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Priceless Memories with Ben Whitlock Hunt


 
It was a calm October morning with stars like I had rarely seen.  As I stepped out of the truck, I looked up once more in amazement, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a shooting star streak across the sky.  I quickly made the wish for what every hunter wants and headed to what my dad and I call “The Possum Stand.”

The name originated one afternoon when I climbed up the tree and met a sleeping possum on the stand’s base.  The possum didn’t awake until I shook the stand as hard, but as quietly, as I could.  It suddenly woke, looked at me, let out an evil hiss, and luckily scurried further up the tree rather than down.  He stayed above us for the rest of our evening hunt with an occasional glance of curiosity. The name “Possum Stand” stuck, and it has always been a high percentage location for us.

            A large freshly disked field lies between where we park and our stand, its uneven surface makes it a difficult trek.  Then, after crossing it, we’re forced to walk, and sometimes slide-down a steep, slick and muddy creek bank, eventually using a fallen tree to reach the other side.  We then cross the actual travel corridor which is about 30 yards from the creek bank to the stands. The layout features a strip of timber running east to west, narrowing into a perfect funnel where our stands are located.   We have a double set on both the north side and south sides of the travel rout so we’re good with either a north or south wind, which happened to be out of the north this particular morning.  An east or west wind has us looking for a different location as we’d spoil at least half of the area with human scent while also cutting our odds of seeing a buck in half.  This set up offers good coverage of the narrowing funnel with short shooting distances to anything traveling the narrow wood line in attempt to avoid exposure in the open fields.

Behind the stand to the south is our property line, defined by a barbed wire fence that we cannot cross. Past the fence a steep grassy hill rises straight up, with standing corn at the crest.  This hill behind us removes any risk of being sky-lined and is an unlikely place to find deer traveling.   As ideal as this set up is, it’s clouded by the thought that if we’re successful we have to haul the deer back across the creek, no small task but worth the opportunity to hunt this perfect corridor.

After we made it through the larger part of the disked field, my dad and I stopped to put on our Elimitrax to insure we were completely scent free and couldn’t be “busted” by deer crossing our trail, which they would inevitability cross given the placement of the stands and the wind direction that particular morning.  I watched my dad go down the steep and slick creek bank and onto the natural log bridge.  Slowly I followed, but suddenly slipped down the slick bank, ending up thigh deep in the cold, muddy water.  Luckily, the Elimitrax kept me bone dry, but if I had gone in any further it would have been a wet and cold morning!  As it was though, I stayed dry and sent free for the rest of the short walk in; I couldn’t help but wonder, though, if any deer heard the big splash when I went in.

When we finally arrived at the stands, I scrambled up my tree while Dad climbed his, which was only about four to five feet from mine.  Since I was five years old, we have always either hunted from lock on type stands in the same tree or in adjacent trees just a few feet apart.  It’s a system that has proven to work for us time and time again.  Dad usually films as I get to hunt.

While we were getting ready in the near darkness, a deer suddenly came into view almost right below, causing us to freeze.  It was only a smaller six-point, but it was encouraging to see a buck that early and have it walk right over our entry trial.  The buck had no idea we had shared the same footsteps just moments before.  Once it continued down the trail and out of sight, we were able to continue getting ready and making sure our shooting lanes were still perfect, thanks to all of the work we had done during the summer months.

I made sure my X-Force was ready to go to work. I drew it once to insure everything was in working order, my clothing wouldn’t interfere with a shot, and my muscles were warmed up.  I was steady and ready!

Ever since I could pull back a bow, I have been shooting a PSE.  I took my first deer by bow with a “Micro Midas” when I was thirteen, and five years later I still shoot PSE; however, I’ve graduated to the X-Force, an awesome piece of craftsmanship that delivers blinding speed while being unbelievably smooth and forgiving.  I had taken five deer by bow, with the last one being only twelve hours earlier and within a mile of where we were setting up. To date, all of my bow kills had been does, but I felt that this might be the morning that I take my first buck. I felt confident after making a perfect shot on the doe the night before, and this morning I was ready for a wall hanger buck.

            Fifteen minutes after seeing the small buck, another deer appeared off in the distance through the brush.  Looking intently, I realized it was another buck and he was headed our way!  I quickly grabbed my X-Force, once again in hopes of this deer being a monster.  As he kept coming in, I saw more and more of his rack, and I grew more and more excited.  The buck finally stepped into the open where we could see him clearly; neither my dad nor I thought twice on whether or not he was a shooter.  As we watched him come in, he stopped to visit a huge rub and stayed there for a few minutes, never rubbing it but smelling it intently. This break let me calm down a bit.  As the buck resumed his deliberate walk towards us, my heart began to race once more.

Every couple of steps he would stop and pick at the ground.   He crossed our entrance trail without noticing our footsteps or growing suspicious of anything out of place or threatening.  Slowly, he took another few steps then stopped, standing broadside at a mere ten yards!  He looked down and away from where our tree stands hung, giving me time to draw back and set my pin right behind the shoulder.  I remember slowly squeezing the trigger with the sight pin steady.  I nailed him!  As we watched the buck bolt we couldn’t believe our eyes: he ran straight for the creek, down the steep bank, splashed wildly across, went up the other side, paused and dropped!

We were overjoyed with what a monster my first buck with a bow was and celebrated with high fives, wide eyes and grins that couldn’t have been bigger.  It was an amazing morning that I will never forget, a memory that I will cherish forever.

We watched the last part of the video my dad had shot, confirming a beautiful hit.  Not being able to wait any longer we quickly climbed down to claim my trophy.  I field dressed the big Missouri buck, and the rest of the trip out was an easy one, thanks to the buck doing most of the work.  Later, we put a tape to the big antlers and found that he scored 149 5/8”!  I will never forget that beautiful morning of October 16, 2010!

Ben Whitlock

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