Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend

It was a long weekend. Wednesday night I sat out in the freezing cold, hoping that just maybe, for some magical reason,  Mr. Big would show up. There was a storm coming in for Thursday morning, and it was already cold and windy.

No such luck. The next morning was Thanksgiving, and I didn't hunt. I rarely saw deer in the morning, and had never had pictures or seen Mr. Big during the morning.

That afternoon my mom accidentally turned the oven off while the turkey was cooking...needless to say we ended up eating nearly two hours later than intended. My plans for an evening hunt were shot, but I wasn't really all that disappointed since I hadn't seen Mr. Big in nearly two months, both on and off camera. So, I stayed in the nice warm house and ate Thanksgiving dinner and caught up on gossip with my sister, while outside the snow fell and the wind blew....

And Mr. Big appeared under my stand...

The next day when I went hunting, I decided to check my trail camera since I hadn't in a few weeks. I was feeling more than a little discouraged about ever getting Mr. Big.

Opening the camera, I saw the screen read "Memory Full". Well, that hadn't happened in about a month or so. Switching the memory card to a new one, I climbed into my stand and put the card in my camera to view the pictures.

About 20 pictures in, I saw Mr. Big and nearly had a heart attack. Sure enough, there he was, under my stand for several hours, while I was at my parents house eating Thanksgiving Dinner. I swore then and there to never go to Thanksgiving again.

I've been in my stand like faithfully, every day, but still no Mr. Big. But, I'm feeling a little more optimistic now that I have some pictures of him again.

I had hoped to take him with my bow, but bow season is nearly over, and this morning was opening day of Muzzleloader season in NJ...

Now, I'm waiting for another storm to come in so I can be there when he shows up! I hope....

Friday, November 19, 2010

To Shoot Or Not To Shoot

Last night was the coldest night I've hunted this November, and it wasn't even very cold.

I got in my stand early since I wanted to put a few tree steps in and put up my camera arm, since I'd taken that all down when I left for my trip to Illinois. Unfortunately, there was a doe under my stand when I got there. The night wasn't off to a good start. Once I was in my stand, my bow ready, camera arm up, video camera set, I decided to put my treesteps in.

20 minutes later I was still trying to put the same treestep in. Frustrated, I finally gave up and decided it wasn't important. There were already about a dozen does in the far field, and a few of them were acting kind of crazy. I expected that there would be a buck along shortly.

I was sitting in my stand playing with my cell phone, not really paying any attention to my surroundings, when I heard some leaves rustling behind me.

Probably just a stupid squirrel, I thought. I wish they would all die.

The rustling continued, and in a few seconds I quickly realized that it wasn't sounding like a squirrel. I twisted around in my tree stand to look behind me across the field, and saw nothing.  But, by now, whatever it was was almost directly beneath me, and my view was blocked by the tree.

Leaning forward, I looked around the tree and saw a big 8 point walking along the deer trail towards the brook. He had come from across the field, directly behind me, so I had never heard him until he entered the stand of trees where all the dry leaves fell.

I had seen him several times out in the far field feeding with the does, but he'd never come directly under my stand.

Should I shoot, should I shoot, should I shoot?? That's all I could think as he rapidly got farther and farther out of bow range, until it was too late. Not sure if I had done the right thing, but still very much wanting to hold out for Mr. Big, I trained the camera on the rapidly disappearing buck.

He was gone in a matter of seconds, and I sat back in my stand unsure of whether or not I'd made the right decision. A few minutes later, a button buck came through following the same trail. It clicked in my mind that the doe that had been under my stand when I walked in, had probably been in heat since they were following the trail she had gone.

Later, reviewing the footage of the buck, I was a little sorry I hadn't shot. He wasn't as big as Mr. Big, but he was a really nice buck, and if I didn't see him again, I most probably wouldn't see another buck as nice as him unless Mr. Big showed up. But I figure, why settle for less than what I want? The season isn't over!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Treestand Therapy

I’ve been told that, often there is a time in your life where everything comes together. Lately, I’ve been feeling that there is only a time in my life when everything falls apart. A death, a loss, a failure, a mistake.  Things that make you question what is really important. There isn’t much that has improved my outlook on life lately, not even the deer season, which has been especially slow.

