About me

Friday, September 2, 2011

September 10, 2011: Opening weekend for the North Carolina's Archery Deer Season!!!!!

Life has conspired to keep me from posting and enjoying the outdoors!  My fishing expeditions have been severely curtailed and lmited to a few (successful) short but sweet outings.  Nature walks have been limited to the backyard for the most part with some success. 

However, in one week from today, September 10, 2011, we will celebrate: kick-off for the 2011 NFL season and opening weekend for the North Carolina archery Deer Season opener!  As I prepare this post I have a follow up coming immediately that you hunters will like.  It details some of my gear and a really nice little something for the season.  While I wrap up those, I’d like to share a little about how and/or why I started bow hunting and what I’ve learned over the years.

I am probably an anomaly (in more ways than one) when it comes to bow hunting, but folks like me are quickly becoming the norm…. I’ll explain.  Yes, it is rare for someone to pick up hunting later in life, as I did.  There is where the caveat comes in.  However, whereas participation in hunting and fishing overall has been experiencing a steady decrease, participation in big game hunting (deer, elk, turkey, and bear) via archery and black powder has been steadily increasing.  ESPN did a great show on this about a year ago.  A great number of those new bow hunters are: over 30 when they take up the sport, suburban/urban residents and most of whom did not grow up in a house with hunters.  I had relatives who hunted deer but they used traditional “Southern” methods: shotguns and deer-dogs.  No tree stands, food plots, corn piles or bows.   As a youth, I had an interest in hunting (deer, rabbits), but without access to guns, rifles, dogs, land or mentors I was pretty content watching the Southern Sportsman on Sunday mornings.  Later, (2001-2007) I moved to New Jersey where (of all places) I met as true an outdoors man as ever existed.  He introduced me to the concept of bow hunting and tree stands.  I took the NJ Hunters’ Education and Safety course and examination in anticipation of going out with him, but never got around to buying a shotgun (too restrictive up there) or bow. 
One evening, early spring 2008, I was stuck in traffic and kind of thinking about all the things I wanted to try and/or experiences I wanted to share with my children. Would bow hunting deer become another one of those ‘things’ I wanted to try and never got around too?!?  I looked over to the side of the road and saw a sign that read “North Carolina Game Lands-Archery Zone”.   Was this a message?   If not now when?  A typical Gen Xer, I took the ‘DIY’ route, researched, and found a website that calculated my draw length, estimate the optimal draw weight, and help select the proper equipment.   My research left me well versed in the jargon, equipment and laws and however, it was not until I actually placed boots in the woods with bow in hand that I really learned the important lessons.

Lesson 1:  A compound bow is not a toy. 

I finally purchased a really sweet bow called the Whisper Creek Stealth LX in a ready to hunt set up.  Admittedly, the days of bench pressing 305 pounds for show are long over, but I am still capable of reps in the 250-260 range and rowing in the 150 pound range without shoulder pain!   However, pulling back on a 70 pound draw for the first time and trying to hold it while aiming left me breathless and after a dozen shots I could not help but think “what have I gotten myself in to?”  I missed from 30 yards and hit a tree.  To my astonishment, the arrow was so deep in a pine tree that the tip remains in it today.  Respect earned.  I practiced religiously from late March until August.  By September 2007, I was shooting 3” groups from 20 yards and 9” groups from 30 yards.  Just before the season started I robin hooded an arrow from 20 yards………….

I was ready!

Lesson 2: Hunting is challenging, exciting and dangerous.  A guided hunt with an expert is worth every dime in terms of safety and education.

Given my lack of experience, I felt the best decision would be to invest in a guided hunt to “learn the ropes” before going out on my own.  I booked a day hunt, locally, for the second weekend in December.  I could not wait!  I used a vacation day and went out on my own as a “birthday” gift to me the weekend before……  I selected an “Archery Zone”, on some public land that I was familiar with from fishing.  I found a nice game trail with fresh sign.  This was early December post-rut with temperatures in the low 50’s.  About 15-20 yards off the trail; I set up a stool beneath an overhang, camouflaged in, and readied to hunt from the ground.  Suddenly, I see this little piece of dead vine waving in the wind in front of me.   I don’t want any movement to draw attention to me or obstructions throwing off the shot.  So I pull out my knife and cut it.  Unfortunately, as I put the knife back in my sheath, I touched the string of my bow and it literally blew up in my lap….. 70 pound bow and a rage broad head!  After being stunned, I realized my hand was cut between my left index and middle finger and the first three fingers of my left hand numb!  A few stitches and I was out in time to pick up my daughter (my fingers were tingling for weeks after).  Pride shattered and shaken by how close I came to disaster I was obsessed with getting my bow fixed and ready for the guided hunt next weekend……..  The local shop replaced my string and the next weekend I was on a guided hunt in Caswell County.  Didn’t harvest a deer but learned a lifetime of information. 

