This has been a most unusual deer season for me.
It started before the season began, when there was much doubt as to whether I could even participate.
Disc problems in my neck were tormenting me and the strength in my right shoulder had greatly diminished. Through the prayers of many, along with physical therapy treatments, I was able to start the bow season, albeit on a limited basis.
I reduced the poundage on my bow and was able to shoot about two to five practice shots a day.
My buddies, Randy Levingston, David Simoneaux, Casey Louis and Jessie Simoneaux, all helped me in various ways, such as driving my boat when sitting caused me too much pain, carrying my stand to the tree and even offering to come out to my hunting area to drag out anything I shot.
Just a great bunch of friends I am blessed to have.
As the season continued, the physical therapy treatments began to pay off. My pain lessened and through weight training, my strength returned. I am not pain free yet, but it is much more bearable now.
The season itself has been one of my most enjoyable ever. That’s because sometimes we take things for granted.
I know one day I will have to stop hunting due to age and physical limitations, but I figured that day was many years down the road. With the seriousness of my neck issue, there was real doubt as to whether my hunting could continue.
So each trip I made, even in pain, became an enjoyable experience. I savored every moment of every hunt.
Though October passed, then November and December with no kills for me, I was not discouraged in the least.
I even got to laugh at myself over some of the hunting events that would have normally caused me anguish in past seasons.
On one of my early-season hunts, I saw six does at various times, all within 15- to 25-yards, but I elected to pass on the shots because all of them were yearlings.
This continued for several more hunts: no bucks and the does I did see were yearlings.
Finally one morning, I heard an animal running through the myrtles in the direction of my ladder stand. A nice mature doe came trotting by at only 20 yards.
She slowed down and offered me a perfect broadside shot. I drew back and before I released, I heard more noise coming from the same direction.
My first thought was a buck might be chasing her.
I had to make a quick decision as the noise was rapidly approaching. I didn’t want to miss the possible chance at a nice buck if she reacted badly to my shot, so I let down and turned my attention to the myrtles.
The noise grew louder and then I heard it: the unmistakeable sounds of a herd of hogs.
Five of them came running out. I shot the third one at 30 yards, but as it was on the move, my shot hit too far back and ripped through its mid-section.
I trailed it for an hour and 20 minutes but there would be no recovery.
So my first chance at a nice doe ended on my calculated decision.
And while thinking the situation over, I would still do it again.
In the past, that hunt may have bothered me some, but this season it was just so great to be able to even have the opportunity to be out there that it only made me smile.
As the season wore on, I saw more does, some smaller bucks and even a couple of wall-hangers, but none of them gave me the shot opportunity I needed.
We were hearing hogs on almost every hunt and saw a few, too. In the meantime, my buddy Casey shot a 7-pointer, Jason Galloway shot a very nice 11-pointer and I saw pictures of a couple of beautiful 12-pointers from the Delta. David and Jessie also joined in with some bow kills.
As January arrived, Randy and I were still in search of our first bow kills for this season.
We decided to make a quick Sunday morning hunt before church.
We were hunting about 250 yards apart. As dark lifted and the first hints of daylight arrived, I was able to make out the legs of a deer in the shadows of the myrtles where I was positioned.
I drew back and as the doe stepped into view at 20 yards, I let my arrow fly. The Nocturnal nock showed the flight as it passed through the deer. It bolted off in a semi circle around me.
An hour later, Randy radioed that he had shot a doe at 12 yards. It seemed like our fortunes had changed for the better.
The following Tuesday I was back at the Delta fully energized.
On this hunt, I could hear hogs in all directions. The problem was they were passing within 30 yards of my stand, but they were hidden in the thick myrtle bushes, so I decided to try a stalk.
I headed in the direction where I could hear the most grunting with the wind in my favor. I saw the bushes moving and heard the deep growl of a very large hog.
Sure enough it was a 200-pound sow and she was only 20 yards away.
Suddenly a loud “beep, beep” signal came from my walkie talkie. This happens from time to time when a boat passes in the river.
I grabbed the radio and turned the power off. But as I was slipping it back in my pocket and trying to watch the hog, it fell into the water that I was walking in. The splash caused the hog to jump and go back into the bushes.
I could still hear grunts coming from my right, so I crept over in that direction. It turned out to be five hogs, each about 30 pounds.
I watched them for ten minutes hoping the big black sow would come back and join them, but that was not the case.
