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Rob DiStefano:

... by Jim larsen

          As my buddy Marv Burkhardt took an early afternoon
Siesta in his camper, recently nicknamed the “Inferno”, and
friend Jim Knoblock stretched out on the cot in his leaky tent,
I sat in my temporary home away from home sipping on
Coffee. The grin that seemed to be permanently etched in my
face spoke volumes as to why I am not a poker player.
I had news to share with my good friend and hunting
buddy Jim Reynolds of Thunderstick Archery and I
was anxious for him to arrive in camp.  

          The 4 of us along with Marv’s son Kevin Burkhardt and friend Darryl Quidort, hunt a piece of property in south east Ohio. The terrain is a mixture of beautiful rolling hardwoods with large areas of thick immature pines that serve as an almost impenetrable bedding area for the local whitetail deer. The locals call them hills and hollows but to this flatlander they
might as well have been mountains.

          In mid October, Darryl had come down to the property
and killed a doe and a beautiful buck with an enormous body.
This had the rest of us fired up for our early November trip
where we hoped to catch the bucks on the move looking for
receptive does.

          Jim Reynolds had arrived in Ohio a few days ahead of
Marv, Jim Knoblock, and myself, as he was a hunting guest of
Ben Hilt and Mike Rizzo of Bethesda Ohio. Jim was going to
hunt with his friends in Bethesda for 4 or 5 days before he
was scheduled to arrive in our camp, aptly nicknamed “Sleepy
Hollow”, due to the frequent naps taken by the older guys on
the lease! Ok, I admit I did take a short snooze now and then.

          On November 6th, Marv, Jim Knoblock and I began
our nearly 7 hour journey from our homes in Michigan.  We were approximately 40 miles from our destination when Marv
suddenly pulled the RV to the shoulder of the highway. His
RV was on fire and 1 fire extinguisher and 4 bottles of water
later and the fire was out. Next came the Ohio State Police, a
tow truck, and a day and a half later we had the RV in camp
and were chomping at the bit to get out hunting.

          The morning of November 8th found me sitting in my ladder stand about an hour before daylight, listening to the
woods begin to wake up. Shortly before shooting light I heard
a deer approaching from down in the bottom near the creek.
Soon it passed by my stand at 10 yards and entered the thicket
that I was posted on the edge of.                                      

Shooting light arrived and the parade of deer began, convincing me that I had definitely made the right stand choice this morning. I heard grunting and a small doe emerged from the brush with a young buck in tow. He chased her down to the bottom of the hollow and as soon as they were out of sight another small buck cut their trail and was soon passing by my stand.
The only concern that I had was the fact that the deer were coming by my stand on a faint trail that I had not previously seen and I had no clear shot on any of the passers by. “What if a nice buck came by on the same trail?” I pondered. I decided to wait until my morning hunt was over to trim the shooting lane since it would require most of the trimming to be done from the ground. Several more does and small bucks passed down the same trail, going both ways, in to the thicket as well as out from the thicket and at 9:15am. I decided to do some aggressive grunting and rattling to see if I could draw in a big boy.

          Looking to my left, I admired my beautiful Thunderstick MOAB longbow, the very reason that this season had been so special to me. A couple of years previously I won the bid in an auction for this beautiful bow. This wasn’t just one of Jim’s usual bows; it was one of his “Arrow Inlay” bows that he had donated to a special cause. Jim does not make his arrow inlay bows to sell to customers, he donates them to be auctioned for a good cause and the proceeds from the bow I had bought was to help Jim’s good friend and fellow bowyer Steve Turay of Northern Mist bows. Steve had been in an accident that year while driving home from the Kalamazoo Traditional Bowhunters Expo and the Michigan Traditional Bowhunters wanted to help our good friend and supporter of our club.

After I received the bow the following year I decided that this bow was far too precious for me to take to the woods and I hung it on the wall and would take it down occasionally to throw a few practice shots in my back yard.

          This summer I was talking with Jim and he showed me the Northern Mist Classic that Steve had made for him and presented him in April at the Michigan Bowhunters Organization’s spring banquet. The bow was a gift for Jim’s many years of support and Jim explained to me how much he enjoyed shooting this bow and that he really wanted to hunt with it this fall. That sparked an idea in my mind and I asked Jim what he thought of me using my arrow bow to hunt with this fall and he thought it was a good idea, thus our “special season” had begun.

          On October 10th I shot a large 3 legged doe while hunting from the ground and within an hour, and thanks to the internet, I was sharing my pictures and story with Jim and friends. Now, here in Ohio, I was waiting to ambush a mature Ohio buck with my special bow.

          Ten minutes had passed by since I had rattled when I decided that it was time to head back to the truck and meet Marv to discuss the morning’s hunt. I stood and clipped a few branches to clear a shooting lane from the tree before doing my trimming on the ground. Then I dug a bow hoist rope from my fanny pack to tie to my stand when movement in the thicket caught my attention, it was a nice buck.

          The buck began moving in my direction on the same route that most of the other deer had taken and when he stepped out from the thicket I got a good look at his rack. He was definitely a good buck and would be my best ever if I could pull off the shot when he presented one. Facing directly at me, he stood for a minute or so, trying to make up his mind which way he wanted to go. I was silently encouraging him to take the trail to the left that would have him in the open, and not the trail to the right that all of the other deer had taken, but like most all bucks he didn’t listen to me. Turning to the right he started down the trail and I quickly looked for an opening, any opening in his path that would allow me an opportunity at a shot. I spotted one little opening and as the bucks shoulder entered it I softly bleated with my voice. The buck stopped on cue and I smoothly came to full draw and released. The buck was slightly quartering towards me and the arrow entered in the shoulder area, the buck kicked high in the air and let out a tremendously loud roar and raced down hill!

          I began shaking as I saw the buck go down within sight of my stand and within 30 seconds I had scaled down the tree, removed my fanny pack, arrow side quiver, and laid my bow on the ground. A short time later Marv, Jim Knoblock and myself, had my deer taken to the check station and were back in camp hanging him up in a nearby oak tree.

          This brings me back to the following afternoon waiting on Jim Reynolds to come into camp. I heard a vehicle pull in and trying to act as casual as I could, I stepped out of the camper to greet him. As he stepped from his truck he said, “Well, you guys had any luck yet?” I smiled and pointed to a saw that still had some evidence on it that a deer was indeed in camp. Jim’s eyes lit up and he said, “Did you get a buck?”
I replied, “Yeah, ya wanna go see him?”

“You’re darn right I do” Jim said with a big smile.

          I lead Jim 50 yards from camp to the nearest tree with the ability to hold a deer and told him the entire story without leaving out any details. Jim shook my hand and congratulated me on my prize. As we headed back to camp I suddenly said, “Geeze, what a selfish son of a gun, I haven’t even asked you how your hunt went!”

          Jim grinned and said, “Do you see what’s in the back of the truck?” “No way!” I yelled as I ran to the back of the truck and saw Jim’s bruiser of a buck!

“What a special season this has been for both of us, buddy. My hunt with the fellas in Bethesda was awesome and they treated me like a King. They fed me more than I could eat, put me in their best stands, and even dressed and dragged my buck for me. Taking my best buck ever with Steve’s bow and using arrows that my good friend Jerry Keck made for me was icing on the cake!”
Jim and I both agreed that hunting with our longbows that were made by special friends made this a “Special Season for 2”!


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