Rollercoaster of Emotions

by Scott Howell
Whitetail Pro Log

10/06 Arkansas

My story begins on the evening of November 29, 2005. Me and good friend, Van Foster were perched twenty feet up an oak tree in the Mississippi River bottoms of Southeast Arkansas. We had been waiting for a North wind to hunt my "hot spot". My "hotspot" is located in a natural travel corridor. Three hundred yards to our west is a ten-acre Biologic food plot. Three hundred yards to our east is an old riverbed that drains into the Arkansas River. The deer travel North to South during the evening and South to North in the morning. We finally got the weather we had been waiting for. With bow and video camera in hand we headed to the woods early so we would have plenty of time to get things set up and let the woods settle down. As we were walking out of the camp I saw a rattling bag lying on the counter. I had never tried rattling on this piece of property but I had such confidence in this spot that I thought I would try it. The rut was just around the corner and with the woods being as thick as they were, a buck traveling only fifty yards out could get pass us without being seen. I thought that if I rattled every 20 minutes or so a buck may be interested enough to take a look. After doing a short pre hunt interview, we settled in for the evening. At about 3:30, I decided to hit the rattling bag. I rattled for a minute or two and twenty minutes went by with nothing happening. At about 4:00 I decided to hit the rattling bag again. About ten minutes after my rattling sequence, I heard my cameraman say "buck" "buck". I turned my head trying to locate the buck. Just forty yards out, I picked up movement. A nice seven point was working his way to the "horns". Just out of bow range the buck stopped and seemed to hang up. I then told my cameraman that I was going to take the buck if given the opportunity. He looked to be a mature deer with some nice mass. Unfortunately, the buck worked his way downwind of us and caught enough of our wind to turn him away. We felt like the evening was a success though, getting some nice video footage and rattling up my first buck. We were really looking forward to the following morning. The temperature was to dip into the upper twenties.

The next morning started out clear and cold. With our set located so close to the bedding area I rarely see deer until after 7:30 or 8:00. I had been rattling every twenty minutes or so and Van asked me what time the deer usually traveled through the area in the morning. All I said was late. At about 7:15 I ran through another rattling sequence. About fifteen minutes after my rattling sequence I looked to the South and to my amazement I saw a shooter at forty yards, closing the distance fast. I began hitting Van and yelling "buck", "buck". The buck got to us so fast that I was unable to get a shot off before he was literally standing at the base of the oak tree we were setup in. I told myself to make a 180-degree turn and shoot him after he walked by. Either the buck heard me move or smelled where we had climbed the tree earlier that morning because he wheeled around and ran off about thirty yards. As he ran off I drew my bow. He stopped and just as I rested my pin on his shoulder, he bolted again. I grunted at him to make him stop. He stopped just long enough for me to release my arrow. I watched as my nock disappeared into the buck's ribs. He bolted and ran out of sight. My cameraman and I were pumped to say the least. We began giving each other high fives. After catching our composure I told Van to give me the video camera so I could take a look at my shot placement. After rewinding the footage I was devastated at what I saw or didn't see is more like it. Everything happened so fast that my cameraman forgot to hit the record button! The roller coaster of emotions began. It got very quiet in the tree to say the least. We waited for an hour before climbing down and looking for my arrow. Once we climbed down I found my arrow and the tracking began. The blood trail started out great but began to get sparse. After trailing the buck for about 200 yards, we did what every hunter hopes never happens during a tracking job. We jumped the buck out of his bed. I was so angry with myself because we did not give the buck enough time. I knew with the shot angle that I probably only hit one lung. There's no doubt in my mind that If we would have backed out and came back later that afternoon we would have found him right there. The buck was bedded up on the edge of a drainage ditch. We picked up the blood trail and marked it. We decided to go back to our stand location, gather our gear and come back later that afternoon and pick up the blood trail. As we were walking back to our stands, Van asked me how the drainage ditch ran. He felt that the buck was probably hurt too much to go up the other side of the ditch. He would probably travel with the ditch. I felt like Van had a great point. I knew where the ditch ended and crossed the logging road we had came in on. We decided to look for the blood trail near the logging road. After gathering our gear we started to head back to the truck. As we got close to the ditch we started looking for blood. I showed Van where the ditch came out. As I was looking up the ditch I saw what appeared to be a deer laying down about 75 yards in the woods. I got my binoculars out and took a look. Sure enough it was a buck, but the brush was so thick I could not tell if he was dead or alive. The logging road went up a hill that would bring us within bow range of the buck. I knocked an arrow and the stalk was on. After easing up to the edge of the ditch, I looked through my binoculars and could not believe my eyes. The buck was dead! It had only been fifteen minutes since we last jumped him. He only went another 75 yards. We began giving each other high fives again. What a hunt! I have never gone through as many emotions in my life.

Scott Howell
Whitetail Pro Log