Are You Ever Too Old To Start Bow Hunting?

At age 32 I still had never killed a deer. I call myself a “Country Boy” because I’ve lived in the country all my life but the fact that I had never punched my tag on a deer made me feel much less Country and more Boy. I live in southern Ohio, almost right in the middle of Wayne National Forest. The woods are teeming with deer, squirrels, and turkeys, you can hardly drive down my county road and not see a deer or almost hit one. Yet I had never shot one while hunting, or even attempted a shot at one. I often wondered if I was too old to start bow hunting… did I miss my opportunity earlier in life?

One thing in my favor the amount of deer living in my back yard. Lawrence County Ohio is home to a massive deer population because it is mostly rural and wooded. We don’t have many cities or towns in our county, most of the population is along the Ohio River, which borders the the county to the south. In the 2020-21 deer season the Ohio DNR recorded almost 200,000 deer killed in Ohio, the largest harvest in 8 years. Lawrence County wasn’t even on the top ten list that year, yet nearly 2,000 deer were tagged that season. (Deee Harvest Summary, 2021). That is a testament to the amount of deer in the state, there is no shortage of the ol’ Odocoileus virginianus,( the genus species for white tail deer).

Deer Hunting Takes Time and Money

There’s a few reasons why a “Country Boy” like me hadn’t killed a deer in my first 30 years. The main reason was that I rarely hunted deer at all up until about 2 years ago. Growing up in our rural community, through elementary and high school, I seen and heard of countless school mates killing multiple deer each season. I always listened to their stories, mildly interested, and congratulated them on their successful hunt. There was one main issue with deer season for me though, it just happens to be right during football season…

I definitely loved sports more than hunting as a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I still refuse to miss the Buckeyes play on a Saturday no matter what, but college football wasn’t in the cards for me after high school. So now I perform anesthesia as a profession instead of scoring touchdowns, which has been a lot less strenuous so far and a lot fewer bruises, most of the time. Life as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) has afforded me the opportunity to buy hunting gear, which is crazy expensive, and the vacation time to hunt.

After high school I immediately started started going to college, in a few short but hectic years I earned my RN degree and began working. While working as an RN I also started taking online classes to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN). This left zero time to hunt. After a couple years I had my BSN, but I wasn’t finished, I wanted to be CRNA. Anesthesia school was a grueling 3 years that made RN school look like kindergarten… but time flew by and suddenly I found myself with a Doctorate degree in Nurse Anesthesia, making more money than I ever had before, with 6 weeks of vacation a year.

Suddenly I had the time and the money required for deer hunting, as well as the land.

Deer Paradise

My wife and I purchased my great-grandparent’s 40 acre farm, most of which is wooded and cedar covered hills, the perfect deer habitat. Our first year on the farm I purchased a small trail camera and hung it on a tree near a clearing on our hill. The pictures I received after a few weeks had me scrambling to find a bow and some arrows, I had the Buck Fever bad! For the first time in my life I had the desire to deer hunt.

It was at this time that I started watching every YouTube video and listening to every podcast I could find about hunting. YouTube channels like The Hunting Public, Meat Eater, Randy Newberg, and the Hunting Beast became my daily obsession. I would listen to a hunting podcast to and from work, then watch hunting videos when I got home, my knowledge base was slowly growing. I still love to watch these channels, I highly recommend them for beginners all the way to professional hunters.

I wanted that massive ten-pointer on my wall in a bad way. I eventually found a lightly used Mathews MR7 bow with all the accessories and arrows for $400, a great price, so I bought it, and started practicing right away. Luckily, the previous owner, an older gentleman, just happened to be my size, so no major adjusting was necessary. I had a family friend who hunted a lot decrease the draw length just a bit and I was ready to hunt, or so I thought.

Deer Hunting Takes Time and Patience

I bought my bow in late October 2019, nearly 2 months into the Ohio bow hunting season. Gun season was only weeks away, I had a very limited time to get into the woods before the orange army sent every deer running to the next state. But I had to get to know my new bow first, practice, practice, practice.

If you have any experience shooting a bow at all you will know that becoming proficient takes lots of practice and patience. I found out quick I had to use muscles I never knew I had to draw my 60 pound compound bow over and over again. By the end of week one I was questioning my manhood once again because I could barely get the string back without my arms trembling. But off to the woods I went, I was determined to prove to myself that I could be a successful deer hunter.

Beginners Luck

I decided fairly quick that I would have to find a way to hunt from the ground instead of a tree stand. Being brand new at bow hunting I figured there was no way I’d be able to shoot accurately 20 to 30 feet up in a tree if I could barely shoot straight on level ground. So I bought a small ground blind from Amazon and set it up in the small clearing where my trail cam was set up. I also was, and still am, very hesitant to spend hundreds of dollars on new hunting equipment, like tree stands and saddles as a beginning bow hunter. I will talk more on my hunting equipment in a later blog post.

My first few weeks of hunting was discouraging to say the least. I saw a few deer, but all were does and a couple of spike bucks, most of which I spooked, I didn’t understand why. As I read more and watched hunting videos I later concluded that I was not using the wind to my advantage, they were smelling me. However, the first hunting season I sat my blind and walked my property on looking for runs and scrapes, then sat nearby in hopes a buck would come by. Needless to say, no buck came near me. But one cold snowy day I got lucky.

After sitting in the blind in the afternoon of November 12th 2019 for a few hours with no deer sightings I decided to walk up the hill to check on a few scrapes I had seen earlier. As I neared the ridge top I stopped at a large tree and stood for a few minutes to listen, not long after heard something walking in from the other side of the hill, directly below me. I turned my head slowly to look and there stood a small doe, maybe 15 yards away. I expected it to bolt and run as soon as it saw and smelled me, but it didn’t. The doe just stood there looking at me, totally broadside. I figured if this deer was going to stick around I might as well attempt to turn around at least. So I slowly drew my bow, turned a full 180 degrees toward the doe, aimed right be behind the front shoulder, and pulled my release.

The sound of the arrow penetrating the deer’s rib cage was something I’ll never forget. Immediately I heard a loud pop, like a pumpkin being thrown on a sidewalk, then the deer jumped high and bounded off to my left. At first I thought I might have missed and hit a tree because the arrow flight was so fast I didn’t even see it hit the deer, but a few seconds after the deer ran I heard it crash in some brush about 30 yards away, it coughed once and then silence.

My heart was pounding and I felt light headed with my adrenaline pumping as I walked toward my first ever bow killed deer. It was a perfect shot, right through both lungs and the aorta (the main artery coming from the heart). After calming down I proceeded to clean the deer, immediately noticing that this was not a doe after all… but a small button buck. The button horns haven’t even grew past it’s fur on top of its head. I felt bad to kill a buck that could have grown to something bigger in the future, but there was nothing to be done at that time other than to make sure the meat was not wasted. My family and I enjoyed the venison all winter.

References:

Deer Harvest Summary. July, 2021. https://ohiodnr.gov/wps/portal/gov/odnr/discover-and-learn/safety-conservation/wildlife-management/wildlife-population-studies/deer-harvest-summary.

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