Heat of the Hunt

When I think of hunting, it brings thoughts of sitting in a blind, in the miserable cold, hoping, praying you see something before you lose feeling in all your extremities. NOT sweating like a pig in a tree stand, dodging wasps and the constant horde of insects at the end of October. Can’t we meet in the middle? 50 degrees sounds about right to me. Our season began on the hot side this year. We were able to get out three times that month, and this story was from the first one…and the hottest. Who would have thought i’d be begging for a breeze to cool me off in late October. If they made Realtree Xtra underwear, I might just go out in that. I would be cooler, yet still have camo on so they can’t see me. 🙂 Sorry if you got a visual right then. lol

My son and I left on an early Friday afternoon and headed to the hunting lease about an hour away. My buddy Kyle was already there and waiting on us. We unloaded all our gear and started getting ready for the evening’s hunt. This would be my son’s first bow hunt and he was extremely excited for a chance to bag his first deer with his recurve. We set up some targets and practiced a while since we haven’t had much chance to sling any arrows lately. He also brought his new compound to finish sighting it in and doing all the adjustments needed with the help of Kyle.

As the day grew later, we headed in and started getting into the quiet time. We opted to stay in the “big blind” the first evening and for the next morning, then planned to build a brush blind the following afternoon for that evening’s hunt and for Sunday. Now it was time to sit and wait.

This was an awesome blind. I use the word “blind” loosely. It was as big as a house, and had air conditioning, beds, a kitchen, a bathroom, and recliners. Ok, maybe not exactly what I would think of when I think hunting, but we were guests, and who am I to pass judgement. 🙂 This “blind” was meant for rifles, and we were using bows, so there was a level of skill trying to aim an arrow out the small slit without hitting the wood interior, all the while making sure you could hit the intended target. We had practiced that afternoon doing it, and missed a few times. We retrieved the wayward arrows and went about doing other things until it was time. Now it was a waiting game.

We were patient…and comfortable, waiting and watching. Looking for any type of movement. Then we saw it. About a hundred yards away. A 14 point buck became visible in the clearing leading up to the open field. I was getting excited. We all were. The thought that this could be my son’s first deer? Yea, excited was an understatement. But as we all watched in silence, the big boy raises his head up high and sniffs the air. He looks around for a second, head goes down, then back up, then as if he knew something was up, he turns around and slowly walks the other direction. You got to be kidding. He wouldn’t step foot in the field.

We’ve been had. And it was our own fault. We had been traipsing all over that field looking for errant arrows hours before and hadn’t put any scent blocker on at that point.

And that stupid mistake cost us. He smelled us like last week’s meatloaf.

Grrrr.

It was getting too dark by now. Time to call it. Oh well. Strike up the grill and let’s eat…the second best part of a hunting trip.

We still had plenty of dove to get rid of from our September hunts, so dove was on the menu…again.

I do enjoy some good dove, cooked in a variety of ways. But for me, I can get burnt out on it pretty quick. After a few weeks of it, i’m good until the next September. So we grilled the rest up and said adios to the last of the dove this year…thankfully. The rest of the very late night was spent schooling the boys on how to lose their money playing Texas Hold’em against me. 🙂

The next morning, Kyle and I were up before light. We were getting things together and trying to make as little noise as possible. As first light started to hit, we looked out and there, not 15 yards away was a young spike walking around enjoying the harvest of corn it had been expecting each morning. We both went for a bow, but stopped, remembering this was Nick’s trip, not ours. Only problem was I failed to wake him properly, and he was still sawing logs and dreaming about girls. So I go over and “properly” wake him up as quietly as I can without him throwing punches.

He stumbles up and readies himself quickly, and with a few more eye rubs, he’s in position and on point. He knows what he needs to do and pulls back his recurve. He tries to focus on the deer at the same time not hitting the inside of the opening. After ten seconds of holding his aim…he releases. I’m standing behind him, watching as the arrow flies straight for it’s target and a perfect hit…..

Swoosh!

Wait. What the crap just happened? You missed? How did that miss??? OMG!

