If I was put into a position where I had to choose whether I could only hunt with a bow, or only hunt with a gun, I would choose bow hunting every time. With that being said, there is just something about gun season that brings a bit of excitement that can’t be replicated. As a child, I could not wait for opening day, and all of the festivities that came with it. Even now, I still have a hard time sleeping the night before the opener, as I get too excited to sleep well, and this year was no different.
My plan for opening day this year was to access a large piece of public land through a chunk of private ground that my buddy, Brandon Martin, hunts on. After confirming with the landowner, who shall remain anonymous, we began getting things planned and situated for the upcoming season.
The night of the opener was a short one, with very little sleep. In fact, I was so excited that I woke up at midnight, and could not fall back asleep. I ended up quietly going to my basement, and watched hunting videos until Brandon picked me up at 4 a.m.
It was 51 degrees when Brandon and I left my house, much warmer for my liking, so we ended up not bringing many warm clothes with us. Even after seeing there was to be a stiff northwest wind, we still decided we would be too warm if we brought our cold weather hunting gear, which turned into a major mistake.
After a quick stop at Sheetz, we headed to our destination, talking and dreaming about the various scenarios that could possibly play out in the next 12 hours. Upon arrival, we gathered our gear, cinched everything down tight to our backpacks, then started a 500 yard ascend uphill, before dropping off the other side.
Brandon was going to be hunting a saddle on the private property, and around 5 p.m., we split ways, and I headed to the State Game Lands that bordered. Between Brandon and I were 2 hollows, and a small “bowl”, as we ended up sitting about 450 yards apart. Although being pretty close, we never see the same deer because of the way the terrain lies, and funnels the deer.
After arriving at “my spot”, I hooked a climbing stand to a leaning tree, and quietly ascended it. For whatever reason, the tree was a major pain to climb, most likely because of how much it was leaning, but I was still able to get completely settled in with an hour of darkness to spare, which is always one of the most exciting parts of the day. To me, that last little bit of darkness before the guns start cracking on the opener makes me shiver with anticipation.
As I sat in the darkness, I knew that I had messed up with the amount of clothes that I had brought. As the wind hit me square in the face, I knew that it was going to be a long 13 hours before getting down, as I firmly believe in sitting all day on the opener. As the darkness boke, the frigid wind was forgotten about, as I listened for the chorus of shots that would soon break out all around me, signaling that firearms season had commenced.
As the day slowly progressed, my enthusiasm slowly began to dwindle. With only one deer sighting between daylight and 11 a.m., I was beginning to wonder what my next move should be. Should I stay here? Should I move to another ridge? I began second guessing things, but ultimately decided to stay put because I was afraid of spooking deer if I moved.
The 11 a.m. hour is often one of the toughest to get through when sitting all day. The excitement from the morning is over, especially if it has been slow, like it was on that day. Also, the coldness starts to settle in, especially when not wearing enough clothes. To say that I was freezing was an understatement, as I was shivering so hard that I wondered if I could even hit a deer past 75 yards. I ate lunch at noon, and I always try to stick to this schedule when sitting all day. I have found the best thing to do when pulling long hours is to pack a good lunch, and not to eat it early. This gives me something to look forward to in the middle of the day, and gives me a little bit of a mental break.
Just after eating lunch, I caught movement and noticed a spike buck heading my way. I watched as it fed on acorns, and slowly headed away. Not long after, a small 7 point came by cruising, looking for a doe with his nose to the ground. This flurry of activity provided a little bit of hope, and my excitement was restored.
The next 3 hours went about like the morning. A hard wind beating me in the face, and no deer movement. In fact, I cannot recall seeing as much as a squirrel, which isn’t a surprise as windy as it was.
As the clock turned to 3 p.m., I was getting more excited about the day being over, than I was about the possibility of a nice buck walking by. In all honesty, I was so cold that I was starting to not care about deer at all. Just as I was thinking about this, I heard footsteps coming from behind me, in a direction that I could only see 50 yards or so. Knowing this, I made sure not to make a fast turn, but instead let the deer walk by me while sitting still. As the deer walked by, I noticed that it was a nice 8 point, with a pretty tall rack. After contemplating for a few seconds, I decided the he was big enough, and slowly lifted my gun, placed the crosshairs in the vitals, and squeezed the trigger.
At the report of the rifle, the buck ran straight forward, then down into a big hollow where he died barely in sight. It always amazes me how fast your luck can turn, and this buck definitely proved that. I best it wasn’t 30 second from the time that I first heard footsteps, to the time I pulled the trigger. I packed my gear up, then descended the tree as quickly as possible, as my cold shivers were replaced with those of excitement once again. When I got to the deer, there was no ground shrinkage, nor ground expansion, as his size was just about what I thought it was before I shot, just a real pretty 8 point.
Like mentioned before, bow hunting is my true love, but I absolutely love hunting the opening day of gun season here in Hampshire County. It is something that I look forward to every year, and hope to never miss it. I can’t thank the anonymous landowner enough for letting me access through his ground, as over the past few years I have made some brutal treks, up and down the mountain to get into the same area. For those of you who still have a tag in your pocket, don’t give up. Keeping plugging ways, and putting yourself in good situations, it’ll pay off eventually. o