Friday, October 21, 2011


IMG_4627 My oldest son, Toby, is in his first year of college. Between his class work and wrestling practice, he has realized that he has very little time for anything else. This past weekend however, he was able to come home for three days. We had all been looking forward to this weekend together knowing it would be his last at home for a while since the wrestling season gets under way on November 5th. Clearly whoever set that up was not a bow hunter.

As the sun rose on Saturday morning, we were in four different tree stands on public ground along the Republican River. All four of us saw deer, but no one was able to take a shot. I had two young eights about 50 yards out in front of me hitting a licking branch. Jesse saw several deer out of range, Sam got busted drawing on a nice buck and Toby let a few fawns walk and got caught by several does as they walked up the creek bank to his stand. It was a beautiful morning spent enjoying the majesty of God’s creation. Sunday morning we spent time together in worship and then headed out to our favorite spot along the Platte River for the afternoon.

We got set up about four o’clock and waited with great anticipation for the deer to begin their daily trek from the river to the corn and alfalfa fields. I was sitting in a ladder stand along an old river channel about 50 yards from a standing corn field. I had not sat in this spot for two years and did not know what to expect. On this evening all three of the boys saw deer but again did not take any shots.

At about six o’clock I heard the familiar sound of deer walking though the freshly fallen leaves. Soon a fawn stepped out of the cedars about 35 yards in front of me. Movement behind the fawn caught my eye. Two nice does were following close behind. As they went behind another cedar I quickly stood and prepared for the shot. As I prepare mentally for a shot, lots of things are racing through my mind. I begin with a quick prayer. I often ask God to steady my nervesMarks Ladder and to allow me to shoot straight and true. Then I focus on the distance of the shot. Earlier in the evening I had ranged several possible shooting lanes. There is a dead fall lying just in front of a deer trail at 25 yards.  I knew any deer on this trail would offer a broadside shot at 28 yards. The fawn was now slowly walking left to right on this very trail. If the does continued to follow the same path I would have to hold a little high with my 25 yard pin. As the lead doe went behind the next cedar I drew my Hoyt Turborhawk.Hoyt 2 As my right hand found its familiar anchor point I set the pin just behind the doe’s shoulder. As the doe stepped into the open lane, she suddenly stopped walking and looked right at me. My mind raced again. If I hold a little high the arrow should find its mark. But I also know that an alert deer can drop over a foot before an arrow arrives. What should I do now? The distance says I should aim a little high. Yet, I fully expect her to drop causing either a high lung hit or even a miss. Yes, she was looking at me but she didn’t seem real nervous. I decided that in spite of the distance I was not going to hold high. I hoped that she would drop right into my arrow. I took a deep breath, placed the pin exactly where I wanted to hit her and started  counting. One…two…three—Twack! Almost immediately after sending the arrow on its way, I watched the fletching disappear through her chest and bury in the ground behind her. She took a few steps forward, turned completely around and ran back where she had come from. As she ran I could see the large exit wound left by my broad head. I knew the shot was good but she quickly ran out of sight into the security of the thick cedars.

IMG_1542 copyAfter dark, the boys and I took up the blood trail. We had difficulty finding blood at first but I knew where she had gone so we followed the trail. With Toby in the lead, we found blood about 40 yards down the run. At first it was just a few small spots but it quickly increased. We soon found her lying about 20 yards off our access road. She had gone only 70 yards before piling up.

Being prepared for the shot is vitally important. The same is true in life. In 2 Chronicles 12:14 we read that King Rehoboam did evil because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord. We prepare our heart as we pray, read and do God’s word. The next time a deer offers a shot, be sure that you are prepared. But even more important is being prepared to face the trials and temptations of life head on knowing that by faith we are children of the King.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Too close

I am not particularly fond of ground blinds.  I have watched all four of my kids take deer out of one with a firearm.  I even arrowed a nice gobbler out of one last spring.   However, I have not had any luck bow hunting deer out of a blind.  It seems that no matter how much I try to hide the blind with brush, I always get busted by any whitetail in range.  This past week however, I decided to try a ground blind. IMG_1012

I had set this blind on the edge of an alfalfa field about two weeks ago.  Mattie took a deer that evening with a rifle.   I knew deer would be hitting the alfalfa so I thought it might be worth a shot.  The blind isn't brushed in at all but I thought that after two weeks the deer would simply ignore it.