The warm weather is killing the big buck activity, no cold weather forecasted anytime soon, and a full moon is fast approaching, which will be of no help. Right now I can see the season ending with no buck on the ground, and nothing to show for the many hours I spent up in the tree.

Yet everyday like clockwork even on the days when I just want to crawl into bed and hide, I head to the treestand, knowing that at least I’m trying, putting forth the effort. Most days I feel better after a few hours in the tree; it works like therapy to give me to time to unwind after a long day.

I leave the woods with hope that things will get better, that they aren’t as bad as they seem, that things will work themselves out.

It reminds me of last year, also in November, when I was feeling pretty much the same way…and then I got my Muzzleloader Buck and things seemed to slowly right themselves.

On opening day of muzzleloader in New Jersey, it was 40 degrees with a forecast of rain. I hated hunting in the rain, especially muzzleloader hunting. And besides that, rain was depressing. Nevertheless, I was on the road at 5 that morning, headed to my tree stand.

It was also opening day of rifle in Pennsylvania, I expected to see a lot of hunters already parked along the road in the dark, getting ready for drives, but saw only a few. I had to drive a half hour to reach the property I hunted, but it was privately owned, and I was the only one who hunted it. It was a small square of about 7 acres, surrounded by public land that I knew would be full of hunters doing drives. Hopefully, that would push a few deer out to me so I could get a shot. I hadn't used the muzzleloader in a few years, but this year I wanted to shoot what I liked to call the "New Jersey Grand Slam": a deer with a shotgun, bow and muzzleloader, at least one buck.

This year, I had promised myself, this year was going to be different. I was going to hunt hard and shoot the buck of my dreams. The area I hunted was known for its huge New Jersey bucks, and I was lucky to be hunting where I was.

I had started out the early bow season with big dreams, but somehow it never happened. I wasn't having a good season. Things kept going wrong, and not only with hunting; I lost my job, went through a bad breakup, and had problems with my truck. Of course I had caught a few glimpses of big bucks, bucks big enough to make my eyes glaze, as I tried to wish the deer close enough for a bow shot. But ass the season progressed, my hopes diminished. I began believing that I wasn't going to reach my goal of a big buck.

Sitting in my treestand that morning with my 50 cal CVA inline, I wasn't at my most optimistic. I waited and waited, thinking of a unusually long tined four pointer that I had passed up about a week ago. Maybe I should have shot him.

As the dark sky turned a light shade of gray, I stayed tuned in to any sounds that might indicate a deer. Even a doe, I thought to myself, I'll shoot a doe if one comes. We were allowed unlimited doe, and I'd only taken one in the early bow season.

It was after seven o'clock. I was hearing shots in the distance and knew the deer should be moving now. I waited. Nothing. I considered getting down and going in. I stayed.

Then, I finally heard something. Looking behind me, back towards the open hay field, I saw a little four pointer trotting down out of the woods and into the field. I'd seen him many times before, too small to be a "shooter", I even had him on film, along with most of the other small bucks I had passed up.

Suppressing a sigh, I turned back to face the stream. I was no quitter, but in that moment, I wanted to give up. I had hunted every single day of bow season, morning and night, and never had a chance at a big buck. It was the end of November; not much time left, the rut was over. Not many chances that it would happen.

I heard something crashing down the hill in the direction the four point had come from. Turning again, I saw another much bigger bodied deer limping his way down the steep hill side. I squinted my eyes, trying to see the rack at several hundred yards. Of course, I had forgotten binoculars.

When he stepped into the field, he was limping badly. My guess was he had been pushed out of the woods by all the hunters, and had been hit by a car. He lifted his head, and my eyes focused on his rack. It was WIDE. Wide, and the right hand side gleamed white, almost the same color as his face. He was an old deer, that much was obvious, and the biggest bodied deer I'd seen all season. The rack was unique looking, though I still couldn't really judge how big it was from this distance.

I twisted in my stand to face the direction he was coming. I held my breath and checked the primer on my gun as the deer limped slowly towards my stand. One hundred yards, fifty yards. I knew I could shoot. Still, painstakingly, I waited. At 25 yards he stopped and turned sideways, looking towards the other side of the field, where I knew does had probably come out to feed. This was what I had been waiting for.

