Written By Brandon D. Guiterez | Tribal Chairman, SIR | Susanville, California
“Jace, I read your article in Bowhunting World and really enjoyed the way you told the story about your first buck. That (and your request) has prompted me to make a submission. I love bow hunting and the community it can truly be. I hope this story is funny and inspiring to new hunters like me. I’ve only be at this for two years, and I’m 35. Us late bloomers need all the inspiration we can get. Ha-ha.”
I was 9 years old and standing on my grandfather’s porch in Susanville, California, the first time I experienced what a dead buck looked like. My uncles came driving up in a jeep with the buck tied to the hood. Something inside me was triggered. I had no concept of what a hunt was or what it meant to take a life. However, at that moment, all I wanted was to go hunting. I asked my grandfather about killing bucks, and he promised me that when I turned 10 he would take me into the mountains and teach me how to hunt. Unfortunately, he died in a car crash before my tenth birthday.
After his death, I had no father figure in my life. I went through adolescence and into manhood without ever taking to the woods to assume my place among the hunters of my family. I earned the title of United States Marine in 1998, did my tours, and returned home in 2010. Through a failed marriage, I met another woman. I remember going to her parent’s house for the first time. Walking into the living room there was a mule deer shoulder mount with many pictures of successful hunts her dad and brother had been on. That day on my grandfather’s porch came rushing back to the forefront of my awareness. Suddenly, I was 9 years old again and eager to hunt.
Over the next year, I began to have conversations with her father about how to get started. His advice was vague, and he was probably wondering if I had what it took to be a hunter. At that point, all I knew was that I had to go to Hunter’s Safety, and then get a hunting license and deer tag. I had no weapon or any clue about the nuances of hunting bucks in the mountains that I grew up in.
My first hunt was actually with a rifle. I have to laugh at myself now because I had no clue about scent, deer habitat, habits or any other prerequisites that one must possess to be a successful hunter. I just borrowed a rifle, got in my vehicle, and spent the next 11 days driving around the mountains. It would have helped if I knew that leaving the house at 8 a.m. was a horrible idea. Toward the end of that first season, while walking back to the truck completely unaware of the concept of wind, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I shouldered my rifle, looking through the scope just in time to see a good-sized 3×3 blacktail buck bounding away from me. I was demoralized. That moment still pisses me off.
I met my girlfriend and her dad to go fishing that evening. I told him what happened. He laughed and asked if I was going to hunt again next season (probably expecting me to say, “Hell no!”). I told him that I was going to bowhunt next year. He looked at me like I was nuts! The image of that buck getting away from me because I quit haunted me for the entire offseason. Thank God for the motivation of failure.
I went to Cabela’s knowing nothing about compound bows. The dealer told me that I should get a basic set up to make sure archery was what I wanted to do. He put a PSE Stinger 3G in my hands. My first shot with that bow gave me a feeling I’ll never forget. It turns out archery was like a drug to me. I don’t run that PSE anymore, and I now hunt with a Hoyt, but my first bow was still the coolest thing to me. I shot as much as humanly possible that whole year, and, by the time the next season rolled around, I was proficient out to 60 yards. By that time, I had devoured every piece of literature I could on bowhunting. I learned the value of scouting, particular times of the day to hunt, and where deer were likely to be found. I began the process, and, by the time the opening day rolled around, I had already found several bachelor groups and single bucks I’d love to take a shot at.
Opening day arrived, and I was headed up the mountain. As I was climbing, a velvet-covered tine caught my eye. I was 70 yards downhill from this bedded buck. As I moved into a better position I could see that he was a giant to any rookie (which is to say he had big forks). I checked the wind, figured my approach and began the process of getting in bow range with my PSE.
Talk about a rush! The anticipation combined with every labored effort it took to draw close had both my legs shaking. I was able to get to 28 yards on the buck, but then the wind changed, and he stood straight up looking dead at me. I was busted! We stood there staring at each other for what seemed like hours. I was too afraid to draw the bow because I didn’t know if he’d run. Finally, he turned broadside long enough for me to come to full draw, but that was all. He bounded up the hill and out of my life. The difference between this blown stalk and my rifle debacle of the previous year was monumental. I had gotten well within my range, and I knew if I had a chance like that again, I wouldn’t be eating tag soup for another year.
My girlfriend’s dad came out with me the next day, and as we got closer to the top of the mountain, something different caught my eye. It was a nice sized black bear. I ranged him at 60 yards, but I didn’t have a tag. We scared him back in the woods, drove down the road for just a few minutes, turned around, and headed back in the direction we came. That’s when it happened.
We were almost to the same spot where we had spied the bear when he hit me in the arm (hard) and said, “Buck, get your butt out of the truck!” At this point, I didn’t see the deer, but from his reaction I could tell he was a shooter. I got out as quietly as I could, slipped into the woods a ways, nocked an arrow, and asked for a range. I still didn’t know where he was at. He gave me a range of 50 yards, but after spying the buck in the tree line, I knew he was a tad further, so I settled my 60 yard pin just above his shoulder and let it go. The arrow was perfect!
The arrow was covered in blood, and we immediately began trailing him. We didn’t have to go far. The buck died less than 100 yards from where he was hit. I often think about how much that deer meant to me. In that one moment, my grandfather was with me. I just hope he was proud.
I am only a 2-year-old bowhunter. This season has come and gone for me, and I was able to be successful again on a bigger buck, but this time with a good long stalk and a 70-yard shot. Every year I get better, and every year I get closer to that monarch that I will always be chasing.
Do you have an interesting bowhunting story to share? We’d love to hear it. Contact Bowhunting World Editor Jace Bauserman at firstname.lastname@example.org.