Sam and I headed out after school and got settled in about 5 o'clock. Sam was set up in a ladder stand only thirty yards behind me.  We felt like we had a great opportunity for both of us to shoot deer.  The wind had finally shifted to the north making a sit on this field seem like a sure bet.

About 6 o’clock, I saw movement to the west.  Three deer were coming across the neighbor's picked corn field. Unfortunately, they angled too far south and jumped into the alfalfa about 90 yards from me.  Two tractors with bailers out on the highway a half mile to the south spooked them and they soon ran back towards me, jumped the fence and disappeared into the safety of the trees.

About fifteen minutes later I heard what sounded like a deer walking in the freshly fallen leaves.  Soon I noticed ears moving through the eight foot tall marijuana along the field edge.  One after the other, I soon had three fawns in front of the blind. As they fed on the green alfalfa they came ever closer and before long were a mere 10 feet away.  As I tried to hold my breath and remain motionless I saw a doe and another fawn about to jump the fence into the alfalfa.  If I could keep these fawns from busting me that doe would be at thirty yards when she hit the ground on my side of the fence.  I looked back at the fawns and saw six eyes staring at me from 10 feet away.  I could hear their breathing and see their little noses flaring.  Their whiskers were shining in the late afternoon sun.  There we were-Me hoping the doe would jump the fence while three fawns tried desperately to figure out if I was something they should be worried about.  Eventually two of them decided the answer was yes and bolted back over the fence and across the the corn field taking the doe with them. I didn't kill a deer on this night but it surely will be one of my most memorable bow hunting experiences.

The biggest difference between the doe and these three fawns was maturity.  Because they were hungry, the fawns paraded out onto the alfalfa field without any hesitation.    By the time they figured out that I was a threat, I could have easily sent an arrow through their chest..  The doe on the other hand slowly worked her way to the fence and then paused.   Experience taught her to carefully scan the field for any possible danger before jumping the fence.  The fawns survived because I decided not to shoot them.  The doe survived because of experience.

In his prayer for the Philippians, Paul proclaims that God who began a good work in them would carry it on to completion.  (Phil 1:6)  Paul’s concern was that the Philippians would grow in their faith and mature in Christ.  Through prayer, faith, and the word of God these believers would grow in their Christ-likeness.  This maturity would cause them to display the attitude of Christ. (Phil 2:5)   Maturity comes not from trying harder but simply by spending time with God and allowing him to change our hearts and minds. As we mature, we progressively become more and more like Christ.   Our challenge is to allow God to mature us as we learn to display his character.   This maturity allows us to display joy in any and all circumstances as we walk by faith rather than by sight.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Be Alert


I climbed into my stand twenty feet above a grass field about 10 minutes before first light.  As I was attaching my harness, I heard what I thought was a deer about to walk right under me.   As the mysterious sound came closer I readied myself for a possible shot.  It was still three minutes early, however.  Maybe the deer would come in slowly enough to allow me to shoot just after legal shooting time.  As I continued to wait, I finally saw the creature making all the noise.  A raccoon was coming in.  I don’t have a fur bearers permit so I just enjoyed the show as it walked under my stand completely oblivious to my presence.  Soon all was quiet again.  In the early morning darkness I settled in for the morning sit.  

I was sitting on the South edge of a grass field.  The deer use this edge as they travel from corn fields east of me to their bedding areas on the west.   I last sat here about 10 days ago.  On that particular morning a spike buck walked by me at twenty yards.  He too was in no danger from me and walked by without ever knowing of my presence.  I saw several other deer that morning but none were within range of my Hoyt.

Soon, I heard it again.  Something was coming in through the trees behind me.  I turned to prepare for the shot and again saw a familiar masked ring tail under my stand.  He slowly crept by my stand at ease without any worry of the possible danger from above.  As I watched him walk off I noticed movement on the field.  A doe was slowly making her way along the field edge.  If she continued on this trail she would soon be within twenty yards of my stand.  I placed my release on the string and mentally prepared for the shot.

