The Greatest Opening Day Ever

By Daniel James HendricksSeptember 16, 2014

LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015

Many bowhunters (when I use the term bowhunters, I am referring to both vertical and horizontal archers) don’t even consider going into the woods until after the first frost, a magical moment in time when most of the predatory bugs are flash-frozen into death. The hardcore arrow flingers however, will be entering the forest just before daylight on opening day to put to rest the endless suffering they have been enduring since the closing day of previous season.

I am one of those hardcores, but I am driven even more by my advancing age, which with each passing month and year makes me realize that I am burning daylight; knowing full-well that my days in the field are sadly numbered and they actually could end suddenly, at any time. Now that reality can unfortunately be applied to everyone regardless of age, but when you’re finally on Medicare and it seems to getting more painful every day just to get out of bed, the reality of mortality seems to hit just a little bit harder. If you youngsters reading this column are lucky, you will get to know exactly what I am talking about further down the road. To you brothers that are already at the point I write about, I know that you desperately want to give me a high-five, accented with a robust, “Ooh-Rah”.

One of the grander things about my age is that I have gotten to experience a lot of whitetail hunting opening days. I started chasing Minnesota deer with a rifle back in 1961 and then with a stick and string in 1973, entering into the woods on that opening day with my trusty Ben Pearson BP-H52 recurve, which is currently hanging in my TV room and will remain in my possession until I receive my permanent hunting license for the Happy Hunting Grounds. I love that little bow and used it faithfully until I sold out to compounds by purchasing a Bear Whitetail (remember what a delicate piece of work that bow was?) in 1987.

TenPoint Stealth SS crossbow
The Author’s TenPoint Stealth SS crossbow did the heavy and very accurate work on this hunt.

Now that is 53 possible openers, including 2014 and, although I can’t remember for sure, I probably missed one or two along the way, but not very many I assure you. And of all those special days, I can easily remember the greatest opener, ever.

Now the fact that opener was just last year has nothing to do with the fact that I am getting older and you probably think that I can’t remember any openers past last year. Truthfully, I have to admit that I can’t remember most of my openers because there was nothing to remember them for. But 2013 was an opener for the books, truly the greatest opener, ever.

Shortly before daylight, I quietly snuck into my ladder stand, which was anchored exactly 20 yards into the woods from the edge of an alfalfa field. The deer travel the treeline and I had opened a wide shooting lane that would provide me ample room if I was lucky enough to see a shooter-deer. Historically this location was not been spot for big bucks as they were usually much more nocturnal there because the stand was located so close to town and in dense population. The buck hunting got much better around the rut of course, but this was September 14th, at least a month and a half away from the onset of the rut.

View from treestand
View from the bowhunter’s point of vantage point.

I quickly settled in and got lost in the waking of the forest as daylight slowly crept onto the scene and all of the wild things that moved in the daylight rose from their slumber and began their daily routine of survival and existence in the jungle that they call home. Not planning on anything really exciting happening so early in the season, I was suddenly snatched from my daydream when a large deer stepped into my cleared shooting lane. It was a buck and it was soon followed by three more bucks. I could see the legs of the fifth animal standing further in the field, but I could not see its head. I assumed it too was a stag as I was clearly looking a bachelor group of pretty nice whitetails. Not having any desire to blow a good opportunity, I picked out the buck with the greatest mass adorning it head on the very edge of the field, placed the lighted reticule of my scope on its rib cage and squeezed the trigger of the TenPoint Stealth SS without really thinking much about what I was doing… as I had been at this particular point of the hunt so many times before.

When the bow coughed, spitting its arrow at the unsuspecting buck, the crimson flare that lit the end of the LumenArrow traced a bright, red trail to the animal and then abruptly disappeared into the ribcage of the doomed whitetail. The startled deer, along with its companions, exploded into a flurry of furry action, quickly disappearing from the open shooting lane leaving behind a very obvious and heavy silence.

As is customary in this situation, my calculated calm gave way to uncontrolled tremors as adrenaline surged through my system like a runaway freight train. Once again, as somewhat of an adrenalin junky, I was deeply submerged into my most favorite high!

There was no doubt in my mind about the shot and its final outcome, so once I began to regain control of my quaking, I packed my gear and descended to the ground. Moving to the edge of the field I found a blood trail that a blind man could have followed, which quickly and shortly led me to the carcass of a heavy-massed 11-pointer. I had climbed into the stand at 6:00 am and was back on the ground at 6:40 bringing the greatest opener, ever to a very quick and amazing end.

Opening Day Buck
I believe the smile says it all.  The author with his 11-Point buck from the best opener, ever!

Now, as I hammer out this retelling of the saga for my column one year later, opening day is the day after tomorrow and yes, of course, I am planning on going out and killing another big buck at 6:40 a.m., if not earlier. However, we all know that is more than likely not going to happen, still, I will be out there and if a bachelor group of bucks does come by, I will be ready… because 53-years of deer hunting has taught me one thing for sure… you can’t kill them laying in bed. So when the opener comes on Saturday morning, I will go out and climb into my stand in a valiant effort to have the greatest opener, ever.

Until next time, please take care, be well and God bless.

Daniel James Hendricks
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