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November 17, 2005

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

I am, without a scintilla of doubt, the worldís worst bow hunter. Itís taken me two days to finally figure it out after more than six years of diligently pursuing the elusive trophy buck.

That quest came to head, not once, but twice in less than 48 hours, and yours truly blew it not once, but twice.

At risk of sounding like I only hunt, and never work, Iím going to tell my tale. I guess it is as much a form of therapy for me as anything, but my psychologist noted that it might bring comfort to others who suffer similar afflictions.

My first encounter occurred on Wednesday evening, just four short days prior to the opening of rifle season, when the thousands of rounds fired off in that first 15 minutes, sends the bulk of the big boys into hiding for the next two weeks.

I was not sure what to expect, as I pulled in to my hunting spot and saw the combine running just a few hundred yards from my stand.

The machinery appeared to be better than the best scent attractants, antler rattling or bleats and grunt calls, because the timber was filled with deer.

I was thoroughly enjoying the show on Interstate Deer-50 from my seat on my stool. I saw half a dozen little bucks as they showed up for singles night at the pub.

What happened next is a bit hazy, as Iíve tried to block it out of my mind.

Iím not clear where he came from, but I still can see him, strutting majestically into the scene behind a trio of ladies. I was not the only one impressed by this big boy, as the other little bucks all seemed to part and then melt away as he marched toward my stand.

I got a couple of good looks at what was basically a 10-point rack, plus a few extra kickers here and there. What the deer lacked in width of rack he made up for in height and mass.

The girls led this monster down a path that I knew would put him on the edge of my shooting range.

I set up for the shot and donít even remember consciously releasing the volley. But Iíll never erase the memory of that green and yellow fletched arrow soaring right over the top of the deer.

I didnít have the chance to stomp and curse, because the shot simply made the deer a little concerned, and just a few steps further away.

Of course he was closer to the original arrow than I was to the rest of mine, as I had detached my quiver from my bow and there it sat at my feet while I stood motionless waiting for the deer to turn his head from my direction. When he finally trotted back into the timber. I took some solace in the fact that he was uninjured and he immediately forgot me and started chasing the girls around the brush again.

So on Thursday night I was sitting in the same stand, grasping my bow with quiver attached, and Iím straining to see the buck out of the corner of my eye because my face net is slightly obstructing my view.

I didnít have to wait long, as a huge buck charged down the path to offer a challenge to two wandering youngsters that had mistakenly strolled into his territory.

I immediately got the big deer shakes, as I watched The One. There he was, the giant I had seen the week before.

I watched in awe as he made quick work of the two little challengers. They didnít want anything to do with him.

This is all going on about 75 to 80 yards from my stand. Once his work was done, Mr. Big headed for the only doe in sight. I watched the on-again, off-again courtship for probably 30 minutes before I caught the break I needed.

While she appeared to be interested in the buck, the doe was playing hard to get. The chase took its toll on her and she finally headed my way, and slipped down the bank of the ditch to drink at the little pool of water.

The One, as I will forever refer to him, followed her to the bank. I was afraid he would join her in the ditch and they would follow it away from me, so I offered a grunt call to try and lure him out from behind the three little trees that were obstructing my shot.

My challenge appeared to backfire, as his head shot up and he looked directly at me. We commenced a stare down that seemed to last forever. I was becoming concerned I might fall out of my stand, as I fought off the shakes and tried to stand still.

Iíd say, 99 out of 100 times, that doe would have continued down the ditch to the north, taking the buck with her away from me. But luck was with me, she somehow made it back up the steep bank and came out right next to Mr. Big. That caught his attention and he forgot all about me.

The perfect scenario then ensued. The doe passed behind my stand and then turned down the path leading past my stand. The One was following close behind her.

He stopped in between a pair of small elm trees, presenting a difficult 25-yard shot, as he was quartered toward me, with too much shoulder in my sight.

But the perfect hunt continued to roll on, as he stepped out into the path stopping smack dab in the middle of my shooting lane, broadside to me at 20 yards.

The silence is broken by this terrible noise, complete with resonance and a bit of pain. I watch as my arrow flutters and falls well short, landing between the buckís legs.

The only thing worse than the pain of missing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was the discomfort on the right side of my face. It seems like that invaluable face net, which had allowed me to win the stare down with Mr. Big, somehow had become entangled in my bowstring. That obstacle was all it took to totally ruin the perfect shot.

The only thing keeping me from throwing my bow at that moment was the fact that the buck had simply jumped at the sound at his feet, run off 20 or 30 yards and started right back in after the doe. I saw him twice more that evening.

Tune in next week to see if his name has been changed to The OneÖ That Got Away.


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