Success in failure

 

I have never been much for the world of trophy hunting. I grew up in an area were big deer were more than just rare, they were endangered, and almost every one I’d ever seen harvested was taken by rifle. I was in love with the arrow so a doe, or spike, or anything, actually, was truly my trophy.  

I took up Bow hunting at the age of 13 and by 15 I had my first deer. In the next 3 yrs I would take two more before joining the Air Force and missing several seasons. Funny, how a war can take you away from everyone and everything you love. After a 4 yr gap I was finally able to get some free time (thanks to hurricane Rita and a two month evacuation) to make a hunt and was able to take a small doe. The predator within me was awakened with that kill, and had the appetite of a bear after a very long winter. 

 In 2006 I was up for orders, and when I saw Iowa on the list I suddenly had a rush of thoughts and pictures with me posing with my Pope and Young’s! I was ecstatic, and when I got the assignment I was already being told from friends of how many monsters I would most likely kill. Success would be mine. 

  Iowa did not let me down for my first season. I could see more deer in just one week then I would see in an entire year back home. Bucks were everywhere, and most were way bigger than what I was used to seeing. I got a map of the land I had to hunt and started researching everything that I could about it. I learned the best ways to ambush without the help of feeders and tried to get used to playing the scent game. I felt I knew how to hunt, however this was the first time in my life I would be 100% solo with my Father and hunting buds living a thousand miles away. Hunting huge fields with little woods is a bit different than hunting the forest of North East Texas.  Everything would be different. 

It all paid off one evening when I passed on a 120 class deer only to be rewarded with a 150 class. He came down a trail which crossed into my best shooting lane, offering a 15yrd chip shot.  As soon as he hit the spot I drew back and all I could think was HORNS. I saw the pins, then the deer, and I just jerked. Needless to say the only thing that got hurt was a small leaf from a half-dead plant.  

The sound of an arrow missing is the toughest sound to hear, and I was crushed. I didn’t eat for 2 days and had to miss work. I swore up and down that I would get this buck or one similar before the season ended. I hunted in –15-degree weather and passed many very respectable bucks that would have probably made the paper in my hometown. I annoyed my wife, sacrificed precious gym time and eventually fell behind at work. In the end I had to settle for several tasty does, and considered my season a complete failure. 

  With post-season came the gym time and catching up with my family and work. Also I had to get my shoulder fixed, which had been really messed up with rotator cuff damage. I was beyond worried about my final season in Iowa, with my last chance to get that mossy-backed monster of the cornfield depending on a bum shoulder!  

After 2 months of Physical torture I was finally able to draw and shoot a new 49# Bow.  Getting the stands up was no easy task either–suddenly I had a new appreciation for just how important shoulders can be for a bow hunter. The first hunt was hot but productive, and in the end there was a heart-shot doe in the back off my truck! Another one would follow later that week and I had convinced myself that this would indeed be the yr.  

That’s about when things went back down hill.  The rut started at a time when I simply could not miss work, even if the Boss had no idea, and I only caught the back end of it! I decided to lower my standards to any P&Y and at the rate I was seeing them, I knew it should only be a matter of time.  My time finally came one cold windy November morning.  A good 8-point came in at 25 yards. Tailing a doe, he stopped for just a moment.  

I remember getting the bow back and telling myself to pick a spot and follow through.  I did, and watched in horror as my arrow sliced the bottom of his chest, leaving him a lot smarter but alive. Having white feathers I can tell you if I have a hit from my stand and in this case they were clean and dry, with just a dab of fat on my shaft and one white hair.   

Back into my depression I went. I was miserable. Finally I decided I had to talk to someone about it, so I called my Father. He was able to get my senses back in order. He reminded me that I had always found my own trophies in any bow kill that I had. This got me to thinking; for 2 yrs I had been bitter, worried, and anxious about deer season, obsessing over big horns! I had let it take to much time away from my family and my career.  I had even let it take the enjoyment out of the hunt. 

The more I thought about it the dumber I felt and more embarrassed I became. It finally hit me that I was in a bowhunter’s heaven and that I was hunting, not competing in a sport with a scoreboard. I needed to just have fun out there like I always had. I had always assumed that my success would be a big P&Y buck, but in the end my success was my failure. My success was finding my passion for simply being a Hunter and taking whatever I deemed a trophy, instead of competing with Magazines and TV shows for trophies.  

The final hunt in 2007 produced a small buck that most would have passed on. I remember sitting in the stand, freezing in the cold.  As I looked down to check my legal shooting time I saw something move thru one of my lanes out of the corner of my eye. With blood pumping and adrenaline surging I rose up and drew back, releasing my big fat XX75 flying at 200 fps straight into the deer’s vitals. With a thunderous crash he broke out of there, stopping just30 yards away before taking his final bed. He has been my greatest trophy to date!