I left them with 30 minutes of daylight and tried another area. Hogs were also there but I could not get close enough to them to get a shot as darkness fell.
As I walked out, I was able to watch them feed from 10 yards away with my headlight on. They seemed oblivious to the light and were still rooting as I walked back to my boat.
On Thursday I tried another island and immediately the hog action resumed.
It was 3:15 and I could hear a hog loudly rooting in the cut grass. I crept up closer and closer until I was at 15 yards.
The only problem was trying to get a clear shot through the thick grass.
Finally the hog pivoted to a position that allowed me to see its vitals. My arrow dropped this hog in its tracks. It kicked a few times and expired in about 30 seconds, a 100-pound sow.
One hog down and I hadn't even reached my stand: the rest of this hunt would be all gravy.
I walked a couple of hundred yards more and climbed into the ladder stand and immediately heard grunting from the myrtles only 30 yards away.
I hadn’t even taken my backpack off yet. A large black hog peeked out only 25 yards away. I drew back and it stepped back out of sight. I let down and then it appeared again at 15 yards.
I drew back again and did not get a good pull. The bow wanted to let down, so I used all of my strength to fight through it.
Unfortunately I pulled back too far and the arrow came out of the rest. Now I am at full draw, with no arrow in the rest and the hog still at 15 yards.
I let down and quickly re-nocked my arrow, but the hog had gone back into the myrtles.
I decided to get down and start dragging my hog out before dark and stalked back to retrieve it.
I could still hear hogs eating at various locations, and I tried creeping in at one point. I was able to get within 20 yards of a nice hog that was busily rooting.
Even though I was making a tremendous amount of noise with every step, as I could not avoid crushing the dead cut grass, the hog kept on eating.
Apparently the noise I was making sounded just like another hog feeding.
I had the shot at 20 yards, but there was a lot of brush protecting his vitals so I stepped to my left for a better angle.
That was one step too many, and the hog bolted into the myrtles and began grunting loudly after I had interrupted its dinner.
Now that I was past the cut grass, I could hear another hog less than 50 yard to my left. I slowly walked over to its direction and saw several small 10-pound babies in and out of the bushes.
I knew the momma hog had to be close, and sure enough she was right behind them busily rooting.
Again, trying to position a shot was tough because of the undercover growth.
Finally she showed enough of herself to allow me to draw back, but I did not get the best shot as she ran off into the myrtles.
So now it was time to start dragging my original hog back to the boat.
But it had been an intense hour of thrilling, heart-pounding stalking at its best.
The next afternoon, I was able to break away for a quick afternoon hunt on the same island hoping to find some more hog action.
But that day I heard no grunts or rooting whatsoever. That wasn’t a bad thing, as I jumped a nice deer on the way to the stand.
Climbing into the same stand where I had seen the big hog on the previous day, within three minutes I saw the legs of a deer coming out of the myrtles at about 80 yards.
I could see that it was a doe as it fed. After 20 minutes, it looked like I was going to get a shot when I heard a crack to my left.
It was a another doe heading down a lane next to the myrtles straight to my stand. This was going to be a closer shot, so I repositioned myself to the left side of the tree and drew back when it reached 30 yards.
At 25 yards I released an arrow, only to see it miss to my right. The deer only took a few steps back and started looking around. I checked the first deer and it also was looking for where the sound had come from.
Now the big decision was which deer to pursue. And trying to get a second arrow nocked without detection would be paramount.
With the second arrow in, I went back to the first doe and saw that it had begun feeding again. I drew back and estimated a 30 yard shot.
The doe looked back at the first deer, but a tree was blocking its vitals. Ten seconds later it stepped out, and my arrow was on its way.
Thankfully the 100-grain Muzzy found its mark and the doe fell over stiff-legged, letting out a loud groan.
The arrow had broken both shoulders and there would be no need for trailing. It had only been 23 minutes since I had climbed up in the stand: what a great hunt!
There are still a couple of weeks left of deer season, and then a couple of months to chase the hogs as well.
I will be out in the woods as much as possible and I will let you guys know how it goes.
My season has definitely been very thrilling, with many exciting hunts.
But this season has not been about how many animals I was fortunate enough to take.
No, this season that I have been blessed to experience has been all about the journey.
And I would like to thank everyone for their prayers and encouragement.Good hunting and be safe!