The year of 2020 was horrible in so many ways, that cannot be denied. The COVID pandemic led to the shutdown of most of the country, essentially making many people jobless and isolated from others. We all had to find ways to fill out extra time at home. For our family we no longer had baseball games and practices to attend with our 2 boys in the summer, while the football and basketball seasons were shortened, with many cancellations due to COVID outbreaks.
I work in healthcare, specifically in the operating room putting people to sleep for surgeries. Most of those surgeries were now cancelled which shortened my workday considerably and even gave me extra days off during the week. But 2020 wasn’t all bad…I now had more time to hunt than I ever imagined.
I took full advantage of the time I had in the summer by scouting perspective spots around my property and close by on family land and the surrounding government land. If you read my previous hunting post describing the 2019 bow season you would know that I had not pulled trigger on a tree stand or saddle, 2020 was no different, I was still researching. My main hunting style up to that point was ground hunting in a pop up blind and in brush cover.
The past 2 years I had read countless articles, listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts, and watched way too many YouTube videos telling me that the way I am hunting is wrong. Should I hunt and stalk on the ground or sit in a tree? Sit in a traditional deer stand or hang in a new hunting saddle? Light or heavy arrow? Scent control or follow the wind? The list goes on, and it can make any beginner have a migraine trying to figure it out.
Still A Newbie
2020 bow season was only my 2nd year of bow hunting and I still had a lot to prove to myself. Last year I lucked out on a small deer that gave me a perfect shot at point blank range. To my credit, I did not waste that opportunity, and we had venison and jerky to last us into the winter and to share with friends. I also butchered the whole deer myself while watching HowTo YouTube videos, I still managed to learn a ton even if I did waste more meat than I intended. After my 8 hour butchering marathon I vowed to take my next deer to a processor.
As summer came to an end I had scouted at least 5 potential areas that I thought could produce a buck. One book that helped me tremendously was Mapping Trophy Bucks by Brad Herdon. This book was recommended to me by a hunter friend at work and I’m so glad I made the purchase. Mapping Trophy Bucks guides you on what to look for on a topographic map when it comes to how bucks move in the woods. If you regularly hunt in the big woods with lots of hilly terrain like me, you’ll want to read this. I couple other books I would recommend reading before the season would be Precision Bowhunting: A Year Round Approach toTaking Mature Whitetails and Bow Hunting Pressured Whitetails: Expert Techniques for Taking Big, Wary Bucks. Both books are authored by father and son professional hunters John and Chris Eberhart. I will leave links to these books at the end of this post, order them today!
September finally arrived and I was ready, or I thought I was. From the beginning of the season I hunted as much as I possibly could. I started to journal my hunts, a highly useful technique that many professional hunters advise. In my journal entries I learned that it is best to start them all the same way: by writing down the time, weather, temperature, wind direction, and your hunting spot. Help yourself remember where your spot is by putting the coordinates or listing specific characteristics of the place. List how many deer you seen, where they were going and coming from, what they were doing (eating, rutting, running, etc). Journaling each hunt has been so beneficial for me to see what I need to improve on and things I may have missed, it makes you remember each detail of a hunt much more clearly.
Looking back on a few of my 2020 hunts I in my journal the memories of heartbreak come flooding back like it was yesterday… From September to the beginning of November I had only one sighting of a good buck and a few does, then on November 7th I took my oldest son to the blind with me one morning. It was his birthday and he was excited, I was hoping we would at least see one deer.
Hunt #12 (seen 1 doe, 1 buck)
Weather- 35-45 clear
Wind- East slight
In the blind with Carter, he turns 7 today. Weather was cool and clear.
As we walked up the hill we spooked a deer in the brush to our right, about 30 yards downhill from the blind. Couldn’t tell if it was a doe or buck.
On the trail directly above the blind we saw a doe looking at us, she trotted up the hill as we got in the blind.
