It was September the 30th. It was the day before the opening of Oklahoma’s bow deer hunting season. It was a Wednesday afternoon. I was working. I was painting an apartment. That’s just what I did. Yes I had a couple of master degrees but at that time I was an apartment painter. The fact is I was pretty happy. I was still single playing the field so to speak. I lived alone in an apartment and I was excited as usual about deer hunting season opening back up. I was excited even though I had not killed a deer in 9 years. I hadn’t killed any kind of deer – not even a doe – not even with a rifle. I was still excited. I had spent the past several months telling myself that this was going to be my year – this was going to be the year I had a break through.
I had heard a motivational speaker say that if you would write down your hopes and dreams it would help. If you would write it down you could better visualize it. So I did that too. There were pieces of paper all over my apartment and in my truck with the written words, ‘I’m gonna shoot a deer this year. I can do it.’
But of course along with telling yourself you can do it is another important factor – action. You have to take some kind of action towards making things happen. I guess I had forgotten that part of it. Because while I was convinced in my mind I was going to shoot a deer on opening day I really hadn’t done much else. You have to keep in mind I still had never shot a single deer with my bow either.
While rolling out the walls in that apartment it suddenly hit me and the negative but true facts danced around in my head and came to the for front – In the morning I’m going to go back to the very same spot where I’ve been hunting the past few years and I’m (as usual) not going to see any deer. I’m going to have the very same results that I’ve always had when hunting there. I’m not going to kill a deer. That’s just the real truth no matter what I’ve been telling myself for months.
I got mad about it. I dropped that paint roller down into that 5 gallon paint bucket and I stormed out of that apartment. I walked down and got into my paint van and started driving. I didn’t even have a plan in mind. I just headed back down towards Wagoner the small town where I grew up. Just before getting to the Verdigris River bridge I glanced over and saw a bean field on the north side of the highway. I told myself: ’Hey I grew up hunting squirrels in that bottom right there and I remember seeing some deer there 10 years ago.’ So I turned and drove to the back of that field.
I got out and entered the woods right there. I had a hammer and some 8 penny nails with me. I still had my painter whites on. I just started walking around in the timber looking for some sign. Actually I was looking for some deer. I didn’t walk 200 yards and I jumped several deer who busted out in front of me and disappeared into thicker brush.
‘This is it,’ I told myself. ‘I’m going to hunt right here in the morning.’
There was oak tree directly to my left and with a couple of nails in the tree I was able to work myself up into the first fork of that tree. Situating my rear end just right I knew this would do and get me up off the ground just enough for me to hunt. I got down, drove back to the apartment, finished painting and went home to get ready for the hunt the next morning.
Obviously this is not the ideal way to scout and pick a place to deer hunt. But I’m telling you sometimes doing anything different from what you’ve been doing is a good thing. You have to remember also that back in those days it was an unwritten law but an accepted rule that if a piece of property was not posted you could hunt it. That may sound crazy but that’s just the way things were 40 years ago. Another thing that is really crazy is continuing to do the same things you’ve always done but then to expect different results. That’s particularly true when it comes to deer hunting.
The next morning I bounced out of bed like a new man. I put my camo on, grabbed my bow, which I didn’t shoot very well and I headed out for opening day. I guess I was so excited that I didn’t pay much attention to the fact that is was pretty nippy that morning at 5 a.m. No it was just plain cold for the 1st of October in Oklahoma. The temperature was about 28. I had a thin pair of pants on and a short sleeved shirt and that was it. I just wasn’t thinking straight to be honest with you. I didn’t care.
I was in the fork of that tree before 6 a.m. You talk about pitch dark. It didn’t take long that I began to get a little cold as well. That little cold turned to real cold as soon as the sun began to break and the wind kicked up. We had been having some 75 degree blue bird days. This was not going to be one of those days. Of course I know now that the high for the day was going to be in the mid-40’s – well below normal.
By 7:30 I had had all the fun I could stand for one day. I literally was shaking all over more than anywhere else. My knees were viciously knocking together and I thought I was going to break a tooth my jaw was moving up and down so hard. I could hardly keep my feet on the single limb where my feet were perched. I was just miserable.
About 8 a.m. I told myself ‘to just get down and go back home. This is crazy’. And it was. But then I thought about all those months I’d been telling myself that this was going to be my year. I thought about all those times that I’d written down the phrase, ’I’m gonna shoot a deer this year. You can do it.’ I thought about all the countless hours I’d spent thinking about this one day and this one season. I thought about the 9 years where I had not been able to shoot even one single doe. I got mad all over again. I told myself I was going to stay in that tree if it killed me. At the time I thought it just might.
