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 maintains 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.
Now 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.