Every Hunter Has It Wrong

Category: WhitetailFIRST

 Mar 4th, 2015 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Mar 4th, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Every Hunter Has It Wrong!

By: Shon Holman

“DON’T MOVE KAYLEIGH!! DON’T EVEN MOVE!!”  My heart was racing faster than a gaggle of sweaty kids to an ice cream truck on a hot summer day as I sternly whispered those words to my daughter in a voice that somehow, I was able to keep cool, calm and collected.  The truth of the matter is that in all of the hunting videos on television or YouTube that I have watched I had never seen anyone jump up and shout “HOLY _______! HE’S A MONSTER!”  So, I refrained, and chose the more silent traditional response.  But I was wrong!  We are all apparently wrong!

It was the first time that I had ever taken my daughter hunting with me and I can honestly say that I set out that day with her not for hopes of a successful kill, but simply for the experience shared with my daughter being in the great outdoors.  As I said, I really did not expect to harvest anything, let alone even draw my bow. 

It was my first year bow hunting and my luck so far that year had been anything but successful.  In fact it was about as embarrassing as the first time I “French kissed” a girl in seventh grade when she dipped me back like some actor in a black and white movie from the 1950’s!  Anyway, as we were getting into the truck I told her that we might not even see any deer up close, but that I would take joy in showing her the rubs, scrapes, multitude of signs and tracks and sharing that time with her.  But deep down, we were both very hopeful that this day would turn into an experience of a lifetime.  And it would.

It was late December, and the rut was about to die off along with whatever leaves were still clinging onto the trees that adorned this piece of public land in Indiana but bucks were still out looking for any hot doe that was willing to give them the time of day.  I had decided to do a natural ground cover hunt that day mainly because I only had one tree stand and it was not meant for double occupancy. 

The wind was out of the NNW, which was perfect for the particular piece of property in which we were to park our posteriors and ponder the perplexities of whatever pretty wooded planes our pupils perceived.  Say that line three times fast…I know you won’t.  Once out of the truck we simply took our time walking the mile and half to our final destination, playing the wind into our favor and enjoying every step of the way.

The scrapes were everywhere and some were no more than 25-30 yards apart.  Scraps so big you would almost think those bucks abandoned their primal mating habits for an excavating side job.  Upon reaching our final destination I explained to Kayleigh what we were looking at, where the bedding area was, where the feeding areas were that they go to and the direction where I believed the deer may come from.  Wind blowing in our faces and with a camouflage pattern that Mossy Oak seemed to custom tailor for that exact spot to the point where that you almost couldn’t see her until you stepped on her, I had her settle down into the base of a tree by a dry creek bed where I had shot at my first deer only three weeks prior. 

It was a buck.  Not a wall hanger that would have any local or national news and hunting magazines beating down my door bathing me in the lime light of “buckcess” (I think I just coined that word), but it was the first time that I had ever drawn my bow a on deer and he was good enough for me.  I was hunting alone that cool October day and I was looking over a large open transition area where the deer would come out of the bedding area about 70 yards in front of me on their way into the woods for their food sources.  The traditional travel routes were so clearly marked in the grass and soil that about the only thing that seemed to be missing were speed limit signs and mile markers for the deer.

Looking around to my left to scan for movement I was reminded of the lack of action I had seen thus far and I couldn’t have been looking left for what seemed like mere seconds when I turned to look right again, and there in the middle of the open field, as if he had just popped out of the ground was a deer.  A buck! And he was walking towards me unaware that a silent predator hovered in a tree ready to make his haphazard walk quickly turn into his last.

It was a moment that I had been waiting for and dreamt of for a long time and now that dream was about to come true!  All of the scouting, both on the ground early season and satellite images I had studied, the how-to and how-not-to videos I had watched had finally come to these moments.  These heart racing, wide eyed and intense brief moments that seemed to last hours.  Still unaware of my presence he continued his slow and methodic journey down one of the worn paths which would lead him right under my tree, and ultimately, to his final breathe.