I lifted the muzzleloader to my shoulder, trying to control my shaking, released the bolt, and squeezed the trigger. The gun went off. To my shock, the buck didn't flinch, didn't fall. Almost lazily, he turned and limped away. I felt panic rising inside me. I knew I had made a perfect broad side shot. I knew it. Why was he walking away as if I hadn't?

I nearly fell out of my treestand when he stopped a moment later, looking around as if he knew I was watching. He laid down, his legs scuffling in the leaves, then he was still. I knew I should wait; to be sure he was dead. I couldn't. I was out of the treestand in seconds.

As quietly as I could, I walked towards him. His eyes were wide open, staring at nothing. I grabbed a stick from the ground and tossed it at his head. He was dead alright. And he was huge. Bigger than I thought he had been when I first saw him standing in the field.. He would go at least 150 pounds field dressed. And the rack was the widest I'd ever seen in my life. Later, it measured 22 inches on the inside spread; the rack scoring 124 and 7/8 inches B&C. Suddenly, I had to sit down. Sinking down on a rock, I stared at my buck. I was so happy. I felt like the luckiest girl alive to have just killed such a beautiful deer. Wasn't this always how it worked? Just when you stopped believing in something, it would happen and prove you wrong. Well I certainly wasn't complaining this time. Instead, I felt the sudden urge to break down and cry.

Sitting staring at my buck, the one antler digging into the dirt, the other gleaming white curving up in the air, it started to rain.

To this day, when I look at the antlers on the wall, or the poster of me with my buck, I remember how after a long wait, things finally worked out for the better. 

Monday, November 15, 2010


Well, its the middle of November and things are starting to get a little depressing, with no buck down, the rut fast coming to an end, and firearm season less than a month away. It's been so warm out lately that I haven't been seeing many bucks at all, except on my trail camera after dark. Things need to pick up soon!

The next few weeks will be extremely busy, so I'm really hoping to have Mr. Big killed by Thanksgiving. There, I have a goal to work towards! Hopefully the weather will cool off. I got excited when I looked out my bedroom window this morning and saw that it was raining...but then I stepped outside and it was nearly 70 degrees..Ugh!!!! Whatever happened to fall?? It's supposed to be almost winter!

Tomorrow I'm going to be putting up a stand for my youngest sister Hannah, who is twelve...I think. This is her first deer season, and she hasn't been having a whole lot of luck. This weekend is Youth Firearm Day and I've been seeing plenty of does and small bucks at my stand. So, I'm going to set up a double stand for her so that I can film her when she (hopefully) shoots her first deer this weekend. I'm pretty excited about it!

Then, I also need to shoot my Muzzleloader this weekend. The season opens on the 29th and I haven't even looked at my gun since last year on the 30th of November when I cleaned it and put it back in the gun cabinet after shooting my big buck.Hopefully I will have as much success this year.

Then, I also promised my youngest brother Josh, who is ten,  that I would take him bow hunting, so the double stand I put up for my sister will also be for Josh. Hopefully I will get him filmed shooting his first deer as well.

Then, my sister Sarah (17) also wants to shoot a deer this I'll probably be hunting with her out of the double stand as well.

Then, I have to get ready for the upcoming bear season, when I will be guiding a hunt.

Then, also, in between all of this my boyfriend wants to get some hunts on film, and possibly another trip to Missouri.

So many things to do!! I'm just hoping that all my hard work will pay off. My goal: One buck for me, one deer for Hannah, one deer for Josh, one deer for Sarah, and one black bear for the guy I will be guiding. Am I expecting too much?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

2 and 1/2 Days: MISSOURI

I’d been to the farms in Missouri twice before. Once to set up trail cameras, and once on our way back from Colorado for a quick hunt with my boyfriend. It was owned by my boyfriends cousin, and now, finally, I would be hunting here.

We made good time on our way to Missouri, with one stop for lunch at a Wendy’s where we saw a bunch of guys from Hadley Creek, and another stop to buy me a license at Wal-Mart. We were at the south farm in time to be in our stands that night. I sat in a hedgerow between a soybean field and a grass field, and had does around me almost as soon as I was in the stand. But, it was about 70 degrees out, and the bucks weren’t moving.

