The chase never gets old, but the first time it actually works is the best. Hours are spent figuring out what they like to eat most. You also try to figure out their favorite places to have a drink. At times, you’ll catch yourself wondering where they are sleeping. Then, the date is set. Before your rendezvous, the anticipation is so high you’ll hardly be able to stand it. I could be talking about courting your significant other, but I’m not. That first time is pretty unforgettable too, but I’m talking about bow hunting.
The first time you stick a deer with an arrow is an experience that you’ll never forget. The tingling in your arms, the weakness in your knees. You feel like your heart is going to explode in your chest. It’s pure euphoria. To be honest, I still get this feeling when I’m able to put a broadhead through the pump station of a whitetail. Bow hunting provides a sense of satisfaction that a rifle can never match.
I don’t claim to be a bow hunting guru by any stretch. Even after 12-13 years of bow hunting, I still feel like a novice. I know guys that refuse to pick up a rifle during the season. I’m not one of those guys. Usually, by the time that rifle season arrives my frustrations have mounted high enough that I’m more than happy to blast away with the boomstick. Bow hunting is hard and that’s what makes it so special.
My first archery kill came much later in life than my first rifle kill. I’d already graduated college and gotten married before I ever brought a deer down with my bow. To be fair, I didn’t begin bow hunting until I was in college and I was never very serious about it then. I had a crappy bow, crappy hunting land, and not a whole lot of patience for it. I was just unaware about what I was missing. My friend, Ben, is responsible for changing that mentality.
Late one afternoon during the summer I got a phone call from hunting buddy, Ben Tharp. A guy he knew was going through a divorce and was selling all of his hunting and fishing gear. I don’t know what he did, or why he had to sell his stuff, but at the moment I didn’t mind being a benefactor. I wasn’t much of a bow hunter, but he had a Mathews Drenalin that he was practically giving away. I told Ben that I’d buy it without ever really thinking I’d use it much. I won’t even mention what I paid for the entire setup because it will just make you mad, but it made me ponder whether or not I was buying a stolen bow. As soon as I got it, Ben and I started shooting pretty regular. This bow was actually fun to shoot, and I began to think that just maybe I could kill a deer with it.
That fall, Ben and I bushhogged a little piece of property down the road from my grandmother’s house in Smith County. I had permission to hunt it as long as I provided a little meat of my kills to the family that owned the land. Seemed like a more than fair trade to me. Clearing a food plot was an adventure in itself. We borrowed my uncle’s old tractor and took off down the road to the property. Ben drove the tractor while I followed behind in the truck. The old tractor would get to swaying and I’m not sure how he kept from side swiping vehicles passing by, or how he didn’t wind up in the ditch upside down. To this day, it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever watched. The mere thought of Ben panicking on the highway brings a smile to my face. Somehow we managed to clear a nice strip of a cutover next to a stand of timber. This was going to be where I made my first bow kill.
Bow season arrived and we loaded up and headed back to Smith County. The golden rod was in full bloom and I can remember having the worst headache of my life. I didn’t even want to open my eyes on the ride over. It wasn’t too hot, but it was still plenty warm enough to work up a good sweat just walking in. We strapped our climbers on our backs, grabbed our bows, and headed toward our hunting spot. Ben climbed a tree directly on the lane we cleared in the cutover. I worked my way into the edge of the timber and found two nice trails that converged. I found a suitable tree on the trails and climbed up about 20 feet. I was excited to be in the woods, but that dang headache just wouldn’t subside. This was shaping up to be a long, miserable afternoon.
With my head still pounding, the sun was beginning to set. Suddenly, the sound of crunching leaves had all of my attention. I knew immediately that this was too big to be a squirrel. I went ahead and stood up with my bow ready. Mere seconds later, a doe stepped into view coming down the trail. My heart began to pump quicker than I ever remember. She made her way to me and stopped within twenty yards of my tree. She was broadside and standing completely still. I drew the bow back, took aim, and let an arrow fly. Whack! The arrow made the unmistakable sound of a hit as the doe kicked and took off running. The blood was rushing so fast through my head that I couldn’t hear her crash. My legs felt like jelly, and I was shaking uncontrollably. I climbed down and ran straight to Ben. I couldn’t believe what had just happened.
We quickly recovered my deer as she didn’t go 60 yards from where I shot her. It was the kill of a lifetime, even if it was just a doe. I finally felt a sense of accomplishment that I’d been missing for so many years. I had a new understanding for love of hunting. If you’ve never killed a deer with a bow, or do not bow hunt, I urge you to do so. It will completely change you. We don’t get many “first times” in life. This is a first time that every hunter should experience.