From Beaches to Bucks

I grew up in Orlando, FL – a city known for theme parks and abundant sunshine. Never had I been exposed to the concept or tradition of hunting until earlier this year, I moved to Southwest Michigan. It was January and everyone I met was already reflecting on their previous season success. The passion for sport and appreciation for the outdoors was overwhelmingly contagious. I spent the spring and summer months scouting public land, monitoring trail cameras, and listening to podcasts. Never would I have considered the amount of preseason preparation that is necessary to set up a good October hunt.

The first three weeks of hunting season were unusually warm for Michigan. Of course, I appreciated the sunshine and heat; but, the deer clearly did not. Hunt after hunt went by without sign of a single deer. I would race home from work each afternoon with the overwhelming excitement that today could be the day. The hours spent in the woods without seeing any movement began to wear on my confidence – “Where did all the deer go?”

The weekend before Halloween brought a whole new weather pattern to the Midwest. Inches of rain began to fall and the temperature dropped off into the low 40’s: a hunter’s ideal conditions. I knew the opportunity was at its best so I gathered my crossbow and slipped out into the woods adjacent to an uncut corn field. Once settled in on a tree, the cold began to set in and the rain did not improve my comfort. A few hours of silence passed and I was sure this time was turning out to be like all the others. I glanced at my watch and counted 15 more minutes remaining for shooting light. I told myself I would sit another 5 and start heading back early to get warm. Less than one minute later, two deer slowly walked in off my right shoulder.

My body froze and my heart began beating so loud, I was sure the deer could hear it. Collecting myself, two bucks were 20 yards to my right. A I sat motionless, one of the bucks began making its way to my tree. He closed in, 15, 10, 5 yards… I was sure he would spot me at this point only to turn and run. He looked up my tree and stared right at me, I stared back. After what seemed like the longest staring contest I had ever entered, he slowly turned back to the other buck and the two started to move behind me. With two bucks behind my tree, I knew I had to focus on readying myself for a good shot. My only approach was to employ my weak side and shoot left handed. Raising my bow, I turned to my right, and steadied my shoulders….arrow away at 6:55PM. The buck immediately jumped up in place and began kicking into the thick brush, ultimately crashing through sticks within seconds. Still in shock that I had just shot such a beautiful animal, I knew I had a deer down. After sitting still for another 20 minutes, I decided next it was best to go back to the car to warm up and let another hour pass before tracking. Mapping my way back to ground zero, I noticed an intense highway of blood on the leaves tracing back into the woods where I saw him take off. Within 10 minutes and 50 yards of tracking, there lay my first buck – 4 points, 130lbs.

My first buck, taken on Michigan public land.
My first buck, taken on Michigan public land.

From that moment forward, my respect for hunting has forever been transformed. Filled with mixed emotions of sadness and excitement, today I gained a new life perspective: hunting white tail deer. The patience and appreciation for the outdoors will endlessly be engraved in my heart and I am looking forward to a winter of good venison and perhaps a second deer!