I could have never imagined that shooting a doe would give me more of a rush than my biggest buck — but oddly enough, that’s exactly what happened.
Remember the excitement of shooting your first deer? That rush from finding your first animal after a blood trail with a bow? Well, after dozens and dozens of harvests through the years, that amazing sensation tends to dull down a little — even though it’s always enjoyable.
But with just about all things in life, the harder the challenge and the longer it takes to achieve a new goal, the more rewarding the experience. Many hunters strive for bigger deer, and that feeling of downing their biggest set of antlers gives a much greater rush than another small buck.
However, after years of being successful on public lands and hunting where I passed on many smaller bucks with my crossbow or rifle, I’ve learned that I much rather take any legal deer with a more challenging weapon or tactic than waiting to down “just another big buck.”
But we all choose the hunting style we enjoy most. Many of us aren’t practical. Heck, anyone who hunts with a compound bow for deer isn’t being practical with today’s much faster and more accurate crossbows, which are easier to get shots off without being busted.
In my experience, it was returning to the challenge of compound bows, and then to traditional archery on public lands, that got the adrenaline flowing like the days when I was first learning to hunt.
After getting lucky on my first hog with a recurve, but then getting poor penetration on my next couple of pigs, I decided to get a weapon that could put down any giant boar that roams the woods.
Even on my first three deer with my 55-pound recurve — slinging a heavy 550-grain arrow where the arrows avoided shoulder bones — two of my arrows didn’t get instant passthroughs.
I wanted a bow that could go through any deer’s shoulder, allowing me to take shots from any angle into the vitals to almost guarantee a better blood trail from two holes.
So I got a 100-pound custom longbow from Bamabows.
Some people may think that wasn’t the smartest move, but the fact that I’m now more than twice as strong as when I shot a 50-pound bow in my youth means the 100-pound bow is even easier to use. No one said back then it wasn’t smart to shoot a 50-pound bow.
More than three dozen people have attempted to draw the bow back — many bigger than me — but no one has managed to do it yet. To get stronger with archery — no matter how many weights you lift in the gym — it’s the rhomboids, lower trapezius and biceps on the string arm, and the shoulder and triceps on the bow arm, which really need to be strengthened the most. Mimicking bow-drawing positions in the gym on cables and bands will help.
Also, practicing with a heavy bow will really help when hunting with normal weapons. This came to fruition earlier this season when I had to hold draw with my recurve for more than 15 seconds while videoing a stalk where a doe looked right at me before I pulled off the shot.
And so I began my hunting journey last season with my warbow. I nearly had a deer with it to end last season, but I got busted in draw and had countless close calls.
I initially thought the bow was strong enough to penetrate a big boar’s shoulder plate, but I found out I was wrong when my 1002-grain arrow only penetrated about 6 inches on a hunt where I videoed myselfstalking and shooting a 300-plus pound boar at 14 yards.
My moment to finally unleash my longbow at a deer came late this season after making more than 60 hunts with it.
The adventure began two days before I was to run the Louisiana Marathon.
I woke up tired after a short four hours of sleep and was craving coffee, but my camp’s coffeemaker had broken the previous week. Some apples perked me up enough, and I made it to a new section of woods that I had only been to once before in St. Catherine Creek NWR. (After getting a deer, I always change locations to space out my harvests since I down many deer each year.)
Nearing my picked location, I jumped some deer in the darkness and decided for my evening sit I’d move to a saddle in the hills where the deer were jumped. If not grinding out that morning hunt, I would’ve never set up at that spot for deer hunt No. 103 of the season.
I set up and took my practice arrow covered in VS1 scent and shot it in a scrape 15 yards upwind to give me a warmup shot, and to make sure my clothes were tucked away from my bow string. When the arrow hit the leaf I was aiming at, I knew I was ready.
I wasn’t expecting anything more than a relaxing sit in the woods to rest before my race as I still had a calf and hip injury from hunting spills the previous week. But my plans quickly changed when I heard deer approaching from behind.
Using my five-powered hearing enhancing Eytomotic earbuds, I was able to stand and ready myself before the four does got into view. Nothing sneaks by me these days with my hearing enhancers.
The biggest doe of the group approached first and gave me a perfect, slightly quartering away shot at 12 yards. My broadhead hit perfectly, exiting through the lower opposite shoulder and sticking deep in the dirt as though it never touched a thing. Click here to watch great footage from the hunt.
After a short and easy-to-follow blood trail, I found my deer about 60 yards away, and need to apologize to any nearby hunters I messed up with my screams of joy.
Luckily, my deer cart kept me from getting too sore for my race. I was able to hit my goal of qualifying for the 2017 Boston Marathon with my friends, running a 3:00:47 marathon (6:54 mile pace) as a heavy Clydesdale runner, placing 14th overall out of a sold out 2,000-spot race.
Most people relax for weeks after a 26-mile race, but not me. I limped out of the post-race medical tent after getting treatment and hit the road alone. Just as after my first marathon in December, I quickly drove back north that evening to go hunting in the hills.
My wife wanted me to go to the ER since I was having bloody bowel movements for three days from having pushed so hard, but nothing would stop me from hunting — no matter how much I hurt. I’m literally a die-hard hunter.
The next morning, I could barely move, but I limped nearly two miles with my longbow to a spot on Bayou Cocodrie NWR, taking over an hour to hike in with a badly strained calf and severe stomach cramps. Every step on my sore legs was agony, walking through flooded woods in heavy insulated boots.
Sure enough, at 7 a.m. I could hear a big animal crunching acorns from a long ways off using my earbuds. After watching the pig feed for more than 20 minutes, the big boar headed right to me with a severe limp.
The hog, which I estimated at about 225 pounds, was spotted with some very unique white-tipped ears, and gave me a 15 yard shot, but I was worried about that thick shoulder plate and tried hitting right behind it. The arrow sailed right where I was aiming, and I thought the pig wouldn’t go far.
My arrow was a passthrough with an easily trackable all-red blood trail, but the fletchings had acorn pieces on them — meaning a stomach hit. I would’ve let the pig sit longer, but I was supposed to go home that evening for work, so I let the hog sit six hours and then I tracked it with my shotgun.
After more than 500 yards of blood through endless briar patches and palmettos, I found the big beast — but it wasn’t finished. The hog busted off, and I took a shot with my tungsten ammo at 10 yards, but nothing seemed to be able to take this pig down.
I canceled work and picked up the search the next morning, but walking through 10-foot high briar was nearly impossible, much less finding a pig with no blood left to track.
The next weekend on the first day at the camp, I sliced my finger to the bone with a big serrated blade. Then, I got faint and drove off the road rushing myself to the hospital to put the finger back together. Luckily, my 4x4 got me out of the ditch and I made it to the hospital, where four hours later they had to use a tourniquet on my upper arm to stop the bleeding and sew me up.
Still, the next two days I searched all over the briar patches with a wrapped-up hand, but no vultures or smells could be found.
Archery is a game of inches, and I was blessed with hitting the mark on that doe, which was the highlight of my year, and my encounter with “Mr. White Tips” will be one hunting memory I’ll never forget.