Arkansas Ozarks, 2017
My goal was to find a persimmons tree and set up the double ladder by it so that the lad could take his very first deer. I was excited about a tree in a food plot just a short walk from camp. We drove to it and set up the stand.
Saturday, the first night in, we set up for a quick hunt. Deer were in the field behind us and around the bend in the other field. In front was heavy brush and deep valley which I thought would be good for animals to funnel up right to the edge of the field where the persimmons tree was. Brush sounded as though moving around us by dark, but wind direction was poor. No other trees to set the stand against.
We moved the stand a few hundred yards from camp down Wedding Chapel Trail. (named so by our map guy, SR for I'm married to the trail and stay faithful to her, for she almost always gives me something. map guy has all years of kill spots, sightings, shots, barking spider sightings, and more. Nice, map guy) The crest of this hillside always has deer crossing and it's right there at camp. Almost shot a doe one year by Yoopers truck. The south east side is heavily forested, gets the first morning sun, and three ridge lines come together here, along with dips and valleys all at one point. We set the stand here right off the old logging trail but more importantly, where multiple deer trails cross. Droppings were everywhere.
That evening and day one of the hunt, I take the lad a newly found honey hole from the previous hunt 2 years back. It's a trek to the dark side of the moon, across rocks and boulders filled with thoughts of rattlesnakes and spiders of all sizes. The black widow on his back pack earlier doesn't help. Nearly an hour later and with tears dried up on the cheeks, we're sitting over a nature spring and two trails funneled into shooting lanes between steep rocky, canyon walls. This is hot and dry Arkansas; cold water, sit on it long enough and you're bound to kill something. Getting impatient all of a sudden ruckus breaks out to the side of us. Three, black feral boar hogs come in and raised all sorts of fuse in front of us. Noises, grunts, squeels and shuffles, in front of us, back and forth. Coolest thing to see and had the kid's heart pumping.
The trek and the fear of snakes and thanks to one spider nearly the size of my 3” idler wheel, the kid was not going back. Wedding Chapel double ladder it was. We saw quite a bit of activity through out the week. The lad saw a better glimpse of a decent buck. A few times we were winded and after seeing the deer pattern, I believe we would have had even better luck if we moved just 30 yards on the other side of thick undergrowth.
The rest of camp were not and did not see much for deer movement. Seemed like other hunting just about anywhere in the US were experiencing a lull too. The first part of the week was real hot and the moon phase was bright. Fortunately for us, at lunch time, deer blew by camp and I almost got a shot. In day light, bows are always at the ready, even at camp, in this case, it was a 100% let off bow.
The ten year old boy in the stand next to me was looking to take his first deer ever and it was to be with a Parker Challenger crossbow. A few months prior he passed his hunter ed class and had to draw a crossbow on his own. It was set at 125. I held the crossbow in my hand most of the time in the stand for it faced the main trail where I thought his shot would be. Be hind me I had a few shooting lanes. Thankfully, earlier in the week, I made the boy look around the tree directly behind me to show him his shooting lanes. One, at 35 yards out, was only six feet wide and I told him if there is a deer in that lane you may have to move quick or I may have to take the shot otherwise we loose the deer. Mind you, there were shooting lanes and trails all around us, but of course...
As I sit, the youngster still connected digitally, I scan and scan and scan for movement. Deer, bob cats, coyotes, bear... anything legal, waiting for a broadhead. Then in all of a split second, doe! 35 yards in shooting lane! I swing the crossbow 30 degrees and get set up on the back rail of the treestand. The lad is simultaneously working his was around me on the treestand's platform trying to get in position to take the crossbow. In a flash I get the deer in the scope. I then watch as the head goes behind the tree, next the neck, then the front of the body as the deer is on a slight walk. I get the crosshair on the chest and am forced to squeeze off the shot. This all happens in well under five seconds. That's what it took to get the first deer hanging in camp. If I was not paying attention, or caught it a second later, the deer would have been gone.
The lad was at first mad, but understood. He saw the hit and was glad. The shot was a little delayed getting there but the deer did not go far. A short and circular tracking job recovered an antlerless buck.
Mid week I almost get a shot at deer by stalking and with a Concept bow in hand. A few others came close to the treestand only to wind us. On that same very South-East facing slope I kicked up very nice buck at a mere 30 yards. I also came across bear scat, a critter I had a still legit tag for this year. Bear were seen by another fellow I forced to hike to bolder cliffside, water hole blind. Critters seen every night at that water hole, just couldn't talk the boy back for the fear of snakes and the one big spider among the rocks.
The lad wears a “Don't Count Me Out” t-shirt often. I though he was counted out even for this trip for his friend couldn't make it and when he found out he was the only youth, he wasn't going. Come soccer, I can be beating him ten to zero and he still gives it all to get that one goal and really tries for the comeback. He said he was to shoot his first deer in AR. He surprises me often.
Two days later and on the last day, a doe and yearling are feeding along the edge of the overgrowth. The same spot we keep getting busted and I thought it was coming again. Nearly ten minutes later, and several exhales of relief, he had the the crossbow was settled on the rail. He knew the moment and where to place the shot. Upon firing he knew he had the deer and even knew and followed the mature doe. That week he learned to shoot offhand (hand held as if right then and there, deer) and was proud of his 20 and 30 yard shot (broadheads – resharpened). The doe crashed in site.
A few photos (regret not taking more) and he dragged the deer the short distance and back into camp by himself. He did well.
He and I were the only two to fill a tag that week and for us it was both from the same stand. No big bucks were taken that week, but it was good time spent by all. Weather, company including new local friends, swimming, and food, even surprising food from the chefs (a new camp chef for 2017 and runner ups). There's something special about the Arkansas Ozarks and it was a great, rememberable week away. We both have enjoyed very much the deer that we thankfully harvested. The potential is so there as are the critters.
Broadheads: both Magnus Stinger or Buzzcuts, both were pass throughs
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