My First Success As A Female Archer
No one ever forgets the story of their first deer. Well, this way the story of my first...and second deer with the bow all in one day! I just started taking up archery hunting, and as a female I knew I needed to prove myself! I was up to the challenge, and couldn't wait for the season to begin.
An Afternoon To Remember
The anticipation was eating me alive. As I sat in class I daydreamed about shooting the trophy buck, my first EVER buck in 10 years to boot, and then later on in the night adding a doe to that collection. What was the most exciting part, though, was that this was my first bow hunt. I figured that I better expand my horizons and try something else, maybe a different time of year, to get that buck! Finally the time came to pack my bow and equipment up and make the one hour journey to Lehigh County, PA. The butterflies were multiplying in my stomach, even moving up into my throat. My uncle Kevin and I finally arrived at his friend Dave’s house. We would be hunting on his property fairly close to his house. I quickly jumped out of the truck, dressed, and was ready to roll! We walked to the edge of a field, and along the way kicked out about three deer. This heightened my excitement even more to a point where I thought it could go no higher! Dave placed me in a stand overlooking that field as well as the hollow, about 25 feet high. I climbed, sat, and got ready to hunt. My legs were shaking as they told me “good luck, we’ll see you at dark!” Deep breaths. A year of practice, and now it would be put to good use.
Time moved as slow as molasses. I was now playing the waiting game, but before I knew it, I saw a deer out in the field. It was well out of range, but my hopes increased with the sighting of this deer. I thought about shooting at the square target, and even the 3D target, and realized how different this was! I watched it eat, observe, and eat some more. The deer was very cautious of its surroundings. As I was watching this deer, I looked down and saw suddenly an antler and a body pops out of the woods about 30 yards from me! My body went numb! As I looked closer, though, the buck only had one antler without any points on it. Anticipation faded, slightly, but I was still high on excitement. Moments passed, and out of nowhere two doe jumped out of the woods at the same place that the buck did! Numbness set in again, and I was now wondering how in the world I was going to stand up let alone pull the 52 pounds of my bow back! The deer was moving within the 20 yard range. With slow, cautious movements, I managed to stand. Deep breaths. I positioned my bow and as the deer stuck its head behind the tree, I drew. Holding. Holding. Release! I moved my bow to see if I had hit the deer and saw no arrow! The deer looked up at me, bewildered. I reached for another arrow, but by that time the deer was out of range. Thinking about the shot I made and where the arrow was retrieved, I’ve come to the conclusion that I pulled my bow to the left too early after I released.
The air was quickly released from my lungs, and a sense of disappointment reigned over me. Despite what had just happened, I reminded myself that it was still early, and by this time, there were 12 deer in the field, 6 which were buck. I knew my hunting was not over yet. I sat there shaking for a while after my shot, but came down in due time. I sat there watching the deer in their natural habitat, and even though I missed that deer, it was something I’ve never seen before. The buck were sparring with each other, getting closer to the rut. They were also chasing the doe around, and the fawns were chasing right after them towards their mother. Being strictly a rifle hunter, these elements have never been present in my hunting experiences. Everything happens too fast and the personal element is missing. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy rifle hunting, bow hunting is just…different.
As I was watching the deer, the light of the day seemed to fade rather quickly. I had by that time accepted my miss and thought I’d just get one next time. I looked up and saw a buck walking towards me. It was almost as if it were on a mission to come to the bush line closest to me. I stood up, making sure to be stealthy about my movements. I couldn’t tell how many points the deer had, due to lack of light. I waited. I waited about three minutes until I was certain I saw three points on one side. I drew back and held. Aiming. Aiming. Release! I looked at the deer for my arrow and the result was the same. This time, I had shot underneath the buck, and out of fear he ran, leaving me with one arrow left in my quiver.
I sat down because my legs were about to give out from underneath me. Shortly after, my uncle Kevin and his friend Dave walked over to me to ask how everything went. Dave had heard me shoot twice and was joking with me! I slowly got down out of the tree and took some more joking on the walk back to the house. To say I was upset with myself was an understatement, but to say I was more determined; that would hit the nail on the head.
