It was a warm and breezy Halloween afternoon when I hit the woods for my first archery deer hunt of the year.
This is later than I usually begin bow hunting, but it took me a while to get excited about it -- my last season in paradise.
As you might recall from the first chapter a couple weeks ago, this will be the last year that we will have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors on the 3,000 acre cattle ranch that was operated for 23 years by my father-in-law and my wife. Sadly for us, we will be moving out at the end of the year.
The pre-season up to Halloween was a bummer for me. I had very little to be excited about. The thought of spending any length of time in a tree stand just didn't appeal to me. My family and I were struggling trying to find a suitable home for ourselves and our critters -- horses, dogs, chickens and such.
There was just no enthusiasm for hunting of any kind, other than house hunting.
But all that changed in an instant.
Driving home on a late October evening my headlights illuminated the antlers of not just one, but two dandy bucks standing next to the road that runs alongside what I still consider to be our little piece of paradise.
Now, just a note to my game warden friends, it was an unintended illumination of their antlers from my car headlights that happened while driving a county road. I guess the only infraction is that I stopped -- it is an outdoor enthusiast's knee-jerk reaction to "shock and awe" that caused me to hit the brakes.
To nobody's surprise, I am now instantly enthusiastic about getting into a deer stand.
So, on Oct. 31 I did just that. My wife, bless her heart, was kind enough to let me go bow hunting on a night that I probably should have spent with the family.
My daughter still loves dressing up on Halloween, while I prefer camouflage.
Ironically as it turned out, my first outing was no less spooky than hers.
I climbed into my tree stand and within minutes had deer within bow range, a small buck and several does and fawns.
As it turned out, the field was a virtual hotbed of activity.
In the first couple of hours of sitting, I had already passed up an opportunity at a Pope & Young class whitetail. It was a 140-incher, and as of today, it is the only record book deer I have seen inside of 30 yards all season.
However, I had no problem holding off. While my vision is not as good as it once was, I can still see pretty darn good beyond bow range, and I liked what I was seeing -- opportunity in paradise.
The field was packed with deer. One of the three buck fights I heard that evening must have lasted more than 20 minutes. Two bucks battled it out right in front of me as one charged from a distance to engage another standing no more than 30 yards away. I really didn't realize just how vocal deer could be when agitated -- aggressive grunts, snort-wheezes and deer blowing their alarms at nearly anything that moved.
As darkness fell over the area, I decided to get down out of my tree, only to be run back up my ladder by an aggressive buck, curious about my movement.
I waited a bit longer, then tried to get down and out of the field again. I made it halfway to the end, when a deer came charging out of the timber at me. I could barely see its outline, but I was pretty darn scared of its aggressive nature, so I dropped my bow and yelled out to protect myself.
Well, it worked. I spooked nearly every deer on my end of the field that night.
Although I didn't intend to participate in the holiday festivities, I guess the wildlife living in paradise should get a taste of Halloween too, even it is from a spooky goof like me wearing camouflage!
Look for Chapter 3; "The Last Season in Paradise" in a couple weeks.