by Clark Schmitz
During the summer of 2014 I had the great fortune of getting to know a young couple through a common interest in golf. In chatting with Travis Bultman, an avid golfer, and his wife Kenzie, who helped out at the golf course, it was soon discovered that we had another common interest, bow hunting.
Travis had several years of shot gun deer hunting experience and had recently been bitten by the bow hunting bug. He had bow hunted the past two seasons and had success on Public hunting ground, harvesting a buck. Travis’s enjoyment of bow hunting had sparked Kenzie’s interest and she had very recently purchased a bow and was enjoying practice sessions in their back yard.
Their excitement in their new challenge was stimulating and I immediately knew I would enjoy following their “journey” into bow hunting.
As summer turned into early fall we decided it was time for Kenzie to put all her practice to the test. A hunt for cotton tail rabbit would be her first bow hunt. After a rabbit was spotted, Kenzie would slowly and methodically attempt to stalk to within her “comfort range” before considering taking a shot. The game she pursued, although small, provided realistic hunting practice. The bow hunting basics she was using, wind direction, concealment, slow movements, getting to within her “known accuracy range”, drawing the bow slowly and picking a spot on the rabbit were serving her well. After several short hunts and a hand full of rabbits taken, Kenzie’s new confidence and maturity as a bow hunter were obvious.
As deer season approached we went on scouting missions, checked trail cameras and finalized tree stand locations. As Travis is a farmer and Kenzie’s fall work schedule looked very busy, getting to the stand much during the first portion of the archery season would be difficult for them. Travis had a double person tree stand set up near where he had shot a deer in the past, and planned on sitting with Kenzie when she could get out the first season.
In the first part of the deer season, Travis and Kenzie got to hunt a few times together but work schedules were really making getting to the stand difficult. On one late afternoon hunt Travis had a nice buck come close but stop short of a shot opportunity.
The first part of the IA archery season ended with neither Travis nor Kenzie having gotten a shot opportunity. Not discouraged they hoped that with harvest over and Kenzie’s work schedule slightly less busy they could get out a few more times.
We decided to give the second season a team effort with Kenzie being 1st to bat. An enclosed elevated blind large enough for all three of us, (and a heater) at the edge of a standing corn field would be the hunting location. We were hoping for cold weather which would encourage the deer to feed in the corn.
The second archery season arrived and so did the cold. Our first outing was a cold afternoon hunt. We arrived at the blind and first fired up the “Mr. Heater”. We put together what seemed to be a good plan. If a deer appeared to be coming close enough for a shot, Travis would slowly open the blind window(s) while Kenzie got her bow ready. I would range the deer and stop it (if necessary) by making a small sound. We were ready!
An hour passed and two does appeared in the harvested portion of the corn field. The first deer was feeding our way. As she got close, it was time to prepare for the shot. Travis slowly raised the blind widow while Kenzie took her bow off the bow hanger. I readied my range finder. The deer was now walking broadside near the blind. I gave Kenzie the yardage and whispered “draw your bow”. This is where the plan failed! Kenzie was waiting to draw her bow after I stopped the deer, while I waited to see if her drawing the bow would cause the deer to stop on its own first. I had not explained the plan very well, my fault. We watched the deer, now out of our shooting range, walk away.
The next two hunts, we saw deer but had no shot opportunities. On Jan 7 we once again headed to the blind for a last chance effort as Kenzie’s schedule would not allow any more hunts before the season ended. We arrived at the blind at 3:30 pm. It was -6 degrees with 8 inches of new snow on the ground. The conditions were perfect. We settled in and waited. Finally three deer appeared and worked our way. As the lead deer appeared to be on a route to get close, Travis slowly raised the blind window while Kenzie readied her bow. As the deer was now broad side in front of the blind, I whispered the yardage to Kenzie. As she drew her bow the deer stopped, unaware of our presents. Kenzie squeezed the release and we watched the lighted nock arrow hit the deer in the chest. We watched as the deer ran into the timber and up a hill out of sight. We discussed what we all saw in the way of the hit. We agreed the placement looked good but couldn’t be sure of the penetration. We needed to wait, even though darkness would come before we took up the trail. The 8 inches of fresh snow would help tremendously.
We went to the truck to get flashlights and let some time pass. After 45 min. we took up the trail. After trailing some 50 yards into the timber we decided to turn off our lights to check for the lighted knock. Sure enough, Travis spotted the illuminated nock up the hill and to our right some 50 yards away. When we got to the arrow we found it had come out of the deer, but the deer was only 3 steps away! We celebrated with lots of back slappin and high fives. I’m not sure who was more excited! She had done it, her first deer with a bow. After some pictures, we field dressed the deer and got it to the truck. The truck showed -13 degrees as we headed home.
Saturday, Jan 10 would be the last day for Travis to try to fill his deer tag. I did have a turkey tag left and brought my bow just in case. We arrived at the blind before first light and got set up. At 7:30 am the first game was spotted. A group of turkeys were heading our way. Travis raised the north window as I got ready. At 15 yards a nice turkey stopped, allowing me to take a shot. The arrow hit its mark and the bird was down 15 yards later. We saw only one deer in the distance the rest of the morning.
At 2:30pm we were back in the blind for a last chance effort. The afternoon hunt was as slow as the morning hunt. With the sun setting we were thinking it wasn’t going to happen. A raccoon entered the field and we watch as he walked near the blind. 10 min. later we spotted movement in the timber. Three does are heading our way. I slowly raised the window as Travis got his bow ready. The lead doe entered the field and turned broadside walking slowly. I whisper “40 yards”, “too far” Travis responds and waits. The doe turns and is now walking directly at the blind. She again turns and is now broadside, “22 yards” I whisper. Travis draws, takes aim, and releases the arrow. The hit looks good as the deer runs out of sight into the timber.
We wait for 10 min. before quietly going to find the arrow, which had passed completely through the deer, to confirm the hit. The snow makes finding the arrow a challenge but finally we do find it and it looks good. Wanting to give the deer some time to be sure, we go to the truck to get flashlights. We take up the blood trail which is aided greatly by the snow cover. Approx. 100 yards later we find Travis’s deer! More high five’s are followed by some pictures, field dressing and a fairly short drag to the truck.
Being a part of Travis and Kenzie’s hunt preparation, practice and persistence was extremely exciting and rewarding. Their new found passion for bow hunting has certainly rekindled my love for the sport.