Your Subtitle text

My First Buck

By Trena Panza
Do you ever have a day when you just know it’s one of the best days of your life? Well I did during the winter bow hunting season in November of 2014.  I was lucky enough to shoot my first buck on the first hunt of my life.  It was epic.


I never thought I was the hunting "type".  I thought hunting was great for those who enjoyed it, but it just never seemed to interest me for most of my life.  Then a few years ago I started being friends with hunters and I sat and listened to their stories and I started to get very interested.  It seemed like such an accomplishment.  Everyone I knew it seemed were hunting and having success and sharing stories and eating meat they harvested themselves.  Yes I was hooked and wanted to hunt!!!


I trained a few years ago with a rifle and enjoyed it and did well at hunter’s sight in.  But the hunting trip never happened unfortunately.  But then I watched my sister Mary and brother in law Paul have many successful hunts together and I kept wondering if maybe I would have another chance to try.  


Finally this past fall I started to ask Paul about hunting and if he would please take me with him and Mary so I could learn to hunt. I wanted to learn and hunt but learning from someone I could trust was the key here.   We chatted here and there about it and I was probably driving Paul crazy at some point.  As it turns out we ended up with no time to hunt during rifle season.  So Paul mentioned bow hunting.  I hadn’t thought of that before.  I decided I wanted to try it.  Paul had told me we would borrow or find a good used bow for my first time and then he and Mary surprised me with a Velocity 4x4 race bow.  I was stunned and very touched and totally excited to try it out.  


While we waited for the bow to be delivered I found out we had work to do first.  Paul wanted to get 3 areas cleared and prepped for hunting blinds and I offered to help.  I hiked into the woods with Paul and chopped down branches and helped figure out the best placement for the blinds and Paul had hunting cams up in all areas so we knew if any deer or buck were coming in and at what times of day.  


I had NO idea how much work went into finding good hunting spots.  All this planning and video cams and research took many hours.  I felt good participating in the preparation because I got to experience firsthand all the things hunting really entailed.  It’s not just about going and harvesting the meat yourself.  The details are in the preparation.  


I received my bow and had it perfectly tuned for me.  I started to practice and Paul told me I could not purchase a tag unless I had a decent chance to succeed.  I took to that bow like a fish takes to water.  I listened to everything he told me and practiced and within a week I had my groupings great at 15 yards and was able to purchase my tag.  In the meantime I was also studying anatomy and where to shoot because I did not want to just wound an animal.  I would look at pictures from the hunting cams that Paul would send me and decide where the best shot would land based on how the animal was standing.  I took it all very seriously.  


My turn to hunt came the day after thanksgiving.  I had been practicing with the bow less than 2 weeks and it was time to hunt.  


I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and headed out.  I was nervous.  This was my big day to hunt so I was also really excited about it.  We got out near where the hunting site was and it was still dark out and here we were in the boonies throwing on all our warm clothes and it was dark and a little scary and we got to the ground blind.  I had never been in a blind.  Paul set up a camera so he could video tape if I did get lucky and hit one.


The window seemed so small I didn’t know how I would be able to do this.  He had me practice drawing without releasing and it was about a half an hour before dawn and I got nervous and released the bow and shot thru the blind.  Not a good start.  Of course I had an attack of the nervous giggles every so often.  When you are supposed to be quiet this is NOT good. Did I mention it was raining and cold?  There was lots and lots of rain.  


We sat for about 5 hours trying to not make a bunch of noise and of course I was stuck sitting on a hard bucket and was starting to get really uncomfortable and Paul was dozing off sitting up.  I was starting to think it just wasn't going to happen. Then I looked up and there was a Forked Horn buck staring right at me.  I froze then tried to nudge and wake Paul up. I was all nervous and shaky.   We made a little too much noise and poof!! He was gone.  We stayed quiet though just in case.  Paul checked to make sure the camera was ready I grabbed the bow just in case the buck came back.  


Then we started hearing the buck and he came back.  This time we were ready.  Every time he looked up I stopped.  I knew this was my chance.  Slowly and quietly I started to raise the bow.  Stopping every few seconds, I was nervous but calm.  I knew I needed calm and slow and steady for success.  He finally turned broadside and Paul was whispering instructions and the Buck still kept looking over so I had to keep freezing in place. I was NOT going to scare this buck off. 


I finally had a chance at a good broadside shot.  I could hit the crease just behind the shoulder.  I had the bow drawn and ready and Paul kept reminding me where the perfect shot would be.   I knew I could do this.  I didn't forget the most important instructions.  Breathe and keep it steady and look through the peeps and aim for the crease in the shoulder.  I was not shaking and I hit the release and the arrow went right where I aimed it.  I could see I had hit him before he took off!!! I jumped up and down and forgetting the video camera was running I dropped a few F bombs and I’ll never ever forget that moment!!! Big hugs and high fives and Paul went to look at the footage and I was so excited I tried to sit down and almost tipped over the bucket I was sitting on.  


We watched the footage and knew it was a perfect hit!!!! I got out of the blind and did a happy dance in the woods.  This was epic!!! Then I sat down and Paul had me tell my story a bit on camera and I almost couldn't speak I was so excited!! Seriously I could barely sit still and we had to wait a bit and then went out to track the buck.


In the rain we tracked the blood trail and there wasn't much to track.  We found the arrow had broken off and also tracked fur that stuck to branches.  After about 60 yards we saw some tracks and Paul told me he needed to view the video again and told me to go up past the tracks and lead the way for a bit.  He said his eyes were tired.  So I started walking and there he was my buck, on the ground.  Paul had seen it and wanted to watch my reaction.  I will not lie.  Seeing that animal on the ground freaked me out a little.  Then I had to poke it to make sure it was dead.  It looked so huge laying there.  


I did it!!!!!   I harvested my own meat.  I have a freezer full of venison that tastes better because I was part of the harvesting.  Yes I intend to bow hunt again.  I used to think rifles were the way to go.  But there is something primal and more intimate with a bow.  It’s a more personal way to hunt and takes a different skill set and it suits me perfectly.  


That day was definitely epic.  I will never forget it. It totally rocked!!! Thanks to my sister Mary for loaning me her hubby for all that training and work and thanks to Paul for being the best hunting teacher ever!!! Could not have done this without them!!!