Glancing down at my watch it was exactly 9:05 a.m. and it felt like it was 4 in the afternoon. It had been a long, cold morning, but I was staying. That issue was settled. When all of a sudden out of the wild blue I looked up and at about 60 yards to my right there stood a doe. You’ve got to be kidding me!
I couldn’t believe there really was a doe right there in front of me. She was too far to shoot at but I didn’t care. I got fired up. I quite shaking.
The doe was calm and didn’t seem nervous but when she moved she didn’t come my direction she moved to her left and away from me. Before I could get disappointed another doe appeared from where the first doe came. She did the exact same thing as doe #1. Then a third doe appeared. This one was different.
Instead of following the other deer she turned and headed directly towards me. That’s when things began to get hairy in a hurry! My heart jumped into my throat like it never had before in my life. 60 – 50 -40 – 30 yards; at 30 yards I lifted my bow and my eyes sight literally got blurry. She kept coming. 30 yards, 20 yards, 10 yards – at 10 yards she stopped, turned broadside and said, ’Shoot me right here, pointing to her side.’
She might as well said that. By now I’m shaking all over again. I really thought I might fall right out of the fork of that tree. A little small voice in the back of my mind said, ’Draw your bow and shoot her.’
I drew that bow and I tried to find my sites but just couldn’t. I was shaking too much. I was moving from that doe’s nose to her tail trying to settle down and be still for the shot. It was no use. I was out of control.
The small voice spoke again, ’Just release the arrow. Shoot stupid.’
So I did. I released the arrow and the doe blew out of there like a cannon went off. A few seconds went by and I screamed at the top of my lungs, “I shot at a doe! I shot at a doe!”
Then as if someone clapped me I looked down into the grass where she was standing and I thought, ’I’ve got to find that broad head and arrow. That’s $5 dollars layout out there.’
So I jumped down and ran over to where I thought the deer was standing. All of a sudden I lost my breath. There was blood everywhere.
“I hit a doe! I hit a doe!” I screamed.
Voice: Follow the blood trail Roger.
“I killed a doe! I killed a doe!” I yelled and screamed and did a war dance as I walked up on that doe who hadn’t gone 50 yards.
I had hit the doe high and a little deep but my broad head had cut that main artery below the spine. The doe bled out in a hurry and she bled like a stuck pig. I don’t know how many years the Lord is going to give me. I do know this. On my dying bed I won’t forget that moment or that feeling I had. It was a life changing experience for me.
I yanked that doe up off the ground, threw her up over my shoulders around my neck, grabbed my bow and stormed out of that timber and back to my paint van. There wasn’t going to be any apartment painting on that day. I literally was across the street from an official check station in Oklahoma and when I pulled over there I found a sign on their door saying – Gone hunting. Will be back at 12. Forget that I’m out of here. I drove that doe around and showed her to anyone that would look. I drove into Wagoner and found people I went to high school with that I didn’t even like and said, ‘Look what I shot!’
It was a high that I just couldn’t get out of my system. I really couldn’t put into words what that experience did to me. All I knew was is that I like it and I wanted to have more experiences just like that one. It really all started months earlier with me telling myself that I could do it even though all the odds pointed to me not doing it. I told myself I could do it. I had written it down hundreds of times, ‘This is going to be my year. I’m going to shoot a deer this year. You can do it.’ I told myself I could do it. I put some action to my thoughts. I went out and found a new place – I did something different. I wasn’t going to settle for the same old results. No matter how strange it seemed or was. I got it done.
Now since then I’ve killed over 180 branched antlered whitetail bucks. Out of those bucks over 100 of them have scored over 140 Boone & Crockett points. Nearly 75 of them have scored over 150. I’ve killed 15 bucks over the magic 170 mark and 3 over 200 inches. But of all those bucks
the greatest trophy in my life was that doe on that cold, dreary October 1st morning. That hunt and experience gave me the confidence to believe that I really could do it. It helped me believe I could be more successful. I just needed to go more, try harder and learn as much as I could along the way. Every hunt, every experience, every day I would spend in the woods was going to help make me a better hunter. I’ve got news for you. You can too! . . . . Learn to say I can.
Good deer hunting to you!
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