This past Saturday was Pennsylvania’s last day for the regular archery season. Unlike many of the other days I had two buddies along … Steve and Troy. We got there a bit early because we had heard that the North Range got hit hard on Friday. We rolled out of our cars at 4:30 am and I proceeded to offer some suggestions as to where they could sit. We decided to follow a similar strategy as what we do over on SGL 205 since we expected there to be a lot of hunters up top off of the parking area. Each of us positioned ourselves just below the autumn olive patches on the other side of the Jordan Creek with the hopes that the deer would get pushed down from the hunting pressure above. It took some doing to find a spot for my buddy Steve as he was determined to use a climber. Both Troy and I elected to sit on the ground in some very well hidden spots.
The first hour and a half of light passed uneventfully for the three of us. We saw no deer and only had one run-in with another pair of hunters. At around 7:45 am I decided to say the heck with it and get into the autumn olive patches as I was not seeing anything and a very light mist was starting to settle into the area. After hiking uphill just passed a ladder stand I knew was set up, I heard what sounded like the twang of a bowstring. I called Steve on the radio and found out he had just shot at a doe. Apparently they had been bedded in front of him all morning but because of the high reeds he was unable to see them until one stood up. He was going to give it 20 or 30 minutes before getting down out of the stand to see if he connected. With that thought in mind I sat down underneath the autumn olive bush I was under. It was quite thick in there but open enough in some spots for me to get a 10-15 yard shot.
No sooner did I sit down and nock an arrow when I heard a deer snort in front of me 30 or 40 yards away. My first thought was “Darn, I am busted” but the wind was blowing in my face and I had been fairly quiet when walking in. The snorting picked up again a few seconds later but it was now followed by the guttural “grunt” of a buck giving chase. A large doe came crashing through the autumn olive and not far behind her was a gigantic buck intent on one thing and one thing only. They did a small half circle right around me and ended up directly behind me. The doe did a ninety degree turn and came ripping right passed me…and I do mean right passed me. I could have punched her with my fist as she went by.
Had I not been sitting with my back to the bush I believe she would have rolled me right over. Thankfully the buck did not immediately pursue her. He stood rooted to the ground 10 yards behind me. It was at that point that I realized what I was staring at. This buck was a very high 10 pointer with extremely thick main beams. The brow tines were 7-8 inches in length with the G2s going upwards of 9-10 inches. Inside spread was probably about 20-21 inches. In other words, for my area, he was a monster! I would guess his score to be solidly in the 150-160 class without question.
He still seemed totally unaware of my presence as he retraced his steps right around my position. As he turned away I drew back on him but, for the life of me, I just could not find a clear shooting lane to put the arrow through. As I let down the bow and watched him walk away I felt that rush that only a bowhunter really knows. It is that thrill of being one on one with an animal. In this situation the feeling was even more heightened as I truly was on eye level with a monster buck. At that point I decided to move uphill another 20 yards or so as there appeared to be more of an opportunity to shoot. After choosing a spot I grabbed some dead twigs/branches and made a small, impromptu ground blind.
Not long after settling in I noticed movement through the thick tangle. A doe proceeded to feed slowly passed me but well within my 15-20 yard sight radius. Following her was another doe..and another..and another. All together I counted six does slowly making their way through the undergrowth. They seemed totally unaware of my presence. A short time later I noticed more movement in the same direction. This time two deer materialized.
It was a small spike buck slowly sniffing after a doe. A button buck also made an appearance and seemed to be intent on following the other two deer. The pace picked up and both bucks chased the doe downhill passed my blind. The button buck gave up not far downhill and proceeded to walk back up the trail next to me. I did not notice him until I glanced to my right and saw a deer head poked out from around the bush less than 4 yards away. Again, what a rush to have a deer that close and at eye level. I have found a new level of excitement with bowhunting.
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The morning progressed and I continued to see deer from the blind. By around 10:30 though I knew I had to head out because I wanted to bring my son out for the afternoon hunt as quickly as possible. The trouble was the deer were not cooperating. They continued to show up until just before I snuck out of the blind. After heading down to the creek I heard from my buddy. He cleanly missed the doe despite the close proximity of the shot. Apparently a small twig interferred with the flight of his arrow.
After eating lunch and picking up my oldest son we headed back to the blind. I was not sure what kind of activity we were going to see for the afternoon, but I had high hopes considering what the morning was like. I did not have to wait long as, again, deer started to materialize out of the thick undergrowth. Small groups fed passed our stand and my son was very excited to see so many deer so close and at eye level. At one point we had fifteen doe feeding out in front of the blind. Troy and Steve had elected to hunt above me and to my left to see if they could pick up on any of the action. They had to reposition once though as the deer were not coming as far over as they had in the morning. My excitement level then peaked as all fifteen doe's heads came up at once as I heard noise from above. A large 8-point buck proceeded to run into the group and scatter them down the hill. He did not even slow down as he came through my shooting lanes.
A short time, and several deer later, two small bucks made an appearance. The first proved to be a small four point followed by a respectable 6 pointer without brow tines. With my son along and with the excitement of eye to eye contact I decided to take a crack at him if the opportunity presented itself. It never did as the only shot I had would have been at the back 2/3rds of the deer's body. That is not an ethical shot in my opinion so I elected not to take it. The two buck eventually meandered downhill.
Right around 3:45 pm another buck, a different six pointer came out of the brush and proceeded to head straight for where my two friends had set up. Steve again took aim and shot. He thought he connected but on further inspection it again appeared to be a clean miss. Having just chosen the spot based on deer activity in the area none of us had the opportunity to clear really good shooting lanes as it appeared his arrow again struck an unseen branch. That is something we will remedy for the upcoming rifle season. More on that later.
At 4:30 I had two more doe show up at the same level as the blind but unfortunately I did not have the opportunity at another shootable buck. On the way out we kicked out a few deer but made a mental note on the best approach to the stand. After a brief discussion at the car both of my friends left. I decided to head over to a spot a half mile away where another friend, Dennis, had been hunting for the evening. He had seen five deer...three of which were shootable bucks. One of the three turned out to be the big 10-pointer I had seen that morning. Sadly, he had not been able to get a shot at any of them either but, he too was able to gain some valuable information for the rest of the season.
With our regular archery season behind us I am left feeling more excited than when it started. That is a first. I have also decided to abandon the rifle for our upcoming rifle season and continue to hunt with a bow even for our "first day". I am also going to take the little guy out with me again at least for the afternoon hunt. Sharing it with him takes the level of satisfaction to an entirely different level.