By: Eric Taylor, Bowtech Pro Staff
As hunters, it’s up to us to be ready when opportunity knocks. If you’re not prepared, the missed opportunity will eat at you for a long time.
We all dream of the moment when the stars align in our favor. The moment of truth. Are you prepared for it?
You’ll hear me talk about preparation a lot — not only physical, but mental. My preparation for this hunt at Gobble N Grunt Outfitters started over three years ago. I had been dreaming of killing a mature buck in full velvet. Chris (my guide) brought me on a fantastic antelope spot-and-stalk hunt in Wyoming four years ago. That’s when we first discussed this dream I had.
Nebraska opened its deer season up two weeks earlier than usual in 2015. I jumped at the opportunity, hitting Chris up to get me on a velvet buck. Unfortunately, last year, the weather did not cooperate. The high heat and humidity meant you’d leave a scent trail that would choke a horse. I ended up taking a beautiful eight point, but it was no longer in the velvet. It would be another year before I had the opportunity to pursue a velvet buck again.
Chris and I have become friends and stayed in contact throughout the changing seasons. After his turkey season ended this year, we began talking about the deer season and how we were going to attack it. In the last few conversations, I asked him if he had my buck locked down for a 7:30 p.m. visit.
On opening morning, he said he wanted to put me back in the same stand I hunted last year. Bowhunting here in the morning is a little difficult, but the stand produced eight deer, and one was a 2.5-year-old buck. The mornings are not as great as the afternoons during early season, though, so I knew things would pick up.
During lunch, we discussed the afternoon stand location, looked at some trail camera cards and developed a game plan. I joked again about my buck showing up at 7:30 p.m. Chris had set the stand up the afternoon before, because he had a consistent bachelor group using the draw to access a bean field 500 yards away.
On cue, 7:40 p.m. rolled around, and I heard a deer jumping the fence. I looked behind me and saw a beautiful nine-point, 2.5-year-old buck making his way across the top of the ridge. As he came down the ridge, he stopped in his tracks and locked his attention on the bottom of the draw. I looked down, and I saw a velvet monster emerge from the tree line. The buck paused and looked up at the other buck. I knew at that moment, if given the chance, I would try to get an arrow in him.
Step by step, he got closer. When he came within 35 yards, he could either go left or right around a tree. If he went right, I still had a shot; if he stayed left, he would be in my lap. I ranged the hole to my left and the range finder spit out 28 yards. I was ready to move the dial on my sight with his commitment. That step came, and he committed to sitting in my lap. That meant he would be at 14 yards, dead in front of me, if he maintained his cool.
All the practice, all the time dreaming, and all the work I had put into this chapter of my life was coming to that defining moment. The velvet brute took a step and stopped behind a large oak branch. This dream, the ten-year dream, stopped at 14 yards broadside. I drew my BT-X, the pin came to the bend in his shoulder, and as I thought about the spot, the release broke free. Thwack! That sound we love. The bow drove the nock deep into the corn-fed beast. He whirled and twisted, bounding away. He stopped 60 yards from me and gave the famous quick tail flutter of a fatal wound, taking a few steps out of sight into the cedars.
The flood of emotions started to set in. My mind was racing. Now, the waiting game. I sent Chris a text to let him know that I had shot one. “Hold tight,” he said. Easier said than done. Ten years, and you think I can hold tight?
I needed to find the piece of the puzzle to help me hold tight. I needed that arrow, that visual sign to help me calm down.
The arrow was covered with rich blood from the nock to razor, but it had traces of fat, indicating a low exit.
So, we gave it two hours. We grabbed my buddy Mike out of his stand. Darkness had set in deep now, causing the blood to reflect off of our lights. The blood came in great big puddles, nice and red every two feet. The trail brought us to the edge of a drainage, and it was a good 150-foot incline down to the creek bed. That’s when the work began.
Trying to find blood after a buck runs down an incline is tough. Typically, all the blood just stays in his chest. We found several watery specs of red after we crossed the creek in a roughly 50-yard stretch. Then, he crossed the creek again, and we lost it. We couldn’t find anything for 20 minutes. We kept circling, looking for any sign in the three-foot-tall grass. The back side of where he crossed was a steep incline back up to a field. My heart sank. If he made it up that bank, I was sure he was still on his feet. Chris went up to the top to look at the field’s edge while Mike and I stayed down below, looking for any signs of where he went. Mike walked up the creek bed, thinking he may have walked upstream.
That’s when I heard it. “Oh man, he’s a toad!” Mike had found him. He had only gone another five yards. The velvet beast lay in the grass.
My story had come to a close. I was overwhelmed with emotion. Years of hard work and preparation finally realized.
Read about more great hunts from Eric and other #SmartShooters at BowtechArchery.com