We stayed in a motel that night, and left for the north farm, about an hour away, early the next morning. I sat in a ladder stand over a food plot, the same one that my boyfriend had shot a doe out of in September when we were on our way back from Colorado.

I was tired, and very nearly fell asleep as the sun came up and shone directly on my stand, keeping me warm. Then, I saw a small buck come out of the hemlocks about 70 yards away, into the food plot. He didn’t stick around very long, but I videoed him for a while before he disappeared into the hemlocks again. About ten minutes later, a doe came out. I didn’t even bother to pick up my camera. Stupid me, I didn’t even think a buck could be right behind her. And, he was!

A huge 8 point came out of the hemlocks directly behind her. They were too far to shoot, and gone in a few seconds, but I knew that the buck was a definite shooter. The rules my boyfriends cousin had for anyone who hunted the farm was that if you shot a buck it had to be over 140 or you paid a $500 fine. This buck was for sure over 140.

I waited, but he never came back out. I tried the snort-wheeze, since my boyfriend said it worked wonders here in Missouri, but it only brought the little buck back in.   I sat there until about 9, when I was supposed to meet my boyfriend back at the road for him to pick me up. 

That day it was nearly 80 degrees. It felt like summer again. My boyfriend and I set up a groundblind near where the deer had crossed and camoed it in for me to sit in that night. There were three heavily used trails crossing there on the food plot, so I had a feeling it would be good. 

By the time we finished putting up the blind it was nearly time to get back in the woods. We drove back to our spot where we parked the camper, and my boyfriend decided that he should take a shower. There was a 15 gallon jug of water with a spout that had been left in his camper, so taking it outside he set it up on top of the camper and stripped down to his underwear. I sat in the camper and texted my sister while I waited for him to get done.

But, he had other plans. Coming back in shivering, he suggested that I should take a shower too since we were staying in the camper that night and not going into the town that was a half hour away.

Reluctantly I agreed and stripped down to my underwear and stepped under the trickle of FREEZING water. I was only there about a minute, I hadn’t even used soap yet, when I heard a tractor coming up the road. Where we were, there was NO traffic what so ever. We were in the middle of nowhere. What were the chances of a tractor coming by, JUST when I started to shower?

“I’ll go block his view” my boyfriend volunteered.

I stepped behind the camper where I wouldn’t be seen, thankful for the towel  I had brought with me. Shivering, I waited for the tractor to continue on by so I could finish my frigid shower and get back into the warm dry camper. But, instead, the tractor stopped. Then I heard it shut off and heard my boyfriend talking to him.

Great. Here I was practically naked and freezing and my boyfriend was out there talking to some farmer. The whole situation was hilarious.

Luckily I managed to finish my shower and wrap myself in a towel when the farmer left. Then, it was back to the woods. I saw a lot of does that night, and some small bucks again, lots of turkeys, but no big bucks.

We spent that night in the camper, with a Heater Buddy running on propane to keep us warm. I thought about it that night: there we were, literally in the middle of nowhere. No heat, no running water, traveling 20 miles to town to one place that served food, waking up at 4 in the morning to sit in a treestand for most of the day and freeze, pretty much no phone service, 18 hours from home and the only person I saw all day was my boyfriend. Honestly, I was happier than I’ve ever been. Of course, the possibility of shooting a big buck just made it better.

The next morning was our last morning hunting Missouri. We got up extra early since my boyfriend wanted to put a stand up for himself before it got light. I sat in the blind again, and I was so tired that I curled up on the floor of the blind and fell asleep until the sun came up.

I saw no deer that morning, though my boyfriend saw some deer where he sat. That afternoon we moved the blind to another location for rifle season, and moved the ladder stand I had sat in the previous morning, which took us most of the afternoon.

Our last night I sat in yet another ladder stand in the middle of a swampy area near the road. I was only there about an hour when deer started coming from everywhere. Bucks were chasing does in every direction. One nice big 8 point stayed in the swamp long enough for me to video him for a while, but no shooters came close enough for me to get a chance. 

