Saturday, January 8th, 2011
A Young Buck
By Ted Arndt
Christian was standing at the base of a massive oak tree in a small hardwood grove. It was sunny and unseasonably warm and there was a slight breeze in the air. The surrounding forest was clear of much of the deadfall one would expect in a grove of this maturity which made the boy’s sightlines from his position sharp and long. Finally, after a seemingly endless wait standing motionless at the base of the tree, a slight movement caught his eye. Dead up-wind and about thirty-five yards distant, Chris saw a nice buck on the move and looking for love. He anxiously followed the animal’s movements as it circled his tree from about thirty yards out. The deer was licking his nose, curious about the flavors in the air. A tarsal scent bomb set out near the base of Chris’ tree was working its magic and the deer caught wind of it. Then the most remarkable thing happened; the buck turned and went straight up-wind, directly towards the base of Chris’ tree. The boy had been backing around its massive trunk, keeping the old oak between him and the buck. As the deer approached, Chris used his concealed position to draw his bow, and then he waited. As if on a cable, the buck walked to within six yards of the big oak and stopped to smell the attractant. Chris then saw his chance. As the deer was looking away, he stepped out just enough to settle his single pin on the “engine room” behind the seven pointer’s right shoulder. Then he let fly. The bow twanged and the arrow struck home with that classic “gotcha” thud that Chris heard for the very first time. He watched as the buck mule kicked, bounded just a few times and then came crashing to the forest floor about twenty-five yards from where he stood. The young hunter now stared at the deer as it kicked on the ground, its life ebbing away. It seemed as if it was over before it even started. Only now was Chris becoming aware of the magnitude of his achievement; first deer season, first good buck he’d seen, first well placed shot, and he did it in a blind all his own.
The hunt described above occurred this past deer season and the boy was my son. I have to say Chris earned every bit of that deer, his success derived from many hours in the yard building his strength, refining his accuracy and listening to his mentors. It all started about a month before the season, when Chris and I went to see about a used compound bow. He had saved enough for about half of it, and I said I’d cover the rest as a Christmas present. Chris knew as soon as he picked up that pig-sticker that he was holding the bow he needed and so we closed the deal. We then went to a good friends house (the creator of Heritage Hunters) and I asked, “Dale, Christian here just got a new bow but it needs to be fitted, weighted and tuned so he can get started. Can you help us out?” Dale stepped right up to the challenge and measured and tweaked and pulled and cranked that bow until it fit Chris like a glove. We then went out back and my son fired his first “war shots” from a real hunting bow, even if it only drew about forty pounds. Christian was very enthusiastic and seemed to have a natural aptitude for sticking the money spot on Dale’s target, but he wasn’t a bow hunter… yet.
Chris knew he only had about three weeks to practice in my yard to built his strength. During that time, I gradually cranked his bow up to what I felt was poundage that would “do the job”. I was looking for Chris to draw and hold 55 pounds before we went into the woods. If he was going to take this seriously, we needed a bow that would hit hard enough to give him the best possibility of a humane kill and I believe any less that 55 and things get iffy. The week of the Southern zone season opener, Chris finally achieved his goal. We were ON!
Chris had two bow hunts under his belt before he shot his buck and they served a very important function. Chris learned the “tricks of the trade” as he watched me and my hunting friends set up for ground-blinding deer. He watched as we carefully cleared leaves and shooting lanes. He saw as we moved and adjusted cover. Most importantly, however, Chris saw how the more experienced hunters tried to anticipate the movements of the deer, to “guess” where the most likely approaches were and to prepare for them. And Chris is a very good student.
Amazingly, I had taken two first-season hunters with me that afternoon, and both the boys had shooting opportunities that evening. The other young man, Joseph Toomey, drew on a small spike buck as it passed in easy bow range, but he passed his very first opportunity, waiting for bigger game. When finally I met up with the boys at twilight, I knew something special had happened. The boys were smiling as I approached; a smile every deer hunter recognizes instantly. The “I got one” I soon heard meant more to me than anything since my wife Libby’s “I do” more than twenty years ago. My boy Christian and his friend Joseph are our next generation of bow hunters and they are more than up to the task. They are caring and conscientious, studious and patient. They respect their families and their heritage. They are more than I ever imagined they’d be. If we do our part to instill the values of sportsmanship and honor into our children, the passion we feel for our sport will last forever.
First year Bow Hunter Christian Arndt shown with his Father (Author) Ted Arndt