I awoke and jumped in the shower long before my alarm clock sounded. It was 4:10 a.m. I was anxious to get to my new stand. Once again, my plan was to sit all day. By having seen the big buck at both ends of the time spectrum, I knew that pulling a dawn-to-dusk sit would dramatically increase my odds of catching him moving during daylight hours. Hopefully my patience threshold and tolerance to sitting still for extended periods of time would continue to endure yet another one of my self-inflicted torture tests.
Following the 15-mile drive from town, I parked my truck alongside a row of trees on the far northwestern edge of the hayfield and got dressed in the dark. It was pleasing to know that I would only have a short stroll in the dim light of early morning to reach my destination. With the new stand hanging 400 yards closer than the stand to the south, it would only take a few minutes to cover the distance. It was 6:00 a.m.
The stand was set in the perfect location. It overlooked the convergence of three finger ridges that all lead up a slight hill and passed through a narrow draw. The draw contained a network of trails that crisscrossed its confines in nearly every direction. In addition, a sizeable cluster of fruit-bearing oak trees was attracting large numbers of deer to the area. I had noticed these unique terrain features the day before when choosing the tree that would anchor my stand. The stand also offered the means to take advantage of a natural travel corridor that the deer were using to visit several primary scrapes. The scrapes were scattered along the edges of the hayfield for nearly its entire length, but the big buck favored the ones on the north end. As a result, I had to make a decision: Remain a spectator or change stand locations. You already know the answer to that question.
As I waited for the sun to rise, I prayed that the disturbance I caused while setting the stand and trimming a few shooting lanes hadn’t alerted the deer. I also implored the Heavens that the measures I took to conceal my human odor had been sufficient. I would soon find out.
The day was bright and sunny with temperatures predicted to reach the high 50s. The sky was fiery blue with a cloudless horizon for as far as the eye could see. A slight breeze blew an occasional burst from the north but was otherwise calm. It was the type of day that every bowhunter wishes to experience. Shortly after daybreak, three deer suddenly emerged from the shadows and stood in the middle of the hayfield to the south. The early-rising trio consisted of two medium-sized does and a basket-racked 8-pointer. The two does cut into the woods and headed east across the railroad tracks toward the big soybean field, leaving the small buck to choose his own course.
As if by design, the small buck headed straight for my stand and casually strolled by at a mere 4 yards, calming my concerns for the time being. He had no idea that anything was amiss and even paused for a few seconds in one of my shooting lanes so that I could practice drawing my bow on him. With a renewed sense of confidence in my stand’s location, I sat back and waited for the chance to get a closer look at the big 10. It was 7:15 a.m. Eight hours would pass before another deer would make an appearance.
As the hours slowly ticked away, I kept myself occupied by watching a host of birds and squirrels match wits in a seemingly endless barrage of woodland sporting competitions. In the meantime, a flock of mischievous turkeys gathered in the hayfield and frolicked the day away in similar fashion. At 3:15 p.m. a small buck chased two does across the draw from the west to the east and disappeared into the thick brush, ending the deer-less run. In spite of this madcap activity, two and a half more hours would pass by without me seeing another deer.
At 5:45 p.m., with darkness closing in, my thoughts turned against me. “Maybe the big buck hooked up with a doe and wouldn’t show up this evening, or maybe he heard me, or worse yet, saw me hang my stand,” I seriously pondered.
Once again my confidence began to wane. With my mind working against me and racing in a million different directions, the unthinkable was about to happen. Just as I was trying to convince myself that the big buck would show himself again if given enough time, I heard the unmistakable sound of a deer approaching. With no time to assess the situation, I soon went into predator-mode as a flash of antler caught my eye. As the lone deer crossed in front of my stand I could tell that he was a good-sized buck. I instinctively moved into position for the shot, not fully realizing what I was about to do.
Moving from my right to my left, the buck quickly closed the distance. Without any concern on his part or mine, he would soon offer me a pointblank, broadside shot at 5 yards. And, in my confused, dreamlike state of mind with no thoughts of the big buck to stop me, I would take it! As he moved into position, my 78-pound Hoyt Stratus Plus was already at full draw. I never felt the weight of its pull. Lining up on his mid-section, I sent a Thunderhead-tipped shaft on its way before I knew what I was doing. The arrow struck him perfectly, passing completely through both lungs and rocketing into the ground on the far side. I watched the mortally wounded deer run a 40-yard, half circle death sprint into the hayfield and expire. My hunt was over… Or was it?
Just as my mind began to finally shake off the ill effects of a temporary cobweb affliction and grasp what actually happened, I heard the sounds of a running animal approaching my stand. Within seconds, the largest whitetail buck I have ever seen while hunting from a tree stand was now standing directly under me! It was the big 10!
He stood beneath my stand watching the smaller buck lying dead in the field for what seemed like hours, but it was more than likely only a minute or so. And there I stood with my mouth agape, watching the big buck watching the smaller buck, not fully believing what I was seeing. But it was real, and the reality of it all was almost more than I could take at that moment. It was a scene that I will never forget as long as I live. And I’m quite certain that I will continue to replay it over and over in my mind until my days on this Earth no longer exist. Time on stand: 12 hours, 45 minutes.
It was official. My hunt with Kevin Harris of Honey Creek Outfitters was over, and it was time to pack my things and go home. As I headed my truck south down Highway 65 and began the journey back to my home in Springfield, I was already musing over the late bow season. You see, I had one tag left that I could use after the rifle season, so I made plans with Kevin to return for another chance at a big buck during Missouri’s second bow season. I was already counting down the days.
Folks, what can I say? I simply lost my focus, and that brief moment of impatience cost me the biggest whitetail buck I would have taken to date. All I can figure is that the big 10 must have been traveling closely behind the smaller 8-point and ran in to see what all the commotion was about after I shot. It just proves that anything can happen at any time when pursuing trophy whitetails with archery equipment.
Nevertheless, I must admit that my hunt with Honey Creek was an awesome experience from beginning to end even though I didn’t harvest the big 10. I saw deer every day, took a very respectable buck and had the opportunity to match wits with wild, free-ranging trophy whitetails. So, if you’re like me and you live to bowhunt big whitetails, then this is definitely the place for you. As they say, “The proof is in the ‘honey’”-- Honey Creek Outfitters, that is!
To book a hunt with Kevin Harris of Honey Creek Outfitters call him at: 1-660-359-5607, or visit his web site at: Honey Creek Outfitters.
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