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By Mike Lamade
Jun 18, 2007 – 12:17:19 AM
From Birthday Blues to Smiling Success.
I should have been excited. It was the night before the opening of the 1984 Pennsylvania late bow season-an event that usually gets my adrenaline pumping. But I wasn’t excited-I felt depressed.
The fire in the wood stove crackled and spit as I sat alone and listened to a howling northwest wind roar through the big beech outside my home.
Post-holiday blues, I thought to myself, for Christmas had just passed. Everyone feels a natural letdown, I told myself-but I wasn’t very convincing. I knew there was another factor involved. The next day was my birthday-my 50th.
Fifty! A half-century?damn! Like they say, “time sure flies when you’re havin’ fun”?and raising kids, pursuing careers, paying mortgages. “It’s just another birthday,” I said aloud. “Snap out of it.”
Deciding perhaps that the TV would help, I found myself in the middle of “The A-Team.” Great, this should do the trick. During a commercial break, the surgeon general announced, “if you’re over 50, here are the danger signs you should watch for.” I turned off the TV. The A-Team always comes out on top anyway.
I turned my thoughts to the next day’s late season opener and my unused tag. We’re only allowed one deer, either sex and my tag was still good as I’d been holding out for a nice buck during the regular season in October. I’d taken a 6×6 elk in September in Colorado and wanted a respectable whitetail to hang next to him. I hadn’t yet seen one.
I had my eye on a winter wheat field near my place since it had been planted the previous fall. A succulent green cover crop is a perfect magnet to draw winter whitetails and I had seen deer in the fields for the past week, just at dusk. Tomorrow we’ll see who’s gittin’ old, I said to myself. I felt better already, just planning the hunt.
It was too early to go to bed. I decided to try the TV again.
Good! A Bert Reynolds movie. Too bad it’s not “Deliverance.” That would really get me psyched for a bowhunt.
Commercial break: “If you’re over 50, write to the AARP to get your free brochure on the high cost of health care.”
Unbelievable! It must be a conspiracy of some sort, I said to myself. I turned off the TV and went to bed.
The next morning-my 18,000th to be exact-a two-inch snowfall covered the ground. It was perfect for locating runs leading to the green fields. After a leisurely breakfast I headed for the target area to put up my portable stand. Within minutes I discovered a heavy run in the fresh snow. It entered a back corner of the field. Following it into the woods, I found that it led to a hemlock thicket about a quarter mile away-a natural bedding area. Don’t get too close!
I hung my stand in a maple 15 yards above the run. If the wind stayed the same, the deer would have to pass me before getting my scent. I’d have to rely on being completely motionless, because I had no cover in the bare tree. I headed home, confident that I’d have action later in the afternoon. After lunch I took a shower to eliminate as much human scent as possible. I considered using some type of cover scent to mask any remaining giveaway odors, but decided not to. There were no pine trees nearly, the apples and acorns were gone, and the rut was over. Although many hunters swear by them, I hadn’t had much luck using cover or attractor scents-however, I’m always experimenting.
I remember a few years ago when a spike buck got a nose full of skunk scent I had put out near my stand. That deer could have won first prize as the best “buckin’ bronc” at the Cheyenne rodeo. He jumped stiff-legged, straight up in the air, then ran in a circle snorting loud enough to alert every creature within a half mile. He carried on like that for about three minutes before going back up the mountain. I got dressed for the hunt, starting with Damart underwear, something I’m never without during cold weather. Wool pants and shirt topped off with a set of Trebark camouflage completed the outfit. I felt that this drab camo pattern would best blend in with the drab tree trunks of the winter woods.
At 3 p.m. I headed back to my spot. I’d have close to two hours, which would be plenty for this time of year. Surprisingly, it began to warm up and must have been close to 40 degrees-very unusual for this part of the state in late December.
I climbed into my stand and began to enjoy the solitude of the forest; I guess that’s one of the main reasons I bowhunt. It began to rain a light drizzle. The warm air hitting the cold snow soon produced a layer of fog that drifted mysteriously through the naked trees. It reminded me of one of Ned Smith’s beautiful wildlife prints. The only thing missing was the deer. At 4:15 this impressionistic scenario was completed. Out of the fog they came, single file, directly on the run I had chosen. Six, eight, twelve, I counted to myself. No antlers. A big doe was in the lead, most likely the matriarch of the small herd. I knew once she passed me that she had a good chance of catching my scent and it would all be over. She kept coming down the run, only 30 yards away now, followed by the others at five-yard intervals.
She stopped and looked over her shoulder, checking on her followers. I took the opportunity to shift my position slightly and extend my 60-pound Laser magnum in the direction where I knew the shot would take place.
She began moving again down the trail. Closer and closer she came-she walked by me slowly at 15 yards. I drew, lining up the top peep and post of my Altier Bowhunting Rifle Sight on a spot tight behind the shoulder. I released, sending the Snuffer broadhead attached to a 2216 swedged Camo Hunter shaft on its way. She went down in full view within 60 yards from a well-placed shot through both lungs.
As I lowered my bow to the ground I couldn’t help but smile. Although there were no antlers, she was a special trophy to me. After 25 years of bowhunting in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, she was the 50th whitetail I’d taken with a bow.
And I’d done it on my 50th birthday!
As I carefully field dressed her, I realized my depression was gone. Maybe getting older wasn’t so bad after all. You’ll just have to judge for yourself when you get there.
This story appeared in the January 1986 issue of Bowhunter magazine. Only one deer of either sex was allowed to be taken at the time, even though Pennsylvania was experiencing its highest deer population of the century.