PENNSBORO, W.Va. – It seemed almost scripted as the 10-point buck walked out of the woods to our left. Scripted in the sense that this was my first time taking out the Wicked Ridge RDX-400 that TenPoint Crossbow Technologies loaned me, the first time I had hunted with my brother on his property in Pennsboro since I was in college and my first archery season.
It was also within the first hour of sitting in our preferred spot.
Kenny, my brother, and I had planned on doing this hunt at the end of October, but due to unforeseen circumstances pushed it back to Monday. As I made my way back to Ritchie County, my home, I couldn’t help but wonder if my luck would change being the rut was about to be in full swing. I had passed a few small bucks and older does on this property in the past, waiting for a nice buck to walk into my shooting lane. Because I hunted during gun season, this was a pretty rare occurrence as the private parcel gets hit pretty hard and the deer become ghosts. But being archery season, we decided we were going to run our crossbows, both TenPoints, on a ridge overlooking Route 50.
We made our way out to the wasteland – the nickname for the large swath of tall grass and forbs lining the ridge – around 3:30 p.m. The sun was blazing, temperatures were peaking at 75 degrees, and we were both worried that it might be too hot for deer movement. Kenny had just pulled his back out, too, making the task of hauling a deer back to our UTV all the more monumental. Still, we persisted.
As we unloaded some corn in a patch of green grass, I ranged the front of the pile to be 25 yards from the open window of the condo, the permanent blind we were using. I was comfortable shooting the crossbow up to 40 yards but wanted to be extra careful since I’d be standing up for the shot. Once finished laying down the bait, we pulled the UTV about 50 yards behind the condo, got out and got into position inside the blind. The wind was in our face, blowing through the small window I’d be shooting through, a stroke of good luck for a day that seemed like we’d be dealing with some adversity.
We started catching up on the normal things when, about 20 minutes in, Kenny abruptly stopped the conversation.
“Did you hear that?” He asked.
I hadn’t heard anything, but I wasn’t truly listening at that point. I didn’t think there would be any deer coming through the area since we had basically just gotten there. A few minutes before he heard what he told me sounded like rattling, he had hit our set of rattling antlers. We stayed quiet, but couldn’t hear anything else. Shrugging it off as a car over on the adjacent property, we went back to sitting in silence. Then, 10 minutes later, I heard what sounded like a snort wheeze. Again, I brushed it off as a trick of the mind. Kenny heard it, though, and perked up. If it was a deer, we gathered it was in the tree line to our right. A few more minutes passed and nothing came out.
Another clacking of the antlers.
Another 20 minutes ticked by.
As the heat began to reach the point of turning the blind into a makeshift sauna, I caught movement to our left. It was a buck, what looked to be a good-sized 8-point from his profile. Even when I looked through my binoculars, I couldn’t get a good look at his full rack and he eventually crossed out of my line of sight. Kenny put his binoculars to his face and informed me it wasn’t an 8-point, but rather a big-bodied 10-point. We hatched a plan as the deer moved to the pile of corn for a quick snack. That plan involved Kenny scooting back into the corner of the condo to watch the shot placement. Once the deer was focused on eating, I’d stand up and move to the right, standing back enough so the limbs didn’t hit the window and the arrow had a clear path.
“He’s at 35 yards,” Kenny whispered, ranging the buck.
The deer wasn’t totally quartered toward me, though. As I set the safety to the firing position and shouldered the crossbow, the deer turned. He looked right at me, but, unfazed, went back to eating. He still wasn’t completely quartered. I was confident I could take the shot but wanted to be sure I could make it a quick kill.
I held steady. He turned around again.
“Do not move,” Kenny said. “Calm down, fix your breathing. When he turns, shoot him.”
This time, the buck turned ever so slightly. It gave me the shot I wanted.
“Shoot,” Kenny said.
I exhaled, pulled the trigger and within two seconds I saw him take the blow and run off into the woods, legs buckling. It was a perfect shot.
Elated, Kenny and I both sighed a breath of relief and took in the moment, high fiving each other. It was my first deer and a nice 10-point at that. Thirty minutes later, we got out and began tracking him. It didn’t take long to find him.
As we hauled the deer back to the skinning post, it all felt surreal. Through all my planning and failure on other pieces of land around the state, both private and public, to go out and harvest a big buck within an hour in 75-degree heat only made me laugh. While I doubt my preparations on other hunts were for naught, it was nice to be able to harvest my first deer sitting next to my brother and celebrate it with him after the fact. I’m sure this story will be told for decades to come – at least I hope it is. It almost seemed scripted.