I realized that bow hunting would be just a little bit harder than I expected. I knew that I was going to get excited and shake, but I didn’t think of how many small, mechanical errors could go wrong. One slight movement and it throws the whole shot off. With rifle hunting, you’re given a little bit larger of a margin of error; because the bullet destroys a lot. With bow hunting, you don’t exactly blow a huge hole in a deer. I knew that more practice would be the ticket; and I did just that. My uncle and I hit the target shooting hard that week. I used the square target as well as the 3D target and gain more confidence each night. I even shot out of a ladder stand at a 3D target from all angles and distances up to 20 yards. I remember my uncle saying “stay behind the bow. See the arrow hit your target through the sites.” I kept relaying that message through my head and I was shooting excellent! This time I was ready. Mr. Buck, here I come!
The following week, my uncle and I followed the same routine. I came home, got dressed, and we made the hour long drive to Lehigh County. The weather was perfect, with some rain moving in the next day and the temperature in the low 40’s, the deer would be moving. I had practiced again earlier in the week with my uncle. I shot at a 3-D deer target from a ladder stand he has set up in his back yard. I shot from all angles and many different distances. I was more prepared and more determined this time around, and nothing was getting in my way tonight!
We arrived and walked to the same field as the previous week. We walked along the edge of the field and I looked up and saw a buck standing in the field already! I didn’t know what to do! That overwhelming excitement quickly found its way back to me, and I was shaking like crazy! I was placed in a stand clear across the field from where I was a week earlier, and about 70 yards from the buck. He never saw me, and casually walked into the bush. I was now playing the waiting game once again. About an hour passed and I saw some doe emerge into the field. I tried to stay calm, but knew I was only fooling myself trying to do that! I watched the doe as I did the week before. The fawns chasing after their mother, the deer being cautious as to what was going on around them. A buck poked its head from the bushes. It was a nice 5 point buck that was working its way into the middle of the field. This week I took binoculars and a grunt call with me, based on the experience I had last week. I grunted a few times at the buck but it really didn’t want anything to do with it and didn’t even stick its head up. Then I looked to my right and saw movement. I saw a deer about 60 yards away in the bush and got my binoculars out to investigate. I saw that it was a spike buck and my hopes of shooting it were diminished. I then focused my attention on the deer in the field, which now multiplied to seven doe and three buck. The buck were chasing the doe, and were sparring with each other in the middle of the field. I glanced to my right again and noticed the spike buck was now about 30 yards from me. I kept my attention on him as he was walking towards me. He had absolutely no idea that I was there, he was only focused on eating and staying on the trail. That is exactly what he did, brushing up against my tree and licking the leaves on it as well. I was chuckling to myself, knowing that I was spying on this animal 10 feet above him and he didn’t even know it! The buck worked its way out into the field with the rest of the deer. The deer in the middle of the field were working their way down the other side, away from all of us. The rest of the deer in various places seemed to do the same thing, as if they sensed something not right around them. Dusk rolled around, and in what seemed like 20 minutes, our hunting was done for the day.
Being a bow hunter, practice doesn’t stop once the season starts. When there are breaks in the days spent hunting, practice needs to be done. The next week, practice was again in full swing. We practiced the same way as the previous week; at the square target, and the 3D target. I even climbed up in that ladder stand again, constantly relaying the message my uncle told me the week before. I was staying behind my bow and I was seeing my arrow hit my target where it needed to hit. Not seeing a deer within range only made me want a deer even more, and with all this practice, I was SURE that the next deer in range was mine.
My uncle and I agreed to go down the following week again. My confidence level was still very high, and in only two hunts, I had learned that when you are a bow hunter, you are patient. We arrived at Dave’s around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday the 21 of October. The weather was warm, with temperatures in the mid 60’s. Dave was convinced that the weather would push the deer to come out at a later time that night. Dave asked if I would be interested in using a decoy in tonight’s hunt. Dave used it in one previous hunt and was successful, so I figured I’d give it a shot. We loaded everything up and set out to the same field in the previous two hunts, and again to a different stand. The wind was a factor Dave was playing, and he set me in a portable stand about 15 feet high on the corner of the field on the bush line. He set the decoy up and I climbed up into the stand. Here comes the waiting game again. I sat for an hour and looked down to my right. I saw a lone doe trotting up over the hill! My heart rate increased and I began to shake. This was the time to redeem myself. The doe went behind some sticks and weeds and I stood up and positioned my bow. With one smooth motion, I drew as the deer was now within 20 yards. Holding. Holding. Release! I stayed behind my bow and saw the arrow through my sights. A huge smile emerged from my face! I hit the deer! Not only did I hit it, I hit it right through the heart and lungs! The deer ran 10 yards, hitting a fallen tree, turned around and fell. I saw the deer from where I was sitting! I just shot my first deer with the bow!
