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I heard about this Virginia hunt from my fellow Bucks and Beards TV team while attending the National Wild Turkey Federation Convention this past February. All it took was one word, whitetail.
I have been on only 2 hunts in search of my tagging my first Whitetail Buck. While this hunt would end up being more of a bear hunt, the thought of getting a chance to kill more than one buck after a doe was taken was just unreal to think about. I had never been in a tree-stand either so this hunt would prove to be full of firsts!!
Six members of our Bucks and Beards TV team showed up in Star Tannery, Virginia on Saturday to hunt for the next five or six days. It was raining when we all arrived and was expected to run through the next day. We couldn’t hunt on Sunday, so we just got settled in and enjoyed the cool weather.
Early Monday morning, we were greeted by our guides, Levi, Chris and Cliff. We all went over our plans for the first hunting day and where they were going to put the six of us that were hunting. Levi was taking me out, and we ended up at a bear stand hoping for a shot at a bear or a deer. Now, I have to put out here that I have NEVER hunted from a tree stand. Remember, I’m from out West where we spot and stalk the animals, so this was going to be a huge learning experience……and was it ever!!
Levi got me all settled in to my stand, one they would refer to as “The cornfield’ where he gave me a two-way radio and said turn it on about 10:45. At that time, he would see how I was doing and if I want to come out for lunch. The morning seemed to fly by, the sounds of the woods was so unbelievable. The colors of the trees were so vibrant, fall in Virginia is definitely a beautiful time to be there! The squirrels kept me so entertained, I don’t think I have ever watched so many, and they were busy!! I forgot to turn on my radio and and the next thing I knew, Levi was tugging on my pull cord from below! I got down and we started to head out of the woods. Walking out we both noticed something small heading in our direction. I know I’m a goof, my first thought for some reason was “is that a dog?” Then, at the same time, we both stopped in our tracks…BEAR! Yep,it was a baby bear cub!! Now regardless of how cute he was, we all know that where there is a cub, there is a very protective Mama or “Mammy” as they kept calling them. Levi has me reach for my side arm, just in case we had to protect ourselves at any time. Levi belted out a quick “Hey Bear, Hey Bear!” to try and deter him from getting any closer to us, we still had yet to see his mama. He turned and ran off toward the creek we had to cross. When we got over to the creek, he was no where to be found. By then, we were at our road and headed on down to his truck. Wow…what an exciting first morning in the woods!
After lunch I went back to the same stand, and by the evening I hadn’t seen anything. I ended up heading out and met up with Levi.
The next morning, I went to another bear stand, one they called 1.6. Why you ask? Well, it’s exactly a 1.6 mile walk in from the road to the stand!! What a beautiful sight too! I was in some deep woods and to my right a rushing little creek. With acorns dropping and a water source that close, we thought for sure I’d see a bear or deer. This day would be my longest sit. I agreed to do the full day sit which ended up being 11 hours!! Yes, I just said 11 hours. I was determined to not miss something if it came to my stand! Cliff was my guide for that day and he came to get me just before dark. Nothing had came to see me that day and I was ready to head out, I must say I have a new found respect for you hunters that sit for the day!! How do you do it?? Wow!
The next morning it was decided I would sit in a blind that day and see if a deer would come to the food plot nearby. I got a bit sleepy and kicked back in my blind listening to the woods come alive. Before I knew it, a sound I had not heard yet was getting closer. It was turkey!! I wasn’t sure if I could shoot a hen, so I shot a text to Levi. I got no response, and my license only said turkey, it didn’t specify either sex. I did not get cell phone service and my text to Levi never went out. The hens walked past and before I knew it, they were gone. I walked out for lunch and soon got signal and a text came through from Levi that said “Yes” but it was too late. So unfortunately, I missed getting a turkey that morning. No worries, I was on a mission to get my first whitetail buck…or a bear!
The next two days, I would be in a deer stand. A stand they called “Big Ben” and a two-man stand that they referred to as just that, the “Two-man stand.” One of the afternoons while we were at the cabin having lunch, Chris Walizer from The Buck Cage showed Renee and I how to use a climbing tree stand. We got to utilize our new found skills the very next day.
We got out the next morning in the dark to set up our climbing stands where several deer had been spotted the night before. The morning light came and no deer crossed my path. The rains came that day and between the day and the evening sit, we didn’t see any deer. A bear had been spotted coming our way in the midst of the storm, but Renee and I never had him come into our view. I do have to say one thing, I have never been in a tree stand for one, and I never have been in one during a windy rain storm. In my thoughts, it was similar to a carnival ride. I thought the stand or the tree was going to fall over with me in it!! What an experience that was! That day also produced nothing but 2 does off in a distance by the road.
It was now Saturday, and that morning was going to be our last chance for the six of us to try our luck at getting something. We had all spotted deer and bear, but only Renee had a been able to take a shot at a doe and had an unfortunate miss.
Cliff took Renee and I out on this final morning. He was taking me back to “Big Ben” and Renee to “Johnny 1”, a bear stand. While Cliff set out my Buck Cage filled with Bucks and Beards Scents “October Harvest,” I got all set up into my stand. This would be my first time trying my Buck Cage. We did our new traditional knuckle bump, he wished me luck and then he was off. I did a quick equipment check and panic set in, I couldn’t find my release! Now, I don’t know about you all, but I can’t live without my release! I remembered Cliff had to go to the end of the road to turn around, so I quickly fumbled in the dark for my flashlight and when I saw his headlights, I started flickering my flashlight on and off praying he’d see it and see what was wrong. He did. When he got out and came to my stand, I told him I couldn’t find my release, I thought I had it on my bow. He looked in the truck and on the ground by the stand and never found it. Cliff walked back to the truck and gave me his caliper release to use. It was a bit big for me, but at that moment, anything was better than nothing for a shot if I had the opportunity.
It was closing in on the 9 o’clock hour and out of the corner of my right eye coming in was 3 does! Two headed over to the Buck Cage scent and the third one was headed right to me! With no time to stand, I went to draw back as she passed the only tree between us and before I could get to full draw, I barely bumped the trigger on the release and my arrow soared into the trees and made the loudest thrashing noise ever! That doe blew twice and bolted, the other two were right there with her.
I sat there stunned and in silence. I couldn’t believe what just happened, I finally got something to come in, lost my release and lost an opportunity to harvest a doe….all just hours before I had to fly home.
Levi showed up and I was already out of my stand and ready to go. While explaining what just happened, we headed to his truck parked off the road. Low and behold there it was, and not but a few feet from my stand….my release! With a heavy heart from such a hard hunt, we headed back for me to shower and leave for the Dulles airport.
Even though I didn’t get my first whitetail or bear, I learned so much. From the bear cub on the first day to learning how to use a climbing tree stand to a very important rule, always make sure I have my equipment in check and maybe even carry an extra release in my pack. The time spent with the Bucks and Beards TV crew and the guys from Double Spur Outfitters and the Buck Cage is immeasurable. They all took a part in teaching me new skills and making sure I had a wonderful hunting experience. New friendships came out of this incredibly difficult hunt and I wouldn’t trade one minute of it.
For now, my quest for my first whitetail buck continues. My out-of-state tough luck remains, but I will never give up!
Till next time……may your hunting experiences be successful, with memories that last a lifetime!