I will never forget the second day of my first archery season. I was hunting a tract of land near the house of an old friend, and stalking along a closed logging road that bordered a clear cut. There was a screen of trees, heavy with snow that obscured my view of the clear cut, but I could hear what I thought was several deer chasing each other.

Not knowing what to do with this intel, I was content to just continue still-hunting along the road…until the call of nature could no longer be ignored, that is.

I finally gave in and leaned my recurve against a small pine tree and did my business. I had barely zipped up and picked up my bow, when an approaching sound made me pause and look over my shoulder. As I turned, a section of the pine tree screen seemed to rupture and with an explosion of snow, a deer “popped” out and screeched to a halt no more than 10 yards from me. I made eye contact with the young buck, who resembled a small goat more than the male deer that he was. Just then, a fast approach was heard as another buck slammed into his rear end. This time it was a little spike with Martian-like antennae sprouting from his forehead.

I almost laughed out loud at this point but the rush of adrenalin that soon followed seemed to take the humor out of the situation. Before I could come to grips with what I was observing, the sound of even another approaching deer was followed by a nice little 4-point buck (Western count) who stopped only 15 steps parallel to me. Then the hyperventilating began.

It’s interesting how adrenalin seems to speed up your thought process while slowing down time. I seemed to have a million thoughts smacking into the front of my skull and the whole scene seemed to take hours, when in fact probably only seconds had transpired. I had already deemed that the first two bucks were too young to shoot and the angle was wrong, but the largest buck was almost parallel to me.

Soon after I had set my sights on the largest buck, the smaller bucks got bored and trotted up the road. After that a 10-minute stare down ensued (or what seemed like 10 minutes!) with the buck posturing and trying to get me to move. At one point he turned broadside and I began to draw while picking my spot, only to freeze when the buck whipped his head around to looked at me. I held at 3/4 draw until my arms started quaking. The buck relaxed, while I began to hyperventilate once more! This time so badly that I shut my eyes and tried to think of anything but the buck standing only steps from me. When I opened my eyes, the buck was looking at me with a quizzical expression. I swear that buck was making fun of me!

This whole scenario continued on for several minutes: me hyperventilating and then relaxing; me trying to draw only to be busted. Eventually the buck casually walked behind a large slash pile. “Finally!” I thought, “now he’ll walk out from around the slash pile and give me a perfect broadside shot!” Well, that was not to be. I listened to him pick his way through the snow, and after several minutes he never appeared where he was supposed to. Instead he just wandered off in a straight line and out of my life at that point.

Now to jump ahead five years: about a year ago I received a hand-me-down 3D target from my best friend. He and his eight-year-old stepson had been shooting the stuffing out of it for about a year before they upgraded to a better, and more expensive 3D target. Heck, I’ll take a hand-me-down 3D target any day…especially when I was shooting bales of straw at the time!

I was excited to practice on something other than the square bales of straw, and the more I shot at “Corky” (my new to me, 3D target) the more he began to remind me of that buck who stared me down and then walked away laughing, five or so years prior.

I try to practice at least three times a week but usually step it up to four or five times a week during spring and summer to prepare for the upcoming season. Well, I’ve come to have a love/hate relationship with ol’ Corky. I love him because he gives me a small deer shaped target to hone my shooting skills on, but I also hate him because he reminds me of that blasted buck that mocked me and lived to tell about it!

Well, lately Corky seems a little “peaked” and he doesn’t stop arrows quite like he used to. I caught myself wondering, “Is it time for me to put ol’ Corky down and buy a replacement?” Naw, I think I’ll just trot on down to my favorite shop and buy a new vital area and maybe use a little spray foam to touch up the rest of him. He’s a good ol’ boy who’s worthy of a second chance.

After all…there’s a long way between battered and beaten.