Opening day, I worked through lunch so that I could leave early and get in stand for my first sit of the season. I chose an acorn flat between two ridges on a dry creek bed at the small tract of private land we just gained access to. Apparently we are going to have a great squirrel season as they were all over the flat. The high was 85 and the sit was uneventful, until I started to get down. It was 10 minutes beyond shooting light and pitch black. I lowered my bow, released my safety harness from the tree, and got both feet on the ladder. Then, I hear footsteps and freeze. To my left, I see shadows moving at 30 yards. 3 deer jump the creek heading my way. Although they were only 20 yards away at this time, I could only make out the white hair of their bellies. After 5 minutes, my right calf is cramped and I'm shifting my weight around trying to not blow my cover. Another 5 minutes pass by, and it seemed as though the deer had fed off. I finally reached the ground, picked up my bow, and took 3 steps before I had a deer blow at me from 20 feet away. It caught me off guard and the deer took off. At least it was dark enough that they were unable to see what I was.
The first weekend of deer season was uneventful for Matt and I. Neither one of us saw a deer, however, his dad, Mark, shot two does Sunday Morning with his crossbow. I had two other hunters walk in on my stand by 8:00am Sunday, so I got down and we headed over to help Mark, trail, drag, and gut the does.
This last Sunday, Matt and I sat in our favorite stands which happen to be only 200 yards apart. We rarely see the same deer even with sitting this close. Around 9:00am, two does came crashing through at 30 yards and didn't stop until they were out of site. I wondered if another hunter was about to walk in on my hunt. I wait 15 minutes and hear something coming from the same hillside the previous does left. I spot a doe moving through the brush. Another doe and a spotted fawn follow not far behind. The does were trying to hurry, but the fawn was unable to move at their pace, thus causing the does to be on high-alert. I locate an opening in the direction they are heading and get ready. The first doe bounds through the shooting lane, and as the second attempts the same, I stop her with a bleat. I settle my 30 yard pin on her lungs (she was at 32 yards) and release. The second my bowstring left my release, she double back on her trail and I missed. All 3 deer disappeared into the brush. I felt good about the shot, but knew I missed. After I got out of the stand, I walked my arrow path. I could see where she planted her hooves to spin and found my arrow in line with where her vitals had been. A clean miss, but something that will happen as you bow hunt.
Sunday night we headed to our small section of private land. Matt headed to a ladder stand, Charles sat in his pop-up blind, and I went to the acorn flat. I was still setting up the camera arm on the tree when my phone starts vibrating. Matt is texting me to say a small buck is on his way. As I’m reading the text, the 4-point comes running in, obviously spooked by something. He stops behind my tree at 23 yards, broadside. I’m being picky this year with bucks as you only get two buck tags a season. As he stood there, with my bow still on the ground, I grabbed my gear string and hoisted my bow into the tree, knocked an arrow, put on my release, and drew on him. I held the pins on his vitals, envisioning the shot. He walked through the dry creek bed and left me with a quartering away shot. I continued to hold my pins on him, strictly for mental practice. In doing this on a deer I have no intentions of shooting, it allows my mind to process my shot form, bow is level, breathing, visualizing the vitals and the path of the arrow. In holding this position for about a minute or so, it assists with forming good habits and making them second nature. He eventually walked up the hill and jumped the fence. The buck had come from the west of Matt, and with the wind being northwest, we don’t know for sure what spooked him.
Around 5:30 I hear leaves crunching and notice a skunk making a B-line for my stand. I unintentionally held my breath as he wondered by at 10 feet, then stopped at 20 yards to clean himself. I just let him continue on his merry way. As shooting light fades, I was packed up and about to let my bow down when I heard leaves crunching behind me. It was quite a racket and I expected it to be the does I’d seen opening day around the same time. In the darkness, I spot 4 small bodies heading through the creek. It’s a family of raccoons, with the largest probably being around 20+ pounds. Just like the skunk, they walk to within 10 feet of my stand and start milling around. These critters can be nasty to deal with and one starts eyeballing me. I see the white ring of his face looking in my direction and let an arrow fly. He growls and takes off. It looked like I skewered him. The other 3 coons immediately climb up 3 trees nearby with the closest being 10 feet away. He gets to eye-level and starts staring me down. Bad move. I nock another arrow and send it through his ball of fur. He falls half way down the tree, catches himself, and takes off. Knowing I connected on both of them, I get down and look for the critters. Matt and Charles showed up and we scanned the woods for a minute, but not wanting to leave our scent all over the area, we backed out without finding either coon.
The beginning of the year has been a bit slow thus far. Once the October-lull gives way to the pre-rut in the coming weeks, I'm sure things will pick up.