All year round I anticipate that ideal cool, crisp morning of opening day of bow season. I practice shooting at multiple targets at different yards every week in the off season until I have perfected my shot, then move the targets back the next day, realizing I never learn when to quit.
This is a process that happens almost daily when it comes closer to “crunch time” in August and September. However, there is not a month that goes by that I don’t shoot my bow, to ensure that when that big moment does come, the last thing I need to be worry about is how my arrows are flying.
Thinking back to my first hunt, it was the best memory I have with my father. It is more memorable than any sports, school activity, or holiday could provide. I remember being up all night and finally falling asleep for about 20 minutes until I woke up panicked. I would think that I overslept and my Dad had gone without me! The Outdoor Channel was still playing in the background, it was dark and I could not hear the coffee pot brewing so I knew I was safe.
My hometown is in Indiana, and it has been a tradition for me and my hunting buddy to wake up on October 1st (if I can possibly fall asleep from all the anxiety, excitement, and wishful thinking running through my brain) at 5 a.m. and choke down a warm shot of whiskey for good luck (not by my choice). Then we would get geared up to try our best to bring home a mature doe. We would get so excited about where we wanted to hang our stands that choosing the spot was a longer process than necessary. We stood in the woods and debated on which side of the crick to hunt from for over two hours. We would banter back and forth and eventually agree on a certain side, only to change our minds moments later because we might want to hunt over the acorns in the early season or stay over where all the heavy deer runs were. We finally decided to hunt near the heavily beaten paths. I named this stand “The Midtown,” after a local bar in my hometown that attracts the same type of old ‘does’ that I was after.
Opening day has never been about buck hunting for us (not that we would pass up the opportunity if it presented itself) because bringing home a doe on opening day each year is something that excites me more than anything. This year has gone a little different, however. I was hunting a few spots and filming friends in Kentucky since Kentucky’s season opens up before Indiana’s. One evening on a hunt in KY, a nice mature doe came in with two fawns with her. She stood in front of me at 30 yards and a perfect wide open shot for me to sink a Magnus into her heart. The problem was that I told my buddy that I would wait and not kill a doe until opening day of Indiana season to keep our tradition pure. So, as much as it was killing me, I let her walk and waited until our time.
On the morning of October 1st, I woke up, drove over to my buddies house, we took our annual shot of whiskey (again, not by my choice), and hit the woods. Come first light, I could see a silhouette of two young bucks sparring in the distance by the edge of the field. Yes, it is going to be a great morning! Heart pounding and shaking heavily, the 2 young bucks walked right under my stand and went about their day. I thought I MUST be in a great spot! Sitting patiently for hours, hungry and thirsty but too nervous to move at the thought of getting busted, I waited… and waited. I did not see one single deer after the two young bucks left. Walking out of the woods to go in for a bit and try a different spot, I walked by the acorn tree where I originally debated on setting up. Buck and doe droppings were EVERYWHERE! They had been in here all morning. “Just my luck,” I thought. Those deer were probably drinking sarsaparillas and laughing at me from the other side of the crick! But the evenings hunt had me even more excited because I knew something good was going to happen… I always bring home a doe on opening day. Switching it up a bit, I got the climber and found a tree in a great even spot in a different part of the woods. As soon as I got settled in, here came the rain. At first, I was excited about weather front for the light rain that helps keep the deer moving. I sat still… just hoping. I was cold and wet and the rain got heavier and heavier. “I will wait it out, and it is going to pay off,” I thought. Darkness rolled around and I had been defeated. I can’t believe I just had my first opening day without killing a deer!
I’m certainly not known for riding any type of “luck wagon” considering I spent 40+ hours a week in the woods all of the previous seasons and the doe on each opening day was all I had to show for it. I have been fed up at times, aggravated, and exhausted from pulling all nighters for my job so I would be able to be in the woods all the way until the end January. Still not seeing a single buck to shoot at this time, I finally accepted the fact that it is all a part of hunting, and a big part of why I love the sport. Everything in life needs balance… without the bad, the good wouldn’t be so good.
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