I didn't write much this fall. Actually, I didn't write at all. After my late July smallmouth trip on the savannah river, I got busy finishing preparations for my 2016 deer season. Looking back on the season now and the big swath of time missing from blog, I've spent all season considering what happened. Why didn't I write? I remember at different points during my hunting that things were just tough. Dog tough. Everything started off great. I did my homework. There were lots of deer around. Heck, even a few decent little bucks. After last years stellar season things appeared to be shaping up for another barn burner. Opening afternoon of the 2016 SC Archery season found me perched in a white oak on the edge of an old growth hardwood drain. There were already acorns on the ground. After an hour or so, I noticed ripples spreading through the water in the little creek below me. I instantly rose and slowly reached for my recurve. Before I had wrapped my fingers around the string good eight does had filed outta the pines and crossed the creek to surround me. The largest doe had been in the lead and she was now broadside at 12 yards slightly quartering away. I did a quick scan of the other feeding does and slowly drew. My index finger found its home below my cheek bone and I slowly pulled my back shoulder into positioning feeling the tension across my back. The arrow passed through her like she was merely an apparition. The big doe bolted 40 yards and stopped looking about in a panic. A dark wine stain flowed from her side and in a moment she took off down the drain at a run. I heard her crash in the tangle below. I remember now shaking a bit as I always do. I remember mentally patting myself on the back for the hard work and time spent scouting. I remember as I skinned and quartered her congratulating myself for another public land deer taken with traditional gear.
I told myself then that I wasn't going to shoot another doe. No sir. I wasn't even going to buy a doe tag. I was going to stay tight to the action and wait on a buck. I was going to be selective and patient.
I spent october and november hunting hard. It was hot. Really hot. I passed the time watching buck after buck drop on social media. Guys I knew were killing bucks or at least getting shots at them. I stepped up my game and began running trail cameras and searching out fresh sign. I found great areas with lots of fresh scapes and rubs. My cameras only showed midnight pictures. Hunt after hunt went by without seeing a deer. I finally backtracked all the sign to a funnel coming out of a thick swamp. I setup on the main trail one evening with an iffy wind and a less than stellar stand setup. It cost me. A big bodied six point came running down the trail obviously looking for does. He got to twenty yards and slammed on the brakes skidding to a halt. He stood there a moment assessing the threat and bolted back the way he had come.
I think that was the tipping point for me. I kept hunting well into December but my heart just wasn't in it. The area I hunted had filled with rifle hunters and the pressure compared to the previous year was at least double.
It has taken me all season to flesh out the reason I haven't written about any of this until now. The truth is, I wrote the season off as a loss. I somehow decided that because I didn't drop ole mossy I just simply didn't have anything worth writing about. That is a flat out lie. The reality is I had a fantastic season and it had nothing to do with my perceived success or failure. I allowed myself to believe that if I wasn't dropping a giant on public land with traditional tackle, then I simply couldn't be validated as a trad hunter. I had no social media street cred. I didn't have what it took to be one of the elites if I wasn't on instagram with my hands wrapped around a set of giant bases. I didn't have a story to tell. I'm more than a little ashamed of myself for falling into that trap. For allowing my competitive nature and social media to rob me of my season.
I want to spend the rest of this article doing one thing and one thing only. I want to share with you what really happened during my 2016 deer season in a few pictures. My hope is that through these images, you can see how it really went down. It was far from a failure.
I retrospect, I did a lot of really awesome stuff this fall. I think the most important thing I did was have a personal reality check about why I'm out there to begin with. I'm out there for the opportunity. Im thankful for the opportunity. Every close call with and old cagey doe, every fish that throws the fly, every walk in the woods with my boys.... that's my validation. Happy New Year.