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November 23: Doug Hampton

Thank goodness Rod had turned off the camera... for my sake anyway. I am usually level headed when it comes to these whitetails. I know that more times than not, they'll come out on top. But enough was enough! I was having a meltdown in the tree. Kind of like Popeye put it, "that's all I can stands & I can't stands no more!" I went off like a roman candle!... When I finished my little temper tantrum and turned to my Dream Season team-mate Rod Owen, I was expecting him to say something that would relight the previous fire. You see, Rod's no "Dr. Phill" by any means. He's usually blunt and to the point, with no sugar coating whatsoever. I guess the fact that I had been having the roughest season of my life was enough for him to try a different approach. I was at the point of throwing my bow from the tree and testing the tree spider by bungee jumping after the bow. Not really! But you get my drift... Just moments before my hissy-fit, I had grunted in a 4 year old massive buck. He was coming in on a string, stopping to scrape and show his dominance about every 5 steps. I was looking for a pen to go ahead and fill out my tag. I mean this dude was toast! I was starting to put tension on the string to draw my Evo at the range of 30 yards and closing. He threw his head up and paused. After looking around for several seconds, he turned and walked away as though he'd had a sudden change of heart. Oh, I threw the book at him to try to turn him back, but he just couldn't be reasoned with. That made the 5th shooter of the year that had been in range and somehow slipped past me. I had settled my pins on 2 of the bucks without releasing an arrow.... And now we have all the ingredients for a 2 month long, no killing drought, turned meltdown!

"You know, the last time this happened to me I killed a giant," Rod said while trying to boost my confidence. "It's just not my year bud," I said back. I turned around and started thinking about not getting to go home for Thanksgiving, due to the fact that we had just a few days of trolling left judging by the movement we were seeing. If I go home and return for the weekend, the warm temps and the rain that was forecasted, would probably make the rut & cruising activity a thing of the past. In the last 5 days, I had rattled and hypergrowled over a dozen bucks to within bow range. Rod and I agreed that we were in the final few days for effective calling in our part of the state.

I turned to look behind me at about 10am when I caught a slight movement up on the high ridge behind me. A flash of antler had me raising the Nikons for a closer look. "Shooter!" I exclaimed while reaching into my pocket for the hypergrowl. I growled and then followed it with a few tending grunts. His head snapped around. I could tell he had heard the calling. Three more short burst and he was running down the ridge in a bee-line for our position. When he got to around 50 yards he began to veer off to my right. At 35 yards he walked through the only shooting lane available. It was now or never! "Maaaaa!" I said just loud enough to give away my position. He stopped and swung his wide rack towards me. It was too late for him though, I was at full draw and had my thirty yard pin settled on the top of his heart. I watched the arrow flight through my sight pin and the arrow flew like a laser beam striking him dead in his heart. I wanted to scream immediately, but was patiently waiting to hear him collapse. That sound never happened. Not only that, but he had ran back up the hill that he had just came down from. Did I really hit him where I thought I did? Or did I just wound the deer that we had hunted this particular stand in hopes of having a shot at? The negative thoughts began to creep, and I was contemplating meltdown #2! I don't know if I could have taken 2 close calls in the same morning, ending with a misplaced shot. After about 30 minutes of waiting, Rod decided to go to the point of impact just to see if there was any sign of blood. I stayed in the tree to hand signal any directions that may be needed. Rod arrived at the arrow which had Rage-struck the deer known as the "Droptine 9". Rod kept on walking which had me wondering if he was seeing blood or still trying to pick up the trail. When he reached in his pocket and threw a piece of tissue down, I knew then that he was on blood. He then returned to the tree and said, "Thats's why we shoot 2-blade Rage my friend. Lets go recover your buck." The 6 foot wide trail of blood only lasted to the top of the ridge where my buck was laying with his head against a cedar tree. He was only 60 yards from where he'd been struck. His droptine had been broken off since he had lost his velvet, but it didn't matter a bit. He was a mature buck and was gonna be going back to Arkansas with me.

A huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. You've all heard of the monkey on your back, well I believe that King Kong would be more appropriate! What a relief to have harvested my first buck of the year. Big thanks to Rod for hanging with me and helping us to put our 3rd buck on the ground for Team Reconyx. Also, thanks to a patient and loving family who stick with me through the good and the bad. They understand my passion for hunting whitetails and continue to give me their blessings. And most of all, I thank God for the opportunities that he has provided. I hope he continues to keep blessing me and my family with these memories that will last a lifetime.

Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad when trying to have a dream season. It can be full of mental ups and downs, mountains and valleys, victories and defeats. One thing is definitely for certain.... It's gonna be one heck of a Journey.