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Closure on a Whitetail Buck

by Steve Flores 6. February 2011 15:46
Steve Flores

I felt it on the very last play of my high school football career. I could feel it as I walked across the stage to receive my college degree. It was a sense that an important part of my life had ended, and a new chapter was about to begin. It was finality… was closure. Thankfully, I have been blessed to experience closure in many different areas of life. Closure is good. It adds conclusiveness to the situation at hand and allows us to move on with other areas of our life. However, it is like a thorn under our skin when we don’t have it. And that thorn, it seems, never goes away.

So what does all of this have to do with bowhunting? Well, a close friend recently brought closure to a story that began several months ago. Actually, it all started in the fall of 2006 when a scouting camera revealed that a very nice buck was occupying the area my friend was hunting in. However, four long years would pass before the two would meet on a cold November day in 2010.

On that fateful day, while others were gathering around the table to partake in Thanksgiving Day festivities, Mark was busy trying to stay warm in his favorite treestand. With plans made to celebrate the day after Thanksgiving, he opted to head to the timber for a chance at the one buck who had eluded him for so long. Although, after several hours in the lonely stand, bitter cold finally forced my friend to the ground in hopes that a little still-hunting might warm him up as well as offer a shooting opportunity at one of the resident bucks.

Walking along an abandoned logging road, Mark happened to catch a glimpse of movement just 20 yards above him on an adjacent flat that ran parallel to his position. After a closer look, he realized it was a doe. Pondering the situation, he decided to fill his freezer and balance the herd at the same time. Coming to full draw, Mark was about to release his arrow when again, something caught his eye.

Looking beyond the unaware doe, he quickly spotted a set of antlers. Situated further back on the flat than her, it was unclear just how good this buck was, but Mark knew it was a good one. Quickly letting down his bow, he waited for a better look at the buck that was shadowing his initial target.

When the bruiser finally did reveal itself, it was obvious he was a trophy. And so the chess match began. It wasn’t until my friend had stalked along with the rutting pair for a good 100 yards or so that a shot opportunity presented itself. And then….the unthinkable happened. Mark missed! Fearing the buck was about to bolt just as he came to full draw, the shot was rushed and his razor tipped arrow found nothing but dirt. Immediately the pair scampered away.

Discouraged, but determined not to give up, he quickly followed behind. It took a while, but my friend finally managed to work himself into position for a second shot! This time the range was a bit further, 40 yards or so. Upon releasing the bow string, Mark watched as his arrow struck the buck farther back behind the ribs than he would have preferred. To this day he is still unsure what went wrong. “The first time I missed him I just plain choked” he said. “But the second shot felt good from start to finish. I’m not really sure what caused that arrow to impact where it did”.

Nonetheless, he had just shot the biggest buck of his life and it wasn’t the best shot either. But, spirits were lifted after a short search revealed some good blood on the ground. Continuing to look for a brief time, Mark held hope that something good was going to happen. However, the rollercoaster that is bowhunting quickly threw a major decent into the ride as the heartbroken hunter bumped the trophy buck from his bed; watching him bound away for the last time.

Days passed by, Holidays came and left, friends joined in the search, but still there was no trace of Mark’s buck-of-a-lifetime. To make matters worse, it always seemed that when a spare moment was found during his busy workweek, snow was always on the ground; making recovery efforts even more difficult. Then, after weeks of horrible conditions, the weather finally broke, snow melted away, and the forest floor was revealed.

Quickly, Mark headed out to find his buck. Within 10 minutes of his search, there lying peacefully among a blanket of dead leaves and twigs, my friend found what he was looking for. He found his closure. Weeks of sleepless nights and days and days of “what ifs” had finally come to an end. Congratulations Mark on harvesting a tremendous, Southern WV buck. God knows you earned it.

Thankful for Bowhunting Home, Time With Family

by Cody Altizer 30. November 2010 02:27
Cody Altizer

 If you have followed my blog throughout the 2010 hunting season, you certainly know how much I am enjoying my time in the upper Midwest.  Whether it be chasing these giant whitetails with bow in hand or behind the camera filming Justin Zarr and Todd Graf and their hunts, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every second I’ve spent in the deer woods of Wisconsin and Illinois so far this year.  However, this past week was by far the most enjoyable time I’ve spent hunting all year as I was able to fly back home and hunt my family owned property in Virginia the entire week of Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to harvest a deer back home, but the time spent in the tree with my brother, around the hunting camp with my dad and at the dinner table with my mom is what made the trip so enjoyable.

My second home, Rocking Chair Hunt Club.  It was a blast to be able to be able to go home and hunt the property I grew up on.  There is nothing better!

