Author Topic: I feel conflicted...really really happy, but conflicted. Long read...pic heavy.  (Read 752 times)

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Offline ssrhythm

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Ok fellas, I'm a hunter; y'all are hunters.  I started bowhunting when I was 18 back in 1987.  I never really decided I'd stop hunting deer with a rife, but as I fell in love with archery, I just seldom ever considered picking up the rife when heading out to hunt. 

I started killing deer with tradtional gerar, but I switched to compounds and gadgetry in 2008 when I started hunting in Ohio, as the big open woods and the big giant bucks that I was hunting up there pushed me toward gear that offered more margin for error and more chances for successful, clean kills on deer that were often experienced in that 25-40 yard range.

Over the next ten years, I came to understand that very few of my opportunities in Ohio fit into the category of "had I had my recurve, I would have never killed this deer."   In fact, the opposite was true.  I have shot and killed two big-to-me bucks up there, and they were both broadside shots within 20 yards.  The second was a fortunate recovery, as an equipment malfunction on my modern compound resulted in two foot miss that hit the deer in the ham.

In that same timeframe, I missed a 150s 10 point at 20 yards where I centerpunched a small sapling about two feet from the deer.  Maybe that would or wouldn't have happened had I had both eyes open shooting instinctively with my trad gear, but there would have been less chance, in my experience, of me not seeing that obstruction had I been waiting on that deer to hit an opening and had shot it in the opening with both eyes open focusing on "the spot."  He was heading to his bed in super thick brush just over the ridge and on the side of a hill.

The next year, I had that same deer come into the same area from a different direction.  I had one good lane to shoot him in as he crossed it at 18 yards heading into the thick saplings to bed just over the ridge on the side of the hill.  As his head passed behind a tree just short of the lane, I drew my fancy dancy compound.....and could not see a thing.  WHAT?  I took my face out of the peep, and it took me a second, but I figured out that I had a nice, yellowish/orange leaf stuck perfectly in my sight housing on the backside of my pins.  By the time I cleared the obstruction, the deer was thru my lane, and I just had to watch him tilting his head left and right as he worked his way through the thick saplings and disappeared over the hillside into thicker and thicker brush.

Had I been shooting trad instinctive, It would have been that "all you can ask for" shot opportunity.

So, three years ago, I switched back to hunting with trad gear and started shaving on osage staves to eventually progress to primitive gear.  I have yet to get my first primitive kill, but I've neen pretty committed...the big word there being "pretty" committed.

I drew my first elk tag this year, and I chased elk for 18 straight days with my primitive stick.  I had one opportunity at 20 yards at a big bull, but I did not have an arrow nocked, and by the time I got the arrow out and nocked, the elk was at 35 yards in a clump of trees and would only give me a frontal shot when he'd turn and walk toward me a bit to check out my calls.  I could have killed him broadside at 50 yards with a compound, but I have zero regrets. 

Which brings us to what I'm very happy about but still very conflicted about.

After the acrhery elk season, I headed over to a small piece of ground to try to fill my deer tag.  I filled my deer tag last year with a tremendous 158" whitetail with a rifle.  I had hunted hard with my selfbow until the season switched to another zone on Oct 15.  I was on call 24/7/365 last year, so I had to hunt where I had cell service.  The only place I had service where I also had permission to hunt in the Oct 15-31 zone was a spot where the deer were in a riverbottom surrounded by a ridge.  I had no service in the riverbottom, but I did have service on the ridge, so I sat on the ridge 200 yards from the river bottom with my rifle.   I went out to fill my tag intending to shoot the first legal deer I saw to get meat in the freezer.  I sat on that ridge with my rifle and phone.  The biggest deer of my life stepped out, and I shot him.  I don't feel conflicted about that at all; it was my only option to fill my tag and put meat in the freezer, so I took it.

This year, I head over to where I can hunt with my bow.  I also have a partner now, so no matter where the season is open, I can get time to hunt when I'm not on call.  That said, this is where I hunted hard with my primitive stick last year, and I saw and came close on a number of small to dang nice bucks.  As I'm walking in, I see a giant 150 yards ahead just looking my way.  I start backing out keeping my eyes on him.  He goes back to feeding as I get terrain between us.  I use the terrain to get to 60 yards.  I see him again raise his head and I use binoculars to get a good look at the biggest deer I've ever seen on the hoof.  I guesstimate he is a gross booner that will gross in the 170s.  He's beautiful. 

