By Jonathan Squilla
This is the story of my first buck with the bow!! I was bitten by the hunting bug three years ago, but I unfortunately did not grow up in a family of hunters to learn from or to hunt with. I hunt on my father’s property in Rockland County in an area that seems to be well traveled by deer.
At the beginning of September, with the hunting season right around the corner, I decided to hang some game camera’s in an area where I had scouted a bunch of fresh sign like rubs, scrapes and droppings. Soon enough the images from the trail camera began rolling in and I was able to identify seven different bucks of varying sizes frequenting this deer highway. The one deer that really caught my eye was a nice seven point buck who had wide and tall main beams, but not a whole lot for tine length. For me, hunting for my third season ever, he would be quite a trophy nonetheless.
On Wednesday, October 9th, I jumped into my stand at around 5:00 am for one of my first morning sits and only saw a doe and a spike horn the whole morning... not the big seven I was after. So I got out of my stand at 9:00 and went to work thinking about my next sit.
That afternoon on my way to an appointment I got a call from my father that there was a nice buck just standing right under my stand with a doe. I was on the road and was only about twenty minutes from my father’s house and I still had all my gear in the car from that morning. So, with buck fever in the air I flew to my father’s house, but as I was getting onto his block he called and told me that the buck had just exited the property minutes ago. Thinking that he might come back around, I sat until 7:00 pm with no activity at all.
The next day I absolutely had to be in meetings all day so I couldn’t hunt. Thursday night I was able to shift my schedule around for Friday and made it possible for me to hunt the morning. That night I could barely sleep thinking about the big buck under my stand and how I would be there hunting my father’s property in a matter of hours.
Friday morning came quicker than Christmas as a kid. I pulled up to my father’s house, prepped in his driveway and jumped into the stand at 5:00 am. By 9:00 I had the same results as I had on Wednesday and prepared to go to work empty handed. When I got out of the stand I decided to pull the card from my trail camera and bring it with me to work.
When I finally got to my computer and checked the footage, it turned out that on Thursday at around 5:30 pm the buck had been there!! Now knowing that he was there on Wednesday late afternoon and also Thursday early evening I knew what I had to do… get in my stand this afternoon around 2:00 pm and wait to see if he keeps his pattern going.
Two o'clock rolled around and I was settled into my stand launching out work emails like crazy with one eye on the woods the whole time. The time was flying by and it is now 3:30 so I ceased the emails knowing that this was the time that he came by on Wednesday. Four-thirty came with no action, but something just felt right so I just stayed frozen in my stand. Around 45 minutes later I could see movement deep in the woods and I could see it was a deer, but I had no idea what it was.
At 5:30 two deer began coming down the path, but with so many leaves on the trees I could not tell what they were, only that they were deer. As they both got closer I could see that the one deer was a smaller buck that I had passed on opening day but I still could not tell what the other deer was. The smaller buck split away from the other deer and started heading towards me at nine o'clock, which happened to be directly downwind of me. The other deer kept heading down the trail, stopped at a scrape with a licking branch, urinated down it’s back legs and then started heading towards at 12 o'clock. I could finally see his horns and recognized him immediately as the buck on the trail cam picks! That’s it, the plan was coming together and this was really happening, my first opportunity with the bow on a nice buck!!
My heart began to race as this was unfolding, but I noticed that the smaller buck was now directly downwind of me putting his nose in the air and staring in my direction. I looked back at the larger buck. He was beginning to turn and present me with a quartering shot. What now goes through my head is, "I better take this shot right now before the little buck figures me out and blows ruining the whole opportunity!" I drew back, put my first pin behind his front shoulder and launched an arrow in his direction. He jumped up and ran ten yards, took seven or eight slow steps then went out of view, disappearing under the canopy of branches.
I started texting my buddies about how I screwed up and missed a nice buck and I'm not worthy of sitting in this stand, etc. I sat in the stand for 30 minutes before deciding that I at least wanted to go and find my arrow as a consolation prize for missing on this buck and ruining my first opportunity with the bow. When I got to the ground I looked around for my arrow which I couldn't find. I went to the spot where the buck was standing when I shot and noticed some drops of blood on the leaves!
I stood there with one of the blood drizzled leaves in my hand and as all hope begins to rush back into my body, I notice the buck laying under a tree about 25 yards away just looking at me! I immediately started walking slowly out of the woods and called my buddy to tell him what had happened and that I didn’t miss the buck, but rather he was injured not too far from my stand.
This is where I made a very rooky mistake and decided to go back in the woods to take a follow up shot. The position the buck was in, sitting underneath a large downed branch, was tough and the only clear shot I had was on his neck which was extended up with the bucks eyes glued on me. I took the follow up shot and the arrow connected right at the center of his neck slapping his head down and finishing the saga.
It turned out that my first shot went through his one lung passing through his gut on the opposite side. The initial shot would definitely have been fatal in a matter of hours and I had now learned what not to do in the future regardless of how everything worked out this time around.
My wife was actually more thrilled that I took this buck than I was because she thought her life would go back to normal and her husband will come back in from the woods. Little does she know that there is a rifle season!! Can't wait till November 16th.
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