Small Town Outdoors’ own Tyler Ripper shares the story of his first archery buck that he shot during PA archery this year . . . this is a little longer blog, but some stories need the extra words . . . Thank you for reading!
I wanted to write this blog right after it happened, but instead I decided to let it settle first and take it in, because this story means a lot to me. So here is my most memorable moment from 2018:
Archery is a passion of mine. I go to 3D archery shoots almost every weekend from April to September. I practice a couple times a week when I can during the week, and not only is it because I have fun doing it and am addicted to it, it prepares me for archery season; when that 1 shot is really what matters.
Though I’ve shot does with my bow before, I’ve never had the chance to shoot a buck with my bow. Mainly because of all my other activities prohibited me the chance to hunt hard during archery, mainly hockey.
This year was different though. I was able to get out much more this year and it came down to the second to last day of the season, November 10th.
Now it seemed as though rut was in full swing at this time, and this evening proved that this was true. Although my morning hunt that morning was beautiful, I didn’t see anything but a squirrel.
I got back into the woods a little after 3:00 pm that evening, which gave me about 2 hours until it got dark. It was later than I planned on getting back there, but it was better than not hunting at all, amirite?
So I get back to my stand, get situated, and figured since it seemed to be rut, I’d hit a doe estrus bleat can call right off the bat. I waited about 2 minutes, and was thinking about hitting a grunt tube when I heard something off to my right.
Next thing I know I see this deer walking through a thicket, but couldn’t make out what it was. I looked through the binoculars, and all I could see was 3 points up on one antler (in the area I was hunting, antler restrictions are that a buck has to have 3 points up on one side excluding the brow tine to be legal). And let me tell ya that was all I needed.
As he’s coming in from the right, I’m playing all the scenarios through my head trying to prepare for when he steps into an open lane. Next thing I know, he’s walking straight away from me and I realized I had to act quickly before I missed my opportunity.
I reached into my pocket and pulled my can call back out, because after all, that seemed to be what drew him over in the first place, right? As he’s walking away at about 50 yards now, I hit the can call and muffled it, trying not to give away my exact position.
In the video (1:58), you can tell that I’m shaking as I hit the can call with all the adrenaline pumping through me (also, sorry for the poor camera work in the first half of this video…I was more concerned about focusing on getting the buck to come in than my camera work lol).
I hit the can call 2 more times right after, and I had his attention. However, this is where I was starting to play with fire.
Why? Because now that he was aware of the general direction I was in, he was more alert. He’s looking for the doe that I’m trying to imitate, which makes it more possible that he picks me out.
After standing there for a bit, he starts to come back in my direction. Then, he stops again; unsure of the situation and where the “doe” is actually at. So knowing that it’s a risky thing to do, I hit the can call once more. At this point, he’s either going to pick me out/know something is wrong and he’ll be gone like the wind, or if he’s rutting he’s going to not care and hopefully come within range for a shot.
Luckily, it was the second scenario.
He starts walking in towards me (5:25 of the video below) and he’s following the trail I was hoping he’d come down. This is when I realized how much of a unique buck he was. As he was walking in, I saw how wide of a spread he had, and that just made me more nervous.
With as nervous as I was, it was time to zone in. I drew my bow back, settled in behind his front shoulder, waited for him to move that front leg forward, and let out a quick grunt when he was just under 20 yards away to stop him.
And I let the arrow fly.
There was a loud thud, and the buck went running down the trail. He ran 40 yards, and laid down. Knowing he was down but still moving his head around, and after radioing my dad discussing with him on what the next move was, I slowly climbed down out of my stand. So I met with my dad, grabbed my arrow which was covered in blood, and headed back to the house. This way I wasn’t going to pressure the buck and jump him, and I could also go watch the video to analyze the shot.
Initially, after the shot, I thought I had maybe hit him a little back because he was slightly quartered at me and I didn’t know if I stayed tight enough to the shoulder. This led me to believe that it might have been a liver shot, so I definitely needed to give the deer some time.
Three hours after I took the shot, it was time to go into the dark and make sure he was down for good. I went in with my dad and a close buddy of mine, Cole, and after shining the lights down where he was laying last, I hear Cole yell, “HOLY S – – -, HE’S DOWN!”
And down he was, the 20” spread 5 point. It was an amazing feeling to know that I had just harvested my first archery buck, and it was also a memory I’ll never forget giving my dad and buddy Cole a hug in excitement and accomplishment.
The best part? The shot wasn’t really back at all! I actually caught part of the lungs and stayed fairly tight to the front shoulder. And as an archery hunter, you can’t ask for much more than that.
So to wrap this up, I want to end with a quote from Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he was on Joe Rogan’s podcast not too long ago, because it hits home for me:
– “Everything before the shot is really what it’s all about.” – D.E.J. on JRE talking about archery hunting
Simple. Straight to the point. But why it really hits home for me is because it made me realize this: I practice year round not only because I enjoy it, but also so I don’t have to think about the shot when a deer is standing in front of me and when it matters the most. And that was the case when I shot this buck.
Everything before the shot is what mattered. Calling the buck in, getting lucky, being in the right spot, etc. But when it came to the shot, I didn’t have to think. I just had to trust my process/practice, try not to let my nerves affect me, and let it fly.
Fortunately, it paid off this time and I was able to shoot the biggest 5 point I’ll ever come across.