A Change of Plans
I had been sitting in my tree stand since before first light sweating bullets and swatting mosquitos. It was opening week of Oklahoma’s bow season, and it was hot. . .VERY HOT!
The morning passed uneventfully without so much as a squirrel sighting. The woods seemed void of all life. At 9:45 a.m., I called it quits for the morning and made my way back down the tree to earth.
On my way out, I decided to pull the memory card from a trail camera that I had set near my stand a few days earlier just to see if by any chance, I had captured anything on camera in these lifeless woods. After striking out all week my hopes weren’t too high, but we bow hunters are an optimistic bunch; so, and I just had to see if there was anything on that memory card. After making the short drive home, I sat down with a cold drink and plugged the SD-card into my computer.
To my surprise, I captured several pictures of a group of does that were making their way past my stand heading to a small water hole virtually every day for the past week at midday.
No wonder I hadn’t seen any deer all week I was simply missing them. They were coming down the ridge hours after I had already left for home to sit in the air conditioner and watch TV. Staring at the images on my computer screen it dawned on me that I had failed to recognize the obvious. I was too hung up on trying to catch the deer on a feeding pattern that I completely overlooked the fact that since it was so miserably hot, I needed to catch them coming to water when they needed it the most.
As luck would have it, my stand wasn’t far from that little water hole, and the deer was traveling past my tree stand to get to it, I just needed to be there when they were showing up to get a drink. I’m not one to pass up the chance at a nice, fat doe so it was time to make a change of plans.
After jumping in the shower and changing camo I was out the door and on my way back to the woods by 11:45. After climbing back into my stand and getting settled in I checked the time, it was 12:27 p.m. I had a full hour before the group of does were supposed to show up according to the trail camera pictures.
Just twenty minutes into my sit I was already sweating my tail off. The mosquitos were getting worse by the minute despite the Thermacell that was sitting next to me. Just as I was starting to question my sanity, I heard movement. Eventually, I could make out the steady gait of deer walking through the dry leaves. They were heading my way, picking up my bow; I turned toward the sound of the deer walking.
I was shocked to see a large set of chocolate antlers coming through the brush that was followed by a second large buck. . . WHOA!! This was unexpected since I had only gotten pictures of does, but I wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass me by. As I watched the two bucks make their way to my stand, I readied for the shot. If they stayed on the trail, they would pass my stand at less than twenty yards. I said a little prayer to calm my nerves as the pair of bucks made their way into bow range.
The first buck did not pose a good shot, as its kill zone was sheltered by a small cedar tree. I drew my bow – awaiting at the ready for the buck to leave the shelter of the cedar bow. As soon, as I had seen the dandy buck step out into a clear shooting lane, I felt my heart skip a beat. I slowly calmed my beating heart and let out a soft whistle stopping the buck in his tracks; I released my arrow. As if it was flying in slow motion, I could see and hear it slice though the air hitting the white-tail buck dead on. At just fifteen yards my arrow and broad-head found their mark, and the shot looked near perfect. I watched with anticipation as the buck dug its hoofs into the soft forest floor and bolted toward the watering hole. The buck ran a complete circle around watering hole and then staggered back past my tree-stand before dropping only forty yards from the tree I was silently perched in.
“DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?” This was the first thought screaming in my head. After hunting hard all week it finally paid off with an unexpected trophy buck. I was hot, tired and eaten up by mosquito’s and bugs, but I was too happy to care. Sitting next to my buck admiring his dark, heavy, 8 point rack, I realized this was a learning experience for me. This days hunt changed my understanding and way of thinking when it came to deer movement and in turn has since changed the way I hunt in certain situations.
A lot of times we over analyze our next move instead of looking for the obvious and acting on it. What changed the outcome of that early-season hunt was realizing what needed to be done differently regardless of how uncomfortable the conditions were. Furthermore, hunting according to what I saw was happening instead of staying in my comfort zone and hunting according to what I THOUGHT the deer should be doing turned my hunt from boredom to back straps.
Keep your eyes open and your planner ready to make a change of plans at the last minute when it counts the most. . .you will be glad you did!
The Author, Bill Lee Smalls, is an avid bow hunter who promotes and supports all men, women and children who love the outdoors.
To share stories or to contact Bill you can find him on Facebook @ Smalls Outdoor Addiction.