The first week of November is a time that bowhunters mark on their calendar every year as a period that is magical in the woods, and offers hope of getting a crack at filling a tag. This proved to be true as I found myself kneeling over a mature 4x5 on the dreary evening of November 3rd. I had just taken my 2nd buck of the 2018 season but it was a bitter sweet feeling of being done. At the time, I thought I was tagged out with 2 turkeys to go to fill the remainder of the Super Tag, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Three weeks later, I found out that I had been given the opportunity to purchase a 3rd buck tag since the Super Tag did not count towards my regular archery tags for the year. With a mature 7x5 point on camera and Thanksgiving break just around the corner, I jumped at the opportunity to buy a 3rd buck tag in hopes of having a chance at him. The bittersweet feeling was gone and now had turned into anticipation and excitement. After hunting a few days over Thanksgiving break with no sign of the mature 12, I returned to school for the remainder of the semester with the thought in mind that my Christmas beak would be focused mainly on filling the two turkey tags remaining on my Super Tag, as well as filling the freezer with some does. Little did I know what the next two weeks would have in store.
The Friday before finals I was walking back to my apartment with the thought in mind that I would spend the entire weekend preparing for finals. A quick phone call to my dad would change these plans within a matter of minutes. After talking to my dad, I made a spur of the moment decision to return home. I used the excuse that being at home would help me focus on studying more, but with a perfect wind, and 3 beautiful days in the forecast following the blizzard, I knew there was more reason to make the 2 and a half hour drive home for other than just studying. Within a matter of 15 minutes, I had packed my bags packed, grabbed my bow, and of course my books, and was on the road.
The next morning we checked trail cameras and one revealed to us a massive, mature 4x5 that had wandered through multiple times the last few days in daylight, as well as heavy deer activity the past week. Needless to say, my attention turned from schoolwork to the buck that had been making several appearances in the last few days with the recent snowstorm. The wind had changed for the worse so I wasn’t able to hunt the stand I wanted and it looked like it wasn’t going to happen.
After studying, I decided that I would take my gear with me and make a quick hunt on my way back to school that Sunday since the wind had changed for the better. It was a bitterly cold evening and I climbed into my tree and practiced drawing my bow with all of my layers on as I typically do. After not being able to draw my bow comfortably, I shed a few layers, re-knocked an arrow, practiced drawing again, and turned around to sit down for the next several hours. My heart jumped in my throat as I caught a glimpse of white tines raking a cedar tree just 50 yards away. I couldn’t believe it. It was the same mature 9 point that we had on camera the past week. With the cover of the wind, the buck was completely unaware I was there. After watching the buck for more than 10 minutes, I watched as he walked behind a brush pile and stood for a few minutes. Moments later the tops of his tines dropped down and disappeared behind the brush pile just 70 yards from the base of my tree.
Time seemed to creep by as I kept my eyes focused on the brush pile where the buck had disappeared. A long, nerve racking hour later, the buck revealed himself once again and made his way over to the same cedar he had been shredding earlier. This time as he paused at the tree, he turned straight towards me, and stared at the trail straight ahead of him. With a flick of his tail, he was now on a mission down the trail that passed right under my stand. The buck took his time as he made his way toward me. As the buck veered right 5 yards from me and stepped into an opening 15 yards away, I drew my bow and settled my pin on his last rib as he quartered away. I touched off the shot and the buck leaped forward with my arrow sticking from his side. He jumped over a log and ran back towards the direction that he was bedded in, leaving a crimson trail in the fresh snow behind him. Moments later, through a small opening, I saw the buck tip over backwards and the woods fell silent. “That never gets old,” I whispered to myself with a smile on my face.
I sat in the stand for a few moments taking it all in. After a few minutes, I reached into my pocket for my phone and called my dad telling him the news. A little while later we took pictures, loaded the buck, and I was on my way back to school for the finals week on an emotional high! This is not where the story ends however.
Finals week flew by and before I knew it I was on my way home for a three and a half week break with plans to spend the first few days at the cabin in hopes of punching the remainder of the super tag with a couple of turkeys.
The first night, I sat in a tree stand in hopes of filling a doe tag, or have a chance at one of turkeys that had been hanging around the area. As I was leaning back in the tree, soaking in the warmth of the sun, the purr of a flock of turkeys broke the silence. I looked up to see a flock of 20-30 birds coming through some cedars. I made a few yelps and slowly hooked my release on my loop and picked out one of the biggest jakes as they neared the trees I was in. My arrow hit on a dime and the Jake made it another 10 yards before collapsing. “Perfect, one down, one to go”, I thought. The next day I would awake to a crisp, frosty morning and return to the same stand. An hour later, a group of does came by at 17 yards and I picked one out. I shot and watched as the doe trotted off, only making it 30 yards before going down within sight behind my stand. Christmas break was off to a hot start!
After celebrating family Christmas, I returned for a doe hunt a few evenings later. Low and behold, the same flock of turkeys was once again making their way along the sidehill about 40 yards from my position. Two of the Jakes held up behind the rest of the flock as they headed over the ridge. I picked out the lead bird and settled my pin. I watched as my arrow hit exactly where I was aiming. The bird flopped and within seconds, he was finished. I walked over and grabbed my prize. To many, it may have seemed like any other fall turkey, but to me, it was the end of a 3 and a half month long journey that had been full of the craziest experiences I had ever been through in my life. My Super Tag was now complete. All with my bow in one season!
Days later, after celebrating family Christmas at my grandparents’, I made the 2 mile drive to our cabin in hopes of punching my last doe tag and finishing out the season. An hour into the hunt, I found myself drawing back on a mature doe as she fed in the rye just 21 yards from my stand. I released the final arrow of the season and watched as it found its mark in the center of the heart. A short tracking job later, and I was standing over my season finale just as the first flakes began to fall of the incoming 2-day storm, a perfect ending to say the least. I took time to take a few self-timed photos, grabbed my gear, and began the hike back to my cabin. This season will be hard to top; I have been blessed with opportunities I could have never dreamed of. As I hiked out of the bottom, I began to reflect on the entire season. From drawing the Super Tag in July, to bugling bulls in early September, to the snow filled days of the late season and everything in between, the experiences that I had, the people I shared them with, and the animals I have harvested will all stick with me for the rest of my life. I try to take time to thank God every day that he made me a bow hunter, and as I found myself reflecting on a dream season as I walked out of the bottom in the fading light with the snow falling down, I had all the reason to thank Him even more.