As I watch him and the sun sets, he feeds out to an alfalfa field and turns and starts feeding away from me.  I realize he's feeding 10 yards into the field heading up the field edge and that I can drop down and use the perfect wind and olive trees on the edge of the field and possibly cut this deer off.  I go for it, and ten minutes later, I find myself 20 yards from the edge of the alfalfa at a point where I figured I would be even with or slightly ahead of the feeding deer.  I searched and finally picked up the deer's rack with my binoculars and he was directly ahead of me.  Starting to lose light, I could not see his body.  I figured he was still  10-15 yards out in the field feeding, and I needed to get another 10-15 yards toward the edge of the field to see his body clearly and have a 20 yard shot.

Here is where I made the only mistake of the stalk.  I decided to drop down and crawl to the edge of the field  in the knee high grasses; I should have simply kept easing forward on my feet with arrow nocked.  Crawling is louder than walking.  I had good background cover and shadow/darkness conditions.  But, I crawled and after 8 yards, he heard me...and stood up!  He was bedded just a few feet into the alfalfa field, and when he stood up broadside to look at where he heard something, he was just 15-18 yards.  Man, I can't tell you how bad I wanted to be on my feet.  I could not get an arrow nocked and get to my knees to shoot him with a near horizontally canted bow, because he was too close and trying mightily to see what he heard.  We had a ten minute stareoff just like that with him doing what deer do to try to get me to move.  He eventually decided he'd had enough, and he just trotted then walked back from where he came.

The next afternoon, I went in and tucked into olive tree branches at the base of an olive tree 10 feet from where he was bedded the evening before.  He came into the field with an hour of light left.  He fed from 50 yards to 30 yards and was coming right where I needed him.  He was to my SE and the wind was light from the NE.  Perfect.  As the sun completely set behind the mountains, the thermals overrode the prevailing wind and it shifted from NE then N then NW then W then SW then S....the thermals were very light, and the wind blew toward the deer for less than 10 seonds, but it was enough.  He stopped, threw his head up looking my way for a minute or so.  Then he went back to feeding as he turned and fed directly away from me. 

I could not get the camera figured out (manual focus) and on him until he was 100 yards away, and I was trying to stay well hidden in that tree since he had smelled exactly where I was hiding.   I got some terrible video footage, but there were moments where I had him in focus and center screen.  I took some pics of those paused moments of the video and showed them to a couple of my fiends and my cousin.   Everyone who saw the pics said the same thing..."Dood you are hunting a 200" whitetail!"  "Dood, that is the Unicorn!  Good luck!"  So, I started looking at the pics and looking a 200" whitetail footage online, and I was tending to agree with them.

As I studied the pics, I wondered why I had so grossly underestimated the deer the first time I saw him clearly with binoculars at 50-60 yards, but those pictures don't lie, right? 

The deer I killed last year bottomed out a 240# scale in a hurry and we had him estimated at 300# at minimum.  He looked like a brama bull/canada deer mix, and was just enormous.  I guess I decided that this deer, if compared to that deer, was probably 275# minimum and possibly upward of 300# also.  I was born and raised in the SE, and while the deer I see and hunt in Ohio can get really big, most are in the lower to mid 200# range, so seeing deer with bodies approaching 300# isn't something my brain is going to compute and understand without conscious effort.  With that in mind, I got swept up into the 200" hysteria that was swirling and beginning to build around my friends and family.

I am not a "horn-hunter."  I think that every whitetail hunter dreams of and wants to shoot a deer with an enormous rack, but that dose not make them "horn-hunters."   I have had a lot of great opportunities at some really big trophy whitetails.  A few are on my wall, but I never saw most of those deer beyond the initial encounters where most of the time, their survival instincts were greater than my ability to get them to stick their tongues out. 

