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Last Updated: Aug 6, 2010 - 1:11:39 PM
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Never Give Up
By Johnny Anderson - Friendship, Tenn
Dec 22, 2008 - 12:40:14 PM

Johnny did his own taxidermy work on this buck too.

Never, ever give up!!

    I began my archery experience back in 1979 at the tender age of 22. I must admit it got off to a somewhat rocky start. Having only toyed with an old recurve while growing up, I didn't heed the warning about shooting wooden arrows in a compound bow. It was just an old Bear Whitetail, but it had plenty enough punch to split the arrow and send the main shaft into the back of my left hand in the web between the thumb and first finger, just missing that pretty blue vein we all see so clearly. After surviving this, I thought hunting would be easy. Wrong!

    I spent the next several years getting the occasional shot, mostly missing, but, once in a while actually striking a deer, only to often lose it in a futile trailing effort. When I finally brought a doe home to skin and cook, I thought, now I'm a hunter. Wrong again! Actually, after a few more tries and failures, I gave it up and just used bowhunting for scouting purposes and concentrated my slaying efforts to guns.

    Then, when all seemed lost, technology finally got caught up with bows and with new equipment I began to take virtually every deer that got anywhere close to my treestands. This went on for so long I became disenchanted with "common" deer. I took every size from button bucks and does, to 7-pointers, but nothing bigger. Now I wanted what I'd seen in magazines and videos for so long, a "wallhanger".

    I started passing up young bucks and would only take does. All of a sudden, it seemed I saw at least a buck or two every time I climbed a tree. This went on so long, my friends questioned my honesty. They would ask how my hunt went, and I'd reply "I passed up a couple more young-uns". Their reply would be "yeah, right". It has to be kept in mind; I hunt in West Tennessee where the kill comprises about 90% or more 1 1/2 year old bucks, so almost everyone takes what they can get.

    My dad would listen to my "whining" and tell me, "Son, don't give up and it'll happen when you least expect it". I heard that line so often I would get seriously sarcastic when I heard it again. But, guess what? He was right, of course.

    He and I had been hunting almost every day in Haywood County, about 35 miles from home and I'd been seeing and passing little bucks virtually every day. Then on a nondescript Thursday, it came together. I was sitting in my treestand daydreaming when I saw a young spike buck walk into view. I left my bow hanging on a peg knowing I wouldn't consider shooting him. While I watched, another buck stepped out. A shooter!

    They were only about 30 yards away and calm. Me? I'm hanging in a tree with my pulse racing out of control, sweat beading and dripping all over me, shortness of breath, you know, Buck Fever! Big Time!

I clutched my bow in a death grip and waited. And waited. And waited. They began milling around and not coming any closer or clearer. Probably the best thing that could have happened. I began to believe I wouldn't get a shot and hung my bow up. I got out my binoculars and just sat there fascinated. Never before had I had the chance to watch such an animal from this range.

    I was thanking my lucky stars just to be there at that moment. I smiled many times as I thought about what hunting really meant. Today, I was a hunter! I didn't have to kill to love it. It seemed when I finally arrived at this conclusion, fate smiled in my direction. The spike walked right beside me and actually looked up and saw me. He must've snorted dozens of times trying to get me to move. I didn't. The big boy just looked at him like he'd lost his mind. I expected him to run away, but, he didn't think the little one knew what he was doing, apparently.

    Finally, the spike walked away and as it started getting too dark to shoot, the big boy headed my way. I did have the presence of mind to tie on a string tracker to my arrow and when the buck quartered away at about 22 yards, I let the arrow fly.

Immediately, the line began to sing as it spun out of the spool. The deer ran out of sight and just as quickly, the line stopped. Then it moved again for maybe 20 feet or so, then dead still and silence everywhere.

    By this time it was getting dark so I climbed down as quietly as I could and lay my bow down on the ground with the string still attached. I made my way to the truck as quickly and quietly as possible. As I arrived at the truck my dad and buddy walked up. As they put their bows in their cases they recounted an afternoon of nothing but squirrels and birds. Then they noticed I didn't have my bow. And when I started unloading the ATV, they became curious.

    Knowing the normal scene, they thought I'd taken a doe. As we walked back out in the woods with lights ablaze, my dad finally asked, "What'd you get?". I replied, "A 4 pointer". They both stopped in their tracks with their jaws hanging, till I said, "But I think the other side had 5 points". Then it was all I could do to keep up with them! When we got there, there couldn't have been a better sight. My friend Kenny grabbed the string and started following it and got to the buck first.

    He yelled from the darkness and when we got to him, he was kneeling with the rack in his hands and tears on his face. I have to admit we were all choked up and there was much back-slapping and hugging. I can honestly say they were much happier for me than if they'd taken the deer themselves. They knew how much it meant to me to finally "Do it" after all those years.

    I wanted to tell the story because it's one of the last times my friend Kenny hunted with us. He has since leased property in Illinois and currently pursues some "Monster" bucks. I can't afford that, so my dad and I still are partners. My dad was 73 that year, and he still goes every time I do, and times when I can't. He's the one who taught me, NEVER GIVE UP!

     By the way, the buck has never been "officially" scored, but, by using the methods I've read about, I measured it at just over 130 gross. It field dressed at 168 pounds and by the jaw I determined it to be 3 1/2 years old. I took it with an XI Flatliner, 2213 arrow tipped with a Jack-Hammer broadhead.    


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