A pep talk, and a New York archery buck

I got some help this year during the New York state archery season, and it led to me tagging a yearling buck – just a 3-pointer but one I never thought about passing on given the way my season had been going up to that point.

That assistance didn’t come in the form of a deer drive, or an offer to hunt a certain treestand, or an additional body to help with the drag off the hill. Although, for the record, Paula did come up to help me load the buck in the truck.

No, it was just a simple pep talk from a longtime hunting buddy, a guy who I’ve teamed up with on countless spring gobblers over the years.

And I needed it. My season had reached the point where I vowed to put the archery gear away and hunt pheasants full time (our yellow Lab, Finn, was perfectly fine with that), convinced it just wasn’t going to happen on that oak ridge in Chemung County this year. I had already shredded my DEC Bowhunter Sighting Log, an act of frustration – but also, perhaps, as a favor to the data collectors. At that point my log looked like it had been compiled by Stevie Wonder.

It’s rare that I reach that level of frustration and surrender. It never happens with turkeys and very rarely with whitetails. But after several sits where I saw nothing, by early November my patience had run out. I was cold, tired, my desk was getting cluttered, and pheasants offered more excitement and exercise.

Yes, the weather was cooling off, finally, and based on reports from other hunters, deer movement was picking up. And yes, I could crank out some work in the evening to catch up a bit, then head out to my stand in the morning, knowing it’s one of those strange locations where the morning activity is better than the evening.

But I was ready to surrender, even going so far as to begin packing up some of my gear.

Then my buddy called, almost begging me to give that ridge one more shot.

“There has to be something moving across there,” he said. “I’d sit all day if I were you.”

I couldn’t go that far; there was still work to be done in the office, and the temperatures would have made it difficult for me to manage an all-day archery hunt. You have to be able to draw the bow if the opportunity presents itself.

But he convinced me, and there I was the next morning, right at sunrise, climbing back into the same tree even though I was putting the finishing touches on another edition of New York Outdoor News and only had a few hours to hunt.

I figured it was one last shot.

My mood lightened a bit amid the spectacular morning. It was, to be honest, great to just be out there as the sun rose on a dead-quiet, crisp November morning. My friend was right – there had to be something moving today. For the first time in weeks I was almost optimistic.

By 8:30 nothing had happened, and I vowed to give it two more hours in the stand. Then it was time for an Egg McMuffin, a cup of coffee, and work.

A few minutes later, what I thought was a squirrel shuffling through the dry oak leaves changed its rhythm, and got louder. It was a deer. A buck. Given my season to that point, I was wondering if it was a mirage. But it wasn’t.

The buck casually strolled behind my stand, stepping out onto a logging trail and offering a 12-yard, quartering-away shot. I slipped the arrow through a slot in some brush and the buck raced off, skidding to a final halt down over the bank.

I called Paula to tell her I might be a bit late. I couldn’t text my friend largely responsible for my success; he was tucked away in a Pennsylvania treestand where cell service was nonexistent.

Two days later, on the final day of the Pennsylvania archery offering, he connected on a five-pointer, then walked out to the truck to text message me. I drove over and helped with the drag, figuring I owed him after his little pep talk put me back in the tree when that yearling New York buck decided to walk into range.

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