I have never seen a deer and decided to hunt just that deer until this one.  I've had 150" deer really close only to shoot a doe from that spot thirty minutes later.  I'm a hunter, and the thought of just going after one deer and passing all others just dosen't crank my scooter.  I've actually only killed one deer that I had seen in the hunting woods prior to the day I killed him, and it was a year later, and I had forgotten all about that deer until I realized what deer it was after I killed him.

I say all that, because this morphed into a totoally different and new experiece for me...one that I still don't really know how I feel about.

Swept up in the 200" madness, and realizing that whitetails, especially wise old whitetail bucks do not tolerate much intrusion before completely changing their travel routes and times and even where they live, I decided that I needed to stop going right in tight on him and stop spending hours on the ground mere feet from where he was traveling and bedding and feeding.  I was hoping that the nosefull he got of my scent and the sound he heard when I was crawling 18 yards from him...I was hoping that had not already pushed him over the brink. 

This area is one that I had no permission to approach except from the west, and the only way I can hide in there is to tuck back into the branches of olive trees.  I can't get elevated without a lot of intrusion and work. 
I found out last year that trying to get a shot off on a whitetail from the ground from such a hide was next to impossible, especially since the predominant wind blew from me to them. 

With all that in mind, I figured the only way I could reasonably get this deer killed with a bow would be to try to lease the land from guy who owned the ground bordering the alfalfa field this deer was coming to feed in.  I needed him to let me hunt it with the understanding that I could build some real ground hides throughout the olives, hang some stands in the two or three trees in there that were big enough for stands, and be allowed to park at his house and access the different blinds and stands from different entry points depending on what the weather and wind dictated.  I went to him, and he agreed to let me lease it and do the work necessary and access from wherever I need to access from.  Yay!  So that takes care of next year.  The big decision now...do I wait till next year to hunt him, or do I try to kill him now. 

I know that the deer is living there and hanging tight, but come rut, he will be doing a lot of traveling thru a lot of open ground with a lot of late season whitetail tag holders just waiting with rifles.  Then there are the brutal Wyoming winters and the fact that EHD had hammered a lot of deer around here.  Waiting till next year did not seem prudent, and trying to get him with a bow by simply walking in with the wind at my back and hiding next to a tree on the ground seemed like a sure fire way to push him off the property. 

So, I made the decision....a difficult decision.  I went to the owner of the alfalfa field who had given me permission to hunt with a bow, and I asked him if I could use a gun.  I told him that I had been playing cat and mouse with a nice whitetail, and that I simply did not think lightning would strike twice and result in me getting within 20 yards again.  To my surprise, he said "OK...Just know what's behind the deer when you shoot him."   

I then went to get permission to access the back end of the field from a neighboring rancher which would make my approach to where I was going to set up much less intrusive.  He was cool and it was on. 

The first two days I saw the deer there was an unsusual easterly component to the winds.  The forecast from then thru end of season had westerly/south westerly component to the wind.  Any wind from W and S made it impossible to hunt this spot and get close, and setting up where I did was the only option for not being straight upwind of the deer.  It was a poke unfortunatley.  Regardless, I felt good with the rifle and optics I was using out to 500 yards.

I saw him Oct 1 and 2.  I hunted with rifle Oct 3-6 without seeing him or much of anything for that matter.  On Oct 7, thinking that I had blown my only opprotunity and feeling like I would likely never see the deer again, he stepped out and started feeding in the alfalfa at 356 yards.  He was right there where I'd seen him before, and I realized that the wind had switched and was blowing from the SE.  Again that unusual easterly component, hmmm.  Ill remember that next year.

I wanted him closer, but when he turned and started feeding away from me, I decided to take the shot.  He ran off the field, but I knew I connected.  After a few hours, I went in and found him.  I never thought I'd be anything but jacked beyond belief walking up on a buck like this, but I honestly had a bunch of mixed emotions I'm still grappling with.

First, there was ground shrinkage.  There wasn't ground shrinkage from my first estimates of this deer, but there was shrinkage from the pics on video and the 200" crap that I had let sweep me up into a weird state of being that I honestly can't explain or comprehend.