I drew my bow at twenty-five yards and hoped she would pause before walking behind a large tree directly in front of me.  I quickly realized that she wasn’t going to stop. While at full draw, I bleated once which caused her to stop immediately a mere twenty yards from my stand.  In an instant, she had gone from simply walking a trail to standing alert with eyes and ears locked onto my position.  My pin quickly settled just behind her left front shoulder.  I touched the release sending my arrow towards its mark.  I watched in disbelief as my arrow sailed exactly where I had aimed yet flew harmlessly just over her back and buried in the dirt behind her.  In an instant this doe had ducked under the path of my arrow.  How is that possible?  In less than the time it takes to blink an eye this doe had dropped nearly a full body width.  

As my arrow slammed into the dirt behind her, she ran off about sixty yards, stopped, and looked back.  I soon noticed another deer coming.  Her fawn was on the same trail and had no idea what had happened.  Soon, the fawn was standing at twenty yards directly in front of my arrow.  Like the raccoons before her, she had no idea that danger was lurking twenty feet above her.  She bleated a few times and walked off to join her mother as they both disappeared into the woods leaving me with only my bruised ego and dull blades on my Rocket broadheads.

Only an occasional squirrel or bird broke the silence over the next three hours.  This gave me plenty of time to contemplate what had happened.  I know to shoot low on an alert deer. Yet, I had not considered this before touching off the release.  The doe’s ability to stay alert and her lightning quick reflexes had spared her life.   As I sat there thinking about this, I was reminded of a passage of scripture.

Be self‑controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9

As believers, we have an adversary who wants nothing more than to take us down.  Very often we drop our guard and get ourselves into a dangerous situation.  We in a sense are walking along the trail of life completely oblivious to the danger lurking above us.  We often allow ourselves to walk right into the devil’s trap of sin and temptation.  Here’s the good news.  We don’t have to rely on our ability to spot the danger above or our own lightning quick reflexes to duck the enemies arrow.  We simply trust in the gospel message of Salvation.  Christ died to wash us clean.  He has won the victory over death and Satan.  We prepare our hearts for victory as we spend time with God in his word and through prayer.  We find strength in numbers as we spend time with God’s people, the Church.  A deer can duck an arrow but You and I carry a shield of faith with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16)  Stay alert, resist the devil and the temptation all around us and know that in Christ we are washed forever clean.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mattie’s Deer

Mattie button

In an effort to reduce deer densities in certain parts of the state, Nebraska instituted an early October antlerless whitetail season last year.  Mattie was able to take a deer on the first evening out during that first season .  This year, once again, Mattie wanted to hunt this early season. She enjoys hunting on these warm October days.

Today after church we pulled the .243 out of the cabinet and went out to a friend’s pasture to verify that the scope was still set and that Mattie new how to handle the gun. After a quick review of the gun I handed it to her along with a cartridge.  She carefully loaded the gun and ensured that the safety was in the on position.  I held the sticks as she familiarized herself with the scope.  Once she was ready, she moved the safety to the off position and carefully squeezed off her first shot.  After seeing dirt fly behind the target  I thought she had missed and was concerned that the scope might have been knocked out of line.  I took a shot at the target myself and then went up to look and discovered two holes about an inch apart.  Mattie had actually made a great shot.  After a few more solid hits we decided that she was ready for our first evening in the blind this year.

After watching the Lions amazing win over the Cowboys we headed for the river.  I had placed a ground blind on the alfalfa field yesterday in anticipation of Mattie’s hunt. The blind was located on a fence line on the edge of an alfalfa field.  Across the fence is a standing corn field.  The deer have been entering the alfalfa field about an hour before dark.  If they kept the same pattern, they should enter the field about 20 yards to the north of the blind giving Mattie an easy shot.  As we arrived, I knew the wind was completely wrong. I moved the blind about 50 yards north in order to get downwind and we settled into the blind together. We were soon discouraged to see the neighbor drive in on his side of the fence only 30 yards from us.  Later, right at sunset, he drove out.  The sun had set and yet no deer had entered the field.  I told Mattie to stay alert as a deer could step out at any moment.

