Today’s post is from Jess DeLorenzo. I’ve been following along with Jess’s preparation and eventually her hunt through social media and it’s been great to see the preparation lead to great results. I hope you enjoy her post about her first buck with archery equipment! ~Will
Last year, during a severe hobby dry spell, I decided I was going to dive head first into archery. Quickly, I realized I was going to need to get serious about my gear if I was going to get serious groups. After a nice chunk of change dropped on a bow setup and months of diligent target practice, I was shooting good and ready to take it to the next level. I was feeling the pull into the woods. I had hunted a few times as a kid, but never put any serious time into it. So I started transitioning my reading about archery techniques into how to get intimate with a whitetail’s environment. Every free moment I had was spent filling my head with info from articles, books and blogs about bowhunting. It was obvious though, I needed some real world guidance.
In the spring, I tapped several friends for advice and tips, and was lucky enough to have a few in my corner willing to share info they acquired from years in the woods. Also, I was fortunate to have a very experienced hunter and family friend start mentoring me in all things bowhunting. Any good hunter knows how valuable their knowledge is, especially scouting, so I am beyond thankful that these individuals wanted to share their secrets with me. I spent the majority of my free time in the summer securing hunting spots, placing trail cameras, helping hang stands, fine tuning my arrows, searching for the quietest camo system, shooting my bow from every angle and height possible, and even was taught what deer smell like, Ha!. Whatever a hunter could do to prepare for their first archery season, you can bet I was doing it, breathing it, dreaming it.
This brings us up to the opening day in Pennsylvania. I was unsure if I would even make it out, since working full time as a photographer, there was an event the night before and an event that day as well. Being obsessed, I woke up with only a few hours of sleep and climbed into the stand. Over the next five days I spent every morning and every evening in a tree, over several locations, bow ready, cameras ready and my hunting partner ready for that first shooter to walk out. We saw a few does here and there, but it was slow and uneventful. I had it in my mind that I wouldn’t be taking my buck until the rut set in and it was much colder. I chalked these early season hunts up to experience and was just excited to be in the woods actually hunting. On the fifth day, with only a few minutes left before packing it in, out came three does over a stone row. They were stealthy, noses in the air, they scanned every blade of grass in the field before each step. Then they signaled back to two bucks which were partially hidden in the tree line. My partner and I noticed them at them same time and I prematurely whispered, “Too small”, being that I could only see one side of what looked like a little “Y” buck. Regardless, I slowly got into position with my bow and held still to practice for the real scenario, yet to come. Little did I know, I was already in the scenario I had been going over in mind countless times. We didn’t have enough light for the cameras to film, but I already knew that filming was auxiliary to my first bow kill. My partner switched from the camera to his binos and turned to say,”He’s bigger than you think”. At that point, my blood started rushing, it was game on. As the deer started walking toward me perpendicular from the left at 15 yards. I already knew that I would have the perfect quartering away shot. I waited to draw my bow until his head was down, at which point he was just stepping directly in front of me. Then wave of total disappointment came over me. I was just about to let out a noise to stop him as I started to sight, and realized I couldn’t see my pins. It was too dark. I tried for a a couple more seconds, meanwhile I think my partner thought I was choking up and he bleated, the buck froze. I was still trying to get some kind of contrast between my pin and the deer but it was all dark. The buck took a few more steps. In my mind I am coming to the realization, I can’t take the shot because I can’t see, and the last thing I want is to wound it. A few more seconds pass, I am still at full draw, straining my eyes, following a dark blob step by step as he walks further away. My partner, obviously thought, “She is panicking”. In reality, there just wasn’t enough light left. I looked away, and quickly looked back to my pins, my eyes refocused and my partner stopped the buck again, I had the shot. The instance of turning my eyes and looking back gave me just enough light to make out my target and let my arrow fly. Instantly, there was the crack of a rib and I saw my buck jump and run back into the woods. I knew I hit him.
I had a Nockturnal on my arrow which didn’t pass through, so I could watch that little green light dash in and out from behind trees as the buck ran about 120 yards deep into brush. There were moments when he was hidden and I was nervous, then it would reappear and I could confirm he wasn’t running miles away. After about 10 minutes, we were watching the light slowly wobble from side to side and then it darted to the ground followed by a loud snap of twigs. My partner and I looked at each other and decided to back out and give him some time.
There was a great blood trail on the ground and we decided to go in from the backside just in case the buck decided to scramble back to his feet, that way we would push him back towards the field. It didn’t take long to come upon him, I wasn’t sure what my first reactions would be staring down at my first large animal whose life I’d taken. It was a mixed bag of emotions from respect and reverence to excitement and accomplishment. Honestly, I didn’t feel sadness. I had nothing to feel sad about. I worked very hard to learn how to ethically harvest a deer and took pride in bringing him home and processing it. There are many factors that lead to a successful hunt and from mine, I am most thankful for my mentor. I’m not sure without his realtime experience, I would have been able to combine my book knowledge with my pre-season practice to pull off this buck as my first. I’m looking forward to hunting a few doe and if fate will have it a bear yet this season. Long-term, honing in my skills to become a seriously accomplished bowhunter and one day passing on what I am learning.