"The Big Dipper" WomenHunters Deer Archery In Wisconsin Fall 2004

As I sat in my tree stand still trembling from the evening’s events, I was amazed. The day expired as the western sky faded into darkness, and thousands of stars began to emerge. Overhead and directly in front of me was the Big Dipper. "How appropriate", I smiled and thought to myself. "My cup truly runneth over. I had four shot opportunities in the last two days and two hours before I had prayed to get a deer, and preferably a buck that was at least a step up from the eight-pointer I arrowed two years ago. Sometimes things happen faster than expected!

The ladies of WomenHunters were together for our first whitetail deer hunt at Pine Ridge Farms just outside of Wautoma, Wisconsin. Pine Ridge is the dream of owner Matthew Brown (see Dream Weaver sidebar). The WomenHunters ProStaff are a close knit group who not only share adventure as hunters and fellow writers but as loyal friends who love each other. We were filming for the WomenHunters Outdoors TV show on this trip, and we were excited to be at Pine Ridge. Stand locations and guides were determined for opening morning and the stage was set.

"Dream Weaver"

The Story of Matt Brown

Pine Ridge Farms is the dream of its young owner, 19 year old Matt Brown. Together with his family, Matt runs a truly unique operation. Pine Ridge offers pheasant hunting, archery deer hunting, turkey hunting, sporting clays, a 3D archery course, natures trails, a labyrinth, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, exquisitely appointed rustic décor rooms, gift shop, gourmet dining and soon will have meeting and banquet facilities in January 2005. The guides are experienced and polite, the hunting set ups are wisely chosen. The service is excellent throughout. But even with these many amenities, that is not the most unique aspect of Pine Ridge Farms. The most unique aspect is Matt Brown himself. He is a young man who survived disaster in his early childhood, and his dream was to own and operate a facility like Pine Ridge: A place for those who love the outdoors, to pursue their interests and have fun!

At age 5, Matt found an unlocked and open green electrical transformer box. A typical curious youngster, he went to play with the box and was electrocuted. The charge went up into his arms and out through his stomach. A neighbor literally tackled the boy to get him off the electrical box and saved him from sure death. Matt lost his left arm at the shoulder, and his right arm at the elbow. He wears a prosthesis on his right arm, and can use the muscles in his upper arm to make the hand on the prosthesis tenuously grasp. He lost one third of his stomach as well. This disaster did not hold Matt back however. At age 13 he took his firearm safety course and started hunting with his cousin. He hunts crossbow and firearms, with special set-ups to make shooting possible. Soon he began to have a dream and that was to share the joy of the outdoors with everyone, and to show that even those people with a disability can have fun hunting and pursuing outdoor activities. Hence, the family owned and operated Pine Ridge Farms was born. Pine Ridge Farms is "no bait" Fair Chase for deer hunting. Pine Ridge accommodations have handicap access rooms as well. Matt also enjoys truck mud racing and does the work on his vehicles himself. He likes fishing and has other hobbies. Matt is happy and has a focus on being positive. That energy and enthusiasm is evident in every person who works at Pine Ridge Farms.

The first morning, I went to full draw on a doe at 18 yards but got winded just before she hit the shooting lane. My scent was also blowing into the deer’s staging area behind me. For the afternoon hunt, my guide remedied that problem and quickly set up another stand a hundred yards away and in a spot more favorable for the wind direction. This new stand felt good right away. It was nestled in an evergreen, about 18 feet up but with a full view of the clear cut before me. I clicked on my video camera and even said "I have a good feeling about this stand". Little did I know! As the afternoon faded into early evening, a deer emerged from behind me from my 5 o’clock position and made its way along the edge of the clear cut. I was shooting a one pin site for the first time and still getting used to it. I usually had the micro-adjustment set on 20 yards, but had moved it to 30 yards because most of the shots from this stand were between 30-40 yards. As the doe got to a tree I had ranged as being 30 yards, I went to full draw and held. As she cleared the brush I let the arrow fly and watched it sail right over her back. "WHAT ??" I thought to my self. Well, my auto pilot was thinking my micro adjustment was still at 20 yards like always, and in the heat of adrenalin, I raised my pin site up a bit for the 30 yards shot and in so doing sent the arrow right over her back. I was thankful for the shot and settled back in for what I thought would be an uneventful evening with no more deer. Within 20 minutes, the same deer came right back into the clearing! She must have thought the noise from my shot was a really loud acorn or something. I let another arrow fly, hitting her a bit high, but a good shot otherwise, or so I thought. I settled back in, again very thankful that I was given a redemption shot. Enjoying the ambience of dusk, I called my guide and told him I shot a doe but to pick me up last so the animal could bleed out. However, no fewer than twenty minutes elapsed when I heard deer movement only 15 yards from me. I got my bow ready with my release on the string loop, turned and got ready for a shot. I turned slowly to my right as the noise manifested itself as a nice white-tined buck! I could hardly believe it. Everything went too fast to get my camera turned on. I went to full draw and placed a double lung shot. The buck jumped and ran. I heard a crash in the distance, but then heard more running and figured he jumped back up and ran some more, which seemed odd to me considering where I arrowed him.