Second, I so wish I had killed this deer with my bow.  My buddy said, "you can hunt the rest of your life for a booner with your bow starting next year; go put this deer on the ground."  I tended to agree, and hindsight is 20/20, but I had this deer at 25 yards with me on my feet arrow knocked and ready; had I simply just kept creeping forward, I'd have put an arrow in him at 18 yards.  Arrgh!  But you can't rewind time and get do-overs. 

So, I guess I'm posting this as sort of therapy.  My friends around here said I absolutely did the right thing, as the chances of that deer making it through the rut without getting shot with a rifle by someone else would be really, really low.  I honestly don't think I could have hunted him anymore with a bow in tight to where he was living without blowing him out for good.  But I still can't get it out of my head that "you can't kill one with your homemade stick if you don't hunt him with your homemade stick." 

The good news is that I have leased the small piece of ground that has the cover on it, and I have permission now to build blinds and hang stands in any trees that will hold them.  Its going to take a lot of work...painful, blood-drawing work to get some lock-ons in the prickly, thorny olive trees that are big enough to hold them, but it will be worth it come next bow season.  Great genetics is all over this small chunk of land. 

I'm going to post a pic taken 14 years ago about a mile from where I'm hunting.  They saw that deer once...when they took the pic...and never again.  I have permission to bowhunt that acreage, but I went there and saw no sign at all that deer were ever using the property.  I don't know if it is because there are some horses in there or what, but no poop, no tracks, no jumped deer, nada.  Regardless, the first pic shows the genetics that have been passed along to the herd that is currently living in the general area.

The next pictures are of the deer I killed the second day I saw him hunting with my bow.  This is the day he got a nosefull of me and fed away from me and left the back end of the field.  These are the pics that had everyone saying 200" and which ultimately made me break down and ask for permission to kill him with a gun.

Then the dead deer pics show that he was what I initially thought he was.  His gross score is 177 6/8...net score is stupid.

Do any of you struggle with purely hunting with your primitive gear vs picking up modern equipment...especially long range modern equipment that goes BANG?

Don't get me wrong; I am thrilled to have this deer in the freezer and eventually on the wall to enjoy and admire; I'm just not as thrilled as I woulda been three years ago before I started carving bows out of wood.  Does that make sense?

Oh well. Thanks for hearing my story and opining regarding what you'd have done if you are so inclined. 

My deer's great, great, grandpa...
;

Pics off the video of the deer I shot...
;;;;

Pics after I made him stick his tongue out...
;;;

« Last Edit: October 12, 2021, 07:00:57 pm by ssrhythm »

Online WhistlingBadger

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Wow, that's a magnificent deer with any weapon.

But yeah, it would have been a more fulfilling kill with the bow.  Yep, I understand the feeling.  And I understand all too well the "if only I'd done this one thing different" feeling...I HATE that!

I hunt with a rifle to put some meat in the freezer but it's never quite as satisfying as getting one with the bow.  This year, I'm going to be hunting with my bow during rifle season.  Got permission to hunt some private land that seems to be crawling with whitetails.  I'll probably settle for a doe, instead of the nice buck I'd probably get with my rifle...but I just feel the need to kill one with an arrow this year.
~Thomas
I will not act primitive in class.
I will not act primitive in class.
I will not act primitive in class.

Offline ssrhythm

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Thanks WB.  I'm with you.  There are a lot of things that go wrong in the whitetail woods that maybe you could have changed if you were a soothsayer, but when you make a consious decision between option a and option b, especially when you have your eyes on the priz, and it turns out that you make just a bad, stupid deciosion...that freaking kills me and haunts me forever.  I've made a couple of those decisions in the past that, when I think about them, are as painful and tormenting today as they were 30 plus years ago...and I can relive the entire thing just as vividly as if it happened yesterday. 

