a good bow stand on one end. As I was thinking about this very idea when Gene signaled me on the radio.
He was going to get down and do a stalk hunt back to camp. He too had been “shut out” that morning and was a bit frustrated. He called at exactly 10:15am and asked me my plan. I stated how I had been seeing an increase in squirrel activity for the past twenty minutes and being the last weekend in October, I opted to stay on stand (my plans were to hunt most of the day). After we signed off, I decided to take a quick break from being motionless and grab a snack and drink of water. Upon finishing my granola bar, my head was itching so I loosened my Scent-Lok hood and proceeded with vigorous scratching.
Just at that moment, I heard the one sound you never want to hear in the woods. A SNORT! Then another snort, and another and yet more snorts. She was directly behind me in the thick timber and directly downwind of me. I could do nothing but listen! She just kept snorting for a total of at least fifteen to twenty times. Figures, sit all morning with no action, take one break and busted.
As I sat there, wondering what I should do the thoughts of moving a stand to the Cooper 40 was very much on my mind. I would go back and forth between get down or stick it out. I am not even sure what my final thoughts were because my attention suddenly changed focus.
DEER! I had a deer come into the meadow on the Northeast (Upwind) side. BUCK…..SHOOTER BUCK! Immediately I stood up. The moment was happening so fast. Once I identified the buck as an animal I wanted to harvest, I switched modes and prepared for the shot.
As the buck approached, he was staying on my side of the meadow. In this meadow, at about the 30 yard mark from my location, there are a few trees that protrude out in the middle. I was looking ahead and trying to guess where he might come through and what the distance would be if he did. Just as he entered into the trees, I attempted to draw back but something was stopping me from achieving full draw. It was my safety harness! It had slid into a position that was inhibiting me. I quickly adjusted and finished getting my arrow back and my body into position. I was now at FULL DRAW!
As I watched the buck get closer, I was completely ready. The buck was making it easy for me. He was not going wide as I originally predicted; he was coming straight toward my stand. I could not believe it! The odd thing is I never did look at his rack again after identifying him as a “SHOOTER” buck. Now, I was looking for shot placement. I was not going to miss this buck because of a poor shot. How could I live with myself if I did? The chances of seeing a SHOOTER buck on our place is rare enough let alone a shot opportunity.
Then the Buck stops and locks his eyes onto the decoy not 20 yards in front of him. He was facing directly at me 10 yards from my stand. Shoot or wait? I have hunted long enough with a decoy to know that you never really know how a deer will respond to a one. I have had them come on in and some run off as fast as they can. Directly in front of my stand was a big tree and some smaller saplings. If the buck was to get in front of this, he would be broadside but a shot may be blocked. In addition, I was worried he might identify the decoy as a fake and bolt never giving me an opportunity to even take a shot.
I decided to go ahead and take the shot. It was not an ideal position but I knew it would be a very humane opportunity.
Carefully as he stood there, I looked for an aim point just behind the front shoulder. TWAP! Impact! The buck jumped and turned ninety degrees and headed to the far side of the meadow. When he turned, I could see the arrow deeply penetrated into his body. Although not a complete pass though shot, a very fatal shot. As he bound off it was then that I glanced at the antlers and new I had just harvested a very nice Spokane, Missouri buck. He entered the timber and I lost sight of him but I remained silent listening for the deer to expire and crash into the leaves. Bingo, I heard the famous sound and then I let out a big breath or relief.
It was at this moment my emotions caught up with me. The reality of what had just happened was amazing. I went from spooking a doe to almost getting down to harvesting a nice mature animal! WHOA! The excitement and nerves started taking over my body. I picked up the video camera and captured my emotions on tape but the overwhelming feeling was so strong I was almost jumping in my stand. Two years in a row, I had taken nice bucks off the property! Something that in years past was unheard of let alone accomplished.
I picked up the radio and frantically tried to call Gene yet he would not answer. I shouted out a few “YEAH’S” and “YES’S” in excitement. I then gathered my gear and climbed out of the stand. I pretty well knew the shot placement would not warrant a blood trail. I kind of figured I would have to find this buck by just searching the area where I think I heard him crash. I walked over to where the impact had taken place and looked for sign but none. I walked toward the area where I watched him enter the timber and about half way across the meadow, I found the top half of my arrow. It had been broken off leaving blood and hair on the broken piece.
