Who would be crazy enough to drive 4 hours one-way to hunt for a total of three sits? How about two college kids who have an archery addiction. When I texted Tyler on Wednesday asking if he’d be up for a trip south on the following Saturday to hunt a property we’d never stepped foot on, I certainly didn’t expect the answer I got. The text went something like, “I can’t tell if you’re serious, but you don’t need to ask me twice.”. No questions asked, no second thoughts, no hesitation. Little did we know, this trip would bring us even closer together, and have lessons and memories that we’d remember forever. That’s the beauty of hunting, you just never know what the Lord has in store.
We left Central Pennsylvania around 8 p.m., and arrived around midnight. We’d decided on the way down that we would spend the next morning riding the property to try and get a grasp of what the deer movement looked like, and give ourselves the best chance of success. I hung my set in a stand of open woods surrounded by cut fields and holly trees, the ground was littered with scrapes and trails, and I was sure this was going to be the spot to get it done. Ty ultimately picked a tree in a big stand of pines surrounded by what we figured was bedding, and enclosed by the most rubs we’d ever seen in one area. With our stands hung, we went and grabbed ourselves some lunch, and got dressed for the first of two evening sits.
We settled into our sets around 2:30, and I immediately got a text from Ty saying he had a lone doe come in and bed at 40 yards (Keep in mind we have 4 doe tags and 2 buck tags). Just seeing deer was a success for us, but this was instant. I immediately thought this trip was going to have a handful of red arrows in store for us. Ty didn’t get a shot at this doe, but in the meantime was sending me text after text about how many deer he had around him. I got a call about 4:15 and I thought he’d hammered one. I answer to hear slight laughter and listen to the story about how he just shot his first fox. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in a treestand listening to him tell this story, trying to keep myself together as much as I could. At the end of the first night, Ty had seen 21 deer, I saw none.
The next morning was more of the same, Ty had deer constantly filter through, while I got beat yet again. Ty saw a mature 8 that morning as well, which meant he probably wasn’t going to shoot a doe since his heart was now set on a mature buck. Meanwhile, I was just itching to shoot any mature deer that made the mistake of stepping in front of me.
The final evening was upon us, and I decided to make a move into another area we’d scouted. Instantly Ty had deer in front of him, while I had nothing. Finally about 30 minutes before last light, I had a mature doe step out. The sleet and snow made for a miserable sit, and I had some frustration built up, and unfortunately for her, I decided she’d be my relief. I stopped her at 27 yards, and she stepped behind a large tree, not giving me a shot, and also picking me off. She ran to about 34 yards and stood broadside blowing at me. At this point my emotions got the best of me and I let one rip just out of frustration. I thought I absolutely smoked this deer, only to climb down and see white hair on my Rage with no blood. Instantly I knew I messed up. Not because I missed, but because I let my emotions overrule my knowledge as an archer. I wasn’t upset by my shooting ability, or the fact that I missed. As a bowhunter, if you say you haven’t missed, you’re either lying or you haven’t had the chance to. It was not going to define me as a man or as a hunter, but instead I learned a lesson. No matter how frustrated, mad, excited you are, your knowledge as a hunter needs to be stronger, and next time a situation like that happens, I’ll do it right.
Philippians 3:13-14 says this, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Just like hunting, as followers of Christ, we need to learn from the mistakes we made in life, and learn. Our mistakes do not define us, but our push towards the ultimate goal, and the lessons we take away do. Just like our pursuit of that big buck, and the journey of ups and downs that it takes to get there, so as our Christian walk should be the same, as the Word says.
No, we didn’t kill a deer, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a successful trip. It was full of laughter, stories, and we outsmarted one of the smartest animals on the planet in just a day and a half. The memories we made are what it’s ultimately about. The lessons we learned are what it’s about. The fact that I was blessed enough to have a best friend who will take an 8 hour trip with me to hunt is what it’s about. Not the kill.