Like many of you, I’ve been a hunter since I was old enough to tote my own rifle. My Grandfather was an outdoorsman whom taught me to fish, hunt, hike, backpack, and take care of our outdoors and the critters that call those places home. I’ve always been a rifle hunter because that’s what Grandpa put in my hands. I believe hunting is a lot like watching baseball, if your dad, or in my case Grandpa, didn’t watch it, you’ll likely not watch it as an adult either. Take it one step further though, if you didn’t grow up in an archery family, there even a larger chance you’ll never pick it up. There’s just so much to learn and the learning curve is steep. Last year, my wife and son both picked up rifle hunting and I essentially played “guide” and by the end of the season, there wasn’t enough time for me to actually go HUNT. My wife and I chatted about it and she suggested I picked up archery. PERFECT! More gear, something fun and challenging to learn, but where to start? I snagged my first bow in November of last year and began reading, researching, and shooting….DAILY! I eventually shot a few 3D shoots and decided I needed bigger and better (don’t we always?!). I upgraded to a different bow and continued my journey into this method of harvest. Over the months I fine-tuned my gear and mentality in preparation for the hunting season. For whatever reason, this year FLEW by and September was already upon me. I made my plans, put in for my time off from work, and with all my gear dialed in and loaded up, I set out to meet my hunting buddies for our archery weekend. As you’re all probably aware, the summer of 2017 should have been known as the “summer of smoke” and just about no place in Washington was safe, so the nasty stuff blanketed everything. Morning of September 24th –We hit our first lookout spot and began glassing. To our not-so-surprise, the smoke reduced visibility to about 800 yards and spotting anything proved eye-poppingly difficult. For the next few hours, the conversation with my two partners repeated with little change - “Is that a doe? Nah, I see antlers…right? Maybe not…is that even a deer? ARRGHH, my eyes are BURNING…you look for a minute.” Late morning arrived and animal movement sharply dropped, however we spotted something about a mile away that piqued our interest. “You see that? That’s definitely a bedded deer. But what is it?” “It’s big bodied…gotta be a buck. What else do we have to do, let’s go check it out.” We climbed off the lookout being ever so careful to play the wind and began our stalk. Once we got to 85 yards, we continued glassing the animal KNOWING it wasn’t alone. After belly crawling all over the rocks, we identified at least 4 more animals all bedded in the same location and ALL watching each other’s backs (a doe, a 3x3, ‘super spike’, a 2 point, and a 4x4). 85 yards was as good as it was going to get and the way the 3x3 was laying, 85 yards just wasn’t going to cut it. We decided to back out and not spook them. I might add, that was a very hard decision! Without Binos With Binos We slithered our way out of range and hiked back to the house to refuel our bodies and minds and develop a game plan; ultimately deciding to come back late afternoon in hopes the group of 5 had moved beds. Late afternoon September 24th - Once we arrived back to the lookout, we observed the doe pacing back and forth, but didn’t see any other animals. She finally disappeared behind some rocks and never emerged again, leading us to believe she had finally found a comfy spot to rest. Stalk #2 commenced. Once we got to where they had previously been laying, I reviewed OnX maps and was able to “guess” where they might be bedded now based on availability of shade and where we witnessed the doe bed down. I removed my shoes and low crawled to a large boulder and slowly peered around it. I eased back out of sight, turned around to face my fellow hunters and mouthed the words, “holy *censored*, they are RIGHT there!!” Now when I say “RIGHT there”, I mean, 5 yards away…so close I can hear them licking themselves! This is closer than I’ve ever been to a living deer. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to decipher doe from buck, so more intel was needed, but I was in the hot seat and wasn’t afforded more investigation time. I moved into position on the boulder above the resting gang and drew my bow and slowly stood up. At that instant, the doe burst from her bed followed by the 3x3. I placed my pin on his back, now only 15 yards away patiently waiting for curiosity to kick in and him to stop and look back. Apparently none of these deer were THAT curious as they all jumped and ran non-stop without stopping. I let down my bow, sat back down for fear I might have passed out from adrenaline overdose and waited. They continued about 500 yards and eventually went back to grazing, apparently no worse for the