Buckmasters Magazine

Expectations Exceeded

Expectations Exceeded

By Amy Wheeler

Who says your first buck has to be little?

I had two goals for the 2010 whitetail season: learn to use the crossbow and claim my first buck. I become emotional just thinking about the day those goals became a reality.

My boyfriend, Miguel, introduced me to hunting in 2009, and I immediately knew it was for me. As a teenager, I made every excuse I could to be outside riding horses, working in the yard, running or just feeling the breeze. Plus, my boys love to eat venison, and I was acquiring a taste for it since Miguel dined on it daily.

My first year of hunting, I was blessed with two does, one with a 12 gauge and the other with a muzzleloader. Not only was hunting a thrill, but it also was rewarding to fill the freezer for my family. My children look at me with a whole new level of respect these days.

After some practice with my crossbow, I took a doe with a good, clean shot in October of 2010. That meant it was time to get even more serious and work toward my goal of taking a buck.

I took off work on Friday, Nov. 12, to officially start my buck season. Several days earlier, Miguel and I moved my blind deeper into the woods near a large rub in a bedding thicket. I’m told you can’t always tell the size of a buck by a rub, but it definitely took a big buck to make that one.

The night before, Miguel reviewed with me how to put out various scents to attract a buck. I also packed rattling antlers, a bottle of odor eliminator and a novel to pass the time.

The last advice he gave me, for the third time, was to keep my expectations realistic. He said that even a spike buck is something to cherish. The last thing I saw before I went to sleep was the mount of Miguel’s first buck, a 4-inch spike.

The next morning, I dressed in layers, grabbed a Pop-Tart, my hunting gear and my bow and walked outside.

Twenty feet into the woods, I bumped several deer. It was pitch black, so I just kept walking. I thought, Darn! I came out here early so I wouldn’t bump deer, and that plan is already out the window.

I found the blind in the dark with no difficulty, placed my gear inside and got out my scent products. First, I sprayed estrous scent every foot for about 50 yards, making a path that crossed in front of my blind. Next, I made a mock scrape about 25 yards in front of the blind, adding several splashes of scrape scent. Finally, I hung two estrous wafers in the tree where the buck made its rubs.

As I entered the blind, I sprayed scent remover across the walls and settled on a stool. My bow was ready, arrow in place, and the safety was on. Just then, I realized I forgot my camouflage mask.

It was too late to run home, so I pulled off the camouflage screen from the back window and place it over my face, tucking the corners into my black hood. After that, I reluctantly turned off my light and sat in the dark.

Trying to forget about all the creepy crawlies I imagined slithering into the blind with me, I closed my eyes to rest. I soon relaxed and began to hear the sounds of the woods.

It’s amazing to be in the woods as the sun rises. The sounds become louder as the birds flitter and squirrels start darting. One of the best parts of hunting is sitting in the middle of the wilderness and soaking up nature.

After about 2½ hours, I began to wonder if I’d even see a doe, let alone a buck. I decided to eat my breakfast and hope the deer couldn’t smell it. As I munched the cherry Pop-Tart, I looked at the ground and thought about cleaning out all the leaves and sticks. Every once in a while, I slowly raised my head to look out the window.

There he is!

A gorgeous buck was walking right toward me. I didn’t even have time to get buck fever.

I grabbed my bow, brought it up and rested the forearm on the stand. The buck stopped and raised its nose in the air, drinking in the scents I had put out earlier.

As I put my head down into the scope, I realized the flaw in my improvisational use of the window cover as a face mask. The netting covered my face well, but it also covered my eyes! It took a few extra seconds to get focused. When I did, all I saw was brown fur.

Expectations ExceededThe buck’s neck muscles stood out, so I aimed for the chest at the base of his neck. He still hadn’t moved.

When I pulled the trigger, the buck immediately reared to the right and took off like lightning. Then he was gone.

I might not have had time to get buck fever before, but my heart made up for it after the shot, and I could barely catch my breath. The entire event was over in seconds.

I will never forget the look of that amazing animal standing before me. It was like time stopped for that split second for me to absorb him into my mind. The experience was incredible.

I grabbed my cell phone and called Miguel. “I just shot the most beautiful buck ever,” I told him.

He asked for details, but I was breathing so hard I could barely speak. I couldn’t remember much, but I said, “He looks just like the buck on the scrape bottle!”

That got his attention. He took a much more serious tone and said, “Remember, you have to wait. If you didn’t hear him crash, wait 30 minutes and slip out of the woods.”

We agreed that I would go to work and pick up the blood trail afterward.

As I sat there, my mind started to race. Why did I go for the lower neck? I know better. That’s not a good shot. I should have waited for him to turn broadside.

It was about 9:15 when I quietly left the woods and very reluctantly went to work. No matter how hard I tried, I could think of only one thing. I wanted to get back into the woods and find my buck. Before the end of day, I had misplaced my car keys twice, and my coworkers were ready to send me home.

Finally at 4 p.m., my son Cody and I set out to find my buck. It was the spottiest trail I had ever tracked, but I was determined not to lose it. Miguel arrived about an hour later. An hour after that, we were still tracking. We had found a piece of my arrow and estimated about two-thirds of it was still in the deer.

Expectations ExceededI pushed the negative thoughts out of my mind, even as we had to leave the woods to pick up the other children.

At about 8 p.m., we sought help from a neighbor, Tom, an expert hunter and tracker. We searched until 11:30, and the last 50 yards was extremely spotty and very difficult to follow. It was taking more and more time to find the next drop of blood, and my heart was heavy. I kept playing the shot over and over in my head, trying to decide what I could have done better. The guys eventually called a halt for the night.

We had commitments with the children the next morning, but we headed back to the woods after lunch. I would have tracked that buck for days, but I didn’t have to. Fifteen minutes after picking up where we left off, we found him.

He was huge. I couldn’t help thinking how beautiful he was, and he had the thickest neck I had ever seen.

Based on the trail, we think the buck bolted for quite a distance after the shot but expired soon after laying down where we found him.

Over the next several weeks, I learned just how special my buck was. Hunters in our circle and beyond had mixed emotions. Some were jealous or in disbelief that a girl took this mature buck.

I think the scents drew him to me. He walked up very relaxed, absorbing the smells, strolling up to me like a gift from nature herself.

I have no idea why I was so calm. During my other successful hunts, I was shaking like a leaf as I took the shot. Not this time. Not with my buck.

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This article was published in the October 2012 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

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