My first instinct was to climb down, but remembering what Dave and Kevin had told me along with how bad I was shaking, staying in the tree for a little sounded like a better idea. Instead, I filled out my tag and called Kevin, relaying the story as it had just unfolded in front of me. They hadn’t even left Dave’s house to go hunting yet! As my shaking decreased, and when I felt safe to climb down, I did. I jogged over to my deer and looked at it with sheer joy and excitement. I was so proud of myself! I tug my deer and started looking for my arrow. Kevin and Dave arrived and greeted me with smiles. They were so happy for me. My arrow was nowhere to be found, but I would get over losing it very quickly! Because Dave and Kevin wanted me to get in all the hunting that I could, they field dressed my deer, leaving me to get back to my stand. The waiting game would start again, but this time it was for a buck.
Sitting in my stand, still on an excitement high from just killing my first deer with the bow, I watched for that buck to appear. About 45 minutes passed, and just as I was looking up from seeing what time it was, I heard rustling in front of me. It sounded as if it were coming from the bush line about 30-35 yards directly in front of me. It was about 10 yards from where I just got my doe! Because I was just down there and was talking with Kevin and Dave, I was sure it was squirrels. No way did I think it was a deer! I was proven wrong when I saw 2 bodies with antlers stand up. Once again, my heart raced to near heart attack speed! The bush line was very thick, so a shot was impossible. I slowly grabbed my grunt call and grunted 2 times. The rustling seemed to be moving away from me and to the left; towards the field. All of a sudden, I saw a nose emerge from the bush line! Realizing that it would be my best chance to stand, I did so. Soon, the head came out and I realized that it was a seven pointer…MY seven pointer! I can’t even describe my excitement. The buck looked over and saw my decoy, which was much smaller than him. As soon as he laid eyes on it, he made a bee line for it! Slowly I drew my bow, making sure the buck didn’t see me, or destroy my decoy! He was still about 30 yards away, but moving in quickly. Holding. Holding. Release! Looking through my sight, I saw I hit the buck and it dropped! However, it was in its spine. I froze. I panicked. I didn’t know what to do! Being a rifle hunter I’m used to just shooting until I’m sure I hit it in the vitals. Here I stood with an arrow in a deer’s spine, me shaking like crazy, and having only one arrow left. When I realized the third fact in that sequence, I drew that last arrow. Shaking like mad crazy, I attempted another shot at the squirming deer. Not surprisingly, I missed. “Way to go! Now what?” I thought to myself. I decided to get out of the tree after I tried calming myself down so that I didn’t fall out of the tree. By this time, the deer had squirmed to the bush line. I picked up my arrow and drew again, no more than 10 yards from the deer. Another miss, again, not to my surprise.
Frustrated and agitated with myself, I had a mental pep talk. “Kristen. Take a deep breath! You can do this!” With pure determination I picked up the arrow, drew, took a deep breath, and released. A sigh of relief overcame me as I watched the arrow pierce the ski, heart, and lungs. I finally watched this buck become mine! I did it! My first buck ever after 10 years of religious hunting! I finally filled my tag, tug the deer, and called Kevin and Dave. They were just as excited! As I waited for them to arrive, I retrieved two of my arrows and chuckled to myself at what had just happened. They came about 15 minutes later with another 7 point buck on the back of the truck. Kevin had shot him when they arrived at their hunting site! We exchanged stories and field dressed my deer. I could not believe I had just accomplished 2 firsts within about 2 hours; my first deer with the bow, and my first buck ever.
As the evening came to a close, Kevin and I packed our things and headed home to finish skinning our deer. We thanked Dave, and I made sure to let both Kevin and Dave know that I have now redeemed myself with these 2 deer in one night. I still chuckle every time I think about this story, and I am reminded of it every time I look up on the wall and see that buck staring back at me. If only all hunts were that exciting! I look forward to going archery hunting for as long as I can in the future. This series of hunts taught me that we can’t always be successful, but just going out into nature and observing the animals that make it up, is rewarding enough. It also reminded me that hunting takes a lot of patience, practice and determination. I had to practice consistently and with different targets and angles to become successful. As a newborn archery hunter, I can’t wait until next season to see how much my practice pays off. It will surely be worth it!
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