This particular mistake happens to involve a decision that I very well may run into again one day, so it will be a learning experience that may pay dividends in the future.  The lesson  is, just in case anyone else is faced with the same conundrum one day, do not ever crawl if there is any chance whatsoever that your prey will hear you.  Crawling is loud...and I never thought about it until I was midway through that crawl.  Four points of contact vs 2 and the back two points of contact are huge...from your knee to your foot, and one of your front points of contact also includes a weapon.  It is always going to be louder than if you stay upright.  Heck, the only time I can think of that crawling would be advised is if you are out of earshot and have to cross open terrain to get to cover and crawling gets you low enough not to be seen.  I don't know why I made the choice I made.  Its not like I was getting below some visual obstruction, and its not like the majority of a deer's predators aren't doing exactly what I was trying to do.  On top of all that, it put me in a situation where I could not even shoot if I wanted to.  Arrgh! 

At least it did not cost me ever seeing the deer again, and I ended up taking him.  I'm just curious as to how many folks that hunt with primitive gear still hunt with modern weapons too and how many folks woulda had the resolve to keep after him with the primitive stick.  I know I'm going to have to fully commit one day...I thought I had until this whole situation...to strictly hunting with my stick if I can ever truly expect to be able to shoot deer like this with an arrow.

Offline ssrhythm

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BTW, if you have not hunted the ground you just got permission to hunt, and you know there are whitetails in there...assume that there are giant bucks in there.  Noone around here really hunts whitetails in earnest.  I mean, there are some folks who bump into a good one and shoot it while mulie hunting, but even the folks who do love whitetails around here don't hunt them like they should; they hunt them like mulies...see them from a distance and go after them.
 
In the two spots I hunt, I'd seen whitetails from a distance on the periphery of cover enough to know that there were whitetails in there.  Not until I went into one spot to get close and try to stick one with a bow did I realize that the place was polluted with whitetails and that there were a number of good bucks to boot.  There wasn't a lot of big buck sign like you see in eastern and midwestern woods, and the bucks did not show themselves on the periphery, so I didn't suspect big deer in there until I went in to hunt them and actually saw them.

From what I've experienced in a year and a half of hunting whitetails here, this is likely the most underrated place in the country for huge whitetail bucks.  I guess the same soil qualities and nutririon in all the prarie grass and alfalfa that makes this such a great place to graze cattle also helps turn the deer into absolute pigs. 

I grew up eating acorn loving southeastern whitetails.  I'd never realized how not-to-good they were/are until I ate some backstrap steaks from the 300+ lb brutus I killed last year.  That thing has been the best big game meat I've ever eaten by a long shot...just like the beef steaks here are head and shoulders above any other beef I've ever eaten.  I'd take a big, rut swolen buck from here over a 70lb acorn eating doe as tablefare any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Do yourself a favor and go in there assuming/knowing that there are giant whitetail bucks in there, because I'll bet there will be a few in there that will throw your heart into magnum overdrive.

Offline Gimlis Ghost

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Man, I can't tell you how bad I wanted to be on my feet.  I could not get an arrow nocked and get to my knees to shoot him with a near horizontally canted bow, because he was too close and trying mightily to see what he heard.

Having looked into Native American shooting styles I can see why so many canted their bow and occasionally held the bow horizontal.
They were past masters at sneaking up on game or enemies, getting so close that a standing shot would be counter productive.

Offline ssrhythm

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Man, I can't tell you how bad I wanted to be on my feet.  I could not get an arrow nocked and get to my knees to shoot him with a near horizontally canted bow, because he was too close and trying mightily to see what he heard.

Having looked into Native American shooting styles I can see why so many canted their bow and occasionally held the bow horizontal.
They were past masters at sneaking up on game or enemies, getting so close that a standing shot would be counter productive.

Had he not heard me and had stood up without being on high alert looking directly at me, I think I could have zipped an arrow into him from my knees with an almost horizontal cant.  The grass I was in would have required me to shoot with limbs almost parallel to the ground from my knees.  He just knew I was a coyote or something similar, and he was not taking his eyes off of where he heard the noise that made him nervous.  I had to just freeze on all 4s for what seemed like a half hour...btw, that is not a comfy position to be in for any length of time, especially trying to keep your head up and eyes forward.

Offline JW_Halverson

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"His gross score is 177 6/8...net score is stupid."

Nets are for fish and butterflies.
Guns have triggers. Bicycles have wheels. Trees and bows have wooden limbs.