That night walking back to the truck, I was a little disappointed. A week in the mid-west and no deer down. But, I had had the time of my life. I honestly can’t remember ever having been so happy or having so much fun. It was an experience I will never forget, and next time hopefully I’ll be dragging a deer out of the woods!

For now, it's time for me to return to the woods of NJ and shoot Mr. Big, since he is STILL ALIVE!!

2 and 1/2 Days: ILLINOIS

We left at 4:30 in the morning, while it was still dark, and so cold that my eyes watered when I stepped outside. I wondered if it was going to be that cold in Illinois, and wondered how I was ever going to take sitting in a tree stand for hours if it was this cold. 

I was extremely excited that morning. I was finally going to get my chance to hunt Illinois and Missouri!! But I was also exhausted from getting up every morning to hunt Mr. Big here in Jersey. My boyfriend on the other hand was practically bouncing off the walls of the truck. As we pulled out of my driveway he started rattling off our plans for the next week, and I wondered exactly how many cups of coffee he had drank before coming to pick me up.

I fell asleep right around the time Blake Shelton started singing “You Can Kiss My Country Ass” for the sixth time around that morning. I woke up about two hours later to find myself covered in my boyfriends jacket as the sun started to make its way over the Pennsylvania mountains in front of us. The frost was so heavy it looked like snow. What a morning it would have been to be in the tree stand!

One spilled cup of coffee later, one neck massage, and me repeating myself three times telling my boyfriend not to fall asleep, we pulled over at a truck stop. My boyfriend had hooked his camper up behind his truck, and we were going to drop it off in Missouri and leave it there for the rest of the season. The downside was, he wouldn’t let me drive because it made the truck swerve a little. The upside was, he could stop and take a nap anywhere he wanted. Which was exactly what we did.

An hour later, after making some sandwiches on the tailgate,  we were back on the road. We made good time that day, and once we reached Illinois we started looking for a place to stop and buy our hunting licenses. About three hours from the outfitters, we spotted a little sport shop and stopped in. Things were going well until the guy who worked there printed out a resident license for my boyfriend, instead of a non resident. After he tried to go back and fix it, the license machine wouldn’t let him print anything out. We ended up staying the night in a town near there, and heading back in the morning. It took us three hours to get our licenses straightened out, and then we were finally on our way to the outfitters. Not off to a good start!

The first day there, we met up with my boyfriends buddy, who was also hunting there, (and who also promptly decided that I was the next new and improved Tiffany Lakosky), and we set up all of our stands. I have to say I was surprised how good the accommodations were there at the outfitters!! Spacious bedrooms with double beds, TV, refrigerator, microwave, a hot tub on the deck, and three home cooked meals a day if we wanted it. It was better than being at home!!

We found quite a few good scrapes and rubs, and we were all more than a little excited to hunt the next day. I had a hard time sleeping that night. 

At 3:30 on November 5th, we woke up to start hunting. I don’t remember the last time I got up that early, but it was for a good cause, and my boyfriend had learned from experience that you had to be in your stand before light to shoot one of these bucks. It was a half hour walk to my stand, and a hours walk for my boyfriend. We parted ways at the edge of the field, and he told me to text him when I was in my stand or he was coming after me.

Disappointingly, all I saw were squirrels and a doe that first morning. And, it was COLD!!! My boyfriends buddy texted me and said that he saw a shooter and some does. I texted my boyfriend and asked how he was doing, since he had never answer my first “all set” text. Still no answer.

By 11 o’clock that morning, my boyfriends buddy and I were climbing down out of our stands several miles apart, and both were getting worried about the fact that my boyfriend wasn’t answering any of our texts. “We may have to go searching for him,” his buddy said. Ok, now I was worried.

But, back at the cabin, a little after 11, who should appear out of the woods but my boyfriend. His phone had been in his truck all along. Not doing much good in there! Needless to say, that was our excitement for that morning.

After a hot lunch and a short nap, my boyfriend and I headed out to a different piece of property owned by the same outfitter, while his buddy headed to a stand set up behind the cabin we stayed in. After giving me directions as to where I was supposed to walk, my boyfriend headed to his own stand.

