I finally got my first archery hunt in of the year. It was actually several weeks ago when it happened, but I needed to clear other topics off of my editorial plate before I moved on to writing about the bow season. I also needed some time to reboot and recharge from my elk hunt out west. Spending nine days in the mountains is a pretty incredible experience, and the sooner you jump into a tree stand the sooner you lose the Rocky Mountain high. I preferred to bask in the glow a little longer before turning the page.

After being home for a couple of weeks it was time to get back on the horse, so to speak. I’m always skeptical of hunting early season for fear of educating the big bucks, but I’m also well aware that there is an early season pattern that makes big bucks accessible. Personally, it’s a conundrum for me because I would like nothing better than bagging a big buck but also wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I shot a buck early in the season.

So, the time came for me to get after it. I picked a spot that was easy to slip in and out of and also a little off the beaten path. It was near a pond where I had placed a turkey hunting blind days before. I brushed it in a little and if everything played out the way I hoped, I would have a 30-40 yard shot across the water. I actually thought it was a pretty cool setup.

I eased up to my blind, being careful not to make a lot of noise so I didn’t alert the nearby wildlife, especially the deer. That quickly became an impossible task when I noticed no less than 50 wood ducks basking on the surface of the pond. Slipping in undetected would have been a Houdini kind of trick, so instead of trying to sneak in I plodded ahead and scared the entire flock. That was a bummer but honestly, watching the prettiest ducks ever to grace a pond in the Autumn sun, was a simple pleasure. I quickly reminded myself that I was there to hunt deer, not to make friends with the ducks.

I made it to the blind and I was officially deer hunting. I was actually kind of excited. Even though I'm not thrilled about ending my hunt too soon in the season, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see some nice bucks. That’s always my early strategy or goal: to see some nice deer.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

All was quiet for the first hour, and then I spotted some movement past the willows. The corner of the pond was where I had noticed a lot of tracks and most likely would be the spot for the deer to show up. It was so thick that I could only see a patch of brown here and there and never got a decent look at the animal. Was it a big buck or a doe? I couldn’t say and it was maddening waiting for it to show itself. Finally, it stepped, or rather hopped out from the brush. In all of my pre-hunt dreams or expectations I never pictured a giant like this. It had to be one of the biggest cottontail rabbits that I have ever seen. If there is a record book for such things, I’m sure it would have qualified.

That was how my first hunt of the year went. It included some anticipation, a little excitement, and a pretty relaxing evening to sit by the water. I left the woods with my unused harvest tag in my pocket to use for another day. For now, that’s enough for me.