Hunting is something that I grew up doing. When I was little, I was the one in the family who wanted to be a veterinarian and save the animals (Although when you are little, it seems that is everyone’s dream job.) I was always out in the woods with my father and sister tagging along in their hunts because I loved the outdoors and the adventures it brought. I was there when they harvested some of their amazing whitetail deer. And, I began to want to do the same.
Become a vet or be a hunter?
As I entered high school, I began to have a bigger interest in hunting and less interest in being a vet. I studied and finally got my hunting license. Soon after I got it, I harvested my first doe with the bow. Then, not too long after that, I was able to harvest my first whitetail buck. It was only a 5-pointer but it is something I will never forget.
Why I love hunting
That feeling when you release the arrow and hear that wack on the deer that you were waiting to harvest is unforgettable. You watch it run, and then instantly, you get the shakes and excitement knowing you just harvested a nice deer.
Still to this day, once I release that arrow or pull the trigger, I’m shaking like a leaf in my tree stand. Then comes the waiting period until we go look for the deer. For me, the waiting is by far the hardest part of hunting!
Big 9 on my mind
So, let’s forward a couple years. It was late into bow season, November 1, 2017, when it all happened. That’s when I harvested my biggest buck yet; my 9-pointer. In August, before the season began, we had trail cameras out to see what was in the area. We saw a lot of small bucks and a bunch of does.
A couple weeks later, the big boys started to show up. We caught a nice 9-pointer on camera, several 8 pointers and some non-typical bucks. I had my eye set on that mature 9-pointer. He came around the same time every day and I was looking forward to opening day.
I sat opening day morning and evening and all I saw were some does and some smaller bucks. I sat almost every day I could and he never came out.
Finally, I checked my camera again to see if he was still in the area, and on October 30, he showed up again. But, this time there was no velvet and he was bigger then ever. I knew I had to get this buck before he moved somewhere else. I sat that following day and saw nothing.
Luckily, I was able to get out of work early on November 1st and rushed to my tree stand. I got into my stand around 2 PM, and I was prepared to sit a while to wait and hope he would make an appearance.
Turkeys and squirrels and bucks… oh my!
In the distance I could see two does walking around. In addition to the does, a small button buck came in behind me. They hung out for a while but there was still no sign of the big 9-pointer. Around 3 o’clock, 20 turkeys came in and stayed in the area for a while, but moved on quickly. Usually in the past when I have seen turkeys come in, shortly thereafter I usually see another deer. And, just like that, another small one was walking around to my left.
While sitting in the woods, in the peace and quiet, every hunter always hears that “deer” walking noise and their heart starts to beat. That’s what happened to me, but realized it was just a squirrel messing with me. What hunter hasn’t had a squirrel fool them into thinking a nice deer was walking in? I checked my phone and saw that my dad had texted me asking if I saw anything and I replied with, “nothing yet.” Then I texted my boyfriend, saying the same thing. Then, all of a sudden, I heard that “squirrel” walking noise and told myself I shouldn’t even look up because I knew what it was. I looked up to my right and there he was. Walking with his head down smelling right where the two does had been walking.
When I spotted the big 9-pointer that I had been after, I knew I didn’t have much time because he was on a mission and didn’t care who was around him. I got my bow up quickly and now I had to shoot all the way to my right side, over a tree limb where I never shoot from. I put my crossbow up over the top of the limb that was directly next to my stand. And, I was trying to hold myself off of the seat.
As I looked through the scope, the strap for my bow moved and hit the tree limb and made a small “bang” noise. That quickly, the buck stopped in his tracks and looked directly toward me. I knew that this was my only chance that I would have to get this buck. He was completely broadside and I had the cross hairs right on his vitals. I pulled the trigger and saw him jump high in the air, land, and make a small circle and ran back on an angle. I saw him through some laurels and then lost him but heard loud noises coming from that area. All I could think about was if I had made a good shot. “Did I rush it,” I thought. “Would my shot be fatal?”
The N1 Moment
The smile I had on my face was ear to ear. I was shaking. And, then the tears came. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I was overwhelmed with joy and relief. As I was shaking, I texted my dad to tell him, “I shot the big boy”. He said he was on his way to say where I was and to give him some time before we go look. It felt like the longest wait of my life. He finally arrived, and I was pumped to go look and was just praying we would find blood.
When my dad got there, we started looking and quickly found a pile of blood and knew that was a great sign. After following the blood trail for only about 15 yards, my dad said, “Okay let’s go, I don’t see it” which he always says when were tracking a deer and he see’s it before me. So, that quickly, I knew he had found him, I just didn’t know where. I remember asking “where, where, I don’t see it?” He pointed down, and there he was laying underneath a small tree that he had hidden under. I jumped up and down in the air and hugged my dad with tears in my eyes! All I could say after I picked my head up and said, “I can’t believe I finally got him”.
I can honestly say that this was one of the best moments that I have ever experienced while hunting. The combination of excitement, nerves, adrenaline and thankfulness for being able to harvest such an amazing deer.
– By Justine Mattia
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Deer dogging has been around for many years, and deer hunting with dogs is a tradition in my family that has been passed down from generation to generation.
From a passion to a business
I started White Water Kennels, in Elba, Alabama, in 2014. In the beginning, it was simply a name for my personal hunting dogs kennel. But, over the next several years, it grew into a well-organized group with several members in several states. We take our love for hunting with hounds very personal. We try to develop a dog through a process of training techniques, with very strict guidelines.
A dog is born with a natural instinct to use its nose and to hunt. We simply help the dog reach it’s full potential. And, while there is no perfect dog, we train deer dogs to be the very best they can be. We take pride in what we do and pour countless hours, days, weeks and months into training dogs to become well-developed and experienced hunting and running machines.
