I started bow hunting in 1980 in my early 20’s. A friend I’d had for years, and used to hunt rabbits with had just bought a Bear Archery “Whitetail Hunter”. That’s when I decided to take up bow hunting for deer, so I went and purchased my first bow. It was the beginning of the era of compound bow technology, and this particular bow was the trend setter of the day. It was metal with fiberglass limbs. The pullies were small by today’s comparison, and had 3 weight settings. I had to take the New Jersey hunter education course before being able to purchase a license. The course was in two parts, the second of which involved following a mock blood trail. Fortunately for us, it had snowed the night before, which made that part of the course very easy. I still remember the instructor telling us we had him over a barrel, and we all laughed.
After several years of hunting with the Bear Whitetail Hunter, I decided it was too heavy, and in the dead of winter the metal handle became ice cold even with gloves. A co-worker had told be about the bow he’d just purchased, and I decided to check it out. It was made by Browning. It was laminated wood with 2 inch pulleys. I covered the limbs with a camo sock, and used a pendulum sight made of brass. Not very high tech to say the least, but it worked well for me as far as shooting a target. Getting live critters close enough for a shot, proved to be more of a challenge. It took me 10 years to finally score my first deer.Shortly after that I started spending more time surf fishing, and didn’t bother to pick up my bow for about 20 years.
Fast forward to 2011. I had been seeing deer out behind my house in a small patch of woods the the town owns. Beyond that what was once a tidal marsh, had been filled in with building debris, covered with dirt and left alone, and is now covered in trees, weeds, and reeds. It has become a prime deer habitat. I was used to seeing does with their fawns on a regular basis, but December 31st of 2011, I happened to look out my window to see 2 8 point bucks, several spikes, and some does. I decided it was time to try bow hunting again, went out and bought my 2012 licence, and dusted off the old Browning. Winter bow season started January first and lasted until mid-February, and I didn’t see anything, but I did manage to find a nice shed antler that was thick and had 4 nice tines.
When September rolled around, I bought myself some new carbon arrows, added Nocturnal lighted nocks, and RAGE broadheads. The season started slow. I was seeing deer movement, but never close enough for a shot. One evening, while I was watching a buck in the distance, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. When I turned to look, I saw a deer walking by my stand that was close enough for a shot. As it passed behind some trees, I stood up and drew back my bow. As soon as it cleared the trees, I aimed and let my arrow fly. The great thing about lighted nocks, is being able to visually follow your shot, and this one was well placed right behind the left shoulder. I waited about an hour before getting on it, and by then it was getting dark. It think it probably took an hour or 2 to finally track it down, and to my surprise, it was a buck with a set of small Y’s for antlers. Between their size, and the limited amount of light, I thought for sure it was a doe. Luckily we don’t have antler size restrictions.
In 2013, and 2014, I managed to kill a few button bucks, and had my fair share of misses on does and spike bucks, but was never seeing any mature bucks up close. In 2015, I finally was able to kill my first doe. She had some nice size to her.
In 2016, I wanted to upgrade my bow to one of the new larger cam models that were around, but I couldn’t afford the $400+ offerings I was seeing in sporting goods stores and on-line. I found a bow that looked comparatively similar to higher priced ones for about $180.00 on Amazon in September of that year. I added a whisker bisquet and a TRUGLO pendulum sight. I had to take it to an outfitter to add the nock rest and peep-sight. All totaled, I spent just under $300.00 for the up-grade just in time for fall bow season. That year I tried moving my stand to a different section in the woods to see if I could improve my odds. That decision paid off one Friday morning in November. I had been seeing deer in one particular area, and that particular morning I had a nice buck chasing a doe that wound up passing under my stand. It happened so fast, they were out of range before I even had a chance to draw my bow, but it was exciting to have seen it. That afternoon, I saw deer again, and they seemed to be using the same trail. The next morning I saw a nice buck follow the same trail, and I decided to move my stand a second time to try getting closer to the trail I was seeing activity on. After searching around most of the mid to late morning , I settled on a spot that looked like it would be favorable, set up my stand, and went home for lunch. I got back in the stand about 1:30, and wasn’t there more them 15 minutes, when I spotted movement straight out ahead of me. It was only a spike buck. He meandered back and forth until winding up not more than 10 feet from the base of my stand. I only had 1 buck tag, and promised myself to only use it on a mature buck, so this youngster got to live another day. A half hour passed and I noticed a buck about 30 yards away right where I had just moved my stand from. Another deer came up behind him, and he turned around to chase it away, and then turned back to his original course. It was easy to see he was heading in my direction, and would be passing in front of me very soon. As he passed he went behind some trees, and I readied to take my shot. As he cleared the trees, I made a “rant” sound which stopped him in his tracks, and I let my arrow fly. Direct hit into the rib cage while quartering away. It took about 2 hours to find him since there was hardly any blood. My first mature buck, the trophy I’d sought for so long was finally laying at my feet.
I hunted the rest of the year without anymore opportunities, and on the last day of 2016, I had a 6 pointer within 10 yards, but I had already used my buck tag, so I had to pass on this one.
I didn’t hunt opening day of 2017 winter bow due to rain. Some hunters will hunt during rain, but I’m not one of them. I did manage to have snow the following Saturday morning. The forecast was 2 to 5 inches of snow, and I really was hoping to be able to track a blood trail in the snow. By mid morning it was snowing pretty good. I stood up in my stand to stretch my legs, and as I turned to look behind me I saw movement. I had a herd of about 10 bucks ranging from spikes to mature bucks with 6 or more points. They wandered around to my right side, and I managed to get off a shot, but he ducked, and everybody left in a hurry. The season ended in mid February without anymore success, and I packed it up until fall. The fall season started off rather poorly with several near hits and misses, until the morning of October 21st. I had spotted a deer about 60 yards away heading away, so I figured I’d try rattling him in since he wasn’t coming towards me, I didn’t think I had anything to lose, and I would finally get to see whether rattling worked or not. It worked. Right after I rattled, he turned and was heading straight for me. I had plenty of time to get the camera on him, and watched as he closed the distance. He was about 10 or 15 yards away when I drew back and placed my arrow dead center at the bottom of his neck. He ran about 10 yards, piled up, and got up and ran another 30 before dropping.
It didn’t take long to find him, and when I gutted him I found my arrow had passed through his heart. I’ve already got my permit for the remainder of the year, which includes another buck tag, and permit season starts October 28th.
New Jersey’s deer management program divides the state into zones. Most zones have the same regulations for the most part. I hunt in zone 49, which comprises parts of several counties. Bow season in my zone begins on the second Saturday of September until the last Friday of October. Daily bag limit is 2 deer, and season bag limit is, unlimited antlerless deer and ONE antlered deer, and the first deer must be antlerless until the last Friday of September. The last Saturday of October, begins the permit bow season which runs until the end of the year, with the exception of Christmas day. Bow hunting is allowed on Sundays, but only on private(with permission from the land owner) or state land. Crossbows are also allowed.