Last hunting season was my best ever.
I was able to string together 139 public-land deer hunts by the end of January. Over the course of the coming season, I’ll be sharing many of my stories, videos, tactics and strategies I use to harvest my deer.
It would be pretty easy to tag out each year at one particular spot that’s loaded with game, but I much prefer the challenge of learning new areas — where new hunting skills must be developed to be successful.
This approach usually leaves me frustrated with defeat after defeat. Sometimes I’ll go dozens of hunts in a row without even seeing a deer, knowing full well that I would’ve seen several at my other spots. Yet, it’s this thrill of new adventures and learning different talents that I love far more than just shooting a deer.
Here is a Pre-Season Pump-Up Video, Volume 2 which I made from my trail camera pics over the past three seasons, along with clips from January’s longbow hunts.
Volume 1 can be found here.
Nothing gets me more excited about an upcoming season than reminiscing over hunts that went wrong, because soon I’ll have more chances at those same deer.
So I’ll share my final story from last season — one that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, and hungrier than ever for this season to begin.
In 2014, my deer season began with action right out of the gate. On my first day in the stand, I had a velvet spike walk underneath me. My brand new PSE Full Throttle bow exploded on release, but even with a popped string and broken cams, I still was lucky enough to connect with a lethal shot.
Trying to film with PSE equipment for the Sportsman TV show, I had bought my wife a women’s bow and ended up hunting with it opposite-handed during my Full Throttle’s three-month repair.
Soon, I downed several hogs, a bobcat, a doe and a racked buck with that bow, and I was looking for another challenge, so I purchased a PSE recurve for $200.
By season’s end, I had two deer down with that recurve, two more bucks with a half-way broken muzzleloader and one rack downed with my new 338 FED tactical rifle. Though I love archery most, I have no qualms with using any of my many firearms from time to time.
Well, my goal of downing deer in new ways was a success, and by January 2, I completed something I had never even dreamed of doing: tagging out on bucks in Louisiana and Mississippi while getting all of the shots on film. Needless to say, I had my meat for the year, but my only problem was finding room on the wall for all the horns.
My younger brother was successful joining me the few opportunities he had, taking a doe with his rifle and a huge 300-pound hog with his primitive weapon. His wife gave birth to four healthy quads this summer, so his hunting will be even more limited this season — all the reason for Uncle Josh to harvest more meat for his family, too.
But last year I couldn’t just stop there. My final goal of taking a deer with my custom 100-pound longbow from BamaBows was unfulfilled, so I still ended up hunting every free day I had until the season ended.
Even though I got sick with the flu for the first time in over a decade, I didn’t let that slow me down. I drove three hours to the hunting area with 103 fever, and was in the climber facing those north winds and below-freezing conditions.
Barely able to stand without getting nauseous — much less drawing back my powerful war bow — I ended up nicking a coyote. The video shows just how fast a coyote can move, where it not only ducked my arrow but even started turning and rising back into the arrow before the it arrived from only 14 yards.
My 1002 grain arrow hit the coyote high, giving him only a haircut.
During that final month, I had many close calls and several bucks literally walked right underneath me. However, clever does were able to avoid presenting me with any shots until the final evening of the season.
On January 31, I got settled in my climber around 3 p.m. An hour later, a squirrel hunter and his dog about a quarter-mile away was shooting more rounds with his .22 automatic than I could count.
Was this trigger-happy guy going to ruin my hunt, or make it more interesting? I had a good feeling, so I decided to resist the urge to climb down and make a quick dash to a further spot. Around 5, the barking dog was closing in, and the hunter's willingness to empty the clip on every squirrel remained strong. Did he bring an entire case of bullets, or did his scope get bumped off? Probably both.
Suddenly, I heard leaves scurrying in my direction. I looked ahead, and my heart rate instantly tripled: a herd of does were being pushed perfectly through my funnel from upwind. The lead deer skipped underneath my tree and stopped. I had the perfect shot, but I passed because it was small and there were three big nannies close behind.
With my compound or much weaker recurve, I would’ve already been at full draw ready to release long before these bigger does got into the open, but with my powerful 100-pound bow I can only draw it back steady for a few seconds. (Nobody from my gym — out of the dozens of strong guys who have tried it — were ever able to reach full draw with it.)
I wanted to wait for a quartering away shot on the last doe to avoid getting busted, but the deer were moving fast from the dog tailing them and they might not have stopped.
At 20 yards, the three does hit the brakes and slowed down in the open, so I decided to draw. Just as I did, the deer began to pick up their pace.
I tried to undraw and wait for another shot. I was 35-feet up, thinking there was no way they would see me, but I forgot those late-season does see everything. Those big black eyes were locked as soon as I un-drew, and I was completely busted.
I foolishly tried redrawing, but those deer bounded away before I could even blink an eye. My arms gave out and my hand slipped in defeat, sending my arrow sailing off harmlessly to the forest floor.
So I lost that battle, but it was a very exciting experience I still cherish. To me that is what traditional hunting is about: to embrace the sporting effort, where downing an animal is rarely the outcome and the deer usually walk away unharmed.
During that final month, I saw dozens of deer, many of which I could’ve easily taken with a compound bow, but that final evening was the only opportunity I had with the longbow. Of course the feeling of another harvest would have ended my season on a sweeter note, but failed hunts always make the best learning opportunities.
My takeaway: If you think they won’t see you way up in a tree, think again. Even if it’s a smaller doe, if it’s broadside and stationary at 5 yards – shoot it. Don’t wait for a bigger doe.
I look forward to sharing many more of my hunting stories this season. Most of my hunts were dull and boring, a handful were exciting, and I had one where everything that could possibly go wrong did — until sunset, when I put my hands on the biggest set of antlers I ever downed.
Good luck to everyone out there in 2015.