Lesson 3: Seasons change.  The habits of people and animals change with the seasons.  Know the way and lay of the land now and as it will be. 

For the 2009-2010 season, I decided the best way to hunt public was via tree stand.  Considering the mix of tall straight pines available I selected a climbing tree stand.  I also found time to scout a few weeks before the season and identified some great places off the beaten trail and fairly absent of human activity.  I’d found some really good looking public land deer less than 5 minutes from my house.  ‘My’ season didn’t start until after Pop Warner football ended, but I was fine with that.  I hunted hard for two weeks and never saw a thing!  Thanksgiving weekend I was in my stand, sitting amidst oaks down-wind of a creek bed heading to the lake.  I sat 20 feet up watching the sun rise and enjoying the sounds of the woods awakening. Two hours after sun-rise: nothing.  Three hours and I see …. No, can’t be.  Yes it was so, there were 4 dogs running under my stand followed at a distance by two men with shotguns and a radio.  They never saw me, but I watched them on the 2-way working the dogs.  I decided it was a lost cause and climbed down.  Nice guys, offered a shotgun and chance to run with them.  I told them maybe next time, I’d been out for while and needed to head out.  Later in the season I took the advice of an older hunter I met, “if they running dogs, go late”.  I went out one more time about two hours before dark and sure enough, I saw two bucks cross the creek about 60 yards away at last light.   Season over.
Lesson 4: Be patient, learn your game. 

During the 2009-2010 season and immediately after, I took note of every sign and fleeting glimpse of deer (doe or buck); where signs were strongest opening day mid-season and after; where they ran when pushed, where they came from; weather.  I studied them hard and formulated a plan for 2010-2011.  The land I hunt is open to “either-sex” harvest by bow and /or muzzle loader (no dogs) from the second Saturday in October through the second weekend in October.  After that, only “antlered deer” may be harvested by any legal means until the last week of the season which is either sex any legal weapon.   Knowing that, I decided to avoid any where I found evidence of rutting bucks after the 2009-2010 season until November.   I wasn’t so concerned that I would run off the bucks.  This is public land these deer are accustomed to hikers, fishermen and campers.  My concern was alerting other hunters to hot spots and creating lots of traffic - putting the older bucks on alert!  
20 November 2010, I headed out to an area where I’d seen good signs and rubs in mid January 2010 about 2 weeks after the season closed.  I trusted my instincts, notes, scouting reports and set up on faith.  I climbed about 15-18 feet up into a low canopy, set my bow in the holder and checked the wind, perfect.  I let things settle down and had a phone in hand taking notes of the set up.  Suddenly, less than 10 minutes in the stand, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.  Tines moving through the bushes….. I thought, “Finally, after 3 years, it’s on!!!!”  Buck fever set in: I could feel my heart, hear my breath and taste the adrenaline.  He looked up in the trees, sniffing not overly alert but checking things out.   Had he winded me?!?!!?  He’s looking dead at me, if I reach for my bow he’s gone!   I sit fighting the urge to blink. He walks behind a tree, head down and I take advantage with a fast smooth movement to full draw.  When he came to the other side about 25-30 yards out, I had my sights locked in ready to go.  When he dropped his head again, broadside, I let her fly and that Rage 3-blade found the spot.   The arrow was true and I got my first buck:

An 8 pointer with one break off that would have put him at 9.  I took this buck on public land in the midst of regular gun season. 

So that is my experience.  I hope you enjoyed and learned from my mistakes.  In the next couple of posts (soon!), I’ll discuss my new tree stand the set up/modifications, gear selection, strategy and goals for 2011.  A lot to cover in 10 days. 


  1. I love my Whisper Creek...Nice blog!

  2. I really miss my Whisper Creek. It was perfect for use in a ground blind, an easy draw and just all around good. Every time I see one on eBay I fight the urge........ You can only use one at a time right!?!?!?