I phoned my guide again and said I also had a buck down. He was ecstatic. A "search party" arrived at dark and we tracked the buck, which dropped 50 yards from the stand. Again I was puzzled since I thought I had heard him run much further. We then looked for the doe, finding both halves of my arrow crimson with blood, but could not pick up the blood trail. We spent until 10:30 p.m. tracking, but gave up out of sheer exhaustion until the next morning when we had better light. We spent another two and a half hours tracking in the morning, finding excellent blood a couple of times, but then it just ended. Then it picked up again a short distance later. I determined that the doe had gone about 80 yards and bedded down, as evidenced by a bedding area pooled with blood. When I shot my buck and he charged into the woods, she was spooked up again, and ran, which meant that the continued running I had heard was the doe being jumped, not the buck running further into the woods. We gave up the search.

Not to be defeated by this disappointing turn of events, I again hunted that evening. I told the guides to put the other ladies in the best spots, and just put me somewhere untested since I already had my buck. I wound up in what seemed to be a gun stand consisting only of a permanent wood platform with steps up to it. No seat, per se. There was a tiny flat cushion so I knew the afternoon hunt would be a butt buster. I was also cruising on four hours sleep and ready to tip over from exhaustion. One of my hunting mates, Wanda Garner, had talked fondly of taking naps in the woods, so I decided it was about time I tried it. I crawled out of the stand and just lay down in the dry pine needles at the foot of the tree next to me. I dozed for about an hour, and at 4:30 p.m. decided I had best get back down to business. I felt rested from my snooze, but I did get bitten up by no-see-ums. Back in the stand, I was just waiting for dark and to head out. I thought since I left my scent all over under my tree, I would not see any deer. No sooner did that thought go through my mind, when I heard movement behind and to the left of me. I am a left-handed shooter so this was not a good shot setup. A nice sized doe crept through the thick brush and stopped at least a half dozen times to look up at me. I saw her nose the air as she caught my scent, but she never saw me. She angled to walk right in front of my stand so I went to full draw and held. She stopped twice more to look at me and when her vitals were in an open spot 8 yards from me, I shot.

I saw no arrow in her as she bound away, but I thought I saw her stop and crumple to the ground in the distance. Did I miss her? The cover was so thick I could not see her, however, even with binoculars. I got down from my tree and could not find the arrow. I called for help and at dark we had our group tracking again. There was little if any blood. I was afraid we were going to have a repeat of the previous night’s lost doe and feeling jinxed, I was ready to just pack and go home. We looked for an hour and decided it was too hard to find blood in the dry pine needles and thick cover so we quit and went back to the lodge. Much to my delight, the doe was found atop the adjoining pine ridge the next morning. She apparently had walked slowly up the ridge after the shot, and tipped over. My shot was good, quartering in through the liver and out through the abdomen. There was virtually no blood trail however. My arrow was found embedded in the ground right by my stand, hidden by a small evergreen, having passed through the animal. I don’t think I have ever seen that much action in twenty four hours of hunting!

The last day our group was scheduled to pheasant hunt, but I had opted out because I consider myself to be a poor shot-gunner. Although I teach shotgun in Firearm Safety Classes and have led the pheasant hunting segments on our field days, I had never actually pheasant hunted before. I had shot clays many times, but never broke more than 8 out of 25. The ladies encouraged me to join them anyway, and I was given a borrowed gun, orange vest, and some shells. I ended up shooting two pheasants and discovered something quite amazing. I had always been a bad shot-gunner because I am a logical analyzer and I like the precision of aiming. Aiming does not work when shooting a shotgun, which in concept is something I knew. However, when in the field hunting behind dogs, and a bird is flushed, my predator self along with adrenalin kicked in, and I instinctively "pointed" instead of aiming, and nailed the birds.

Hunting with a group of wonderful ladies, and at such a beautiful facility made this hunt probably one of the most memorable ones in my hunting career. Also memorable was getting four shot opportunities in two days. I can’t wait to go back!

 

 October © 2004