Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Than Just A Deer Hunt

I love this time of the year for two reasons - deer hunting and football. Honestly, deer hunting is probably the main reason. I've enjoyed it since I was 14 years old. I think I enjoy it more now than I did before my transplant due to being unable to hunt from 2004 through 2006. Back then, my heart was too sick and weak. The old adage "you don't know what you've got until it's gone" is soooo true !! I know from experience.

I'm able to hunt again not only because of my new lease on life, but also because of some great hunting buddies. These include my dad and my buddies Dennis, Phil, Gary, and others. Although I am able to go hunting, I am not strong enough to hike very far back in the woods or field dress and drag a deer out by myself. I am blessed by having these guys to help. I couldn't do what I love to do without them.

My 2010 deer season got off to an ugly, ugly start. In fact, the one thing that I've always hoped would never happen to me did so the second weekend of bow season - I lost a deer I shot with my crossbow. It was a medium size doe that I shot at less than 20 yards away. I saw the arrow hit her and hit her hard. She ran about 50 yards, turned around, and looked at me for 3 or 4 minutes before blowing and running off into the woods. I found no blood at the spot where she was standing when I shot her, but my buddy, Phil, and I found a good size pool where she stood for so long. However, we searched for two hours where she went into, as well as in the woods, without finding her or another drop of blood. I was devastated. The last thing I ever want to do is not kill an animal cleanly and quickly. Plus, I don't want to let good meat go to waste. To me, it's wrong. I took it hard. No more archery for me. I decided to sell the crossbow. I should have two years ago when I got my only two archery deer. They left virtually no blood trail either. Fortunately, they fell in the field and were easy to find. That experience should have been a warning. From now on, it's firearms only for me. Archery equipment doesn't get the job done. The deer deserve better than what that doe got that day. A rifle significantly lessens the odds of that happening. I don't want that happening again.

Muzzleloader seasoned opened here in Tennessee on November 6th. I'd been looking forward to it ever since that dismal day in October. I knew if I had the opportunity to shoot a deer with my muzzleloader, it was going down. No ifs, ands, or buts. However, about three weeks before the opener, I learned of a men's retreat my church was having that weekend. One of the guys at church asked me if I would be there, and I said, "No. I'll be deer hunting." Little did I know ....

2010 has been a tough year for me. Several things have proven unsuccessful, and as I type this, I'm recovering from my fourth outpatient skin cancer surgery in the last five months. As the days ticked down toward the muzzleloader opener, I was constantly reminded of the men's retreat. I did not want to go. I wanted to hunt. However, it was as if something was nagging me into going. I realized it was the Lord impressing upon me that I needed to be at that retreat. Due to the struggles of 2010, I decided to go. There was a reason I was supposed to be there. I didn't know why, but I knew I had to go - period. I could always hunt on Saturday afternoon when the retreat was over.

The retreat was led by a gentleman named Phil Mason of Safe Place Ministries, Inc. Phil is a great speaker with a simple, easy to understand message. I listened, learned, matured, and grew in the retreat. When it wrapped up Saturday afternoon, I headed home, called my hunting buddy Dennis, ate some lunch, put on my camo, and went to meet him. He told me our hunting buddy Phil had got his first buck, a 7-pointer, earlier that morning where we were about to hunt. In fact, they had seen five bucks !! However, I began wondering what our chances were for success since Phil had shot there that morning. Plus, one of the neighbors had just started target shooting. Dennis said, "That ain't good." I replied with a simple, "Nope," thinking the noise was further dimishing our chances for success. However, since we were there, I figured we might as well give it a try. Then it dawned on me - that guy target shoots frequently. The deer may be used to it and it not bother them. Maybe our chances were better than we thought.

I got set up about 3:30 PM after hanging out some buck lure which included both Tink's 69 and Code Blue. I thought I'd give the deer a variety. Nothing happened for the first hour. Then, the wind shifted to the east blowing directly to where I guessed the deer would be. I let out a couple of doe bleats. Approximately 15 minutes later, I see movement and a buck jumps the fence, starts into the field, and begins looking for the "hot doe" he smells. As soon as I see him, I know I'm shooting him. With my muzzleloader up on my Primos bi-pod Trigger Stick, I look the buck over thoroughly through the scope trying not to move too much. I count at least 8 points with five on the right side. It hits me - this is the biggest deer I've ever had a chance to shoot !!  Not seeing "the doe," the buck begans slowly browsing his way toward me. At about 75 yards he turns hard right and begins heading towards the woods. He doesn't have a clue I'm there, and I know I have to take him now, or he's gone.

I cock the hammer and squeeze the trigger - "BOOOOMMMMM !!" The smoke clears quickly and I see the buck take off into the woods with his head down and back hunched up. I know he's hit good and ain't going far. Dennis comes to find me, and Phil just happens to be in the neighborhood hearing our conversation on the two-way radio even though we're having "Technical Difficulties." Phil brings the truck back to help us get the buck. Dennis and Phil pick up my gear and take it to the truck and leave me alone with the deer who barely made it 50 yards.

My first trophy buck - November 6, 2010 - 9 points, 118 lbs. field dressed.

Now it's just me, the buck, and the Lord - alone momentarily. I start counting antler points - 1, 2, 3 ,4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 !!!!!!! As I hold those antlers in my hands, a verse of scripture comes to mind. Its Matthew 6:33 and are the words of Jesus which say :
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
I began to think about the fact that this, after 26 years of deer hunting, was my first trophy buck. It happened under less than ideal hunting conditions. Why today ?? Was it just my day - finally ?? Had I finally done every thing right ?? Or, was there another reason ?? I wonder if "Divine Intervention" could have played a part ??

Some will say the "Divine Intervention" idea is silly. They'll say something like, "God doesn't care about deer hunting." And you know what - they might be right. However, through all my years in church, I've always heard, "God works in mysterious ways." I believe that. Plus, since He made us all different individuals, I also believe He teaches and speaks to each of us in unique and different ways if we'll just take the time to listen and / or pay attention. Ever since that hunt one week and a half ago, I can't help but wonder if God bestowed a blessing upon me in the form of that 9-point buck because I was obedient to Him in attending that men's retreat. Could it have been His way of teaching me that He blesses obedience ?? I don't believe in luck or coincidences but believe that everything happens for a reason. I also believe that this 9-pointer was about more than just a deer hunt. Call me silly if you want to. I don't care, and I've been called a lot worse.

I have to thank my dad for getting me started deer hunting some 26 years ago. Plus, my wife for putting up with all the early mornings and my hunting buddies (Dennis, Phil, Gary, and others through the years) for providing property to hunt on and the help in getting the deer out of the woods. On November 6th, I felt like I had won the Super Bowl and got a taste of what Dale Earnhardt must have felt like when finally winning the Daytona 500 after 20 years of trying. It took me 26, and I couldn't have done it without everyone's help.

Lastly, I have to thank Kent (below left), my donor. If it wasn't for he and his family's priceless gift, it's highly likely that I would not have been alive to enjoy this hunt. If you have not signed up to be an organ and tissue donor, I want to encourage you to do it today. You could be the reason someone else has the additional time to enjoy their biggest deer or another special accomplishment. All you have to do is visit the Donate Life America website and click on your state to find out how to become an organ and tissue donor. Please do it today. Be a hero like Kent.


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