The best therapy is spending time in a deer stand.
I live in Abilene, Texas, but I am from Westminster in Maryland. About 17 years ago, my family attended a church picnic for 4th of July. Someone had set up a bow range as part of the entertainment, and my good friend Rick Ellis told me to give it a shot.
I borrowed pastor Ed Conrad’s compound bow, aimed for a target about 40 yards away and nailed a bullseye. After a few more bullseyes, I was hooked. From that point on, I fell in love with everything the outdoors had to offer, including hunting white-tailed deer.
I hunted with a bow in Maryland for about 6 years and only took does. Then, in 2009, I moved to Texas to be near my father-in law, who was ill. Once I got settled, I started looking for a place to hunt, but I soon found there are few public hunting areas in Texas. Most deer hunters join a lease, which can be expensive.
I was discouraged, but I was approached by a gentleman I had met in church who had land, and he invited me to hunt there. I was ecstatic.
I gathered my hang-on stands and my climber and drove to the property only to learn there are very few trees in West Texas, and certainly no trees that would accommodate typical treestand setups. So, I went and got a pop-up blind and set it up about 40 years from my feeder. At that point, I was only bowhunting, so I needed to get the deer in close.
Over the next few years, I was able to get a few does. In 2013, I took my daughter with me. As we waited and talked, she spotted a deer. I looked up and saw a small 3-pointer.
I drew my bow, shaking all the while. Even with my nerves and adrenaline pumping, I made a good shot, and he went just 20 yards. I was so excited I had killed my first buck.
People kept telling me I needed to buy a rifle and hunt the fields, so I bought a .270 in 2016. That year, I got two does and another cull buck, but I was still set up close as though bowhunting.
Fast forward to April of 2019, when I had a shunt placed in my head due to a mass in my brain. From that point I, had a brain surgery every month until February of 2020.
I was heartbroken that I couldn’t hunt that year. Then, someone asked if he could use my blind to take his daughter hunting. I like to see kids in the woods instead of on their phones or playing video games, so I said yes. While I was in the hospital, I found out the girl shot a 10-pointer I had been watching for three years.
That was a tough pill to swallow, but I was happy for the little girl. I also figured I was fortunate to have a place to hunt for free, so I should set my sights on another buck.
When the summer of 2020 rolled around, I began to get my spot ready. Afterward, I was counting down the days to go hunting again. October 3rd couldn’t come fast enough, and when it finally arrived, I went out with my bow and got a doe. I was so thankful to be back in God’s world!
When gun season arrived, I shot another doe. Four days later, I saw a an 8-pointer coming in. I was shaking as I shouldered my gun and put the crosshairs on him, but he dropped immediately. It was the biggest deer I had ever taken.
Fast forward to Dec. 7. I had a doctor appointment at 10:00 and I figured I could fill my feeder, pull the camera card and maybe sit in the blind for a few minutes before I had to leave.
Around 8:00, I started to pack up when a deer appeared at about 70 yards. I grabbed my binoculars and saw a doe, so I shouldered my gun to prepare for a shot. My family eats deer all winter, so I was happy to use my last tag to fill the freezer.
As I looked for an opening, the doe turned and walked out of sight. Just as my heart dropped in my chest, out of nowhere I saw a buck on the doe’s trail. I put the crosshairs on its shoulder and fired.
I couldn’t control my excitement, as it was the biggest deer I’ve ever shot. I got my things together but sat down to give him some time. After about 20 minutes, I went to recover him and realized he was a lot bigger than I thought. By the time I counted the 12th point, I was in tears.
Knowing I was on the clock, I immediately field-dressed and loaded up the buck so I could get home and get ready to go to the doctor’s. My wife and kids couldn’t have been more excited.
As a disabled vet, being in the woods helps me cope. Taking a buck like this was just a bonus. It’s a whole different world when you’re deer hunting, and all your worries disappear.
If you don’t get the buck of your dreams, don’t get discouraged. There is always next year.