The moment of release, the deer jumped the string and did the ol’ duck, turn, and run. As it ducked, the arrow flew straight over his back close enough for a Norelco shave. Unbelievable. I had heard of this happening, but never witnessed it until now. The reflexes on these creatures are amazing. Had it been his compound bow, I doubt it would have happened, but a 50lb draw recurve couldn’t get there in time to stop this skittish little ninja.

By this point, I was in total 1880’s bar fight mode, running to overturn tables and pulling my pistol to reclaim my son’s honor. But I was quickly shooshed by Kyle in the hopes it might return.

But it didn’t return. And my hopes then turned to praying that my very loud, “YOU GOTTA BE KIDDIN, ME” had nothing to do with it.

Remember, i’m a fisherman first. I’m not real used to this quiet thing when misses happen. 🙂

As the sun came up and all hope was diminished for another try, we went about preparing breakfast and planning out the day.

It was late morning by now, and we decided to head down to the river. We all brought our bows, just in case we came upon a herd of bacon or an extremely deaf deer. This was my first time here on the property and really wanted to explore all it had to offer. It was grown up after the years of drought that took away Lake O.H. Ivie from it’s high banks, but left plenty of land to scout for future hunts.

As we continued hiking around, we came up on a large area shaded with big pecan trees. It was a welcome change from the cactus and mesquite that takes up the majority of the property. We immediately noticed the gathering and fluttering above our heads. The monarchs had made their annual pit stop there and it was incredible to see all trees come alive as we walked through.

The afternoon sun was getting hot, and we still needed to build a brush blind. So we headed back, scent-blocked up, and found a great spot along a game trail not far from the open field, and got to work. There weren’t any feeders in this area, but it was on a well used trail. This was more like it. This felt a little closer to what we wanted. We were there for meat. We were there to get my son’s first bow kill. In a perfect scenario, I would love to stalk, to hide, to call, to chase, to make a shot from the cover that’s available at that moment. But we’re on 50 acres of low fence, surrounded by other small ranchettes. You have to do what you need to in order to get the meat. We actually did that very thing with a bunch of turkey just a few hours before. Stalked, crawled, got real close in the dense cover. About the time we could get a shot, they all flew over the fence into the neighboring ranch. Sigh. Back to the blind.

This blind was built for Nick. He would be out there by himself, while Kyle and I stayed behind in the house, I mean, “big blind”. Around 5, Kyle and Nick headed to the blind to get him set up and ready to go. This was the same area we had seen the buck come in from the night before, and thought this might be a decent spot to try.

And again, the waiting has begun. We took up our spots and patiently waited. We could barely see his location with the binoculars through all the foliage. As we waited, our area was full of life. Lots of little animals running around, as well as a covey of quail that stopped by to enjoy the tasty kernels dropped by the feeder.

We waited. We watched. We waited. As darkness closed in, we knew we needed to call it and go get him. The days hunt was over.

Sunday morning brought about it’s own set of issues, including some backhoe work somewhere nearby. We decided to call it and just do some target practice then start the clean up.

What an amazing weekend. Yes it was hot. Yes we left empty handed. But this will go down as one of the more memorable times I have spent with my son. He was one of the guys…and treated as such. His passion for the outdoors and willingness to learn makes me the proud, and excited for his future in the outdoors. Going hunting or fishing, doesn’t always mean coming home with anything, but just being out and enjoying everything we’ve been blessed with is why I do it. And continue to do it, and am glad he’s following suit.

We still have a few more opportunities to get out before the end of the season. I told him he’ll have a better chance if you use the rifle.

He said, “naaa, i’ll stick with my bow.”

“I can respect that. Just don’t miss again. That freezer won’t fill itself.” 🙂

Good times.

Thanks for coming along,

Scott

Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman is a photographer and filmmaker. He is also an avid fisherman, kayaker, backpacker, and overall outdoorsman. His accolades are too many to list, as with the many streets and towns named after him. He’s a legend in his own mind. Check out his home page at www.flyrivermedia.com

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