It was at this point I decided to leave the deer alone and head back to camp to find Gene so he could bask in the excitement of finding him with me. Waiting and going back to camp would also allow me to gather my camera and other gear needed to finish the harvest. The road out of Dooners Meadow was actually a short walk back to the main logging road. At the top of this hill, I had told Gene the day before this is where I wanted to have my picture taken with the buck I was going to shoot the next day. He just laughed and said, “We’ll see.” This setting boasted a wonderful view of the fall colors of the Ozarks. The trees were at that perfect stage and I wanted to capture that forever.
I was walking down the road heading back to camp when I saw my friend standing in the road about 300 yards in front of me! I let out a loud yell and did a little jig with my bow signally to him something amazing had happend. I could see him shaking his head in disbelief. Two weeks prior it was the exact same scenario, I was walking out after the doe harvest from the stand, he was in almost the exact same spot, and I was doing the same song and dance. Before he knew from a radio of my success, this time he had no idea what had just happened. All the way up the road, I kept dancing and yelling. Finally, I caught up with him and he shook his head and said no way, you’re pulling my leg, you did not shoot a buck that fast (knowing that would be the only thing that I was wanting to harvest)! I handed him the broken arrow with fresh blood as proof. His eyes lit up and he now was a believer. We had work to do.
After getting back to camp, we changed out of our good hunting clothes, cleaned up and gathered our gear and a snack. I was confident the buck had expired and there was no need to get in a hurry. After a short time, we fired up the ATV’s; hitched up the dead cart and off we went to retrieve my buck. Upon entering the area, I replayed the hunt to Gene so he could visualize the turn of events. Then we entered into the timber spreading out about 10-20 yards apart. Just as I had suspected, there was no blood trail. About 40 yards into the woods, we did spot some blood and I mentally marked it. As we continued down the big Ozarks draw, we came to the bottom where a very large gulley lies. We looked for signs that the buck might have crossed but found none. I decided to backtrack to the blood sighting while Gene traveled up the valley just above the gulley.
After finding the blood again and beginning a different trek down the hill, I heard Gene yell out, “Chris, there he is!” The buck had been too wounded to attempt the gulley and opted for an easier path but did not make it far. There he lied, expired and beautiful!
My emotions were high and filled with excitement. Gene waited for me to get back down the hill so I could be the first to view him. His rack was beautiful and magnificent. He was a very fine specimen and I was proud that I had harvested him. I remember pausing and just reflecting. Gene and his wonderful compliments continued to poor out and he too was pleased in the outcome. We stood there for a few more minutes’ just talking and taking pictures.
Finally, we knew it was time to haul him out. I went back for an ATV and after a little bit of work, we had him loaded and ready for the trek back up the hill.
My ole ATV is rough looking machine. Just a two-wheeled drive with bald front tires but it sure is a workhorse. I busted down sapling and trees and made my way back to the meadow within a couple of minutes (only once did Gene have to cut me out of a jam). Once back to the top, I told Gene we had some more pictures to take.
Gene gratefully said “ok.”
While up on the hill taking pictures, here camy my grandpa Max driving his Triumph TR3 down the old road. Knowing I was in camp, Grandpa had come down just on a whim to say hi. It was my grandpa’s dad (my great grandfather) who owned this land several years ago and it’s my grandpa who was one of the first ones to ever really hunt this land. He was very excited and wanted to hear all the details. We then had our picture taken together.
We finished cleaning the buck and getting him to the locker plant. My season was officially over. I had met my harvest goals for 2006 perfectly, a young doe and a mature Buck. There was a bonus, both were harvested with my bow.
I do believe the good Lord had a hand in things that morning, later that afternoon, my wife called, she was coming home early due to one our little girls (Maci) was sick and she going to need my help at home. My big planned weekend hunt would have been cut short. Good thing I had already tagged out with the “Predicted Buck!”