For weeks leading up to my return home from Iraq and Kuwait, where I had been deployed with the US Army, I had looked forward to my first ever season of hunting. Upon my arrival in late-summer, my boyfriend David Wozniak and I began preparing for the upcoming bow season here in Ohio. We worked hard planting food plots, hanging tree stands and trimming shooting lanes. David ordered a Hoyt Vicxen for me that arrived while he was on an early-September bow hunt in Montana. I had never shot a bow before so as soon as he returned from his trip, we got the bow set up and I began shooting almost daily. With bow season just a few short weeks way, I hoped I’d be ready for opening day! Soon I was consistently shooting 3” groups out to 35 yards. I told David I was confident I could make a killing shot and wanted to hunt with the Hoyt!
September 24th, Opening Day of bow season, FINALLY arrived. The day started out slowly, but around 9:00 am, I noticed a mature doe feeding our way. As she turned broadside, I pulled up the Nikon Archer’s Choice MAXX rangefinder-25 yards-she was within range. I heard David whisper, “I’m on her”, slowly drew back, put the pit on her vitals, and released…THWACK!!! Expecting the doe to bolt away, I was surprised to see her standing there, staring at me. I turned to David to ask what had happened- he was chucking under his breath. I had been so focused on picking a specific spot on the doe’s vitals I didn’t see the branch just few yards in front of me. So as it turned out I WAS able to make a killing shot…on a trophy maple branch!
For the next month, we had a few encounters with some great bucks, but never did get a shot. On November 20th, we had a south east wind which limited us on stands we could hunt. One good spot for this wind direction was a stand overlooking a small, secluded HS Vita-Rack plot we hadn’t hunted for a couple weeks. We had barely got settled in when a button buck came into the plot. About 15 minutes later, I heard a deer walking toward the plot. David had a better view that direction and whispered, “There’s a good buck entering the plot…it’s the Acorn Buck”. This was a buck we had several StealthCam pics of and had nicknamed him The Acorn Buck due to an acorn-like bump on his left G-2 point. Within seconds, he was less than 30 yards away. The buck must have gotten a slight whiff of our scent, because he suddenly froze and started stomping lightly. Unfortunately, he was directly to my right and I was unable to shoot that direction. As I watched the buck, I heard a noise and glanced up just as a spike entered the plot directly across from us. After a few moments, the big buck started marching toward the spike. I tried drawing back but couldn’t get my bow drawn back!! I had been practicing drawing from an elevated stand, but now, cold, nervous and with a bad case of buck fever, I was unable to draw! The big buck started moving further away and now was at 36 yards. David noticed my feet were too close together on the stand, so I corrected my stance. I was a nervous wreck at this point, but David told me to relax and whispered, “Stephanie, I know you can do this”. With the buck almost out of range, I drew back, settled the pin, and released. I knew he was hit and turned to David and literally started to cry. I had just shot my first deer!
When we reviewed the footage, we saw that the buck had jumped the string and the arrow had hit the buck farther back then I had hoped. We decided to back out and come back the next morning. Needless to say, I did not sleep a wink that night! The following morning, we quickly located blood. After following the trail for only 100 yards, we found my buck!! I put my hands on his rack and began to cry, again! We had put so much time in preparing for bow season and spent many hours on stand. Now, it had all come together… I can’t explain how rewarding it felt.
I’d like to thank David for everything he did to teach me about hunting, filming, and the outdoors. I appreciate him sacrificing his time to help me accomplish something I’ll never forget!