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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There is a place I have hunted near my home that is special to me. It is my favorite place to bowhunt. Tonight I hunted it for the last time. I could go back, but I am not going to, because I want tonights hunt, my best ever there, to be my last.

I started bowhunting it myself 25 years ago. I shot my first bow buck there in 1986. I introduced 2 brothers-in-law, a friend, two nephews, my son and my friends son to bowhunting on these two very special benches halfway up a mountain, at the end of a valley in northeastern Schuylkill County.

It is a fairly tough climb, but it is almost always worth the trip. Many of the hunters mentioned above shot their first bow killed deer on these two benches. Some of them no longer bowhunt, some of them now hunt other places and a few of them still hunt there with me. The hunting has not been the best here the last few years, as it is a part of some of the huge lands owned by several coal companies and is open to public hunting. Amazingly, we have NEVER seen another bowhunter up on these benches. I believe they like to concentrate on the easy hunting on the farms below.

Things change.

Two years ago, the top of the mountain became a wind farm. Our formerly quiet spot now sounds like an airport, especially when the wind is up. It is amazing how well you can hear the "swoosh" of the "paddles" even from a half mile away. They are an awesome sight, and with the leaves down constantly mistake their movement for game in your peripheral vision.

Tonight, was my first hunt of the season on these benches, due to lack of sign in preseason scouting. Tonight, we again saw little sign on the way up the mountain but did see some rubs. We were hoping that the recent leaf fall was covering the sign that we weren't seeing.

There is an old Indian Footpath that feeds off the steep area of the mountain onto the lower bench. I have shot two buck off this bench during the rut, as the buck walk the mountain laterally during the rut, hoping to pick up the trail of a hot doe. The "second bench" is usually the better bench as it is thicker and is full of sugar maples that the deer love to browse on their way up and down the mountain.

My friends son was with me tonight. He is the one who shot the buck last year that was on the home page of HPA for the winter. Some of you may remember the story. He killed a doe Friday to keep his streak of about 8 bow kills in a row going. He is only 24.

I had always told him about this lower bench, and how good it was in the rut. I wanted him to hunt it, but I didn't say too much, because he had seen deer on the second bench earlier in the year. (He had hunted it alone last week)

On the way over, I told him I just had a good feeling tonight was going to be a good one. I went the extra mile ... sprayed down all my clothes, rinsed off my boots, shot my bow, etc. I really took my time getting up the mountain, so I wouldn't sweat.

As I moved onto the bench, everything felt right. The wind was perfect, I could hunt the edge, and the wind would blow my scent right off the bench, without it ever reaching the ground. The rain had stopped, the temperature was dropping, it was getting a little brighter but not sunny.

I picked a different tree than usual, because the leaves were down, and I needed some cover. Everything went great, no scrapes, no clanks, no mistakes, no nothing. I sat down for a break after I got settled and started to notice all the fresh blue marks on the trees all around me. I had seen them on the way in, and knew what it meant. My benches were going to be timbered. A lot of things have been changing lately for my family and I haven't been doing the best with it. We lost my dad and father-in-law in the last two years, my son is graduating, many friends I have worked with for many years have retired, nieces and nephews getting married and moving away, etc., etc.

I thought, this is just another change and in the scheme of things is not that important. Besides, 20 years from now, these benches will probably be better than ever and even if I am no longer bowhunting, all the younger guys will be around to reap the benefits of it. I was happy thinking that, and remembering past hunts and people when it happened.

I caught the first flash of movement that only a hunter can understand. I knew it was a deer coming along the bench, with the wind at its back. I thought "this is too good to be true" in the middle of the day, but then remember that I was there in the middle of the day because the rut was on.

For the first time EVER, I had left my distance glasses at home and carried a small pair of binoculars I had bought years ago for bowhunting, but never used. I got on the deer right away and saw it was a mature doe walking along the edge of the bench towards me. I decided then to shoot her, as we have noticed how heavily browsed the benches are due to the wind farm not permitting hunting. But if she continued on the course she was taking, she would be a little out of range.

I got ready anyway, just in case.

Then I heard the grunt and their he was. The biggest buck by far, I have ever seen while hunting, on a course that would offer me a shot.

Everything went perfect. I bleated, he stopped, I shot and it looked and felt good. He ran off, slowed down a bit, and turned downhill. I waited a half hour and got down my tree very slowly. About halfway down, I stopped, got out my binocs to look over where he stood when I shot.

I saw something out of place, and cleared up the focus a bit and saw my arrow sticking in a tree about 7 feet off the ground!! It deflected somewhere along its path, I guess, although I'll never really know for sure.

As I put my binocs away, I caught some movement in the direction he walked off in. I couldn't believe it when I saw him coming back. Apparently he cared more about finding that hot doe, than he did living!!

But today was his lucky day! He never got close enough for another shot. The only thing I could do was try to grunt, but apparently he was more interested in loving than fighting. Smart deer!!

I got to watch him for another ten minutes as he tried to figure out where the doe got to. He finally cut her trail and off he went.

I will never forget this last hunt on my bench. I will always remember everything about it. But what I will remember most is how I wasn't disappointed or angry that I didn't shoot him, but how I just felt happy to have been within bow range of such a great buck.

I am not going back next week. I am going to leave it as I left it tonight. It was a great way to end it.

I leave it with no regrets or sadness. I look forward to new adventures in new places with old friends, new friends and family. Wishing the same for you all!

Good Hunting

Ted Collins
Barnesville, PA
 

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Nice story. Thanks for sharing. I've recently had the pleasure of returning to hunt a piece of property that I hadn't hunted in 20 years! It was logged off and the property was split up, but now a large portion has become part of our local sgl! Like visiting an old friend!
 

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Ted,

Thanks for sharing the BENCHES with us. May your new spot have lots of memories in store for you & those you share it with........

Good hunting......Zumer
 

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Great story, was hoping I would see the great Buck at the end but it sounds like it wasn't his time.
Hope the best for you on your new ground
 

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Ted, this story really hit home for me. I hunt the same valley, and although not clse to you, I know where it is at as I spent time in that specific area. My girlfriend of 4 years is from the 462 and I am over that way several times a week, and I am from over near Mount Carmel. I hunt furthur West out the same Valley, on the benches as well. Very special to me as well.

Great story... it really hit home with me. With the Water Company and everything opening up, it is different I am sure, and with doe aloocations the way they are and were.

Thanks for a great story...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Epilogue:

About two weeks before rifle season, my friends son who is my bow hunting buddy and was with me on this hunt asked me what I thought about hunting a stand very close to where I missed the buck. He was thinking about staying home from camp in Tioga to try for him.

The stand was a great rifle stand when there was pressure and more deer, but there are less of both these days.

I told him I expected little pressure as the lease above was mostly bowhunters, and the property adjacent was practicing QDM and had heard they were shooting nothing under 140's. I didn't think it was a good idea for those reasons and also because we had only seen this buck once and for all we knew it could have been the only time in his life he crossed these benches.

Because he knew the buck was a nice one, and knew the reputation the stand had, he decided to stay home from camp.

Here is what happened.



Shows you how much I know!!

We are all thrilled he shot this deer, and I am as sure as I can possibly be without a picture that this is the deer I missed.
 

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Ted,

Just saw this thread. What a story and a great ending.

Thank you!
 
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