Amidst deep chest heaving breathes, accompanied with jittery shaking hands and bouncing knees and an uncontrollable urge to smile, my entire body feels like it is about to come unglued. My Mathews bow and the few thousand practice shots since the end of the winter did the trick. Now I’m sitting here in the middle of a full blown adrenaline rush with all my senses now working at optimum levels, in these minutes after just blowing an arrow through the lungs of another mature whitetail buck. He’s run out of sight but I know he hasn’t gone far. The tell-tale crash, just down the ridge out of sight about 120 yards from my stand has told me that my arrow has hit it’s mark.
This is it, this is my ‘Free Time’, the first forty five minutes after the shot when I am completely free and alive. I am more alive during this little window of time than at any other time. Nothing matters at this time. My bow hangs there in the tree without an arrow nocked on the string. I no longer feel the need to think, wonder or worry about the slightest uncontrollable variations in the wind. Also at this time I can be so completely relaxed. I find it amazing that this hobby and passion of mine relaxes me, while at the same time how hard I work and emotionally involved I am in the sport of hunting. Part of it, I think is, coming down from this adrenaline and endorphin infused high just makes this relaxation seem so much more calming. That’s why I try to delay the next step of sending text messages and making phone calls for as long as I possibly can. I’m trying to squeeze every precious second out of this ‘Free Time’. Shooting mature whitetails in our neck of the woods is a tough task to do consistently which also makes these moments that much more rewarding.
My entire year has been focused on achieving these few minutes. As I sit there knowing my buck is just over that rise it gives me the opportunity to contemplate how this moment came to be. I begin by revisiting the events that took place just minutes ago. The first sighting of the buck, the increase in heart rate as he steps into position giving me a shot. Then the draw, the aim and the release and knowing the shot was good. Sweet success. I then think back to the beginning of the season and previous years and past successful hunts.
These moments also give me time to pay homage to my father and my grandfather before him, for their direction, instilling in me a love of the outdoors and for giving me the opportunity to enjoy this adventure in the woods. Without them, I would have never been able to have the opportunity to experience any of these events. For that I am truly grateful and will never be able to thank them enough. The only thing I can hope to do in their honor is to pass this on to my children. By giving them this wonderful gift my father and grandfather gave me I can honor them and continue on in my children our family legacy. Just as I hope they will do for their children.
The text messages are sent and the phone calls are made and the work begins. I knew the buck was hit well and hadn’t gone far but the blood trail is slow for the first 10 to 15 yards then the flood gates open and a blind man could follow the trail. You know it’s going to be an easy tracking job when there are two blood trails to follow, one from the entry hole and the other from the exit hole.
After a short 100 yard walk I catch the sight of a rack through the brush, 15-20 yards ahead lays the buck and the end of my search. He is not the biggest buck I’ve ever killed or the best looking buck by any means, but he has unique character. This buck was doing what hundreds of years of bucks before had done and what nature had intended for him to do, working his way through this funnel between the food and bedding area, searching for a hot doe. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time.
As I sit with the deer I hear the drone of the Honda Four Wheeler coming down the ridge. Jamey arrives with a smile, shakes my hand, pats me on the back and tells me ‘I did it again’. A phrase I will never get tired of hearing him say. It’s going to be about a year before I get this chance with my bow again. But in a few weeks gun season opens. Somehow it’s just not the same as getting it done with the bow and arrow.
The next time you get the chance, after the shot, while waiting to begin the job of tracking your trophy, take a few minutes to relax and reflect on who you are, how you got where you are and perhaps give a little thanks to those who helped you get there. For me it’s a time of personal reflection and relaxation. In today’s world many of us do not get nearly enough time to relax and reflect. For me there is no more perfect time to enjoy some ‘Free Time’. Shoot Straight…..