It's February 8, 2016. And archery deer season ended yesterday. What a year it has been! If you aren't a hunter, I applaud you for keeping an open mind and reading my blog. It's never my intent to offend anyone with my hunting pictures or blogs- I simply want to educate as best I can on hunting and conservation.
If you are interested in how I started hunting, please check out this blog
Our 2015/2016 season was... a doozy. To say the least. We live in Ohio which means we can bait pre season and during season. Majority of our hunting spots are 3 hours away so in June, we start putting out cameras and feed (mainly corn, hay, and minerals) to see what deer are in that area. It's also really neat to start putting out cameras in the summer because you get to watch the deer grow their antlers.
For almost 3 months, we drove down to our spots 3 hours away, as well as our local spots, and put out a few hundred pounds of feed each time. And just to note, majority of the deer that eat the feed, are not shot that year, or possibly ever. All states regulate how many bucks/does can be taken in each county, and it changes from year to year. The higher the population, the more one can harvest. This keeps the balance and eco system in check.
We monitor the deer on the properties that we have permission to hunt on daily. We use cameras that send pictures directly to our phones in real time, so we are constantly monitoring patterns as well as the different deer that frequent that corn pile. We typically hunt bucks first and then does once our buck tag has been filled. On our one property, we had several very large/old bucks that we were primarily targeting that we watched for months.
On opening day in September, I was up first to shoot. The smaller of the three deer that we were watching came in the first morning but it was not the deer that I wanted to take off the property- he simply wasn't old enough and the other two were much more predictable. We watched him for about 20 minutes and let him walk in hopes of the other two coming in that we were going to harvest. The next day... the farmer started logging the woods where the deer were bedding (sleeping). That spot was ruined for the year. All of the deer no longer had anywhere to bed down, so they moved. Hopefully this year, it will have created a safe haven for them and the deer that we watched for months last year, will start to show back up.
Back to the drawing boards.
Another spot that we have 3 hours away was extremely lucky because that's where Josh shot his deer last year. Guess what happens when an outsider comes in and harvests a huge deer off a local property? Word gets around quick. Guess what else happens? People get really pissed off, quick. Again, this was another spot that we were investing in (same as mentioned above, corn, cameras, monitoring, etc). We had several large, old deer that needed to be taken off the property. Over the next few months, we had poachers, trespassers, loose dogs, four wheelers, and a lovely woman who decided to LIE and post a picture saying she saw a world class deer on the property- knowing we were hunting and knowing people would poach. She stole the image off the internet, it was a deer that was on an Illinois state park- some story huh! Another spot, ruined. We even had people using our own tree stands and hunting while we were on a different spot 30 yards away.
Lucky for us, a local spot started producing some really nice deer. We have been feeding the deer for three years with nothing on camera except does, fawns, and yearling bucks. But this year- was our lucky year- two huge bucks started showing up quite often! We hunted them- HARD- for weeks. We ran into the land owner one day, the sweetest old man you will ever meet. He told us that his wife became attached to the deer and we could no longer hunt. Just our luck right.
We decided to take a break from Ohio and decided to travel to Nebraska and Illinois- the story continues- bad weather and no deer. Back to Ohio.
Thank goodness for family friends. Our friend Jimmy has a bunch of hunting permission where we hunt 3 hours away. He does an incredible job managing the deer on his properties and had one deer that was clearly injured, old, and needed to be harvested. Josh and I dropped everything we were doing and headed down to Southern Ohio. We hunted out of an old house that was built in the early 1800s and at the last ten minutes of legal shooting light, my deer (monkey tail) came in! He hung out at around 60 yards, completely covered by brush, just scoping the area. He knew something was off and never came into the corn pile. I drew back as he was walking away and he stopped in an opening about 30 yards away from me. I concentrated, pulled myself together, and released the arrow.
Most anti-hunters assume that hunters have no remorse. They assume we feel nothing when we harvest an animal. They assume we enjoy killing. They assume we are sadistic. They assume we are murderers. They assume we get off to killing. They never assume that we are actually humans with hearts, souls, and a deep love and appreciate for animals. We spend hundreds of hours in the woods. Thousands of dollars feeding deer we will never harvest. Hundreds of hours of archery practice to ensure that the animal is harvested in the quickest manner possible.
Hunters do feel sadness. We feel remorse. We feel appreciation. We feel a sense of accomplishment. We feel gratitude. We feel complete. It's hard to describe to someone who doesn't hunt that we actually love animals- especially bow hunters. We are usually within 20 yards of an animal that is bred to survive. They live their whole lives surviving and we are basically in their living room and they have no idea (most of the time). It's incredible to watch deer or turkeys interact with one another. It's incredible to watch them grow over the summer months. It's pure dedication to wake up at 3am and get ready before the sun comes up. It takes a lot of patience to sit still for hours in the blistering cold. It takes a lot of faith to keep going, despite everything that happens to you. It takes faith that it will come together.
I harvested my 2015 deer at 30 yards. He was dead within a few seconds as it was a complete heart shot. I don't say this to give you graphic images. I say this because I am going to eat meat. And if I am going to eat meat, you better believe that I am harvesting it myself.
Then why the picture smiling with a dead animal? Did you read the work we put into him? Did you read the amount of time, money, and faith we invested into this hunt? It's not that we are happy the animal is dead- that's far from the truth. We smile because it all came together. Hunting IS NOT EASY. Especially bow hunting. To get within 30 yards of an animal that has better sight, smell, hearing, senses, etc- is extremely difficult and not something many people consider. As you can see, it's not just about the harvest. It's about everything that goes into it to make it all come together.