Bouncing Back from Injury: Opening Day

Posted on August 21, 2013

The final part of this featured article brings you a look at how this bowhunter discovered that the path of difficulty can sometimes lead to the greatest reward of all. Find out what happened when on opening day. Check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 if you missed them!


bow hunting

Opening Day

I boiled water to make two pouches of oatmeal and a cup of coffee. My plan was simple: Climb above tree line and then begin glassing. I needed an overview of the place before loading up my bivy gear and plotting out a course for a two-to-three-day venture.


I loaded up my simple hydration pack, grabbed my bow and silently walked out of camp. My knees were a little sore from the pack-in, but they weren’t bad. I had done better than I thought I would.


Walking along the side of the open ridgeline, I weaved through small groves of aspen. I came to an intersection and had to decide between a path consisting of more trees, along with a steep, rocky slope or a path along an easier route in the open sage, right along the spine of the ridge. Heeding the old rule that says, “Never skyline yourself in open country,” I quickly decided to hug the trees and follow along the rocky hillside.


Just as I was easing up the 50-degree slope, I looked up for some reason and noticed something odd. I saw giant, fuzzy, golden-velvet antlers protruding from the branches.


Instantly, I thought it was one of the elk I had seen while eating dinner. But as I looked more closely, it wasn’t. It was a giant mule deer rack!


The deer’s body was covered up by branches, but I knew it was looking right at me. It was fewer than 40 yards away, so I briefly wondered why it hadn’t run yet.


Thinking ahead, I began playing out the possibilities. If he walks over the hill, maybe I could swing to the right and get a shot. But there was nothing but big boulders and thick bushes to my right. Too noisy to work through.


My second option was to move up a couple steps, hoping I’d have a better view of the deer and possibly a clear shot.


I went with taking the steps upward, while nocking an arrow simultaneously. Miraculously, the buck stayed put. I now had his entire broadside body in sight. There was no time to use the rangefinder, so I guessed the shot distance—a little more than 30 yards—compensating for the very steep uphill angle. About this time, the deer’s head turned, and then he began walking away.


I drew quickly and took aim just before he ventured behind thick cover. The shot was automatic, and I heard the thump of the arrow impacting. The buck kicked, then raced off straight downhill, circling below me. Then he disappeared into a cloud of aspen.


Later, I picked up the blood trail and followed it to where I last saw him. As I scanned the terrain using my binocular, I noticed velvet-like sticks growing from the grass. It was him, resting in his final place on the mountain.


As I walked up on that incredible deer, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I was speechless and totally stunned.


Immediately, I began thinking about the long, exhausting road I had taken to get here. The trials, the frustration, the worries, the changes.


There was no doubt, this deer was my gift. He’s my symbol of persevering, overcoming difficulty and believing in myself. A great reminder that patience, endurance and faith are what matter most in this life, not force. When you do it this way, things just happen a whole lot better. Trust me, I’ve experienced it.


By Joe Bell


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