There are many things I have learned about deer and one of those things are that just when you think you know what they are going to do they will do something else and throw your preconceived idea of what is supposed to happen, played out in the vivid detail you had seen in your mind, right out the window.  He decided not to go along with my plan and go off course down into the creek bed to get a drink of water.  He’s not supposed to do that!  He is supposed to walk right in front of me!  The video was rolling, he was quenching his thirst and this was going to be my only chance.  Two steps out of the creek bed and he exposed his vitals and paused for spit second as if daring me to take the shot.  And I did.

Bucky, as I have come to call him, was the unfortunate recipient of my not-so-well placed arrow.  Twenty-five feet up, and what I thought was simple 20 yard sticker right through the ole’ pump station would actually wind up being a 25 yard shot and with the little bit of left side torque I marinated by bow with, peppered with hint of nerves (a.k.a. buck fever), I let that arrow fly and served up a receipt for “deersater” (I think I just coined that word too).
Just then, Bucky’s front left shoulder/leg jumped right in front of my arrow, purposefully fouling, (in my mind), my perfect heart shot, giving no room for any penetration beyond the broadhead itself.  He jumped and ran, throwing my arrow to the ground, and took off back in the direction in which he came.  He ran for about 35-45 yards across that open field and I watched in disgust as his run turned very quickly into a very slow and painful limp.  Each step that he took with his left leg looked as if someone or something was throwing him towards the ground.  My heart sank.  Not because I missed my target due to poor form and misjudged distance but because I just wounded him.

After about 4-5 obviously intensely labored steps he stopped and I thought that maybe my shot did hit home and he was going to go down.  But he didn’t go down.  He just stood there looking back as if trying to figure out what it was that had just caused him so much pain.  For the next minute or so he just continued to take a few steps and then look back, stand there, look around again, then take a few more steps.  I watched this continue as he slowly slipped back into the bedding area finally disappearing behind the tall grass and cattails.  I couldn’t find a blood trail and I had just had the best and worst hunting experience all within a matter of minutes.  I missed the shot.  I wounded an animal instead of giving him a clean, quick and ethical demise.  I had it wrong.  We all have it wrong.

If there is one thing that every hunter on the planet has ever or will ever have in common with one another is that we all have to start with our first hunt.  Every single one of us, at some point in time, had never hunted a day before in our lives.  Whether by being raised and schooled in the sport by those much wiser who pass on the years of experience to the next generation in hopes of tighter bonds, both personal and for nature, or those, much like myself, who started later in life and had to seek the wisdom and knowledge in our own ways and time.

The development of technology in the gear that we use, the techniques that we learn and implement as well as the growing understanding of our quarry in their habits and habitat are all done with a single purpose in mind, and that is simply to capitalize on our investments of time and equipment to make the hunt not only memorable, but successful.  I mean, who wants to go out on the hunt only to miss that shot every time and come home empty handed?

My dream of taking home a monster whitetail to mount on my wall is just as real and alive to me as the beating of my own heart.  Aside from feeding our families, nearly every deer hunter craves that same alpha male high of harvesting a trophy buck.  Not only for the pride of a job well done, but for bragging rights of the “my buck is bigger than yours” mentality.  We practice and learn day after day and year after year to reach that pivotal day when all of our hunting dreams come true.  Some hunters have tasted that sweet day of victory.  Some have savored those moments time after time while others, like myself, still hunger for a seat at the table or record book worthy spoils.  But at some point in time every hunter has had it wrong.

Normally when I get settled into a spot I wait a while before I start in on my calling but since I really didn’t expect to see anything and still wanting to make sure Kayleigh had as full of an experience as she could have with me that day, I started right into my calling.  A series of aggressive mature deer grunts followed up by a few enticing “come and get me” doe bleats got some major attention pretty quickly.
It was just after noon and it had only been just a few minutes after I had finished my first round of calls when I looked straight north, and just a few yards outside of the tree line on the right stood the biggest buck I had ever seen in my life!  Not just a monster, but deer-freaking-zilla to me! He was an incredibly wide 10-12 pointer (at bare minimum), maybe bigger.  Long tines and thick neck and looking like he could rip the antlers off any other buck, and there he stood just about 80 yards up wind looking right in our direction.  There was no way he could see or smell us and he made a very focused and determined canter right towards us.