The weeds were taller than my head, and there were briars and stickers all over. By the time I was to my stand, I was covered with clingy things that came off of the weeds.

Oh, yes. The stand. Looking up at it I decided that I was EXTREMELY thankful that my boyfriend had packed a safety harness for me, since there was NO way that I would ever get in that stand without a harness. It took me a while to climb the pegs and secure myself to the tree. The stand was a small lock-on (emphasis on the small) and it was easily the highest stand I’d ever sat in. I wondered if I should be worried about a nosebleed. But, once I was in it, sitting looking out over the cornfield, I fell in love. The view was amazing. I felt like I was in a Primos or Buckmasters hunting show.

I saw several does and a small buck that night, despite the cold weather, which was a little disappointing. That night at supper my boyfriend and his buddy made the decision that we were too early. The rut hadn’t really kicked in yet, even though it was the coldest it had been all year. 

The next morning we left about 4. I was in the same stand, and it was even colder than it had been the previous morning. By the time it got light out at 7, I was shivering. Not good!!! I wanted to sit until at least 10 but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it. At about 8:30, after seeing a few does and a bobcat come through, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket and managed to pull it out without having to take my gloves off. My boyfriends buddy had just shot a ten point that scored about 145 inches. I was jealous!

I hadn’t even closed my phone when I heard deer coming fast up the steep ravine in front of me. Shoving my phone into my jacket, I clipped my release on the bow and got ready. The deer reached the top of the ravine and stopped just as the sun hit the tops of the trees. And, what a deer. He had 12 points, with kickers coming out all over, and good mass. No two ways about it, he was a good shooter buck. And, the biggest buck I’d ever seen in my life. He stood there facing me at the top of the ravine, head on. I couldn’t take the shot, but I was going to try to pull my bow back. I was stiff and cold, and had to shift in order to pull back, and he must have heard me or something because he looked right at me. Luckily he didn’t seem to notice me, or see me, because he continued on his own merry way down the trail. Fortunately he was only 15 yards. Unfortunately there was a ton of thick brush and trees in the way, and he was headed to my right. Being right handed, it would have been a difficult shot to make.

I tried snort-wheezing with no luck. He was on the trail of a doe, and there was no stopping him. Disappointed, I turned in my stand to watch him disappear into the next ravine. I managed to stick it out until 10:30 in my stand, but when I started to shiver and since no deer had come through after the buck, I climbed down.

It was exciting to see an Illinois buck on the ground. Back at the cabin, everyone was crowded around the shed looking at the ten point that my boyfriends buddy had shot. it was a beautiful ten point with tall dark tines. How cool would it have been if I had shot a deer too?

We made an emergency stop at Ron’s Bow Shop that afternoon to get my boyfriends bow re-strung. Pulling the bow up the tree that morning, the haul line had hooked on a branch and pulled the string off of the bow. Luckily the only buck that had come by was an 8-point that only would have scored about 130.

That afternoon I was put in yet another stand, a ladder stand that was set in a strip of woods between a corn field and a soy bean field. If I would have had to pick a favorite stand in Illinois, that one would have been it. Ten minutes after I got in the stand, there was movement. I saw about 50 turkeys that night,  a possum, does, and countless small bucks. About an hour into my sit, I glanced over my shoulder and saw a huge buck limping through the woods. I hadn’t even heard him approach, how was that possible? It was obvious that something was wrong with his right front leg the way he was limping.

He stopped about 70 yards behind me to my right and started rubbing his antlers on a tree. My heart was pounding and I just knew that this was going to be it. My bow was ready, I was ready. The buck was there. So I thought. He wouldn’t come in.  I watched him for about ten minutes, until he bedded down in the brush behind me. Oh great.

Then, a small buck came through, exactly the same route the big buck had come, and went into the brush the big buck was laying in. I heard antlers rattling, then both bucks ran off in separate directions. Well, at least I was seeing them! I saw several other small bucks that night, and an eight point that I later wondered if I should have shot, but not big ones. 

That night over a celebratory toast of wine to my boyfriends buddy, my boyfriend made the decision that we were going to leave for Missouri the next afternoon, after hunting the morning.

