Last week I went on my first real deer hunt. I say first real deer hunt because I went along as a spectator once before, but didn’t hunt. For weeks leading up to this past Tuesday I’ve been preparing by taking the online hunter education course, spending countless hours researching what gear to buy(more on this later), finding the best deals, watching hours of you tube videos on field dressing a deer, and practicing with my new crossbow.
Having never been a hunter I’m very fortunate that both of my brother-in-laws, and my father-in-law are very avid hunters. All of whom have given guidance as I prepare for this new outdoor adventure. I’m so fortunate in fact that on my first hunt my brother-in-law Mike (bleedingcamo.com) took me out for my first hunt. Monday Mike spent time teaching me a whole host of things around scent control, scrapes, deer calls, and more. We venture out to where we would be hunting where Mike shared some knowledge on detecting dear trails and ultimately helped me pick a tree for the next mornings hunt.
Although I live in Pennsylvania I decided to hunt in Maryland for a few reasons. A large reason is in Pennsylvania I’m limited to 1 buck for the entire season. In Maryland I can hunt unlimited does and up to 4 bucks. I was also able to take advantage of the Maryland Apprentice Hunting License as it is my first year hunting in Maryland. The apprentice license is a great deal for first time Maryland hunters, especially if you are out of state. Instead of the normal $120 out-of-state fee, it was only $20 saving me $100 and it also allows me to take the bonus buck without paying for the bonus stamp. Double win.
Tuesday morning I awoke at 4:45am to get ready for our morning of hunting. My brother-in-law Mike is fortunate enough to live up against hunt-able state land which was very convenient. Once ready we strapped on our stands grabbed our bows and headed for the woods. We arrived at the tree we scouted the afternoon before and I began to get setup with the assistance of Mike and before long I was ready to start my climb. I purchased a Summit Viper SD tree stand which I’m very happy with. It’s super light, comfortable, and very easy to use. Once I was on my way Mike headed out to get to his own spot before the crest of the sun. Loving heights and seeing some cover from an adjacent tree I decided I was going to go up about 25-30ft. I know that’s pretty high, but what a view I had.
Once I arrived at my desired height on the tree I secured my stand hung a hook for my crossbow and grabbed the hoist line and started pulling it up. After a few pulls the line felt super light and sure enough my crossbow was not attached to the line. This is that point where I almost wanted to cry. After working so hard to get up the tree I didn’t want to have to go down and do it again. Time ticking I had no option but to get started back down the tree as quickly as possible, connect my crossbow and get back up before the sun started to come up. I sucked it up and headed down. Once I got to the bottom I connected my bow, making sure this time there was no way it could come loose. The hoist line I had purchased seemed great it has a hook on the end and is reflective so I can see how much line is left down below as I go up the tree. Well as great and simple the hook idea seemed it certainly was not.
With my bow on the line I got back on my stand and start back up the tree. At this point I’m sweating so badly giant drops of sweat are pouring off me down to the ground. I removed my hat and put it in the pocket of my harness to let some heat off as I climbed. Working as fast as I could I climbed back to my previous height. Victory I had made it and the sun was barely starting to peek out. I secured my stand to the tree and decided to sit for a minute and take a well deserved rests. It’s at this point I went to pull my hat out of my pocket and discovered it wasn’t there, ugh. Not only have I dripped sweat everywhere under my stand I dropped my hat which was covered in sweat. Between all the fuss I made going up and down and back up the tree and all my scent I left on the ground I was certain I wouldn’t see any deer.
As I sat there beating myself up instead of getting myself ready I looked out and there was seven does coming right for me. Realizing my crossbow was hanging on a hook and my range meter was in my backpack I determine there was nothing I could do at this point. My only option was to sit there and watch these doe’s go about their business. At first I was beating myself up more for not being ready, but as I watched the doe’s I started not to mind. It was a great opportunity to just scout them. Out of the seven there was one that stood out, one that was a bit larger than the rest. If I were going to take one of these doe’s, that was the one. It was like the gods were messing with me, she was the one and she was just standing there broad side right in front of me. After about 10 minutes the doe’s continued on their way across the trail and down a slope until they were out of sight.
At this point I decided I better get ready if they came back or other whitetails decided to move through my area. First I decided to get my range finder and spot some trees so I could quickly gauge the distance of any potential whitetails I may spot. I turn to my right where my bag was hanging, unzip the pouch with my range finder and started fumbling around looking for it. After I finally find it I remove it from it’s case and turn around in my seat. As I’m turning I spot the doe, the big one, the one that I want straight ahead just staring at me. I stop and just froze like a deer in headlights. Still as can be she is staring at me for what seemed like forever before finally returning to eating acorns. While she was distracted I took the opportunity to range her distance, she was at 12 yards straight in front of me again, broadside, head down, and leg forward. I couldn’t believe my luck. Despite everything here I was ready to harvest my first whitetail.
I still had one issue. My crossbow was hanging on the tree to my right. I needed to get it before I could harvest this doe. I turned my head looked to my crossbow, reached out grabbed it and started to remove it from the hook. As I look back at the deer once again she is staring right at me. Again I froze remaining as still as possible my arm held in the air holding my crossbow, it wasn’t the best place to be stuck in. Finally she once again went back to eating acorns and I was able to bring my crossbow into position to aim the sights on her. Looking through my scope I took am. I remember thinking to myself this is it, I’m going to get my first dear, calm down, take aim, take a deep breath and gently squeeze the trigger. At that moment I squeezed the trigger and nothing. You heard me right, nothing. I had failed to turn off the safety on my crossbow. Wanting to panic I held it back and remained calm. I gently put my thumb and index finger on the safety and as gently as possible started sliding it forward. Gentle, gentle I’m thinking and then it happened. The safety made a load click. Yup you guessed it. The Doe heard the click and without hesitation she took off and with that so did my shot.
I was pretty bummed in the moment, but all in all I had a great day! I enjoyed being outside in nature, seeing the whitetails, and I learned a number of valuable lessons. We will see how I do in a just a few days when I go out on my second hunt and hopefully I won’t make any mistakes and successfully harvest my first deer ever.
The three big lessons I learned:
- Make sure your bow or whatever you need to pull up is properly attached to your pull line.
- Don’t place your hat in your pocket, put it somewhere it cannot fall off.
- Turn off the safety on your crossbow before a deer is withing 40-50 yards.