By: Paul Murray
By: Paul Murray

Another season has come and gone. We prepare all year, shooting hundreds of practice arrows, scouting, running trail cameras 365 days a year, putting in food plots and then setting tree-stands and ground-blinds. All for 2 and a half months, when we run ourselves ragged, checking the weather forecast on the hour, reviewing hundreds of trail camera pictures and spend as much time as possible  in tree-stands or ground-blinds. We absolutely live for this. With that being said, if you ask my very forgiving and understanding wife, I tend to get a little bit crabby when I begin to get worn out and tired. However, she understands full-well that the adrenaline rush of harvesting a mature buck with our bow and arrows is worth every single, drop of blood and sweat shed in the process.

Amber Murray – the author’s wife, with her first buck, taken this past fall with her bow and arrow. By far and away this was the highlight of the author’s season last year, watching her make a great shot then her reaction after the shot.

The last weekend of the season found our group headed to our cabin in South West New York State to enjoy the camaraderie of deer camp for the last time of the year. I was settling into camp when one of the young guys arrived for the weekend. After he got settled in, he flipped through the pages of our photo album, looked around the living room at the deer heads on the wall, and asked, “Which of your bucks do you remember the most?” I told him, “I don’t know.  Each picture of me with a buck in that photo album or head of mine on the wall, reminds me of a day when I did everything right and was extremely lucky and fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.” He then said, “I’ve been around deer hunters my whole life and all of them combined haven’t been as lucky or fortunate as you have. What’s your secret?”  I told him, “Ghosts and Addiction.”  Needless to say, a puzzled look came across his face and I had to explain.

“What, don’t you believe in ghosts?”

I went on to explain that when I was just a young boy my father did an incredible job of fueling the fire within my brother and I for our love of the archery and the outdoors. It was a job he did very well, so well that he made it seem effortless. We were only able to figure this out through aging and truly understanding who our father was. He had a plan in place long before we ever knew what hit us. I’m sure, shooting the biggest buck in New York State with a bow in 1979 and putting his head on the wall of our family room probably helped as well. My brother and I were, as young boys, drawn to the fields, streams, ponds and woods like moths to flames. It was part of us. Then, there is the work that goes into being successful in the outdoors. For that, we have to thank both our mother and father for showing us the value of working hard. By the time we were teenagers we were well on our way to understanding what it took to become a successful outdoorsman. However, we still needed to go through the growing pains to get to where we are today.

Tim Murray – the author’s father with his 14 point buck, taken in the fall of 1979.

As we aged and became more fortunate in the outdoors, something else happened. An addiction began to take hold of us. The addiction I’m referring to is not just the incredible adrenaline rush we get upon harvesting a mature whitetail or spring gobbler but also to learning about the outdoors and the joy we shared with one another in our group of friends through it all. It’s the sharing of the highs and lows together that drew us further into this addiction. Every year we plan more and work harder so we can learn and share more of these moments together.

Jamey and Carter Mann – the author’s hunting buddy and his son, with his son’s first adult gobbler.

Along with the work we cherish the fun that comes with it. This is our escape from the stresses of everyday life. This is why we work so hard, its is who we are and who we have always wanted to be. Now we are able to share our experiences and knowledge with our children, friends and others we meet at the speaking engagements we attend. It gives us a real sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Our young friend said, “You guys have certainly taught me more about the outdoors then I thought I would ever know. But, what about the ghosts?” I chuckled, “Well, they are the ones we probably remember the most.”

This is a picture of a buck the author named ‘The Ghost’ after a very close call in 2009. This was the first and last picture of this buck he ever got.

The ghosts are those big bucks that we chance upon and never get a shot at or, we miss. They’re the ones that haunt our dreams. An arrow shot three inches higher that would have split his heart or  five inches lower that would have punched out both of his lungs. They are the big ones that got away. Those are the ghosts we chase, dream of, work for and fuel this addiction…

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