A few minutes later I turned around to see a deer enter the field about 100 yards west of us.   I grabbed the shooting sticks and Mattie prepared for a possible shot.  We watched the deer for a few moments and after some discussion decided that Mattie would shoot this deer.  I ranged the deer at 82 yards and gave Mattie the green light to shoot whenever she felt comfortable.  Soon the deer turned slightly quartering away and Mattie pulled the trigger.  At the shot the deer jumped and ran about 20 yards before coming to a stop.  As we both watched intently the deer fell over right there on the field in front of us. After a few high fives, Mattie grabbed her phone and began texting her big brothers and grandfather.  

I love spending time with my kids.  These are times that won’t last long.  Mattie is 12 now.  Before, I know it she will be graduating high school and  moving on to college.   We don’t talk much in the blind.  But being together on these warm October afternoons is priceless.   It is so easy to get wrapped up in our pursuit of that whitetail trophy we can sometimes forget the real trophy is simply time spent together.  Harvesting a deer is an added bonus of course.   It’s bed time.  I am getting up at 5 am with Sam and Jesse so we can head south with our bows.  They have a day off from school tomorrow and there is nowhere we would rather be than in the deer woods together. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sam Scores First

IMG_0787 copy We headed to the Platte River right after school yesterday.  Sam chose to sit in the “Road” Stand.  We hung this stand last week overlooking a trail the deer use just before entering the alfalfa field.  Several deer entered the field from the west but bypassed the stand.  Just after Sunset, the neighbor drove in and pushed the deer off the field.  A doe was headed right at Sam.  Already at full draw, Sam stopped her at five yards and squeezed the trigger on his release.  His arrow found its mark high and a little further back than he wished.  The doe ran off toward the west leaving Sam to wonder about the shot.  Time seems to nearly stop while waiting to take up the trail.  It is during this time that one’s mind begins to play tricks on you. A full range of emotions takes over.  Joy and excitement often give way to worry and apprehension.  Was it a good shot?  Will we find her?  How far will she go?

We took up the trail about a hour later.  About 20 yards down the trail we found a little blood. We followed her about 75 yards but after finding very little blood we decided to wait until morning.  As they say: “When In doubt, back out”.  We were a little nervous about the weather.  It had been 82 degrees yesterday.  It was supposed to dip down to 48 over night so I decided we would wait.

Sam had to go to school which left me to look for her on my own.  Would this be like his Muzzle Loader doe last fall? I had taken up the trail on that deer the next morning and found her while he was in school. He, of course, offered to skip school and help but the Dad in me thought that was a bad idea.   This morning was the annual See You At The Pole prayer at the School.  As the Fellowship Of Christian Athletes Sponsor I wanted to be there to support the students.  I finally got away at 8:30 and began the search.  I quickly found the spot we had marked and devised a plan.  I had gone a little further west last night and found nothing so I guessed she might have made a left turn.  I followed a trail to the south but after finding nothing I circled around to the west and headed back to where we had marked the last sign. I found the trail she had been on and worked back to the last point we had marked.  Almost immediately I found her lying on the same trail.  She was only 30 yards from where we had marked the last blood sign.  I most likely walked less than 15 feet from her in the darkness last night.  Sam had hit her high about mid-body.  The arrow sliced through the liver and into the abdominal cavity.  The lack of blood was caused by the high angle of the hit with no exit wound.  The doe had gone about 100 yards and had died within seconds.   Sam is still in school and hasn’t seen her.  I can’t wait to see his excitement when he arrives home this afternoon.   God has provided again.  I thank God daily for the opportunities I have as a dad to spend time with my kids enjoying His awesome creation.  Next week is our early antlerless firearm season.  I plan to spend some time in a blind on the same alfalfa field with my 12 year old daughter Mattie.   It will be awesome.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Public Land Challenges

