My First Halloween Buck
My first Halloween buck after many years of hunting.
I fell in love with shooting archery at a young age. My Uncle Russ was the person who introduced me to archery. He allowed me to shoot his bow in the storage room at his corner store. The first time I plucked the string of that traditional bow, I was mesmerized by the mystical flight of the arrow. I longed to get a bow of my own and shoot in my backyard. Unfortunately, it would be many years before I owned my first bow.
Almost twenty years after the first time shooting a traditional bow, I finally had the opportunity to purchase my first compound bow. My hunting mentor, John Davidson, called to tell me he had a left-handed Bear compound bow for sale. I rushed over to his house and purchased that bow for $75. John was gracious enough to give me some Easton aluminum arrows to shoot with the bow. I couldn't wait to get home and shoot.
My mentor, John Davidson, taught me about the outdoors.
The daily practice helped me tighten my arrow groups. Shooting fingers was a challenge, and it took me a few months to get confident with my ability to hit a small target. When the archery season arrived, I could consistently hit a pie plate at twenty yards. I used this archery set up for three years and never harvested a deer. That didn't bother me at all. I loved every minute of sitting in the treestand and watching the woods.
In the spring of 2000, I visited my local archery shop to purchase some new arrows for my bow. While I was there, the shop owner convinced me to shoot a new bow and try a wrist release. I left the shop that day with a new Jennings Buckmasters bow, a wrist release, a single pin sight, and new carbon arrows. The upgrade in equipment was a game-changer for me. My confidence with the new bow grew immensely. For the first time, I felt confident with shooting past 20 yards.
I was able to harvest my first deer with archery equipment later that fall. On the first Monday of the Pennsylvania archery season, I went to my treestand after teaching school. A beautiful 2 point half-rack walked toward my stand, and I shot him at seven yards. The feeling that rushed over me after I watched the deer fall is something I will never forget.
Over the next ten years, I took multiple trips to Ohio and Illinois to hunt monster whitetails. I would hunt Pennsylvania in the early part of October and then head out of state around Halloween. During that time, I never killed a buck on Halloween. I did harvest some nice bucks, but I never had an opportunity at killing a buck on Halloween.
One of my Ohio bucks killed around Halloween.
Once my children started to hunt, I quit taking trips out of state. I spent the majority of my hunting time alternating my kids in the treestand with a crossbow. The time spent in the stand with my two children was priceless, but it also meant that I didn't get to hunt until they harvested a deer. Many seasons I only had the last week of PA archery season to myself. Therefore I never killed a deer on Halloween day.
Before the 2020 archery season arrived, I had to have surgery to reattach my left hamstring. With the surgery scheduled for mid-August and a 24 week recovery time, it was uncertain that I would be able to archery hunt. I spent the week before my surgery putting in food plots, making mock scrapes, positioning SpyPoint cellular cameras, and hanging treestands for both of my children.
Prior to my surgery, I made a half dozen vertical vines to hang over my mock scrapes. I made these vines four feet long and attached artificial leaves to them. After strategically placing the vines near my trail cameras, I put Smokey's Preorbital Gland Lure on them. Everything was in place for the archery season, even though it was still over a month away.
While recovering from surgery, I was thankful for cellular trail cameras. Each day I received pictures of deer hitting my mock scrapes and vertical vines. The deer loved the hanging vines above my scrapes. On the 40-acre farm that I hunt, four shooter bucks religiously visited my mock scrapes. I prayed they would stay on the farm and that I would get permission from my doctor to start hunting in early October.
Bucks loved leaving their scent on my homemade vines.
On September 29th, I traveled to Pittsburgh for my six weeks check-up. My doctor gave me the great news I was hoping to hear. My hamstring strength was good, and my rehabilitation was working. My doctor permitted me to start hunting from a treestand. I was extremely thankful for the news, but I still had limited time to archery hunt due to coaching high school soccer. I would have to be patient and plan to hunt when I didn't have soccer.
The month of October was hectic! Each day after school, I either had soccer practice or a soccer game. With my kids playing high school soccer and me coaching, I rarely had time to hunt. Daily trail camera pictures of bucks using the vines gave me confidence that the deer stayed on the forty-acre farm.
My last soccer game was on Thursday, October 27th. The season was successful as my team finished 10-7. Unfortunately, we did not make the playoffs as the state limited the number of teams able to participate. With soccer season over, I looked forward to spending time in my treestand.