 When I flew in on the 19th I had high hopes of harvesting a Virginia whitetail the following week.  I knew it was going to be tough as Virginia was currently in its fourth week of gun season (two weeks of early Muzzleloading followed by two weeks of rifle season) but I was still optimistic.  My brother had been my eyes and ears all season long had been seeing some quality bucks and plenty of does so I was eager to get in the treestand.  However, extremely warm temperatures slowed deer movement early in the week and I didn’t even see a deer Monday or Tuesday. 
Wednesday morning my brother and I saw plenty of good deer activity, but as is often the case in the big woods mountains of Virginia; the deer just seemed to wander through the woods without any sense of direction and never made it by our stand.  Wednesday afternoon was much like Monday and Tuesday as I never saw a deer from stand.  I will admit though, that I took out my Traditions muzzleloader hoping to harvest a buck that way, but to no avail.  Thanksgiving morning my brother and I were back at and again saw several deer, just nothing within bow range.  We did, however, see well over 40 turkeys that morning and in my experience, deer just don’t tolerate the noise turkeys make scratching through the woods.  Then again, my brother and I got pretty fed up with seeing gang after gang of turkeys too!

It was nice to have a camera man film my hunts for a change.  A BIG thanks goes out to my brother, Damin, for giving up quality hunting time to film my hunts.  We probably ended up scaring away more deer than we actually saw because we were laughing so hard at each other in the treestand.  I wouldn't trade that time in the stand for anything!

I chose to sleep in on Friday to catch up on a little sleep to prepare myself for the last day and a half of hunting because I was really going to get after it hard.  Friday afternoon my brother and snuck as close as we could get to a bedding area without disturbing the deer with climbers on our back.  Prior to this hunt I wasn’t a big fan of climbing tree stands.  I trusted their safety and purpose, but honestly didn’t like the effort it took to get up a tree and would just assume carry a hang on and sticks with me in the woods.  However, my brother had just bought the Summit Viper and allowed me to try it out and all I can say is this: I WILL buy one this offseason.  It was an incredibly light treestand to carry into the woods, setup easily and I was able to safely ascend up the tree and get set up within no time.  I felt safe and stealthy the entire time and decided I needed one for myself. 

We intensely practice Quality Deer Management on hunting property in Bath County, Virginia.  If you have the time, land and resources to do, I encourage you to implement some sort of management plan on your hunting property.  Results won't be immediate, but the gratification you will receive from benefitting your herd and habitat is well worth the patience required.

Friday afternoon ended up turning out to be our most productive hunt of the entire week.  Around 4 pm we had a group of does make their way out of the bedding area we were set up so close to.  As soon as exited from the bedding area they began feeding on white oak acorns about 70 yards north of our stand.  I knew that the longer they fed on those acorns, the less our chances would be of being able to harvest one of these deer.  I’ve learned the longer you have deer around your stand that aren’t in bow range, the less chance you will have of shooting them.  We’d been given a steady dose of South, Southwest Winds that afternoon; however, after 45 minutes of those feeding on acorns the winds shifted out of the east and they busted us, just as they were begin to make their way past our climbers.  It was a tough break to catch, but it was an exciting encounter nonetheless.  Just a heart-pounding, close encounter was all I really needed to call my trip home a success in terms of hunting.  My brother and I hunted hard Saturday from the same location, but high winds only resulted in us seeing a couple spikes harassing a doe in the morning, and a solid 2 year old 8 pointer in the afternoon.  Just as quickly as my hunting trip back home started, it was over.

One of the several scrapes we found littered throughout our hunting property.  We knew the big bucks were there, we just couldn't pull it off!  Bowhunting during the second week of rifle season proved to be quite a challenge, but I have no regrets taking my bow hunting rather than my rifle.

A view of one our Imperial Whitetail Clover Food Plots.  We planted this plot in early August and despite a lack of consistent rainfall, the food plot has flourished.  I am really looking forward to how it goes back next spring!

I wasn’t able to harvest a deer on my home property in Bath County, Virginia, but I had an incredible time at home nonetheless.  We manage those 260 acres of paradise very intensely and our food plots were doing exceptionally well, the timber was littered with scrapes and rubs and throughout the course of the week between my dad, my brother and me, we all several young bucks that made it through the rifle season and will be shooters next year.  But, of course, the best part was spending time with my family over the Thanksgiving holiday and enjoying quality time together.  Christmas will be here before you know it and I am anxiously looking forward to returning home to the Virginia Mountains and hunting late season whitetails with my family!


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