wear, me, however, not so much. The ribbing started… “So, you have to actually hit the release to kill a deer…you know that right?...Oh, I get it, you can’t shoot that far, you needed them closer!” –and so on and so on. Morning of September 25th – The following morning we decided to let the previous day’s spot cool down and go see if we could drum up any other animals on a different section of land. We were down 1 hunter for the morning as ranching chores don’t take days off. Much of the morning was similar to the previous. Hike, find a lookout, glass, glass some more, go back to hiking. Up this hill? Yep, up that hill! *bbbbbzzzzzzz* - buddies phone started vibrating…text message from other friend “There are 3 bucks heading your direction from the house working their way through the “big draw”, I’ll follow them and keep you updated” We got into position and after about an hour of sitting patiently behind a small hill, we witnessed a spike feed out into view followed by another spike and finally a 3x3 at approximately 120 yards. The deer continued to move away from us feeding down the draw. We’d wait until they disappeared out of view behind vegetation or a boulder and then we’d hustle to close the distance, all the while playing the wind in our face. *bbbbbzzzzzzz* - text message - “I just watched them bed down below a bluff, you can’t come straight at them, the wind is swirling and they’ll see you. You’ll have to come over the top” Once again, I consulted OnX maps to get a lay of the land and figure out where we could go without being seen or smelled. We made a game plan and executed it. Once on top of the bluff, I glassed around and finally spotted our other hunter/spotter about 200 yards away. *bbbbbzzzzzzz* - “They are RIGHT below you!! From left to right, spike, 3x3, spike. Spike is closest to you.” Adrenaline fired back up again as I began taking methodical breathes in hopes of oxygenating the blood for what was about to ensue. *bbbbbzzzzzzz* - “no, you’re too far over, the 3x3 is right here…” and attached was this picture. (Look below me slightly to the left) I attempted to calm my nerves as I crawled towards the edge of the bluff with arrow nocked now knowing exactly where my target was located. As I approached the edge, still unable to see the bedded deer, I realized that when I stood, my shadow would appear directly in front of the animals only allowing for one chance before they bolted. I crawled to the edge and got my feet under me while still crouching down and drew my bow. I slowly stood up and simultaneously began lowering my pin down over the edge of the bluff all the while keeping tabs on my shadow. The instant my shadow presented itself to the deer, the spike stood up cautiously, yet unalarmed. I moved my pin to the right at the same moment the 3x3 stood up a mere 5 feet DIRECTLY below me. I took a deep breath, picked my spot on his back imagining where lungs and heart would be, began to exhale, and triggered my release. As time froze, the only sound I heard was my arrow skimming a rock as it exited the bottom of the buck’s chest, penetrating the soil. The buck jumped straight up with arched back so close I felt I could have reached out and touched him. The three deer bound a few yards away looking around attempting to identify what disturbed their midday rest. My buck continued to bounce not yet showing signs of injury, however the blood flowing from his chest cavity told a different story. After an intense few seconds, his legs began to wobble and he fell over, only 74 yards from where I stood. I placed my bow on the bluff, sat down and took several deep breaths as I sat in utter amazement at what had just transpired. I looked at my buddies and all I could muster up was, “Wow…that just happened…” View looking down to where the buck was laying from where I stood. View looking up, notice the arrow in the ground and my feet. As he lay. Bow hunting has made me an all-around better hunter. So many lessons were learned, I can’t even begin to list them all out, but here are a few: 1. Wind can be your friend and is much more important that what you’re wearing. 2. Single pin sliders are hard to hunt with and take way too much adjusting in the heat of the moment. 3. Practicing for a 100 yard bow shot is neat, but not practical. I now need a 5 foot pin. :chuckle: 4. Sitka core base layers are awesome and can be worn for multiple days without stinking! 5. Technology can be helpful. 6. There is no way I could have been that successful without my friends, it was truly a team effort. 7. Scablands are amazing places to spot and stalk deer with a bow. 8. Get pants with knee pads. 9. Learn how to shoot your bow with both eyes open. 10. Practice drawing your bow in the most contorted positions for realism and learn how to shoot straight down. I hope you’ve enjoyed my experience. I can’t wait for next year!