Although I travel all over North America every year, there is something special about hunting at home, which in my case, is the small town of Hamilton, TX. In fact, growing up in this rural community near this town of 3,000 has been a key factor as to why I am a hunter in the first place. And, coming from a family that has roots in farming and ranching, I’ve learned to appreciate conservation of the land and the animals that use it to survive.
August is the start of an exciting time for me. I always look forward to planting food plots and filling up feeders as I begin my strategies for harvesting a hometown buck. August is also the time I put up trail cameras to take inventory on what bucks are hanging around the family farm. This past fall (2011), one of my trail cameras captured a nice looking 9 pointer. Although I had several pictures of what I would call “shooter bucks,” this 9 pointer peaked my interest the most because he had a feature that I am a sucker for--tall eye-guards (also known as brow tines).
Archery season usually opens around the 1st of October in Texas, and the challenge for this year, as usual, was finding time to try to harvest my hometown buck of choice. You would think that because this buck is located in the county I live in, time should not be an issue…right? Wrong. I am usually on the road approximately 100 days during the stretch from September 1 through the end of January. That means that when I am at home, I want to spend this valuable time with family--my wife, Sara, and 2 daughters, Aubrey and Emma.
Although juggling my time at home is somewhat of a challenge, this year I did get to slip into my Ol’Man Treestand for a few days in October, and for a few days around Thanksgiving. However, this story really started getting intense around the Christmas Holiday. After getting back from a successful trip from North Dakota the night of December 21st, I was excited to go out midday on the 22nd to check my Wildgame Trail Cam. I was very pleased to see that my 9 pointer was frequently showing up in my hunting area.
The evening of the 22nd was my first chance to hunt and my buck did not disappoint me. He showed up! However, it was right at last light and he skirted around me just out of range. It was exciting, but a little frustrating. I watched him slowly walk to one of our stock tanks for a drink of water. From my experience, at this stand location, the deer usually get a drink then move on to a large oat field on the neighbor’s property. Not a big deal. The wind was scheduled to stay out of the north for a few days and I felt confident I would get another chance. The only problem was, my truck was parked just on the other side of the stock tank. I decided to stay put in my stand, until I felt like the buck had time to water and move on to the neighbors grain field for his nightly feeding. After waiting quietly for a while, I decided it was safe to ease out of my treestand and slowly head back toward my truck. When I got to my trail that skirts the stock tank, I purposely eased around with extreme caution only to hear a loud crashing of a deer running off. My heart sunk! I went from hunting a buck that, to my knowledge, has not been pressured all season, to hunting a buck that I just bumped. I did not actually see the deer, but I knew in my heart that this was my 9 point.
My drive home found me replaying the event that may of just cost me my 9 point. Did I not wait long enough? Should I have chosen a different path to return to my truck? Did I scare him out of the County? Time would tell.
The next three sits (morning and evening of the 23rd and the morning of the 24th) seemed to have supported my thought of scaring him out of the County. No sign of my buck.
After having a great Christmas, midday on December 26 was the next time I was able to check my trail camera to see what I had missed over the last couple of days (what would have been four different sits…evening of 24th, morning/evening of 25th, & morning of 26th). I was pumped to see that my 9 point had been 20 yards from my treestand on all four occasions, and all in legal shooting light!! The hunt on the evening of the 26th looked promising!
That evening hunt started out well as a small buck and several does come to within a perfect shooting range of my set up. Then…minutes before dark…a large feral boar hog came traveling right into the area that I was expecting to see my buck come from. Although the deer in my area have accepted living with the pigs, they still would rather stay away from them and sure enough, my buck stepped out just far enough to smell the big boar’s scent trail and stopped. My buck smelt the pig’s trail and turned 180 degrees to exit back into the thick timber that he called home. Once again, I found myself feeling the pressure of wondering if I was going to ever get a chance at this buck.
The season, in my area, was scheduled to end the first Sunday of January, which in this case was January 1st, so the clock was ticking. According to my trail camera, my buck had been showing up in the mornings right at first light (7:00-7:30am) on his way back to bed.
I got settled in well before shooting light on the morning of December 27th. The morning seemed to slowly pass as I had not seen one deer. It was not until 8:25am that my cameraman spotted movement coming from the neighbor’s grain field. I just about did a back flip when I pulled up my binoculars and saw that it was my 9 point! And he was taking the trail that led him right to me!!
It was a super calm/ quiet morning and my only fear now, was that the buck was going to hear my heart beating. As he approached my shooting window, I was able to ease back my Limbsaver bow that was loaded with my VAP arrow (made by Victory Archery). He came in and started feeding at 20 yards. I verified with my cameraman that he had a clear view of the buck and as I spoke, the buck snapped his head to full alert. He actually heard me whisper. I wasted no more time as I let my VAP arrow zip through the cool, central Texas air. There is no feeling like the feeling of knowing I had made an absolutely perfect shot! The VAP traveled though both lungs and stuck in the ground behind the buck. He ran hard for about 100 yards and then hit the ground. Success at last!
Although I have been blessed with opportunities to go and to hunt in some of the greatest natural settings all over the world and to hunt for really nice trophy animals of all kinds, there is something special about getting back to my hunting roots. And though central Texas is not known for high scoring racks, sometimes, there’s just no place like home.