In mid-Sept. this year I was bowhunting in eastern North Carolina with my good buddy, Clay McPhearson who runs and operates Whiskey Creek Outfitters. Clay and I had hooked up at a deer show in Philadelphia that past spring and had scheduled a few days of bowhunting when I was going to be passing thru. That fit perfectly into my schedule since I was making a swing through the Carolina’s on my way to Maine for moose. Also this is my 30th. anniversary from graduating from Duke University and what better way to celebrate than to shoot a big NC buck.
However as sportsmen we are always at the mercy of mother nature and yes it had turned off pretty warm. The temps got up into the 90’s all week and the deer hunting was tough. On about the fourth day out of the wild blue, late in the morning, a big fat 3 year old doe stepped out in front of me at 20 yards. I had sprayed the area with C’Mere Deer Buck Juice and she seemed to find that mightly appealing. After about 15 minutes of watching her, I did something out of character for me. I leaned over to my son, who was running the camera –
“Josh. Get ready. I’m going to pop her as soon as she’s broadside,” I whispered.
He quickly looked up at me with a shocked look on his face.
“Really?” He answered.
The doe was pretty nervous and was doing plenty of head bobbing as I tried to lift my bow and get into position. I’m shooting a Mathews Z-7 pushing a Victory arrow carrying a 100 grain MX-4 Muzzy. Once I finally got set up in less than a minute I’d run an arrow thru both lungs and she was on the ground in a hurry. I glanced at my watch and it was exactly 10:15 a.m. The perfect end to a nice morning’s hunt. My son, Josh, was shocked that I decided to take the doe since I rarely or virtually never shoot a doe before I’ve finished buck hunting. There was a couple of reasons for my decision.
First of all, Clay had mentioned that no one had taken a doe yet for camp meat. That’s all I needed to hear. I won’t get into the debate here, since I don’t think there’s anything to debate. In my opinion, it’s almost comparing apples to oranges when talking about the taste difference between a nice fat doe and an old 5-6 year old buck. In fact for eating purposes, the younger the animal usually the better. And I think does just eat better than bucks.
Secondly, this was my first bowhunt shooting my new Mathews Z-7. I really hadn’t gotten to shoot it as much as I would have liked. Several reasons for this but primarily I’m still a recovering GBS, Guillaine Barre, patient and I just don’t shoot as much now as I used to. I had some more serious later season bowhunts coming up that would more than likely put a big buck in front of me. I just wanted to get a good kill under my belt before feeling the pressure of having to make a shot on a racked buck.
And finally, shooting a doe is always a big deal – to me. Let me explain. Long before I was the professional TV/Video guy with a lot of big buck kills to my credit, I was Roger Raglin the student (9 years), paint contractor (7 years) from the Tulsa, Oklahoma area who had never shot a deer with his bow. As I reflect, it doesn’t seem that long ago even though it’s been 3 decades or so.
I often tell people I was the worst deer hunter in the world since I couldn’t manage to shoot even a doe during most rifle seasons. Of course there weren’t near as many deer back in those days but that wasn’t really the problem. The biggest problem was I simply didn’t have any confidence. The lack of confidence to do something sorta works like a mind block in many ways. The lack of confidence fogs up your train of thought, in fact it messes with your entire thought process. It’s a terrible thing to live with and to have to deal with. I could write a book on this subject and will some day. But for now I was simply a crummy deer hunter who loved to go and who never killed anything.
Then on Sept. 30 about 1981 while rolling out a wall – painting an apartment – it suddenly dawned on me that bow season opened the next morning and I really hadn’t planned on doing anything different from the year before. I had my tree stand set up along a creek drainage in Cherokee County, about 40 minute drive from the house, and I already knew that I’d climb into my stand real early, sit there most of the morning and not only probably not shoot anything, I probably wouldn’t see anything. I seldom did. What a drag. I remember at that instant as if a bolt of lightening hit me – I threw down that paint roller, walked out to my paint van, climbed in and drove down toward the small town of Wagoner where I was raised. I pulled off the highway near the Verdigris River bridge, parked the van and walked into the timber where I squirrel hunted as a kid. I spooked several deer along the way.
The next morning I found myself right there in that bottomland monkey climbing up into a tree well before daylight, pulling my bow up and trying to pretend I was comfortable with my rear end wedged in the fork of that tree about 9 feet off the ground. The temperature dipped that morning down into the 30’s and I can tell you I nearly froze to death – or at least felt like I was freezing. I was simply miserable from the get go. But I sat there and told myself over and over that this was going to be my morning – my day. At about 9 a.m. just about the time when I thought I couldn’t shake any more or be any more miserable than I was I glanced up and I couldn’t believe my eyes. At about 60 yards standing at the edge of the brush was a doe.
“I see a doe!” I screamed out on the inside.
Suddenly another doe appeared.
“I see two does!”
I was just about to jump out of my skin. As those two does walked along the edge of the timber out of sight, I looked back into the brush and there was a third doe.
With my heart racing, again silently I thought, “I’ve seen three does. What a day!”
I was overrun with joy. But my joy turned to pure terror as that doe changed directions and headed my way. It didn’t take her long to cover that 60 yards. She walked right up to my tree – stopped broadside at 15 yards and might as well said, “Shoot me when you’re ready.”
I had sights on my bow, but as I came to full draw I sure wasn’t going to find them. If I was shaking earlier from the cold about the only words to describe my shakes with that doe in front of me would be “total earthquake convulsions”. Truly my knees actually were hitting against each other. I can’t explain what was happening to me but what ever it was – I had it bad.
Out of necessity for relief more than anything else, I released the arrow and the doe ran off. I was so thankful to the Lord that entire episode was all over. In a few minutes my breathing returned to semi-normal and I managed to get down out of that tree in one piece. That was a miracle in itself. All I could think about was finding my arrow because I had several dollars tide up in that thing. As I looked for the arrow I stumbled onto something that totally caught me off guard – an unbelievable blood trail.
“I hit a doe!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.
40 yards down the trail –
“I killed a doe!” I screamed over and over and over.
The rest of the day I spent dragging that doe all over Tulsa and Wagoner Counties. I went by the paint store, the church, my folks. I called people from high school I didn’t even like.
“Guess what I killed this morning.”
It was the greatest single experience, day in my life other than my conversion. It changed my life, forever. It gave me a huge dose of confidence.
I went on to shoot 5 or 6 more deer that fall. The next fall I shot 10 bucks in four different states – all hunts on public land, hunting by myself. Shooting that single doe built a fire underneath me, inside of me that still burns red hot to this day. I wasn’t sure what had happened to me on that October morning. All I knew was whatever it was I liked it and wanted that experience again as much as possible.
Since that day I’ve shot well over 100 racked bucks that score over 130 Boone & Crockett points. I’ve shot 11 bucks that gross score over 170 B & C pts including a 200 plus incher with my bow in Missouri. I’ve bowhunted on several continents and have held numerous world records with Safari Club International. But to this day that doe remains the greatest ‘trophy animal’ I have ever harvested. I’ll never top it.
So for me personally SHOOTING A DOE IS ALWAYS A BIG DEAL, because I’ll never forgot my first doe with a bow and what it ultimately meant to me.