A Season of Memories
By: Jerry L. Costabile
It’s been a memorable deer season so far; the Costabile’s - 2 and the deer - 2. After practicing all summer, the bow season was to open the second week of September in Wisconsin and I couldn’t wait! This was to be the first season that my two youngest sons were going to bow hunt and I could only hope that they would get an opportunity to harvest their first whitetail with a bow and arrow. I was thinking back to my first hunts with my Bear 55# recurve, I’ll just say that I have taken more fish with that bow than deer! I tried to get good with it last year but the fence in the back yard told me that I better stick with my Ross compound.
The boys were shooting pretty darn well by the time the season arrived and they were both excited for the first hunt of the season. Kyle, my youngest had the first opportunity. It was opening weekend and he was sitting in the stand that I was very successful in the previous season. I knew he would see deer and if he could keep his nerves controlled, we could have the first venison of the year. At last light on his first bow hunt, Kyle let an arrow go on a nice buck well within range. The shot was low and the deer ran off unharmed. Deer -1, Us -0. Kyle’s disappointment that evening made me want to work harder to help him be successful, but the memory of his excitement will live with me forever.
We bow hunted thru September and October with numerous deer seen, passed on a few, and had a few that just didn’t give us that ethical shot we all strive for. Then with the first week of November upon us, we were ready for the love sick bucks to make mistakes. There were does around to bring the bucks, we just needed the rut to fire up! But it was a strange season for the rut; it never showed itself like we expected it to in early November. There were just a few scrapes and rubs, the does were walking around without a buck behind them, and the bucks were just not acting like they should.
We continued to hunt and watched as the action stayed the same every day, the does were around, but the bucks weren’t chasing them. One of the strangest early Novembers I have seen, one for the memory.
Jake was going to college and working two jobs, so his time in the stand was limited. He came home for a weekend at the beginning of November and was ready to get out to his stand. On the evening of the 7th, right at last light, a nice buck came into view on his left. In a matter of seconds, Jake was presented with a broadside shot at his first deer with a bow. With it all happening so fast, he didn’t even have time to get nervous, once the deer was in front of him at 17 yards he drew back and let the arrow fly. His practice paid off, a perfect double lung shot put the 9 pointer down at about 50 yards. His first bow harvest is a nice buck! I happen to be hunting with him that evening so it was exciting for me to be part of this. As we were dragging the buck back to the truck, I looked over and realized that the boy that had helped me many times before with this job was now a man. He didn’t see the tears of pride that I shed in the darkness as we made our way to the truck, but I know that this memory will live with me forever. Deer – 1, Us – 1.
Gun season arrived and the cold of winter right along with it. Opening day found us with subzero wind chills and snow cover. The boys and I hunted for three days in the north woods of Wisconsin, we saw deer, but the deer didn’t read the script as to how to cooperate. After a couple of close calls, we headed back to the southeastern part of the state without firing a shot. I think the boys were more disappointed than I was, but I reminded them that we still have a lot of season left and we’ll get another opportunity to fill our tags.
The three and a half hour drive back, gave me time to reflect on the last three days I just spent with my two youngest sons. The memories we had just created were much more valuable to me than the harvesting of a deer. Sure it would have been awesome if they would have gotten a deer, but to me, it was a success just because we were together. There were laughs at the motel room, laughs in the truck, and laughs out hunting. The laugh out hunting was at my expense, I had a bottle of water in the back of my vest that partially froze on an evening hunt. As I made my way out of the woods in the dark, I kept hearing a noise behind me that sounded just like something walking on the frozen snow covered leaves. I must have looked like a dog chasing his tail as I spun around in a circle, with my gun at ready, trying to find the creature chasing me! When I realized it was the frozen water sloshing in the plastic bottle, I laughed at myself out loud, and glad no one saw me. When I told the story to the boys, they laughed hysterically! Those memories will live with me forever.
