Monday, November 30, 2015

My 2015 Family Whitetail Hunt in New York

My doe taken during the 2015 NY archery season. Please excuse the terrible pose.

Filling my freezer was always on my mind, but that wasn't the reason I went to NY to hunt. While most would just want to fill a tag, I wanted to see my family and hunt with them. My NY trip was full of laughter, awesome hunting, crazy weather, and a filled cooler for the flight home. The most important part of the trip was spending quality family time with those I love.

Getting into a treestand on day one was nothing. The decisions I would have to make once in the stand were some of the most difficult hunting decisions I have had to make. I sat in the stand, not 70 yards from my brother in his stand, for about two and a half hours before I hear that distinctive crunch of leaves. This was unmistakable as there had been plenty of black, red, and grey squirrels running around all afternoon. I turned toward the sound and saw a head poking through the brush. The button buck slowly came right up the trail I had walked in on, stopped 20 yards away, and waited. The second button buck followed and stood right next to his brother. I wanted to see what was following them and sure enough, a very large doe walked out and stopped perfectly broadside. I made the decision that she was going to fill my tag. She was downwind of me, but she didn't show signs of agitation. As I readied my bow, something set her off and she blew a snort and took off back the way she came. The two brothers took off the opposite way, toward my brother and stopped. Then they slowly walked back toward me and fed for 10-15 minutes along the way. One of the button bucks had a large body and I seriously contemplated shooting him. You see, I am all about filling my freezer. After traveling 3,000 miles, I was ready for some venison. Instead of drawing back though, I observed. I watched the bucks walk around my stand, upwind and down, back and forth, and stop to look around. The biggest walked directly under my stand and fed on lush wild green something. It was such a great sight to see. As they walked away, I thought about passing on them and how they may have been the only opportunities I would have, but it didn't bother me. I hoped that they would grow to be bigger bucks next year.

Hunting the following day near my Uncle David's house brought back some great memories. I was able to sit inside some incredible hardwoods and enjoy the sights, smells, and irritating squirrels I hadn't missed since moving to California. Ha! It was great to be back. The day was fairly uneventful until the evening watch. I sat in a large hickory tree where you could literally see for miles. About an hour before dark, my instincts told me to turn around and look behind the tree. I watched for two or three seconds when a doe appeared. Right behind her was the biggest buck I had ever seen while hunting. His 11-point rack was nothing compared to his massive rut-ridden body. He bounded right after her and gave me no shot, but it was a thrill to see. Almost immediately, a smaller buck appeared where they had taken off from and began threading his way through a grove of saplings. He ventured away from me as darkness fell. What a great day!

The next days were filled with laughter, stories, crazy weather, and all around a great time. We saw few or no deer within shooting distance. My brother saw more deer than all of us in one particular area. Unfortunately, they were near a different stand that was out of shooting range. The next day, my dad was able to fill one of his antlerless deer permits. It felt great to have a deer down and ready to hang. We knew the rut was heating up, so our plan for my last day of hunting was to utilize the stands we were in when my dad got his deer.

The final morning of my hunt was beautiful. A brisk morning greeted us as we all got set before sunrise. Once the sun hit the forest floor, it came to life! I watched a large mink tear through the woods and the squirrels scattered faster than I've ever seen them move. Much more happened over the next couple hours, but the best part was when I caught a glimpse of some deer near my brother's stand. I heard an arrow 'crack' and the deer take off toward the edge of the woods. The deer I could see was not hurt, so I figured my brother either had one down or he had missed. The doe I could see walked into an overgrown field of goldenrod and surprisingly, she turned around and walked right back into the woods. She took a deer trail that would lead right to my shooting lane! As I got ready for her to step out, I saw the second doe behind her. I hadn't seen her before, but now I had to be cautious with my movement. Another set of eyes could screw up everything! She stepped out to a spot that I had ranged earlier and started feeding on acorns. I drew, anchored, and let the arrow fly. She jumped the string, but the speed behind my arrow allowed my broadhead to catch the top of her back. She ran back into the woods about 40 yards and stopped with the other deer. I was incredibly upset that I had injured a deer and had missed at chip shot range. To my sheer surprise, once again, the deer turned around and took another trail behind my stand. She walked out and sniffed the air. I figured this time she would bolt, but she stomped, snorted, and kept inching forward. I moved my bow to the opposite side of the tree where I figured she would give me a shot. I drew my bow and waited. This time my arrow would not miss. She bounded away about 50 yards, stopped, and toppled over.  It wouldn't matter if I filled one tag or ten tags, taking this particular doe felt perfect. My brother watched the whole thing unfold from his stand and we now had a great story to tell. 

It seems that my claim to fame is to wait until the last day of each hunting trip to fill my tags. When I think back on it, it is true on many of my hunts over the years. My first elk, my first California deer, and my deer this year come to mind right away. I have to stop doing that!

The best parts of the entire trip for me were how well we work together and have a great time. We got the deer back to the house and began the process of breaking it down and packaging it up for my trip home. We worked quickly and efficiently, all while listening to the football game and sharing the stories of the week. I am going to think about those stories often.

My family put in a ton of hard work before I got there and I want to thank them for it. The amount of time they spent driving to locations, setting up countless trail cameras, setting up a small city of tree stands, and then making the meals and coffee allowed me more time to spend with them and to hunt. Thank you, Dad. Thank you, BJ. You guys made this feel like a guided trip to NY! I think the only thing I made on this trip was a cup of coffee in the morning. I also want to thank the companies and the people behind the brands that sponsor me each year; HHA Sports, Badlands, MINOX Optics, TightSpot, and Piranha Bowstrings. Thank you all for making the best products for hunting and for taking care of me. I also must thank my wife for putting up with my increased desire to be in the woods to hunt. She is a very strong woman and I owe her big time. No, she did not hack my post. I just know when I have it good!

Now that I am back in Cali, I have a freezer full of whitetail and a head full of great memories. I am always thankful for the time I get to spend with my family. The trip made me think about how much I truly love whitetail hunting and how I am already looking forward to hunting with my family again. Life is great and I am a blessed man. 

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