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October 29, 2007

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Bill Heavey's Deer Diary: Excitable Boy

I went hunting in Kansas a few weeks ago and whiffed. On a big one. I was 17 feet up a ladder stand attached to a flimsy tree in 25 mile-an-hour wind, when the buck appeared 33 yards away in a nearby hedgerow, the one place no shooting lanes had been cleared. Between the obstructions, the swaying stand, and my swaying legs, I couldn’t keep it together. I thought I had a tiny window, but I really don’t know if my arrow deflected or just missed without any external help.

UnruhHere’s the weird thing. Missing didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would. Sure, it hurt. Sure, I was bummed. But it was mostly because I knew the guys back at the magazine would be giggling and high-fiving one another at the news of yet another botched encounter by yours truly.

In the place it really matters, there was no sense of failure. It was almost the opposite. I’d felt the rush of being inside a big buck’s bubble of awareness undetected, that indescribable explosion of adrenaline and heart rate and the presence of something almost like fear. I called Jack Unruh, the guy who draws me with a big red nose in the magazine every month. “So you missed,” he said. “But it was because you got so excited, right? And that’s what it’s all about. The day you see a buck like that and don’t get excited, that’s the day you ought to start worrying.”

He’d nailed it. I’d missed. But if there was any doubt about the power of hunting, my wobbly knees had pretty much settled the question. Here’s the one secret you won’t find on any Mega Monster Madness video: the most important trophies don’t go on the wall; they go inside the heart. 


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"Here’s the one secret you won’t find on any Mega Monster Madness video: the most important trophies don’t go on the wall; they go inside the heart." Bill Heavey

How true!

Your heart and gut will tell you what matters.

Just like when I blogged here yesterday, stoked about my first bow-killed deer. I didn't need any cyber-space pats on the back to know that I'd had one of my best days afield ever. I didn't need any of you to validate my possibly life-changing experience. Good thing too! Not one freak'n "way to go blog" from any fellow deer hunters; but I'm OK with that because I've stored this trophy in my heart. My broken heart that really was looking for acceptance :)



Upon reading the last couple lines in your blog I have decided that we all say that when we miss!


Congrats Kevin, it only gets better, my only deer so far this year is a doe and when I shot her my heart was pounding.And only by the grace of God and the fact she practically climbed into my stand with me, or I would have missed just like Mr. Heavey.


I expeirenced this myself this Sunday. My first bowhunt, and I hesitated too long on a couple of does and felt a little down in the morning, so that afternoon I told myself that I wouldn't hesitate next time a shot presented itself. Well, that evening a nice buck comes thundering in right under my nose! As I am about ready to shake myself out of the treestand I remind myself, no hesitation, pull the release and.... bank the shot off of a treelimb 6" below the bucks belly and into the ground. That's when it hit me.... I'm hooked.


Try this out. I got late permission this year to hunt my neighbors property. 15 acres. Mostly an old overgrown, neglected field. Big woods all around but only about 20 feet in all around the field. The top corner, where the wind is always coming into the field - perfect -there are like six ersimmons trees. Any of you guys know about late fall trees like that know what I am gonna say.

Good God the deer!

I sat there about eight times, seeing deer every time. I took two by bow in my back 5 acres, and not a single one in the new terrain. No lanes cleared - I thought it was too late.

I will tell you about the first hunt there. I would be too embarrassed to tell you about the 7 that followed.

I got on stand after work one day about 4:30. Pulled up the bow after tying in and sat back to wait for sunset time. About three minutes later two does came right under me. I was freaked! They walked around and I thought - wait! You never know, and it was early. I let them walk. Then another doe about 15 minutes later and somehow my patience was gone. It was at about eight yards and I came to full draw. She saw me! But did not bolt and did not blow; but she turned and looked right at me; and of course stood there for what seemed like an eternity. I finally had to let down and she still did not run! I came to full draw again, hoping she might turn, and out of the corner of my right eye I see a dang 6 pointer come trotting in!
He is about to cross a trail under me and to my right when I swing the bow towards him and go ''GUUUURP!'' He hopped the trail in to the thicket and was gone, along with the doe I had been in a face off with. I thought, ''he was supposed to stop.'' Tough, I could imagine him saying. Then about a 30 minute ''slow'' period ended with another big doe behind me and to my left, in a thicket. This area would later prove to be one I will have to clear out before next year! She stayed in there forever. About ten minutes, and I came to full draw, convinced I could do it. There was a lane - wasn't there?

