When I found out my passion for bow hunting was stronger than rifle hunting.
I didn’t start hunting until my husband and I got married. That first year I got to go on the yearly hunting trip with my husband Corey, his dad David, Uncle Jake and his wife Lisa. I shot my first deer, a small 2×2, while he was running through the cattails. Having been the only buck we had seen so far, the challenging shot, and of course being my first deer, I was and still am proud of him.
Fast forward a few years.
I purchased my first bow in the winter of 2009. When September 2010 came around I had just had foot surgery, so there was no archery season for me. Archery 2011 and 2012 were kind of a teaser. We went out a few times but never had any luck. Archery season 2013, I got pneumonia while on our trip and 2014 trip was over in 24 hours due to mosquitos. All that’s another story though.
So February 2015 comes and I had won a trip to Texas to hunt javelina and whitetails. I had never traveled to hunt before and had never hunted without my husband, so this was a whole new experience for me. It taught me many things. Where I was hunting was a high fence ranch just 30 miles from the border of Mexico. I brought my bow and rifle in hopes of harvesting a deer with my bow, but was informed that this ranch was mainly set up for rifle hunters. It was a three day hunt, so we started out each morning and evening for the first two days with my bow in the blinds. I sat patiently, motionless, and watched as does and spikes came in each time. We had two nice 4×4 come in, even to fifteen yards, but per their management plan, they were too young. My guide knew which bucks were old enough and had to approve which I harvested. To watch these two and not be able to shoot was mentally tough. The thrill of having them so close, I was shaking. I kept mentally begging that an older buck would step out, or that I would be allowed to take one of those. But I understand their management plan to wait until a certain age, and respected it.
The last morning of hunting, we decided to set up in one of the rifle stands. My love for irregular racks had us hunting a particular stand, for one particular buck. This ranch had feeders set to go off at a certain time, and obviously the deer over time became a bit trained. So we were set in the stand before dark and waited patiently for the sun to rise. Slowly, bucks and does started coming out in the dark, just enough to make out whether or not they had antlers. All these bucks were massive, there were three 170” bucks that made my jaw drop. Finally, one of the last to come out of the cactus, was mine, Mr. Crab Claw. At 150 yards and multiple bucks feeding around, I was concerned about which one I was supposed to take, but calmed my nerves waited for a bit more light and knew I was on the right one. My guide told me that the feeder was going to go off in two minutes and that the deer would scatter, some would return and some wouldn’t. So I set my rifle up, breathe and pull the trigger. Immediately reloaded and had my scope back on him, finger on the trigger, ready to pull again, should I need to. Within seconds he was down and another shot was not needed.
My guide Justin and Ray Howell were in the stand with me and of course there’s the excitement and congratulations. I harvested a beautiful animal and would be donating the meat to a family that needed it.
As soon as I knew the deer was dead, and wasn’t suffering, I felt conflicted. This is what I was here to do, and just harvested a magnificent 137” whitetail, and knew the meat was being used and knew that I would cherish this animal. Most of their clients only want the perfect 10 rack and I love anything irregular, so while he wasn’t considered a cull buck, he wasn’t the most desired either, but it was perfect for me.
Walking up to him, I felt sad. I’ve harvested other animals before, so it wasn’t a first time killing an animal sad. It was a: this was too easy, sad. I put in much more work for smaller racked deer, but was not able to take them with my bow. It was at that moment when I put my hands on him that I knew bow hunting was in my blood. And that it’s more about the hunt than antlers. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have huge trophies on my wall, but having the story to back up an equally as spectacular animal is part of what I love. I love the spot and stalk and trying to see if I can get closer on an animal and hearing all the failed attempts. You’re working for this animal and putting in time and effort, and it feels more like an accomplishment. Whereas here, the guides and ranch owners put in the time and effort into working the fields, setting up the stands and blinds, filling the feeders and studied these animals via trail cameras to know their age and which stands they frequent more. All I did was pull the trigger.
Even though this is my largest whitetail to date, I didn’t feel the overwhelming joy I’ve felt with other animals. Kneeling down beside him to take pictures, I thanked him for the meat and for something else, a passion for bow hunting.
Some people might read this and think, oh you just killed an animal you didn’t want or weren’t proud of. That’s not it at all, and I don’t expect everyone to understand. I don’t know how to better explain it, except I am grateful for this buck and what he has taught me. Unless it’s to the point that I have to fill my freezer and the season is running out, I don’t want to pick up my rifle, I’d rather choose my bow.