Making Up Lost Time

I had a professor way back in my college days who really gave me a lot to think about in the years afterward.  One day, when I was late to class, I promised I’d make it up.  “You don’t get that time back,” he told me.  “You can never make up lost time.”

It’s a simple concept because it made simple sense.  Once time is gone, it’s gone.  You don’t go backwards.  Obviously the lesson stuck.

So hunting season here in Texas has been going strong since late September.  I made it out and arrowed a doe earlier on, but really haven’t spent much time in the stand since then.  Sure, I’ve made a run or two at getting in some time, but really haven’t done nearly as much hunting as I thought I would… given that I’m hunting a few minutes outside my back door.  I’ve had so much work to do on the place, as well as work and travel for my day job, that hunting just hasn’t taken the forefront.

Last week, I was back up in Spokane for work.  As the week wound down, I decided that I’d put some focus on hunting in the coming couple of weeks, leading up to Christmas.  Maybe I couldn’t really make up time, but damned if I wasn’t going to put some time in to do some whitetail hunting this season.  Hell, it’s one of the reasons I bought this place!  All the other projects are just going to have to take a back seat for a few weeks.

Now, to be honest, I could shoot a deer every day right from my back door.  I hung the feeder on the hill about 160 yards from the kitchen window, and almost every morning and evening I can watch the deer as they feed.  A few times, I’ve even gone so far as to drag the rifle out the back door and lean up against the truck to settle the crosshairs on an unsuspecting doe.  Some mornings, I’ve put a chair in the bed of the truck, and sat there at sunrise and sunset with the binos and rifle.  The opportunities have been abundant to say the least.  I’m not saying it’ll happen every time, but so far, I’ve resisted the itch in my trigger finger and let the deer feed in peace.  Later in January, as the season runs down, I’ll probably put some meat in the freezer.  With the exception of restaurant meals, I have no intention of buying red meat this year.  But for now, I just don’t want to take the “gimme”.

That’s the same reason I’ve primarily stuck with the bow, even though rifle season has been underway for over a month.  With the rifle, I’m pretty sure I’d have already used up my book of tags even without shooting over the feeder.  There are a lot of deer here.  I’ve strapped on the pistol a time or two, to hunt the cedar thickets where I can’t even draw a bow, but for the most part, I’m hunting the same tree stand with my bow.

So this week, I’ve been pretty solid in my resolve to hunt every single day.  I haven’t missed a morning or evening hunt since Sunday, and have every intention of being out there first thing tomorrow too.  And every day, I drag the rifle out and leave it by the kitchen door in favor of the bow.  This evening, for example, I wanted to drag the .243 up on the stand.  I took it out of the safe, cleaned it up, and even shouldered it a few times.  But when it came time to head out, I reached for the Mathews instead.

Just before dark, I heard a ruckus in the woods above my stand.  Below me, something was slowly creeping along the edge of the cedars toward the horse pasture.  My heart was pounding and my head was swiveling like a weathervane in the eye of a hurricane.  A big doe stepped out of the cedars into the pasture, about 35 yards from my stand.  At the same time, four deer stepped into the spot I’ve dubbed “the Murder Hole”, just below my stand at a laser-ranged 32 yards.

With all those eyes, I moved at the speed of an oak tree growing, and finally managed to get the bow up.  A big, mature doe in the Murder Hole stood broadside, looking away.  I decided to take her, instead of the longer shot in the pasture.  My heart thudded so hard it actually moved the sights of the bow with each beat.  I took a deep breath, but not deep enough, and settled the 20 yard pin high on the doe’s shoulder, with the 3o yard pin just barely on her chest.

In retrospect, given the downward angle, I should have just gone with the 20 yard pin and put it on the doe’s chest.  As it was, on my release the woods exploded with motion.  The doe I was aiming at dropped almost to her knees before bolting headlong down the trail.  I watched the red and white fletching slip just across her back and thump into the duff under the oak trees.

It was a simple error, and one I’ve made before… and will probably make again.  At a steep, downward angle, the shot is always shorter than the rangefinder suggests.  Of course, I could get a rangefinder with the angle compensation mode (like the Nikon Archer’s Choice), but I don’t have that now.  Besides, I know the range and where I should hold.   This deer was within a few yards of where I shot the doe earlier this year, and I used the 20 yard pin to kill her very cleanly.  But with all the deer around me, I was simply too excited.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings…