Exiting the thicket along the well-worn game trail, the buck made his way in my direction. With just enough light remaining to make the shot, I located my 20 yard pin through my peep sight and placed the pin just above the deer’s shoulder.
The shot felt true and the crash in a nearby canebrake told me it had been. I looked toward the heavens and gave thanks for what would be my first deer with a bow and arrow. It had been a long time coming.
I had begun bowhunting in junior high and had hunted throughout high school and college, but had yet to get a deer with my bow (although I had missed a few). The lack of success had not dampened my spirits in the least--I love bowhunting! There’s just something about being so close to the game you are pursuing.
When I got that first deer with a bow those many years ago on that river island in Alabama, I was in my late twenties. I remember it just like it was yesterday--we only have so many “firsts” in life. Looking back on that accomplishment today, I realize there was a lot of trial and error on the road to becoming a successful bowhunter.
While advances in equipment have made it easier for young hunters to be successful, nothing replaces woodsmanship. The ability to read animal sign and understand terrain and habitat is critical to being an effective bowhunter. With that said, I am always impressed when young hunters find success.
One of the first bits of feedback I received when I took over this column came from a young man at my wife’s school. It still makes me smile today. Gena was walking down the hall when William Carruth came up to ask her a question.
I think it went something like this, “Mrs. Dye, is Mr. Brad taking over writing for the Outdoors page?” She replied, “Yes, William he is.” To which he confidently responded, “Well, tell him to put me down for an article in the Spring about all the turkeys I am going to get.”
Having seen the spurs from the turkeys William got this past year, I quickly penciled him in for an article in 2020. His father and I laughed together when I recounted the story.
Bill told me he didn’t think William would have any problem fulfilling that obligation and he also said something else that stood out to me. He said, “I’m really proud of how he’s progressing as a sportsman.”
Those words were a great reminder that it’s really not the harvest that matters in the long run. It’s the progression, the journey. Looking back at my journey, I had taken squirrels and maybe a few doves at William’s age (he is 13), but I was just as hooked on all things outdoors.
He is well ahead of my learning curve at that age as the recent pictures of his first deer with a bow prove. When I saw those pictures, I knew I had to hear the story.
William said he was a little late walking in to his ladder stand in Porterville that day and when he arrived there were already deer in the field. He said while he stood in the road observing the deer in the field that three more deer stepped into the road in front of him. After all the deer left, he was able to make it to his stand.
Carruth said it was an hour and a half before he saw more deer. At that point, three deer came in behind him but spooked when he made the move to get his bow. The lad said he hung his bow back in the tree and waited.
Another hour passed and William saw a deer coming toward him on the trail his stand overlooked. The doe stopped on the trail about twenty yards in front of him as he drew his bow. His shot was true and he recovered his trophy fifty yards from the stand.
William’s patience, persistence, and maturity will serve him well as a bowhunter. In his words, “I got that bow when I was eight years old and I practiced all the time.” He said he missed a doe two years ago and missed one this year before he “finally made it happen.”
He told me he loves bowhunting because, “It is more of a challenge.” His maturity was evident when he explained further, “You might have a nice buck at twenty yards and not be able to shoot because you don’t have a good shot.” He added, “It’s a waiting game, you have to wait until you can get a good shot.”
William’s excitement about bowhunting is contagious! He said after his shot he was “shaking so much he almost fell out of the stand.”
I know the feeling, it’s one of the things I love most about bowhunting. Congratulations, William! I look forward to seeing you out there in our great Outdoors.
Email Outdoors columnist Brad Dye at email@example.com.