2014-01-19_16.25.30Somewhere in the back of my house in a room I never use, I have a an 8 point Whitetail rack mounted on a plaque that also has an Illinois deer badge on it which signifies the year of my harvest. The round green badge says 2003 as if I need reminding of what year I shamed myself but also persevered through it all.  Here is my story.

While finding myself in the middle of an outdoor show video production, I was a hunter in front of the camera. I was hunting the same ground I hunted as a kid in Pike County, Illinois and it was during the rut. Whenever you are on camera, you feel pressured to look cool and interesting and you always feel the pressure to make something happen or to find success. On a windy evening hunt, a decent shooter buck was walking toward my stand. I got ready to shoot if a shot presented itself. As the deer walked quartering to me, I drew my bow in anticipation of him turning broadside as his path of travel dictated he would. He didn’t.

As my muscles began to quiver under the stress of holding my bow back, I talked myself into thinking I could sneak an arrow through both lungs. I was wrong. I let loose and I knew right away I had only hit one lung. Ten hours of tracking revealed that my buck was alive, but not well. From my experience, I knew it could take days for a one-lunged deer to die. I was sick.

Eventually, three days later, a friend and I found my deer. He was barely alive and resting on a secluded hardwood ridge. We had no weapons because we were looking for a carcass. As my friend snuck in from behind for a closer look, the buck jumped up and started running straight at me in my concealed position. As he got within three feet of me, I naturally lunged at him and tackled him around the waist. In a frenzy of blurs, we both had a live buck pinned on the ground and we had to end his life with no weapons available.

I wish I could share the details of how we dispatched that buck’s life, but I can’t. It’s too horrible. I made a bad decision that day in that treestand. A decision that I have to live with forever. Please learn from my mistake and never relax your ethics and standards just because you feel pressure to succeed.

Nobody forces me to look at that rack every time I go in my back room, but I need to sometimes. I choose to.