It happened so fast. It didn’t seem real. One minute I’m looking down the mountain and the next I’m holding a bloody arrow in my hand. But the story of taking my first 10 pt buck and my best bow buck to date really begins a year earlier.
I was in Georgia, having moved there with my wife to pursue her career in Veterinary Pathology, and was missing our friends, family and mountains of Virginia. We had been in the deep south 3 years and I had found only minimal hunting success turkey hunting the Redlands WMA but had seen very little in the way of quality deer. Trips to my home state of Maryland were limited to the holidays now, given the increased distance and gas prices topping out near $4.00/gallon. So hunting in The Old Line State was extremely limited as well. I think I managed to sit in a tree 12 times during the entire 2013-2014 season (5 months).
Needless to say, I was beside myself with excitement when my wife and I got the news that we would be returning to the New River Valley of Virginia for her to complete her PHD.
I spread the news to our friends in the area and Adam was quick to share a trail cam photo that he had gotten already that summer. It was a beautiful 3 1/2 yr old 10 point that was traveling with “The Funky Buck” an older deer that had a very unusual rack as a result to a leg injury suffered some time ago. As the summer came to a close, that almost impossible to resist urge to start the quest for this year’s buck was finally satisfied as opening day was soon upon us.
I had a fantastic 2014-2015 season going and was seeing plenty of does and young bucks passing by my stand set in some hardwoods at the lower corner of clear cut. The ground was blanketed with acorns and the woods seemed to be crawling with deer every morning I went out. One such morning began, as many had already, with a couple does making their way up the mountain and passing directly under my feet. Soon I could hear the sound of another deer working its way through the dry leaves. A flash of antler and my heart started pounding. It looked to be one of the nice 8pts freshening a scrape and rubbing one of the many maple saplings that filled the understory. I gave a few soft grunts and he turned, coming in on a rope.
I turned the video camera into position, facing down the one shooting lane I had, mid zoom to capture the subject, shifted my feet into position, and prepared to draw my Hoyt bow. When the buck finally cleared the limbs and stepped into the opening, I realized he was not the big 8pt that we had seen but rather a great, young 6 pt, with no brows. That didn’t curb my excitement though as he came into 5 yards grunting and nudging those does on up and into the clear cut.
That night was the Virginia Tech vs Miami football game and for the first time in several years I had a ticket in my pocket. Go I did, and watched my beloved Hokies get destroyed by the visiting Hurricanes. Needless to say when my alarm sounded the next morning at 4am, it was a hard decision even for me, to climb out of bed and into a tree stand. But I knew there was a good buck out there and someone once told me “If your going to be dumb, you gotta be tough.”
It seemed like the sun would never make it up and my eye lids were getting too heavy to keep open when suddenly I heard a deer walking in the leaves. I snapped my head up and turned to look down the mountain searching for the source of the noise. When a small doe popped her head out from a giant rhododendron bush, I sighed and thought to myself, “just a doe.” I turned back around and there he stood at 20 yards!
The near perfectly symmetrical buck had walked out of the clear cut and straight into my set up, all the while in direct alignment with a big scarlet oak in front of me. Now how am I going to get drawn with him so close and in the open?
The buck lowers his head to feed on the acorns covering the ground and I make my move. I was afraid that if I stood he would see the movement so I drew from seated position. He turned broadside at 20 yards and I let the arrow fly! I heard a deep thud, his front end dropped, and he ran only 40 yards and stopped. I was shaking and waiting for him to start wobbling and go down. Instead he went back to feeding. I could not believe it! I had missed a chip shot!
The deer turns into some brush and I quickly nock a second arrow and begin praying to the deer gods to bring him back in for another chance. My prayers were answered a few minutes later when he reappears feeding down the edge of the clear cut at 30 yards. This time my arrow hits its mark right behind his shoulder and I have my first 10 point!
In over 20 years of hunting, he was my first and remains my only 10 point buck killed to date. I have had the good fortune to take a couple 9’s and several 8’s over the years but there is a certain mystique to that magic number 10 and the fulfillment of a goal long sought after.
I still have a few lofty goals for myself for the years of hunting to come, but as my 4 year old son becomes more and more interested in tagging along with daddy, most of my efforts are focused on his development as an honest, safe, hardworking hunter. Since he first learned to talk he knew that oak trees make acorns and squirrels, bucks, and does all eat them. That’s a pretty good start!