Neither of us saw anything but coyotes the next morning, so we said our goodbyes and packed our gear for the 3 hour drive to the farm in Missouri. I was both disappointed and excited that I hadn’t shot a deer in Illinois, but I was leaving for Missouri. Who knew what could happen?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Return To NJ

Well...I have returned to NJ, sadly empty handed. I had more fun than I have ever had in my life, and saw several shooter bucks in both Missouri and Illinois. Unfortunately I had no shots, but my boyfriend wants to make plans to return to Missouri for the late season to fill our buck tags.

Will be posting the story of our trip soon, with pictures!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Illinois Bound!

Well…Mr. Big is still alive!! Saturday afternoon the landowner saw him fighting with a big 8 point that I’ve been getting pictures of on my trail camera. I’m disappointed that I haven’t had a shot at Mr. Big, but am VERY thankful to learn that he’s still alive.

I leave in two days. Wednesday at 3 a.m. my man and I are hitting the road for the 12 hour drive to Illinois. I am SO excited! My boyfriend feels pretty confident that I’ll at least have a chance at a big buck. Me, I just plan on having the time of my life whether I kill a big buck or not. This is my first time hunting out of state, and I’m sure it won’t be my last. If I tag out in Illinois, or if we both tag out, we’re packing up our gear and heading to Missouri. Really, there is a chance I could come home with TWO big bucks, but I think I’m getting ahead of myself.

As for Mr. Big, my dream buck in NJ, I have a different sort of plan laid out for the next two days. This morning I set a ground blind up in the timber where, from my stand, I’ve seen bucks chasing does every night…where I had a stand earlier in the season but saw nothing…but is where the landowner saw the big bucks on Saturday.

I remember last year how he told me he saw them up in the timber during the rut, and during late season. For some reason I turned a deaf ear on that, or maybe it just didn’t click. This early season I was getting tons of pictures of bucks at my stand I’ve been hunting, and tons of pictures of Mr. Big. But, though I’ve seen plenty of small bucks chasing around my stand, I haven’t been getting pictures of any bucks at all. Not even the little ones. So, OBVIOUSLY, they have to be somewhere else.

I don’t really have time to put up a stand or even move my trail camera. Since it’s the beginning of hardcore rut activity, I want to make as little noise as possible with my setup so a ground blind seemed the easiest solution. Lately I’ve been feeling a little depressed about the Mr. Big situation, but I’m thinking that a change in location could be a change in luck. I know the land pretty well; I’m 100% confident that I’ll be seeing deer. The question is, will I see Mr. Big?

I will have no computer access while I’m in Illinois so won’t be able to update until I return…I’m hoping that my next post will be a success story!

My Idea Of A “Blind” Date

Though I still don’t have a big buck down, and I haven’t seen Mr. Big in over a week, this season is going fairly well. I’m seeing plenty of little bucks every night, and rut activity is starting to pick up. This past week had given me several opportunities to kill does, but I’ve passed them all up. For me, one doe during archery season is enough, just to fill the freezer. There’s really no point in killing it just to kill it when I know I will have plenty of other chances later in the season. And right now my goal is to kill a buck.

Ever since I started bowhunting 5 years ago, I’ve killed at least one deer every October. No exceptions. Its just the way it is. This October I also killed a deer, though it did happen a little differently than it usually does. The deer I shot this year was the first I’ve ever shot with my bow while hunting with someone (my boyfriend) and also my first deer out of a ground blind.

It was October 12th, still fairly early in the season. It was still warm out, and the big bucks weren’t moving until late at night. I was following Mr. Big on trail camera, and just trying to get a doe to fill my freezer.

Feeling alittle frustrated that October was halfway over and I still didn’t have my doe, I was more than happy when my boyfriend texted me and asked if I wanted to go hunt with him in his groundblind.

Before I say anything else, I’ll just say this. I’ve hunted out of the groundblind with my boyfriend countless times, but I think we only ever saw deer three times at most. My boyfriend always teased me that I was bad luck, but in reality he just can’t keep his mind on hunting when I’m in the blind! Not that I’m complaining.

He stopped by to pick me up that afternoon, and I started the process of gathering all my hunting gear from my truck, and putting it into his truck for the evening hunt. I was beginning to contemplate just buying two of everything and keeping half of it in his truck. But then he would probably use most of it and I might never get it back.

