Monday, January 02, 2012

Billy's Three and My Tree!

     I always find hunting early season archery here in Tennessee oddly conflicting.  It is warm, ticks are still climbing all over, and worst of all I always get poison Ivy.  These facts never stop me from hunting so I was off to meet my pal and fellow Heiskell Boy Wild Bill for a early season hunt.  Now first you should know that Billy is as much cowboy as he is country boy and at 6'1 220 lbs he is also pretty big boy as well.  I have known him since I was five years old and like most my life  long friends he is an outstanding outdoorsman and an accomplished hunter.  Recently he has practiced so much with is compound bow that he is a sure thing inside 50 yards. Unlike Billy I am a gun man and take most my deer with a muzzleloader. But I have found a cure for my lack of practice...........a crossbow.  I sight it in like a rifle and take it hunting.  Some people have the miss conception that you can shoot a crossbow farther than a compound bow but this is just not true. my crossbow range is forty yards, whereas I have witnessed Billy shoot a deer target at 60 yards with his bow. While he would never attempt that shot in the woods it is proof that the crossbow does not have an advantage when it come to distance.  I met Billy at his house and after some entertaining banter among his in laws we shipped out to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.  It is only a little over 2 hours away but its remoteness makes it feel forever away from the sprawl of towns like Knoxville. After Checking in at Bandy Creek, paying for a back country camping permit, and listening to a speech from a ranger about food storage because of the booming bear population.  We pitched camp over near Station Camp and headed about a mile down the gravel drive to an area my boss had suggested we should hunt.  It was exactly as he had described, with the the tale tale signs of of old homestead.  There was what used to be an orchard now overgrown, and scrubby areas that had been clear in the past.  After a few hours of scouting Billy and I met back at camp and devised a plan.  I was going to guard the old homestead in a ground blind while he hangs in his climbing stand further out on a oak covered point.  We built a fire and settled in for the night I had told Billy that he should shoot any deer he sees that I would take it home if he didn't want it (this is standard practice for me).  Billy is usually a trophy hunter and tends to pass a lot of table fare waiting on the big wall hangers, whereas I am a meat hunter.
     We awoke in the morning to mild temperatures and a silence that can only be found in the woods.  After a gear check we moved to our respected deer stands for the wait.  The first day I saw nothing  but Billy had them scampering all around him just out of range or moving to swift for him to feel comfortable letting an arrow fly. That night a camp I decided that I was to stick it out in the same spot.  The sign was just to good to move. Billy decided to move to a different tree but stay in the same area. after a belly full of potato soup we again went to sleep with dreams of tenderloins dancing in our heads. The next morning was colder than the day before and I could just somehow feel we would have opportunity this day.

Tree I slayed by shooting under a doe.
Billy had just texted me that he had one down when I heard the snap of a twig coming from the exact direction I had my blind oriented.  I suddenly got warm and remembered the tree I had ranged at twenty yards earlier and adjusted the "dial a range knob" on my Horton crossbow to the 20 yard setting in anticipation of the deer stepping out of the dense underbrush into the opening next to that tree just as I had planned.  Time passed slowly and and I soon realized that it was more than one deer and they were circling me.  About the time I readjusted so I could shoot out the side window of the Ameristep dog house blind I saw the first doe step through the brush into my shooting lane. Without thinking I placed the red dot just behind her shoulder and let a bolt fly.  The next few seconds were surreal. While I thought I saw the bolt fly straight for the lower chest of the deer I heard a heart breaking THUNK that sounded like tree not flesh.  I usually wait before walking down to check my shot but that sound told me that it was a clean miss.  as I walked down to the tree the deer had been standing in front of it dawned on me that I had never readjusted the RANGE KNOB ON THE BOW!  How stupid..........How could I be so stupid......It hurts me now to tell the story. I stood glaring at my bolt sticking out of a tree 38 yards from my blind instead of the 18 yards I had the bow set to.  After kicking myself relentlessly and admitting that my dad had been right all those years ago when he would lament some of my forgetful behavior.

Buck Billy shot that now resides in my freezer.
I decided to hike out to where Billy had been posted up to see if he could use some help with the deer he had texted me about earlier.  When I arrived on the scene Billy had the buck spread eagle gutting it and related the story of how a doe and fawn had ran all around him prior to the buck showing up and not really giving him a shot.  It was only after they had moved on that lover boy here showed up obviously trailing the doe.  Billy grunted to stop the 3-pointer and then laid him down with a double lung shot from 30 + yards.  We took turns dragging to get the buck out of the woods. It turns out this buck field dressed at 85lbs and was 2/12 years old. Seems not only did Billy help fill my freezer but he also culled the heard.  Even though I had a monumental screw up, I put a deer in my freezer, and most importantly I had a good time and will never forget Billy's three and my tree. Your pal the Envirocapitalist.