Permission to hunt private land in my area of Nebraska is very difficult to come by.  Much of the land suitable for bowhunting whitetails has been leased by others.  Lease payments are not in my budget so I have to make due with the kindness of others or public ground.  I have a good friend who is extremely gracious and has given me permission to hunt his ground along the Platte River.  I love hunting there but have to be careful about over hunting the area.  The only access is from the south across an alfalfa field.  This results in bumping deer almost every time out. Very quickly the bucks have us patterned and disappear during daylight hours.  I am making a big effort this year to hunt this ground only a few times until early November when the bucks are on their feet seeking does.  About 35 miles south of us lies Harlan County Lake.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers IMG_0770maintains this area which includes 31,000 acres.  Over 15,000 of these acres are open to public hunting.  We have hunted several different areas of this land over the past few seasons.  This past summer we spent considerable time scouting a new area west of the lake.  This area is a mixture of  agricultural fields including Corn, Soybeans, Alfalfa and Winter Wheat along with wooded river bottom along the Republican River.  After studying satellite maps we settled on an area where a narrow strip of woods separates corn and bean fields.  We picked a spot on the map and headed out to survey the area.  We quickly found several well used deer trails being used to travel between a corn field and alfalfa.  We set out a camera  and gave it a week to see what was passing through the area.   While we have yet to photograph any shooter bucks, we have seen lots of does and small bucks on the pictures.  Our hope is that the big guys will show up once the corn is picked over the next couple of weeks. We hung several stands and anxiously awaited the season opener.  As I mentioned in Missing the Mark, on our first morning hunt we arrived late only to find that the ropes had been cut on Jesse’s ladder stand.  I retied them and left him  for the morning sit.  He did not see a deer but we still felt this stand was in a good place.  This past Saturday morning we once again headed for the ditch stand as we call it.  This time I checked the stand before allowing him to climb up.  Once again, I discovered that the ropes had been cut.  As I did a week ago, I retied the ropes and left him for the morning hunt.  This week he saw several deer and had three opportunities for a shot at does.  Unfortunately he got busted as he drew each time.  Jesse has taken several deer with a firearm but this is his first archery season.   He is enjoying the added challenge and trials of close range hunting.

IMG_0767Now I have decision to make.  Should we persevere or give up the spot.  Clearly, someone wants us to leave the area. I don’t know who is cutting the ropes.  We have only hunted this area twice and have yet to see anyone while hunting.  It is possible that we have moved into an area that has been hunted by this individual for years.  No one has exclusive rights on public land.  Sharing the woods is just a fact of life with public ground hunting.  I am more than a little concerned that an individual who would cut the ropes could cause us even more trouble.  I plan to hunt the Platte River this week and will have to make some decisions regarding the Corps ground before we head south again. I don’t know if we will persevere with this stand.  It might not be worth the effort. 

Perseverance is vitally important in all areas of life as well as in the Christian life .  James tells us in chapter 1 that we should consider it pure joy when we face trials because these trials produce perseverance in us which in turn produces maturity in our faith.  In other words, trials strengthen our faith as we persevere through them.   Archery hunting is the same way.  Each and every miss make us a better shot as we are forced to go back to the range.  Every time we get busted while drawing we learn something about the animal and determine to do it better next time.  No one enjoys these trials but they are things that make us better.   The next time we are tempted to complain about a hardship, remember that God will use it to strengthen our faith and develop perseverance in us.  And that is a difficult yet great Harvest Lesson.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Across The River

Platte River 092211Over there, across the Platte River is where the big ones like to hang out.  Over the last several years the river has been less than knee deep in this area and could be crossed relatively easily.  Because of the huge snowpack in the Rockies last winter, the river continues to have well above normal flows.  This might keep us from hunting the Island this year.  My dad is coming out to hunt the rut during the second week of November and is counting on hunting across the river.  Last year he broke his whisker biscuit while crossing the river and then later that afternoon missed a real giant while hunting the Island.  It will be a big disappointment if he can’t cross the river. 

While there was too much water in our area this year many of our neighbors to the south continue with severe drought.  Crops have failed and pasture ground has burned up.  Farms and livelihoods have been destroyed.  On the other end of the spectrum many have lost homes and businesses to flooding from the Midwest to the Mid Atlantic.  My home state of New Jersey has been especially hard hit with flooding after Hurricane Irene.    As many struggle with flooding and others with drought we recognize that God is sovereign over all creation.  Our hope is in the Lord alone. He is the rock of our salvation.  So we pray for those who are hurting due to each extreme and trust God in any and every situation.