It was the second day of the 2017 Round Lake Bow Camp. I was enjoying a cup of coffee and getting my gear ready for the days hunt when I heard Bill enthusiastically say, “Todays the day”. I smiled, agreed, and stepped out of the cozy cabin to be greeted by the frosty morning air. Fresh snow had dropped the temp’s over-night and it was a perfect day to be in the woods with the Deer Rut in full swing. Promise hung in the air like a snow laden pine bough.
The trusty Jeep jumped to a start and Bill backed out of the garage. I took a quick glance over the quiet lake and loaded up my bow and day pack. Before long, icy swirls of air reached around the wind-shield and into the open cab, reminding me it was late October. About a mile drive down the gravel cabin road Bill rolled to a stop at my drop-off, I picked up my gear, wished my hunting partner well, and listened to the five-speed work through the gears as the head-lights disappeared down the trail.
As I step into the deer woods the first few minutes are a spiritual pause for me. I take time to give thanks, worship, pray for my family, friends, and ask the Father’s blessing on the day. It is humbling as well, knowing that my ultimate-goal is to take the life of a magnificent Whitetail. My eyes adjust to the blackness and I head up a path we call Ruby’s Road.
A stand of Norway Pines I often hunt loomed up on my left, tall shadows against the first glimmer of light. I recall yesterday’s still-hunt after my young buck encounter. I was slipping between these ancient guardians when I spotted a Doe moving through the trees to my left. I stopped, she paused to look my way for a moment and continued. Shielded behind the old-growth I pulled up to full draw in anticipation of the Doe breaking out to my right. I caught a glimpse of her gliding through the brush but she had angled well out of range. I released tension on my bow and stood for some time. My heart returned to its normal cadence. Another amazing close encounter.
I decided to walk past the silent towers and strike for the log I watched the Fork-Horn buck from the day before. I followed my tracks and was set up with plenty of time to witness the forest come alive with first light. After sitting for an hour, I decided to move to the opposite side of the clearing where another inviting downfall offered a view to the north. This proved to be a mistake. Another hour passed and my heart quickened when I heard the unmistakable sound of deer meandering through the woods. I strained my senses. Waited for an appearance. But to my disappointment the deer circled behind. Their presence faded West into Ruby’s slough. I scolded myself knowing that I would have seen the deer if I had not relocated.
After pouting for awhile I checked my phone. Bill had a buck down! I collected my gear and struck out for the customary rendezvous and lend a helping hand. Another text came with a picture. Holy Crap!!! It was a big ole Swamp Buck!!! Bill’s prophetic words from the morning deer-camp had been fulfilled, “Today’s the day”.
I was so happy for my hunting buddy. It was his first deer after a many year sabbatical from bow-hunting. When I came out to the road Bill was all smiles, waiting in the Willy’s to spare me the mile walk to his downed deer.
Bill had made it to his stand in time for the sunrise as well. The Doe and yearling he had watched all season had not shown. It was a quiet start at the Hundred Acre Slough.
About the same time deer snuck in behind me, Bill noticed movement over his left shoulder. He cautiously turned to see a massive ten-point working a scrape line. The buck was fifty yards out but on the move towards his tree stand. At twenty-five yards the old warrior stopped and stretched up to sniff a scent wick hanging from a branch. This was the time. Bill knew he had to draw or the animal would soon be hidden in thicker cover and out of range. The old buck was quartered away hard, but there was a shot available. Instinct took over. The arrow was sent. Found its mark. The broad-head sliced through the liver, lungs, and heart. After running thirty yards the elegant creature fell on the logging trail. It was a beautiful animal that had seen many winters.
We had navigated the pot-holes and deep puddles of the logging trail back to the kill site. Bill backed the Willy’s right up to the buck and commented with a grin that he planned it that way, after the nine-point I shot last year he and his brother helped retrieve over land and water a mile back in swamp country. (After that amazing, near-death experience, I vowed to quarter any deep-woods buck I kill and pack-em out on my back).
Bill had a way with words and some-how I found myself field-dressing the animal after his long absence from deer hunting, and a wry claim he was a little out of practice. But I didn’t mind. I was so excited and having such a blast I jumped right into the task after we re-lived the thrill of ‘Bloody Bill’s’ fine shooting.
After the dirty-work was done we lugged the trophy into the back of the Willy’s and made the slow ride over the Swamp Road back to deer camp. It had been a good morning.
Bow hunting with friends is a rare opportunity. Words fail to capture the emotion, satisfaction and deep abiding joy of the adventure. It is a privilege we all hold dear to our hearts. Lets be thankful for the rich public wilderness lands we have, cherish the hunting moments, and thank God for the friends we share them with. It is a treasure few experience.