What a Day!
November 4th, 2001 was a day that my son, my brother and I will not soon forget! In fact it's a story that will probably be passed on generation after generation in our family.
The alarm went off around 5:00 a.m. that morning, and little did I know when I finally climbed out of bed the kind of day we were going to have. I poured myself a nice hot cup of coffee and I stepped out in the chilly air on my deck. Looking up at the moonlit sky, I was daydreaming of maybe tagging a nice buck today and rehearsing hunts I've had in the past. We were into the third week of the season now, and the rut was on with a fury and my hopes were running high. Today might just be the day as I went back inside for a refill I thought. Little did I know "what a day" we would have.
I knew I had a great spot for that morning. My brother Jim had taken a nice 7- point there last year and just the other day, Halloween, from my stand I had a nice 4 - point walk just yards from me to my right. I couldn't shoot because of some heavy brush and I didn't want to risk a poor shot. It was getting late and shooting light was low so I got down from my stand and headed downhill to get to my car. I put deer out as I headed further downhill and my heart pounded from excitement. As I headed down the hill, I put another one out, but this one sounded quite peculiar when I spooked it. Instead of bounding away, this one sounded as if it just scurried away. I stopped to look, and as I did a beechnut tree shook as it passed by it. Wow, that was incredible, I thought to myself. It must have bumped into a tree on the way up the hill. I continued on down the hill wondering what would make a tree move like that? A bear? We had been seeing bear sign the past couple weeks. At least we thought. We live in the Southern Tier of New York and even though we have a season here for black bear, we're just not in an area where there are a lot of bear. I dismissed the thought and continued down to my car.
I set my coffee down and got dressed for a good day in the woods. I always try to be optimistic and positive when I hunt. It just seems to work all the time. Well, most of the time. The morning was a bit warmer than we had hoped for, but we had a full moon to walk into the woods with and it was just a perfect morning to hunt. Winds calm, no clouds, nice.
We pulled up to the logging trail that we hike up to get to our stands. My son, Scott couldn't wait to get on his stand and my brother Jim likewise. We wasted no time climbing to the top of the hill and as we walked up I recounted to them the experience I had the other night. We dismissed the idea of a bear in the area and we all got a chuckle that my imagination was getting the best of me. My brother broke off to his stand and my son and I continued to our stands. I had placed my son just about 75 yards from me in a good spot along a ridge. Deer have been working that ridge for years and I was confident I had him in good location.
I went up to my stand rehearsing in my mind that nice 4 - point I saw the other night. Perhaps this time he'd offer me a better shot. I got up in my stand and got settled in. I went through the whole routine I'm sure you are all familiar with. The bow came up and was set on a hook on the limb in front of me. My backpack and rattling horns were hung just behind me. I sat down and looked around making sure my shooting lanes were clear. I put on my facemask, gloves and release. One last spray of some cover scent and I was good to go. I settled back, relaxed and listened. It was 6:30 a.m.
My brother has owned the land that we hunt on for years and knows it very well. In fact he has taken a buck every year for the past three years. The spot he chose for that morning was in some very thick underbrush, so thick in some places that thorns would cut you on the way through. That's my little brother though. He knows. He knows where they take cover. Where they go. How they move, where they feed and bed down.
Like myself, he climbs to his stand and readies himself. He has just put his gloves and facemask on. He stands up looking in the direction that he knew the deer would cross. It's 6:30, light enough to shoot and a twig snaps to his right. He looks and just 20 yards away stands this nice 8 - point. He pulls back at full draw and his Thunderhead finds its mark. The buck bounds away downhill losing part of the arrow in the heavy brush. The hit was high, but angled down so that he knew the shot was well placed. The buck wouldn't go far. Knowing the hit was good and too excited to wait the 1/2 hour before tracking, my brother climbs down looking for a blood trail. It's now 6:45 a.m.
From my stand things are just firing up. I'm sitting looking out onto the hill and in the distance I hear some turkeys. It sounds like a big flock and my mind races to this past spring and the nice gobbler I had all fired up but couldn't get into range. Maybe next year, I think, when my attention is drawn to leaves crunching behind me to my right. I know, without a doubt, a deer is approaching. It isn't a squirrel this time. The walk has a pace that is unmistakable. I stand up slowly still looking ahead and grab my bow off the limb of the tree. I latch my release to the string and turn to the right slowly to see what is approaching. To my amazement just 30 yards away walking up and through the woods is a Black Bear. I fall backwards in disbelief as the bear comes up the rise. My God I think, He's coming up the same way as the 4 - point I was hoping to get. Damn! It's in the heavy stuff and I won't get a shot, just like the other night. I stand there, not believing my eyes, as the bear turns and starts to head right to me. In an instant he's in front of me just off to my right. His head is behind a tree. I draw back. I had just set my bow to 70 lbs the night before and I am ready for a shot as soon as the bear steps out in the opening. It seems an eternity when he finally does. My 10-yard pin rests just behind his left front shoulder for a perfect lung shot. I release the arrow and hit the big bruin with such force that the arrow passed to the other side just sticking out inches from his chest.
He reels from the impact and runs just 30 yards. I hear him thrashing in the underbrush. Branches break, and the woods grow quiet and still.
My heart is pounding now. I didn't have time to think I was about to harvest a black bear when I first saw him coming up through the woods. Now it hits me. I pick up my radio to call my son and brother to let them know I have just shot a black bear.
When I turn the radio on, immediately my son Scott is calling asking what the heck I just hit. I guess when the arrow hit; the bear let out a tremendous growl, which I honestly didn't hear. But from my son's position it sounded as if a war had broke out. I told him what I just shot and he couldn't believe it. Neither could my brother Jim. When I radioed him, that was when I found out he had just shot an 8 - point buck just 15 minutes before I shot the bear. He was on the ground looking for a blood trail and was unable to pick it up. He radioed back and said he was coming up to my stand. He asked if I had a good hit. I smiled and talked back on the radio, He's down Little Brother, He's down.
Within minutes they came up to my stand and I showed them where I had shot the bear. The leaves were covered with blood, and a heavy blood trail was leading out to a small clearing. We immediately took to the trail and within a couple of minutes found my black bear.
You just can't imagine the excitement when we saw the bear lying in a heap. You have to understand that we were hunting an area where it is rare to even see a black bear. After some photos, we dressed him out and guessed he was about 2, maybe 3 years old and weighed about 200 lbs.
We dragged him down to where my brother shot the buck. Within a few minutes we found the blood trail and because the shot was high we had to get on our hands and knees at times to stay on the trail. The buck had taken us through some very thick cover, but after about a 1/2 hour down by a stream we found him. Man....quite a buck too. Not a high scoring buck, but the biggest my brother has harvested by bow. We dressed him out and dragged the buck to where we left the bear. We just stood there in total disbelief seeing a bear, and a buck taken the same day, by two brothers who have both hunted for over 30 years and never had a day quite like it. And to see the grin on my son's face knowing he just witnessed a hunting event he'll never forget. Now that my friends and fellow bowhunters, is a hunt of a lifetime. That day is going to be tough to beat. If we don't, well, this hunt will live in our minds until our last breath. Just like the title of the story says, "What a day!"