We drove up to his uncles farm where we had hunted the previous week and settled in to the ground blind. We had it set up against a haybale in the middle of a field, and we had hunted here several times. The last time we had tried a spot and stalk, which had been unsuccessful, probably partly due to our laughing, but was fun all the same.

We were only been in the blind about ten minutes when a tractor drove past with a load of hay bales, passing about 20 feet from the blind and circling around the trail camera we had set up. This was not a good start. 

Needless to say we got comfortable in the ground blind and after a while we started talking about our upcoming trip to Illinois. We were so engrossed in conversation that we didn’t notice when dusk started to fall, and deer started filing into the field.

Then, my boyfriend froze mid-sentence. “I see deer! Get the bow ready”.

I got the bow ready and tried to see around the edge of the blind to where the deer were coming from. My boyfriend had closed all but one window in the ground blind, saying he could see out of the little cracks and it was fine. I laughed when he told me that, but I didn’t think of that fact I wouldn’t be able to see the deer until they were within shooting range. It was a little frustrating. He was going to have to tell me when they got close; this was truly going to be teamwork.

“Ok,” my boyfriend whispered “there are three doe coming, wait for the second one to come in, its bigger.”

No problem with that. My heart started beating double time as the first doe appeared in front of the blind and started eating the scattered corn we had put out. I could hear the other deer coming, but couldn’t see them yet. Dark was falling, and it was becoming a race to see whether or not my doe would come into bow range before it was too dark.

“Maybe I should just shoot that one,” I whispered.

But he wouldn’t let me. Hunting his uncles farm, I had to respect the fact that I wasn’t allowed to shoot just any deer either.  His uncle didn’t allow anyone to shoot fawns or button bucks. Only mature does and bucks. And if my boyfriend made the call, I was more than willing to listen.

I could here the other deer coming closer, and I was starting to shake. I pulled my bow up and clipped my release on the string.

My boyfriend launched into a whispered monologue as if I had never killed a deer before. "Waitwaitwaittheotheronesbiggerwaituntilshecomesin,waituntil sheturnssideways,

And I did! The arrow zipped neatly through the deer and imbedded itself in the ground. Deer scattered, and I could no longer see them. My boyfriend was practically jumping up and down in the blind, and I wasn’t even 100% sure I had made a good shot.

The next thing I knew he pulled me out of my chair into a hug. “You dropped her right there!”  I was shaking so bad I couldn’t even talk. My boyfriend reached out and unzipped the ground blind and I stumbled out, still clutching my bow. I very nearly fell over my deer, laying about 10 yards from the blind. There was a blood trail about 2 feet wide, spraying from where the deer had stood, to where it now lay.

This wasn’t my big trophy buck, but this was still one of THE best hunts I had ever been on. My boyfriend put his arm around me and I could feel his heart beating as fast as mine was. It made it that much more special that he was there to share this hunt with me.

We walked back to his truck and left the deer where it had fallen, its head tucked back against its spine. At the truck I had started filling out my bow tag, when his cousin pulled up in an ATV. After the usual congratulations, and listening to my boyfriend brag about my shot, his cousin broke the news.

“It’s a button buck.”

We froze for nearly a full minute, then my boyfriend laughed. “No its not!”

“It is!” his cousin insisted. “I swear!”

My boyfriend and I looked at each other and simultaneously headed for the truck. “No way that’s a button buck,” my boyfriend said (rather hopefully) as he put the truck in drive.

My boyfriend  was right. It wasn’t a button buck. He hadn’t even put the truck in park when I was out the door and lifting the deers head. “It’s a Spike.” Very small spikes, but a spike nonetheless.

My boyfriend came around in front of the headlights. “Seriously?”

“Yeah.” I held the deers head up for him to see. “It BETTER be under three inches! I don’t want to use my buck tag!” I could just see my night going downhill.
Lucky for all of us, the antlers were under three inches, but just barely! Hopefully my spike is the first of several deer for me this year. I still have my buck tag, and hopefully will kill at least one good NJ buck this season with my bow. But, if my luck doesn’t stay with me, I’ll at least have made some good memories.