Arrow nocked, release attached and waiting for the moment to happen like a child about to unwrapped the gift he had asked for all year, I quietly leaned over one more time as the bruiser made his way towards us to again whisper to Kayleigh “don’t move”, and when I looked up again, he was gone!  Excitement quickly turned into fear.  Fear of losing this perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity.  “WHERE DID HE GO”? I had whispered looking down at Kayleigh.  Then I looked back up and out of the corner of my eye on the right side behind a felled tree just 15 yards away I saw him again. He was heading towards the base of the dry creek bed that was just another 5 yards in front of him which would have given me a very clear 15 yard shot that I was supremely confident would be the best day of my hunting life and the worst day of his. 

I drew my bow ready to fire.  I waited.  I waited some more.  But he never appeared.  The perfect NNW wind had become my enemy and taken our scent along the southern ridge of this dry creek bed and funneled it around the bend he was supposed to come out on and shoved it right up his nose.  The rest is a history lesson for me and another day alive for him.  A missed opportunity like this has been shared by many hunters year after year all over the world.  But I had it wrong.  We all have it wrong.

It wasn’t until months later in early January of 2015 that my younger daughter Faith, who has never hunted a day in her life, showed me the error of my ways.  She showed me in less than one minute what I was doing wrong the whole time.  What we all had been doing wrong the whole time…and she did this without even knowing it.

Quick side note before I get to the point.  Two weeks after the missed opportunity Kayleigh and I had that day with buckzilla, I was posted up in a new spot with favorable wind no more than 60 yards from where Kayleigh and I were on that uneventful day, and there in typical “pop out of the ground fashion” stood Bucky.  He was 40 yards away and as soon I he started walking with a very noticeable front left limp, I knew it was him.  He had survived and I couldn’t have been happier that he did. I didn’t even draw my bow.  He had earned this free pass so I gladly just watched with a smile as he walked away.  I truly hope he makes it through this winter and that I can see how much bigger he will be next season.

In the mid to late 1800’s Alexander Graham Bell had, after many revisions and failed attempts, finally invented the telephone.  A historical technological breakthrough that would forever change the history of mankind and how we communicated with each other.  Alexander was a hunter of technology, of success, and now that his invention had finally brought an end to all the years of trial and error he was faced with another obstacle of almost equal importance; what to say when you pick up the phone?

The official greeting once you pick the phone up to let the caller know that you were indeed there and listening had to be significant and proper.  Ideas of the official greeting were thrown around and finally were narrowed down to a couple choices.  “Ahoy Ahoy” was one of those choices considered as the official greeting.  It’s hard to imagine answering the phone or greeting people this way and for me personally, I’m very glad that it was not the final choice for our now nearly conditional response when answering our phones or greeting others.

To think that we have spent hundreds of years sneaking quietly into the woods to hunt our prey, cautiously watching every step in an effort to be as stealthy as possible, when an inventor from the 1800’s, (who probably never hunted a day in his life) had it right the whole time, blows my mind.  Over a century has passed since then and we as hunters still have it wrong.

The final decision of the official greeting for the telephone was decided upon and has been used to this very day.  It would later evolve into a way that we even greet others in our normal everyday interactions.  “Hello”, is the word we use nearly every day, yet what most people don’t know about this simple word, believe it or not, was actually a hunting call!  That’s right, a hunting call.  Not a grunt tube or other animal vocalization was used or needed, just the simple use of the word “hello”.  Don’t ask me how it worked because I haven’t got the foggiest idea and I will let you Google that one. 

So it was in that moment of my youngest daughter reading to me a few lines from her AP U.S. History book that I realized that everything I had been doing thus far deep out in the woods to shoot a whitetail was wrong!  We don’t have to sneak quietly out into the woods covered in camo and scent block.  We don’t have to climb up a tree or hide behind a bush, and we don’t have to come home empty handed anymore.  Apparently, all we have to do is walk right out there into the middle of your local deertropolis (perhaps yet another coined word) and greet them with a simple “hello”.  How you finish the deal and the rest is up to you.  Happy hunting, and good luck to you all.

by Shon Holman

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