December 01, 2012If you have kids you understand the feeling of putting forth 100 percent of your hunting focus on them. The excitement, the smiles, the buck fever and deer camp bonding are priceless! My father, uncle and I had hunted most of Michigan's early bow season but now it was the kid's turn to hunt. I was looking forward to taking my daughter Alyssa hunting again. It is one of the things that her and daddy do together. Though her number one love is horses and speed events, she also cherishes deer camp. She is affectionately called the "Crossbow Queen," as she does not hunt with any other weapon, even for turkey! She is not fond of the kick of guns and is just on the verge of growing strong enough to pull a bow.
Having hunted the same area several weeks earlier, I did not hold out a whole lot of hope of seeing a mature buck when I brought my daughter Alyssa from our home in Beaverton down to Hillsdale County for her whitetail hunt. The previous warm front shut down all signs of the pre-rut activities that we were experiencing earlier. However as we arrived at our camp, so did the leading edge of a cold front, which kindled new hope.
As we walked out to Alyssa's stand for the first evening's hunt, we saw a big scrape, so Alyssa sprayed Scent Web (Testosterone Fever fragrance) in and around the scrape. I could tell things were going to be different right from the start of our set, and sensed that my daughter had brought "lady luck" with her, as we started seeing many deer along with younger bucks. They were trading back and forth from their bedding area to a three acre food plot that we planted with Whitetail Institute Imperial Clover mixed with Whitetail Oats in early August. We were seeing more deer than ever with this planting!
After several hours of watching many deer and seeing some chasing going on, Alyssa spotted a nice 10 pointer coming in. Alyssa whispered, "Daddy, I'm shaking." As the buck got closer and closer, I could actually hear 12 year old Alyssa's teeth chatter (yep, that's what we call buck fever honey!) I got the video camera ready and was ranging the distances that I thought her shot might be if he kept coming on his course. He did finally get within shooting range but he was behind some brush and ended up standing there for several minutes surveying the battlefield like the general that he was, until he finally just turned and walked off. That's how 10 pointers get to be 10 pointers; they just have that sixth sense!
Over the next two days we saw very large numbers of deer passing back and forth from the bedding area to the food plot, and had seen many bucks chasing does, but not that 10 pointer. On Alyssa's last evening of hunting we again started seeing many does and fawns. I told her not to be discouraged since the bucks were chasing does and we had plenty of does heading to the food plot.
Alyssa Abbas, 12, of Beaverton took this monster 8-pt. with 12 inch G2s with her crossbow, hunting with her father Greg in Hillsdale County. Greg Abbas photo
About a half hour before dark we spotted a buck we affectionately named "Texas Longhorn." His two 14 inch spikes went straight out the sides before curving slightly upward at the end just like Texas Longhorn cattle. I had never seen a buck like this before. I started filming him as he came right in and walked right past us. Because of the unique head gear, I was toying with the idea of letting Alyssa take him. Just then Alyssa said with a very excited voice, "there's the big buck!" I did not see him at first as he was behind brush and out about 100 yards. I finally spotted him and was watching him through binoculars when I saw him turn away from a doe and angle our way.
I instructed Alyssa to get the crossbow up and ready just in case he came this way. After a minute later, which seemed like an hour later, I spotted the buck at 60 yards and closing. It was not the 10 pointer but I knew it was a shooter.
I told Alyssa to get him in the crossbow's scope and keep it on him, as it is sometimes hard to get a deer in the scope for young hunters. I turned on the video camera, which was on a tripod and began filming him, while at the same time ranging his distance. He got to 43 yards, easily within Alyssa's accurate shooting distance. I told her to wait to see if he got closer before taking that shot. He did! He came to 33 yards and I whispered to keep it on him but wait for a better broadside shot, though the slight "quarter to" shot was tempting. He finally turned to walk down the run when he better exposed his vitals. I whispered, "Shoot."
There was no hesitation at all! I heard the shot of the crossbow as did the big buck who tried to duck. However, the arrow/bolt found its mark and the rest is history.
It wasn't until I walked up to the buck that I saw how big he really was. I have taken many large bucks in my time but never an 8-pointer of this caliber. His G2 measured 12 inches alone and the mass of the rack was huge! No doubt the Whitetail Institute products provided the nutrition needed for such a rack.
I don't know how Alyssa fought off the buck fever on this one, but I am very proud of her. This was Alyssa's third buck, though she had never taken one of this caliber! Being a father and seeing the "night before Christmas" type of excitement in Alyssa's eyes makes my personal hunts secondary to me. Just as my father, who, to this day still enjoys watching me hunt more than hunting himself. It is how I feel toward my daughter.
My father Fred, who has taken several record book Michigan bucks, and I have been using Whitetail Institute products ever since I can remember. They have always brought us success. However, this marked the first year that we mixed Whitetail Oaks with the Imperial Whitetail Clover and planted in August. The deer absolutely loved the only green crop in town, especially when everything else was brown. I have never seen so many deer in a food plot before! We will follow this model every year now.
There's something special about deer camp, whether successful or not, is a very special time that builds memories that last a lifetime. I can't remember every buck that I've taken, but I sure do remember the fun times we've all had and I'll never forget Alyssa's 2012 8-pointer! Alyssa's hunt will air next fall on our TV show, A-Way Outdoors, that is broadcast nationally on the Sportsman Channel.