Today’s Wired To Hunt reader success story is another great example of one of the hunting virtues we preach every year – perseverance! Hunting mature bucks is almost never easy, and you’re inevitably going to have a lot of downs before you get to enjoy the ups. But for those who push through it, success is possible. Amber’s 2014 season is a perfect example of that. Check out Amber’s great story below and please give her a big congrats! – MK
By Amber Bettinghouse
This was one of those hunts where everything leading up to the harvest was better than the actual buck I harvested. Yes, I took down a decent 8 point. Yes, it was with my bow. And yes I keep telling myself if I had done one thing different when he stepped out, he wouldn’t be at the taxidermist right now. But there’s much more to it than just a beautiful whitetail…
In a nutshell, I had a pretty mentally exhausting 2014 leading up to October 1st. Relationship problems, starting a new job, and having the family dog put down just to name a few. However, all of those hurdles are what made me embrace the 2014 hunting season as strongly as I did. I’ve bow hunted since 2008 and always loved it. Being in my treestand has always been a therapy session. But there was something different about this year.
My brother and I started early in the summer moving and trimming stands, setting out trail cameras, patterning the deer and practicing shooting our bows. I had to keep my mind busy, so I dove in head first. Embracing bow season like I never had. I would constantly read articles and talk to hunting friends to learn everything I could about bow hunting, the rut, moon phases, etc. I knew the basics, but never got into the “guts” of it. I had a good friend of mine dial in my bow as best as he could. Without his help and knowledge I don’t think I would be writing this right now.
Our property is a small parcel. But we didn’t let that get to us. We still put in the effort instead of just waiting to see what was out there when October 1st rolled around. And it paid off.
We had quite a few decent mature bucks on camera regularly. It was pretty exciting given the fact that we only bowhunt about 15 acres. So of course, I was on a mission. Who wouldn’t be. I’m very thankful that my job lets me take off as much time as I please, and I’m out at 3:30 every day so I can hunt seven days a week (before the time changes….). I took complete advantage of that.
But I got skunked. A lot. It wasn’t even that I didn’t see a buck; I saw nothing. No button buck. No small doe. No nothing. Frustrating? You bet. Between October 1st and November 2nd I saw maybe four deer; three of them being gorgeous mature bucks about 80 yards out that got spooked by our horses (in which my dad replied with “heard they make good meat…”). Did I love being in the woods and in my treestand as much as I was? Oh hell yes. But all I wanted was to see somewhat regular action. I had two 4 day weekends in November I set aside to be in the woods. I was getting real excited about it after not seeing hardly anything.
That’s when the real frustration set in. I would live in my Under Armour all weekend. Hawk the weather. Know exactly what the wind was going to do. But it didn’t matter. Did I have a poor attitude and complained a lot? Yup. But I kept holding on. Kept the faith. Perseverance. I was one determined woman.
Then November 2nd came (part of one of my four day weekends). I hadn’t seen anything in the last 6-7 sits. I got in my treestand at about 2:00. I was mad. Bitter. Frustrated. Reflecting on how 2014 sucked. Going through all the “coulda, shoulda, and woulda’s” in my head (regarding the decisions I made throughout the year), texting my friends and complaining about everything. Mainly about not seeing deer. Needless to say, I was not an optimistic person that evening. But I still soaked up the time being in my treestand and enjoyed the beautiful weather.
Then 5:15 PM hit. He came trotting across the field at about 120 yards. Only about 30 seconds went by from the time I saw him to the time I shot him. But it felt like an eternity….he stopped at 30 yards right in front of me. Facing me. My instinct was to not draw back because he would have for sure seen me. He stepped broadside, but I still didn’t draw back. So I took a chance….he was headed to my right which put him behind branches. But there was a small window before he stepped into the pine trees. It looked like he was heading that way, so I took a deep breath and hoped that was the case. If he walked a few yards either way, I wouldn’t have a shot.
When he stepped behind the branches, I drew back. Hoping. Praying. I had to crouch down a little, then put my sights on the small shooting lane….and waited. When he appeared, I bleated. He stopped broadside. I froze. As he started to take a step into the pines, I snapped myself out of it and let my Carbon Express and Rage fly.
When I realized what happened about a minute after I shot him, and hearing him go down (or what sounded like it), my emotions set in. I’m a woman, what can I say!
So I waited until dark, rounded up my family (parents, brother, sister in law and 15 month old niece), and started tracking. We found him about 15 minutes later (thanks to my patient brother) and let me tell you….spotting him laying there and finally putting my hands on him for the first time is a feeling I’ll never forget. Ever. Words can’t even describe it.
After everything that had happened that year, and to finally take down the biggest buck of my life with my bow, I was one happy girl to say the least. I couldn’t have done any of it without my brother and good friend. They were a huge support system and put up with my complaining all season long.
I didn’t think it was possible to be more hooked on bowhunting than I was….but I am. It’s all I think about. I’m still determined. I’ve set some goals now that I have a mature whitetail under my belt, and I’m excited for 2015. In the meantime, I’ll get my outdoor fix with ice fishing and turkey hunting in the spring : )
Bottom line, never EVER give up.
– Amber Bettinghouse