No. I shot. She bolted. End of hunt. Two days later I got my second of the year on my puny 5 acres under an oak tree.

But Bill, The hunt I just detailed was so much more fun; even though I harvested nothing!

Great story.


Of course I meant 6 persimmons trees. For any new bow hunters, check out any persimmons trees anywhere near where you hunt. I am only a second year bow hunter myself, but I have learned a great deal from what I have done so far, not to mention 3 doe harvests. The persimmons trees drop there fruit late in the summer, making them excellent ambush spots for early season archery.

Good luck!


Sorry, and I meant late summer trees. That's when they tend to start dropping the fruit.


I have had conversations and experiences like this a few times, and I totally agree...I get as much pleasure just seeing deer in the woods as I do when I make a good shot...I still haven't figured out how to calm down when I have my chance...I love that feeling, and your right the day you don't feel that anymore you may as well take up knitting.


Calming down is very difficult for me whether its a doe or a buck. But, if I am able to watch it for a little bit, I seem to calm down to an almost bearable heart rate. They do not always afford you that luxury though.

But them whitetails - they do mystify!


Monday, I took my first buck with a ML. Like my other first bucks taken with a bow and rifle, he was what I thought was a spike management deer. Four points were given to this guy, although I only clearly made out 2 through the scope. He went down, without a struggle, like you had hit hem in the head with a hammer and probably died on the way to the gound. Not a leaf was stirred. The excitement that came from this little guy, 90 lbs., cannot be measured. He will be forever remembered and given thanks for when he nourishes me and my family. There is a reverence in hunting, and I believe that I have that, for the game that you pursue. During this 4 day hunt, I was to run the full gammit of emotion, from fear and frustration to excitement and sadness. After taking the shot and watching for signs of life, I remembered what dad told me when I frist started shooting. He would tell us "Don't point that at anything you don't intend to kill". He was right, that's why I carry bino's and a camera with a good zoom, so I can see them without intending to kill them. Reverence and respect.


Great story! I've been interested in bow hunting for a couple years, but I don't have the time or money for it...yet. At 16, I think I have some time. For now those 9 days in Wisconsin will suffice.

Anyway, my first year hunting (14), I missed a shot at a 6-pointer with my rifled shotgun, which probably had to do with equal parts "buck fever" and an open sight which I later found to be shooting low.

Last year (15) I saw a deer once again from my stand, a smallish doe, at about 35 yds. Taking my dad's advice to heart, however, I waited to see if a buck my follow (he says the Bucks are always a few minutes behind the doe(s) ). Sure enough, the buck came out at 30 yds. Since I had scouted and "sat" my tree stand during off-season, I knew the deer would come closer, eventually almost under my stand. I took my time, and finally got a quartering-forward /semi-broadside shot at 30 feet. The gun I used was a 30/30, and it shot true, dropping the buck after he traveled less then 20 feet into brush. I waited 30 minutes, and found him stone dead. He was only a 5 pointer, but was some of the best venison I've ever had (and I've had plenty). Happy Hunting.

P.S.: I probably would have missed the shot if I had used a bow, because that requires you keeping it together a bit more.


Hey Bill, if it was the ladder stand in the dead willow, it's a 20 footer. Never really intended that one as a bow stand, otherwise I might have tightened her up a little more to lessen the squeaks and wobbles. Richard told me the story about driving up to the tree to have you hand motion him out of there because the deer was bedded under you. Four years ago, I was climbing into that stand when a very large, old and declining 6-pt jumped up from the brush on the other side of the tree. Didn't know whether to keep climbing to the top or go back down. Just about stepped off from half way up in the excitement. Whiffed on him, too - with 7mm08. Steven probably sent you the photo of my 8pt this year. Buck of a lifetime thanks to him. Keep coming back. Giant 10pt is still running!

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