Offline Allyn T

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So which state did you hunt this deer in?
In the woods I find my peace

Offline ssrhythm

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The Cowboy State.

Offline Allyn T

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I can't believe rifle season is that early. I think one of the Carolinas has rifle season all season in half the state
« Last Edit: October 14, 2021, 08:15:30 am by Allyn T »
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Offline Allyn T

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Alright so to your original question. I think it's hard to know for sure what I would do unless I was actually in it but here is what I think I would feel. I would have definitely continued to hunt that deer this year because you can't rely on him being there next year. As far as using a rifle I really don't know but if I did I would assume I'd end up regretting it and feel like I let myself down. Idk how many tags you get where your from but if your worried about meat(like I am this year) you could always shoot a doe and then wouldn't feel that pressure so you could pursue the buck on your own terms however you see fit. Either way that is a hell of a buck and I'm happy you were able to kill him.
In the woods I find my peace

Offline bjrogg

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I wouldnít feel to bad. That would be a shame to feel bad about hunting period, let alone harvesting the animal you made your goal to harvest.

Enjoy this one.


As for the selfbow Hunt. I think when you do get one, it might help you relax a little. You realize it isnít impossible. It wouldnít  require that big rack to feel like a real trophy worthy of space on your wall.

It might ruin the rest of your hunting though. I canít hardly make myself hunt with anything but a stick bow anymore. I donít have any problem with anyone else hunting with whatever legal weapons they choose, but I just donít feel the same thrill I do when hunting with my selfbow. Sometimes I wish I did.

I always really enjoy hunting fox. I really like spotting them and then stalking them. I started with a rifle. Then switch to 12 gauge to make it more challenging. Iím very seriously thinking my next stalk is going to be with my bow. I know itís going to be really challenging, but if I succeed it would be awesome and if the Fox gets the win. Well thatís good to. Iím finding myself routing for the big bucks and the sly fox more as I get older. I donít mind seeing them win to.

Bjrogg
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Offline ssrhythm

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I can't believe rifle season is that early. I think one of the Carolinas has rifle season all season in half the state

Iím from SC originally.  In my part of the state (Midlands), archery starts Sep. 1 and rifle/gun starts Sep. 15 and runs through Jan 1.  In the lower state, everything starts Aug 15 and runs through Jan 1.  Mountain and Upstate starts Oct 10 ish and runs thru Jan 1. 

When I first hunted Ohio, I let a doe get by me because I wouldnít stand and get drawn due to how open it was.  My Bud told me that I was nuts.  I finally figured out that the deer there didnít walk around looking up in the trees.  In SC, the deer have ptsd and will literally keep their eyes up and scanning the trees.  If you can kill a deerÖany deer in SC with a bow, you can kill one anywhere with a bow.  Itís ridiculous.

I donít feel bad at all about killing the deer.  I know that come rut, that deer woulda chased does all over and through open ground where someone with a type 3 tag woulda likely killed him with a rifle.  Had he avoided that, heíd have to survive the winter and EHD. The second time I saw him, I heard him cough just prior to seeing him.  I donít know what that is about, but Iíve never heard a deer cough in my 53 years, so I donít think that could be a good thing.  I do wish I had maintained my feet and put an arrow in him that first afternoon, but it didnít happen that way.  Iíll be in good shape to stick with the bow next year. 

Offline ssrhythm

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OhÖI hunted Aug 15 opener once for about 20 minutes.  97 degrees with 95% humidity and mosquitoes that try to kill you and fly you to an optimal location to finish eating you simply is NOT what deer hunting is about.

Offline Pappy

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Beautiful buck for sure. Congrats, As for him not making it through gun season , not sure about that, he has made it a pretty good while it looks like and they usually only get wiser as they get older. I only hunt with a self bow and have for years but I do understand my limits and am good with the fact that most every year I see nice Bucks that I never see again or get killed on the next farm or 2 over, [not many as good as yours]  ;) :)  not sure how to explain it but if you can't except that you will never stay with it. I just decide years ago that this is what I hunt with and have to make the best of it, not much of a horn hunter anyway so I guess that helps. Again congrats very nice Buck.
 Pappy
Clarksville,Tennessee
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