This past hunting season was one of the most memorable hunting seasons I’ve ever had. There were many highs and lows, many memories made, and perseverance and dedication were needed more than ever. My season started out pretty disappointing. I went in a couple weeks before archery season started to check my trail cameras one last time, and hang the final sets for the season, when I discovered a tree stand that was not mine. Trey and I were the only two people who had permission to hunt this property, and it was not one of our stands. Confused, I then continued to go on my normal route of checking my cameras. As I approached the next camera set, I could not seem to pick out where my camera was. It was then when I realized my trail camera in that area had been stolen. We were not only dealing with trespassers at this point, we were also dealing with thieves. We then tried to get the situation settled, and thought we had, until the second week of archery season rolled around. I was up in my stand, and I heard loud footsteps. I looked around and noticed it was a hunter walking on the path that comes directly to my tree stand. He got to about 50 yards and noticed I was there. He quickly realized he probably shouldn’t keep walking, and he turned around and hurried out of the area before I could get down to talk to the trespasser. This hunter had no permission to be in here, and I had no idea how much he had been in there or if he had been messing up one of our best farms we had permission to hunt. I was guilty of pretty much “putting all my eggs in one basket” with this property. I knew the caliber of deer on this farm and dedicated 90% of my offseason preparation to this property. After this incident, I didn’t want to feel like I was “giving up” or “letting the other guy win”, but there are just some things that are not worth risking your precious hunting time over. I wasn’t going to continue hunting this property if I had a trespasser that was messing up my spot, and stealing my valuable hunting equipment. I decided to hang some more stands at some of the other properties I had permission to hunt, and pretty much abandoning my best spot to hunt.
I was splitting my hunting time between the Southeast Pennsylvania area, where I attend college, and Central Pennsylvania, where my home is. The only problem was I had done minimal scouting at both of these spots because, again, I put all my eggs in one basket. I started seeing deer in good numbers as the season went on, as well as many younger bucks. I was starting to become hopeful that things might turn around for me. Fast forward, the date is November 11, 2017. It is the last day of the Pennsylvania Archery season, with the rut pretty much in full swing. I am hunting one of our better farms in Central PA. Just before first light, I already have a shooter buck under my tree, literally standing at 5 yards. He was grunting like crazy. He would get about 50 yards, and I would grunt to keep him around. I was just trying to keep him in the area until I had enough camera light to shoot him. After sticking around for about 5 minutes, he became uninterested in my grunts and walked off, I was disappointed, but knew that was a good sign to start off the day. I ended up seeing a total of 10 different bucks that day, 3 being shooters. One of the shooters was at 63 yards on a trail that eventually leads right to a 30 yard shot from my stand. The buck was on a doe and she veered off the path and went another way. About 5 minutes later, I could hear the sound of a crossbow firing. I knew someone on the neighbor’s property had gotten a shot at this beautiful buck. A few minutes later, Trey’s dad sends me a picture, “Kirk just shot this beauty.” Kirk is the neighbor, and it was the buck I had at 63 yards. Do I feel comfortable shooting at 63 yards? Sure. Could I have taken the risky shot while he was broadside on the trail? Sure. But that is just too risky of a shot to take on such a beautiful buck, and a low percentage shot at that. I was ecstatic for Kirk that he had gotten a chance at this beautiful, mature, PA 7 point. Archery season had come to an end without harvesting a buck for me. I had one date that I was looking forward to immediately; November 27. The first day of the PA rifle season.
November 27, 2017 was here. I had hung a stand two days prior in a bedding area in which I knew the deer felt very comfortable. I figured with the orange army coming out, the deer would pile into this bedding area to feel safe and protected. I saw deer right away from first light on. I heard sticks cracking, leaves crunching, then saw a body coming my way. Then, I saw a rack. My heart instantly started racing, and once I got a better look at him, I knew I was going to take a shot if I was presented a chance. He read the script perfectly, and came to an opening at about 50 yards. I put the camera on him, hit record on the Tactacam, and was ready to go. I put the crosshairs right behind the front shoulder, took a deep breath, and squeezed. Down he went. The emotion that overcame me in those next minutes was something that is unexplainable and indescribable. It is why we hunt. I never thought I was going to get a shot off, with so many close calls all season. I was immediately so grateful to God for giving me that opportunity. I called Trey a few minutes later after my emotions settled a little bit, and I can tell you that he may have been more excited than I was, if that’s even possible. And that right there is what makes this thing so great. He knew how hard we had been hunting, and for it all to finally come together, is an indescribable feeling of accomplishment, relief, and gratitude.
You see, sometimes in life God throws obstacles at us to test us and make us better. I was so confused and was questioning why these things were happening to me. I had put in so much work in the summer months preparing, scouting, etc. and I was going to be put in this situation? It did not make sense to me at the time, and I fell guilty to not looking at the bigger picture knowing that God has a plan for me, and this was all part of His plan. He had a plan to teach me about persistence, perseverance, and determination. The scripture says, in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” This verse is exactly the verse I needed to get me through the season. Knowing that if I stuck with it and put hours in the tree, God would reward me with a harvest of some kind. Even if this didn’t mean a 150” buck that I was after because, again, it is all in His plan for things to happen at certain times. The buck I was able to harvest this year meant a little bit more to me than just the amount of inches of bone on his head. It was God speaking to me and giving me a chance at a harvest I thought I would never get the chance at this year. So, my friends and fellow hunters, I am telling you that even if things just aren’t going your way; if you can’t seem to catch a break. Stick with it, and praise God along the way. He is going to lead you places. And to that, I say Amen.