Only from a Deer StandNov 01, 2021 08:00AM ● By Roger Kingsley
When archery season opened one year, Darryl Maynard had a particular deer on his mind—a ten-pointer he had seen numerous times. Darryl spent many days bow-hunting the buck. But although he greatly wanted to tag it, he didn’t let his obsession get ahead of something even more important—sharing the hunting experience as a mentor. One day when he decided to go hunting, he took three other people with him; his eleven-year-old daughter, his six-year-old nephew, and his two-year-old grandson. Darryl loaded them into his Polaris Ranger and drove to a ground blind where they all crawled inside.
After some enjoyable family time in the blind, Darryl caught a whiff of something that didn’t smell like buck lure. He eyed his grandson. Did you poop? No, came the reply. When the air quality did not improve, he checked.
Then they all retreated to the house where Grandma saved the day with a fresh diaper. Back to the blind they went, the door was zipped shut, and the circus inside resumed. Coloring books kept the kids occupied along with talking, laughing, eating, pushing, and shoving when suddenly that one particular buck flooding Darryl’s mind stepped out of the brush to stare at the blind.
By the time Darryl shushed the three kids and pointed, the beautiful buck had raised his white flag goodbye, wanting no part of the festivities. Despite having missed out on a shot at the buck of a lifetime, Darryl had no regrets. There would be plenty of other days to pursue that deer on his own terms. Instead, those kids not only got to go hunting, they had a ball, and topped it off with a timely sighting of a monster buck.
As hunters, our duty to the animals is to make the most humane kills possible. Sadly, unfortunate circumstances dictate that there will be ifs and unknowns riding on a certain percentage of shots.
Kirsten Feusner told me that as a sixteen-year-old, she was the most impatient, complaining hunting partner anyone could have. Still, she was hooked on deer hunting for its moments of sheer excitement. Once, while on a stand with her mother, Denise, a number of deer were giving them fits about presenting the perfect shot. They were either sky lined, in brush, too small, out of range, or in line with distant buildings.
Finally, with her impatient bubble about to burst, Kirsten got her chance and fired at a fourteen-point non-typical. The bullet flattened the big buck. Then he scrambled to his feet and ran, offering no other shots. Denise—a veteran hunter—contemplated the situation. While Kirsten was overwhelmed with the buck’s recovery, Denise concluded they should give it a couple hours before pursuit. The chase eventually turned dismal when it became a struggle to find any signs of the wounded animal.
Denise still believed the shot was lethal. So they searched day after day after day. Finally, on the fourth day, they discovered the days-old carcass in a nasty thicket of thorn bushes. Thanks to Denise’s steadfast commitment to recover that buck, her daughter Kirsten learned valuable tracking lessons she’ll never forget. Recovering the non-typical after they had worked so hard combing the area was a genuine thrill—one that certainly fit Kirsten’s sense of wonder and excitement.
It was a Friday in November when Anthony Ventello loaded his car, waved goodbye to Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York where he was a student, and drove six hours to spend a single day bow hunting in Pennsylvania. Anthony got to his stand before daylight, but sat there till 4 p.m. before a shooter buck walked by—a Record Book qualifier, by the way. Whack! End of hunt? End of story? Not so fast.
Teachers commonly use the letters ABCDF for grading, right? A college kid driving six hours each way for one day’s hunting might win the grade “W” for waste of time. But think about it. Anthony wasn’t there solely for the kill. His time was spent studying entomology, as he dealt with the variety of insects that pester hunters during the warm days in the early season.
He learned about meteorology, the science of weather, particularly the wind direction and speed requiring constant monitoring to control human scent dispersal. Biology and biophysics factored in too. Were the oak trees in the distance producing acorns this year? When would this year’s whitetail breeding cycle peak? Anthony only had one day to arrive at a reasonable hypothesis.
Unbeknownst to his professors, Anthony was studying agronomy while he waited, calculating the rate of clover seed application per acre in a new food plot. He was estimating the amount of lime needed to raise the pH of that soil for the clover.
No hunter would argue that Anthony wasn’t studying the technological advancements in precision engineering built into the Mathews bow he had been practicing with. This is well known to hunters as the School of Hard Nocks—nock an arrow and shoot it, nock another arrow and shoot it, and so on, because practice makes perfect.
While Anthony waited, he considered the trigonometry of arrow velocity based on shaft weight, the kinetic energies on the target, and the precise range between two major points. I’d be willing to bet he could also challenge any professor on the field-judging and math skills necessary to quickly estimate a gross sum from his own Boone & Crockett scoring system studies. And because the death of an animal did occur, well, he just opened the book titled The Art of Forensic Science.
Sounds like BS? Maybe. But in my school of thought, all these courses are right in front of us when we, as hunters, enter the fields and woods each year. An imaginary sign saying “Welcome to deer season” hangs above us. Each year we study in depth how deer will feed, breed, and bleed. And the best school to get this education is only at a deer stand.