Our decision making is based on careful studying of our packs. We have what we call brood males and females that we breed according to what we are wanting to gain in the packs. For instance, if we are wanting to add more trail dogs, then we have certain dogs we breed for that. The same holds true for running dogs.
When puppies are born and ready to train, we put them through a series of training techniques that we developed to see what each dog has to offer. In addition, we determine what areas we need to spend the most time in correcting shortcomings. The way we look at is, a dog is only as good as it’s owner. The time you spend training a dog will show, as well as the time that is not spent. Because laws are getting very strict in our area on dog hunters, we collar break, whistle break and horn break every dog we produce to a guarantee.
Investing in the dogs = memories waiting to be made
I enjoy watching how well all the guys work together for the benefit of the kennel and the work each one puts in to make White Water Kennels the best it can be. We love each other, the hours spent together, the memories made, and watching young hounds develop and progress through our training techniques.
I strongly encourage anyone who has never hunted with hounds to try it. And, when you do, I believe you’ll feel the thrill that we do every time we dump the boxes. To us, it isn’t about the kill. It’s about the sound of the hound and the race between the dogs and the game. Its’ in our blood, and we’ll love it till the day we die.
– By Hayden Disotell
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Barefoot Buck Story
This barefoot buck was a moment that I would have never have imagined I would ever experienced in my lifetime.
(Not) Growing up in the outdoors
For people who know me, they know how unconventional my outdoor story is. Growing up, my parents did not raise me hunting or fishing, and being involved in the outdoors wasn’t something I knew much about. In fact, all my life I was classified as my family’s “girly girl.” I was a ballerina, then a cheerleader, and on the dance team in middle-school. Oh, and I absolutely loved fixing my hair and dabbling in makeup. Luckily for my poor dad, who has a wife and FOUR daughters, I played basketball, mainly because, against my mom’s wishes, he convinced me to at the age of eight (fortunately, I truly loved it and stuck with it every year until I graduated).
Being called “girly” all my life and not being introduced to the outdoors definitely forced me to label myself as “unworthy” of ever trying to fish or hunt. So, I never did. I had several friends growing up that hunted, but most of them were pretty unethical and egotistical. There were many disheartening moments I had witnessed because of them, and unfortunately, it left me with a bitter taste in my mouth toward the outdoor industry. I started to hate seeing photos of successful hunts. I unfollowed people on social media that expressed their love for hunting. And, I even blocked hunting pages so Instagram’s algorithms would get the point.
The turning point
But luckily for me, I met someone who was patient enough to challenge my reasoning for hating outdoor sports and the so-called conservationists. And after I realized that I did not have any solid answers for him, I figured out that the reason I did not “like” hunting was because I did not understand it… not even a little bit.
As time went on, Cody finally convinced me to at least try it. So, I did… and I have been hooked ever since!
And just when I thought hunting could not get any better than what I had experienced over the last year and a half, I got to experience this incredible N1 moment.
I had sat in this same spot for two weeks straight. I watched and passed over 100 deer in the thirteen days that I hunted this area. The majority of them were does, but I did have the opportunity to watch several small bucks chase during my hunts. I was starting to get discouraged. So, I mentioned to Cody that I may need to try a new spot if things didn’t start picking up.
Instead of encouraging me to try a different spot, Cody decided to come with me to the same spot, once again.
Big buck and barefoot stealth
We sat there, as usual, and watched several does graze and play, and then the occasional spike or young buck that would run them off. But shortly after we got settled, Cody said, “oh my gosh, big buck! Big buck, Alyssa!” He says this same phrase, A LOT. He loves to get me excited only to tell me that he was “just kidding.” So, naturally, I didn’t believe him. But when I was rolling my eyes at him, I spotted what he had already seen… a beautiful eight point that we had watched in this field the previous year. In fact, it was the same buck that Cody has missed in the previous year (just saying ?).
Anyway, the buck was well over 300 yards away. But that wasn’t going to discourage us from doing our best to get a shot on him. We quickly grabbed our guns, ditched out spot, and made our way to the wood line so that we could walk through the trees until we were close enough for an ethical shot. Cody insisted that we take our shoes off to be quiet, and I was too in shock to argue with him, so we made the 240-yard trek barefooted.
Put your gun on my shoulder
Once we got within 60 yards, Cody decided that we didn’t need to test our luck, so we didn’t go any further.
As both of us were trembling all over and praying to the Lord (not even exaggerating), Cody allowed me to prop my gun on his shoulder so I didn’t have to free-hand my shot. I swear, it didn’t make it any easier. The adrenaline was rushing through my body and I couldn’t quit shaking to save my life. It took me over ten minutes to shoot the deer, and because of the anxiety during the moment, it felt like it was taking a stinking hour for me to get steady and make the shot.
Finally, the buck forced me to pull the trigger. He looked up at a snorting doe that was down wind from us, and was just about to take off running when I got the guts to pull the trigger.
The N1 Moment
He ran, which was super hard to watch because that left me wondering if my shot was accurate and fatal. But instead of worrying, I hit my knees and cried. I was so thankful, so excited, so anxious, and so completely overwhelmed. But mostly, I realized how rare and unforgettable this moment was and how lucky I was to experience it with my best friend.
We both sat there smiling, shaking, and laughing as we replayed the whole thing over and over. After we let some time pass, Cody decided it was okay for us to go look for some blood… which we never recovered. After frantically searching the area for just a single drop of blood or a strand of hair, and coming up with NOTHING, we decided to just move on to where we last saw him in the wood line.
Once we got there, there was no need to search any further… he was right there.
I can honestly say that moment was one of the best moments I have ever experienced; excitement, adrenaline, fear, and thankfulness… all N1.
– By Aly Schreiber
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