Looking ahead at the weather forecast and the moon phases, Saturday, October 31st, looked to be a dynamite hunting day. As luck would have it, my daughter wanted to invite some of her friends over for a Friday night party. If she had friends over for the night, that meant she would not be hunting Saturday morning. My son wanted to sleep in as he was exhausted from a busy week of soccer and school work. I had the entire Halloween day to hunt, and I was excited.
The Huntstand app showed the best time for deer movement to be midday on Halloween. I decided to set my alarm for 5:30 am and arrive at the 40-acre farm early. There was plenty to do before climbing into my stand. I wanted to apply fresh Smokey's scent to my scrapes and vertical vine. Also, I needed to hang a few Buck Cages around my treestand. My plan was taking shape, and I felt confident that deer would come my way.
Friday evening, I checked my cell phone for pictures from my SPYPOINT cellular cameras. There were a few pictures of deer, but one photo made my heart race. The largest buck on the farm walked right by my stand at 8:45 pm. I knew this buck well as I had hundreds of trail camera pictures of him from the 2019 season. The previous year he was a big 8 point, and this year he grew into a tremendous 10 point. Sleep didn't come easy as I was thrilled about my Halloween hunt.
I jumped out of bed at the sound of my alarm and scrambled to get out the door. When I arrived at the farm, it was 6:15 am. The air was crisp, and the temperature was in the low 30's. Stealthily I made my way to my mock scrape. Carefully, I placed small amounts of Preorbital Gland Lure and Forehead Gland Lure on my vertical vine. I put a few drops of Tarsal Gland Lure in the mock scrape to introduce a new buck. Next, I hung four Buck Cages around my stand. Each Buck Cage was filled with Smokey's Deer Drip liquid. Lastly, I set up my Wyndscent 2.0 unit and turned it on.
Sitting in my stand, I watched the sun slowly climb above the trees. Quietly I gave thanks to God for a beautiful day to be in the woods. Soon the squirrels and songbirds were busy going about their daily routine. Patiently I scanned the woods around me, looking for any movement. With each sound of rustling leaves, my heart began to race.
Around 9:46 am, I heard the familiar sound of a deer walking through leaves. I slowly turned to see a young 8 point buck walking towards my vertical vine. Before reaching the vine, he stopped and made a scrape. The buck aggressively worked a low-hanging branch and urinated on his tarsal glands. Next, he walked directly to the vine and rubbed it with his forehead gland. With my bow in hand, I watched for five minutes as he left his unique scent on the vine and in the scrape. I decided to pass on this young buck knowing there were three other 8 points and a massive 10 pointer on this farm.
I passed on this young 8 point around 9:46 am.
After the young 8 point worked the vine, he slowly walked out of sight. Over the next two hours, a parade of smaller bucks came to investigate the freshly used mock scrape and hanging vine. By 2 o'clock, I had witnessed six different bucks come into bow range to leave their scent on my vine. Relaxing in my stand, I couldn't help but think one of the shooter bucks was going to show up before the end of the night.
From my stand, I watched the sun sink in the western sky. I knew time was running out for my Halloween hunt. Scanning the woods, I watched a small buck chase a doe into the ravine behind me. As I turned around to study the woods again, and I saw antlers coming my way. I quickly grabbed my bow and got ready for a possible shot.
The wide 8 point had his nose to the ground as he grunted and walked directly to the mock scrape. With his nose in the mock scrape, I was able to bring my Mathews VXR to full draw. The unsuspecting buck was 12 yards away and my HHA pin floated between his shoulder blades. I slowly exhaled and released my 500 grain Black Eagle Spartan arrow. A bright streak of pink from the GloryNock made it possible for me to watch the Grim Reaper Broadhead anchor the deer in the scrape.
The SPYPOINT Link Evo caught the fatal shot.
Astonished with what had happened, I began to shake. The buck lay motionless in the scrape under the vertical vine. After hanging up my bow, I reached for my phone and dialed my wife's phone number. She answered right away and asked, "How big is your buck?" She had a feeling I was calling to give her some good news. I told her it was one of the 8 points that I had seen on my trail camera. We kept the conversation brief as she knew I wanted to get down and tag the buck and take better pictures.
After 20 years of archery hunting, I