Western Bound, a Family Hunt

By: Scott Marvin

“a game rich environment, the lodging was good, the outfitter and crew were great people but the greatest takeaway from the hunt was the ability to enjoy all of the
above….with family.”

At one time in my life there seemed to be a brief window where us three brothers
joined forces with our dad and his cohorts and headed west, to hunt. Then things
changed and in a blink of an eye, we were raising kids, then grandkids and while
our hunting efforts were marginalized, they were still in place….just not as
frequent and of course now they were centered around our kids.

So when my younger brother, who by the way owns a hunting & fishing
consulting business, asked me if I was interested in going on a hunt as three
brothers, I immediately said “Yes!”. In fact, I said yes without asking The Who,
what, where, when and why of where we were going. Didn’t care. Just happy to
go on a family hunt.

Fast forward and we had added Conway’s two boys, tuned up our bows, riddled
some targets over the summer and left home sipping coffee, watching the sun
wake up the country and chatting about important things like big bucks and
trophy antelope. Conway had keyed into the GPS the route that would takeus to the doorstep of
eastern Montana. Powder River country to the deer hunter. We arrived in fine
fashion and spent the remaining hours flinging a few arrows, getting settled
into the lodge and talking hunting smack with the guides and outfitter.

Our host ‘Bud’ explained a simple game plan that would dictate our four hunt day
schedule. Up early, continental breakfast, pack sandwiches, head to antelope
country where our mornings would be spent in box blinds overlooking water
tanks, then an early afternoon pick up that would have us returning to the
lodge. Lodge time was to regroup, maybe grab a bite, gather up our gear and head
to deer country. We would get picked up at dark and return for a late supper and
a chance to brag about our success or explain away our misses.

“Bucks of all sizes and shapes, coming to feed. Now it was a race between bucks transitioning by me and the sun slipping away”

The temps were scorching, the winds hot and the dust thick. That was the bad
news. The good news was that we were in game rich country. Antelope here and
there and in time, at the receiving end of the arrow for all five of us. The deer,
seemingly not bothered by the heat, were active in their feeding and great in
their numbers. The biggest challenge seemed to be the lottery game of which
stand would pay off during that evening sit. The jackpot was realized for three
of us as we took nice bucks and great memories. For me personally, it all came
together on the third day. I was on a field edge of alfalfa in a 20’ ladder stand.
More than that, I was within smelling distance of the Powder River and of
course, that means deer. My shooting opportunity was an upwind trail that
would offer me a 19 yard and a 15 yard shot. Up close and personal. My view
was panoramic and allowed me to see deer movement both close and far. With
the wind in my favor and a heavily used deer trail, I snuggled in and waiting for
movement. Within minutes I started to watch deer move from the river bottom
cottonwoods to the alfalfa. Of course, they broke the rules as a good number
started coming out downwind. Does, bucks and fawns. Some nervously trotted
through the downwind territory, some raised their noses and headed back to
cover but all of them made me nervous as I continually got ‘busted’. The time
slipped by quickly as I watched active deer movement from my vantage point.
Suddenly, at 6pm, it slowed to a point where I thought the activity was over. At
just before 7pm however, I spotted a buck, then another and “there’s two nice
ones over there”. Bucks of all sizes and shapes, coming to feed. Now it was a race
between bucks transitioning by me and the sun slipping away.

At last, a buck, a dandy buck….the type that make your hands sweat and your
breathing accelerate…started edging my way. On my trial. Heading to my
shooting lanes! I ranged what I had already ranged only to find out the yardages
were the same. I cradled my bow in my shooting hand and eased it out of the tree
hanger. About then, I noticed a doe and fawn behind the buck. No big deal as my
focus was on him…until, the fawn started running, leaving MY trail and heading
downwind of me. Just like that the doe followed and then the buck. Things were
unraveling quickly as they were all heading downwind. Plan B came into effect
just as fast. Thinking I might get a shot before the doe busted me, I started to
twist into position so I could maximize my chance before the doe smelled me. Too
late as she was already at the field edge and her nose was up. I was now, semibusted!
Looking through the screen of trees, as I am now facing the tree my
stand is buckled on, I watched the buck walk by the doe and walk to the field edge.
Meanwhile, the doe is looking in my direction trying to locate that smell, the
buck is doing the improbable and I am now twisting and contorting 360 degrees
because the only way for me to get a shot is to completely turn around so my
bow clears the tree, branches and safety belt. The impossible became the possible
as I now was completely turned. I disregarded the curious doe and focused on the
majestic beautiful buck that I was now ranging at 25 yards. I was able to draw
back, lean down and take advantage of a shooting lane that I just willed out of a
no shooting lane. He was quartering towards me and my pin was locked onto his
vitals. I don’t remember triggering the release but I clearly remember the ‘whack’
as arrow met vitals. He kicked and tore a half circle path leading from the field
and heading towards the cottonwoods. Through the trees, I saw a flash of white
and then silence. Within moments, my guide (Doug) and tagged out nephew Nick,
texted me, “good shot Scott, we watched it all and watched it go down!”

Awesomeness doesn’t begin to describe that experience. It was one for the
memory books. Having said that, it’s important to reiterate the opening points of
this article and that is the family component. The hunt was in a game rich
environment, the lodging was good, the outfitter and crew were great people but
the greatest takeaway from the hunt was the ability to enjoy all of the
above….with family. We complimented each other on our successes, chirped on
each other regarding certain mishaps but most of all, soaked up the opportunity
to enjoy being together. Without asking each other, I already know that we are
all thinking that our mom and dad (grandma and grandpa) were smiling down
upon us as we greeted each day and enjoyed each other’s company.

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