Late Season Jitters

Bear Archery

Late Season Jitters

By P.J. Reilly

Feb 15, 2008 – 7:00:30 AM


Fortune can change in an instant. No one knows that better than a deer hunter. Hours, days and weeks spent on stand without success are forgotten the instant the sound of feet shuffling through dried leaves reaches the tree stand.

The date was Nov. 8, 2007. Including this day, just three days remained in Pennsylvania’s fall, archery deer season, and I still had an unfilled buck tag. After spending several days each week during the summer months shooting my new Fred Bear Truth bow, I desperately wanted to tag a Pennsylvania buck with it this season.

I shoot a lot of 3-D and had a lot of friends try out my new Truth bow. The most common comment was, “This is a lot of bow for under $600.

Of course, the more I wanted to shoot a buck with that bow, the worse my luck in the woods got. Though I was well acquainted with the Chester County woods where I was hunting, I couldn’t get within sight of a buck   let alone bow range – through the first four weeks of the state’s six-week season.

On Oct. 29, I dutifully climbed my favorite tree in my climbing stand and hauled up my Truth bow  well before daylight broke. It was a nice, cool morning to be in the stand and my expectations were high, despite my season-long drought on buck sightings.

I hadn’t seen any deer by 7 a.m., when I heard the unmistakable sound of a buck grunting. I looked to my left and spotted a doe bolting out of a thicket and through the open timber 50 yards in front of me.

At the sight of her, I stood up in my stand and grabbed my bow. Sure enough, buck soon materialized from the thicket. I counted seven tall tines on the buck’s ample rack and prayed that he would come my way.

After whacking a few trees with his antlers, the buck did, indeed, head out of the thicket on the trail that ran right behind my stand. His full attention was focused on the area where the doe had run out in front of me, but he didn’t take up her trail.

The buck made a beeline down the trail 10 yards behind me and so I turned to my left to prepare for a shot when he passed all the way behind my tree. When he got 10 yards from the right side of my tree, however, the buck made a U-turn, headed back the way he had come and then got on the trail of the doe he’d been chasing.

And just like that, my best chance of the season so far was gone.

Fast forward a week and a half to Nov. 8. Dawn once again found me perched in my favorite tree with my Truth bow hanging beside me. The early mornings were wearing on me and my mind was in a sort of fog as the woods grew light around me.

The sound of footsteps on dry leaves, however, instantly brought me out of my stupor at 6:30 a.m. I looked to my right and saw a small tree shaking violently about 100 yards away. I knew that tree was being attacked by a buck and I hastily rooted through my pack to find my calls.

I pulled out my can-style doe-bleat and turned it over. As soon as that bawl ended, I turned the can over and called again. Just then, I saw a deer’s body move from the tree that had been shaking, through an opening in the underbrush into a dense tangle of vines and multiflora rose.

I stood up in my stand and grabbed my bow. Within seconds, I spotted a deer sneaking through the thicket, heading my way. It was a buck!

That’s the best thing I can say about this deer. The antlers were far from being pretty. I could easily see three points on the buck’s right antler, but the left one came straight up off its head and forked. I thought it was a freak rack.

There was no question about whether or not I’d shoot should this buck give me a clean shot, however. With just three days left in the season, and given my lack of success getting close to a buck thus far, thoughts of a trophy rack went out the window and my focus was on putting some venison in the freezer.

The buck paused when he exited the thicket 50 yards to my right and he looked to his left toward the field. He was at a fork in the trail. One spur would lead him out to the field and out of my range. The other would take him 10 yards behind my tree. I wanted him to choose the latter, so I gave him another doe bleat.

The call grabbed the buck’s full attention and he stepped onto the trail that ran next to my stand. My hands quivered as I picked up my bow. Once again, I turned to my left in anticipation of the buck walking behind my tree, giving me a shot opportunity once he cleared the tree’s trunk.

Just like the buck I encountered the previous week, this buck stopped about 10 yards from the right side of my tree and my heart skipped a beat. “Not again,” I thought to myself.

No sooner had that thought crossed my mind, however, than the buck continued on its course down the trail. As soon as he stepped into a clearing on the left side of my tree, I mouthed a grunt. “Buuurp.”

In mid stride, the buck froze in place. I drew back my bow and anchored my 20-yard sight pin behind his shoulder. I squeezed the trigger on my release and the arrow sailed downward, striking home with a dull “thud.” The arrow sunk to its fletchings, which stuck out the top of the deer’s shoulder as he took off running.

The buck plowed through the woods, slamming into saplings and knocking down vines. Because of the heavy foliage still clinging to the trees and brush, I lost sight of the buck after he went about 40 yards, but I was pretty sure I heard him crash to the ground.

With knees shaking, I sat down and said a silent prayer that the buck was down. I spent the next 20 minutes organizing my gear before I climbed down from my perch and took up the trail.

There was no sign for about 15 yards past the spot where I’d shot the deer, but then a solid blood trail commenced. It was a piece of cake following that sign right to my fallen buck. As it turns out, this seven-pointer was a scrapper. His left antler was broken after it forked and his right ear had a tear in it.


 It’s not the biggest buck I’ve ever killed, but it’s a trophy I will cherish, nonetheless. Anytime I can make a clean kill with a bow and arrow, I am thrilled. And having downed this one with my new Truth bow was an added bonus.

It isn’t always the size of the buck that matters most. Sometimes it is the size of the experience and the memories generated. I’ve shot bigger bucks but this was one special day in the Pa. woods.


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