About 15 min later the doe returned walking slowly in front of us. I bleated at her to stop about 25 yards away and took a shot. It looked low but hit the front left leg. She trotted slowly to the brush to our left, limping but looked unhurt. The arrow had no blood on it, just some hair and fat.
About 5 min after the shot we heard a deer in the brush in front of us, I grunted lightly. A small forky came to the edge of the brush but spooked and ran off before giving me a shot.
We sat for about 45 min afterwards, no other deer were seen.
I hated wounding that doe and my son was so bummed that we missed a deer on his birthday but was still happy with the excitement of the hunt. But my most heartbreaking hunt was my next time out, also in the blind…
Hunt #13 (2 bucks)
Heard a few gobbling turkey and hen at daybreak to my north, up the hill.
At first light the big 8 point came up from the trail by the pond and was staying about 35 yards out on his way to the brush to my left. He stopped in front of the pond and I took a shot, it was way high… it hit a limb and went straight in the pond. He turned and ran back down the trail towards the woods.
At 7:25 a small 6 point came there the exact trail… this time I let him come closer to my left. He was 20-25 yards away when i shot through the mesh window. Another miss high. He ran into the brush toward the road.
At least I didn’t wound those 2 bucks but that is heartbreaking.
3 misses in 2 days smh. I don’t hunt enough to miss so many opportunities like that. I need to work on my shooting.
Talk about soul crushing, it’s so tough sometimes just to even see a deer, let alone be close to take a shot. When you miss a deer it makes you question your skill as a bow shooter and you never know if you’ll get another chance like that again… but luckily I was blessed with another opportunity in just a few hints later.
Thankful For Second Chances
As you could imagine I became very down on myself after my last failed hunts, but I was determined to get back out as much as I could. I knew that there were deer still hanging around my blind, I just needed that right opportunity.
Here is my journal entry for November 15th, 2020.
Hunt #17 (Buck Shot)
Weather-55-60 mostly cloudy, windy, light rain
Moderate rain at 820 stopped around 840.
Sat in the blind from 615-9. Then I decided to get out and take a look around the top of hill to see if there was any more buck sign. Walking about 25 yards above the blind I see a decent size buck working a scrape on top of hill. I only see his head at this point, he doesn’t notice me right away. I duck down some and draw my bow, then stand back up and wait for him to make a move. As I stand up he sees me and stares for about a minute, finally turning slightly and taking a step to my left, that’s when I take the shot. He was about 20 yards uphill from me.
He ducked slightly and turned full broadside at the shot but I seen and heard the arrow hit him in the rib cage. He immediately sprinted toward the woods to the north, my left. I couldn’t find the arrow or any blood at the shot site, which was concerning, but I saw him run through the clearing and into the woods so I started searching that route. I saw first blood at the beginning of the brush and trees, a few feet later I saw my arrow, which had about 5 inches broken off the tip. The arrow had about 12 inches of bubbly blood on it, which was great news to me. From that point the blood trail was tremendous, bubbly blood everywhere. I followed the trail for about 150 yards through heavy brush until I found him. Success!!!
Shot placement- shot with 125g magnus stinger broad head right above the left front leg, it went a little higher than I aimed due to him ducking.
Postmortem showed the arrow broke through one rib and through the left lung, lodging in a vertebrae. It must have severed one or more major arteries due to all the blood.
The only way I would have seen that deer is if I got out of my blind and walked up the hill. Was it luck or divine intervention? Either way I was thankful for my 1st nice buck shot with a bow. I hunted for a total of 43 hours before my successful shot, not bad for a guy working full time at his day job, even with the COVID slowdown. I had the deer processed by a professional and had the skull done in a European mount, also by a professional. On to the 2021 season!
Hunting Books Affiliate Links
Mapping Trophy Bucks
Precision Bow Hunting: A Year Round Approach To Taking Mature Whitetails
Bowhunting Pressured Whitetails: Expert Techniques for Taking Big, Wary Bucks