Upon getting back home from our trip, we unloaded all of our gear and without any time wasted, the boys grabbed their bows, jumped into my truck and headed out to their stands. I guess they weren’t done yet! I’m always a little nervous when they are out there and I am not with them. They know to keep in touch with me; I want to know when they are up in their stands and when they get down. I guess texting isn’t so bad! I sat in the living room, tired from an early start that morning hunting, and the long drive back. I was doing my usual worrying and wondering about the boys and it had been dark for a few minutes and I hadn’t heard from them, so I called Jake. When he answered the phone, I could tell by the excitement in his voice that something happened. “Dad, I just shot at the biggest buck I have ever seen!” “Did you hit him?” I asked. “I don’t know, I saw the Lumenoc when it left my bow, but I can’t see it now.” Jake explained with excitement. After I thought for a minute, I said, “Let’s leave it alone tonight and we will come back in the morning when we have good light.” Jake had a long night thinking about his shot, Morning came and we took up the track the buck left in the snow, with no sign of a hit. I told Jake, “The good, he’s not injured because of a bad shot, the bad, you missed him cleanly. He is still out there and we have a lot of season left.” My words didn’t help the feeling of a miss on a big buck for Jake, but I could only hope he would get another chance. I remember all of the misses I made in my deer hunting and they are memories I relive every season. The deer now 2, and we were still at 1.
The boys and I hunted every chance we had, work schedules, school, sports, all limited our time in the stands. With snow on the ground, we could see there was good deer movement and felt confident that it was just a matter of time before the next opportunity presented itself.
On December 3rd, I would have a chance to get into my tree stand for an afternoon sit. I got myself ready and was headed out the door with my bow in my hand, but changed my mind at the last minute and decided to use my shotgun instead. I wish I can explain why I changed my mind, but I can’t. It was just one of those moves a hunter makes without knowing why. It was a very foggy afternoon, there was snow on the ground and the temperature was above freezing making a good recipe for fog. After I got into my stand, I realized how thick the fog was. I couldn’t see 100 yards in any direction! I knew that if I were to see a deer, it was going to be in range and appear very quickly. This means that it would disappear just as quick. These thoughts were going thru my mind for the first hour and a half as I was trying to stay mentally ready so nothing slipped by without me seeing it. Around 4:00pm, I had one of those hunter intuitions, I thought to myself, “I could see a big old buck using this fog to slip out of his bedding hideout.” Ten minutes later I looked to my right and sure enough, there he was slipping from the bedding area that the deer have been using all season. If I would have brought my bow, I would have had to watch him disappear into the fog. I could see he was a good buck , so I got my gun ready found him in the scope and with a grunting sound from my mouth, I stopped him in mid stride. I centered the crosshairs on him and squeezed the trigger only to see him drop straight down and not move again. Big buck down!! After watching for any movement for about fifteen minutes, I climbed down and walked the 75 yards to where the buck went down. As I approached him, I could see that he was a REALLY good buck and got a little excited! Not only did he have great headgear, but his body was huge. This was going to take more than just me to get him back to the truck for sure! I validated my tag, attached it to his antler, and started making phone calls. I took a picture with my phone and sent it to Jake and Kyle, I wanted them to know first even though they weren’t there. After I called some friends for help, but before I started the not so fun job required when you harvest a deer, I lifted his head with my hands holding his antlers and admired him. He was a beautiful example of a whitetail buck, a mature, heavy 9 pointer. “I’m very fortunate” I told myself, and with closed eyes, I said a silent thank you.
Within a few minutes of sending the picture out, I got a text back from Jake, he said this wasn’t the deer that he missed, and it was bigger!
As of this writing, the score between the deer and the Costabile boys, is tied at 2, but we are not done yet! Our late bow hunting season runs until January 31st and it will take some toughness to sit in January weather, but we’re up to it! Kyle has been hunting hard and he is determined to take a deer with his bow. There were chances to hunt with a gun but I got “no dad, I want to use my bow!”
No matter what the end results are of our deer hunting season, I will have made irreplaceable memories with my two youngest sons that no deer could compare. I hear hunters complain about what they didn’t see or didn’t kill without even thinking of the memories that they lived. Remember it isn’t about the game taken, it’s about the memories made.