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 Crawling down from my Big Game double-set at 10 a.m. was not what I had planned on my 2nd day of bowhunting in Southeast Arkansas.  Two men were walking through the still of the morning chating up a storm and headed right towards my double-set.  I'm not going to lie a bit, I was fairly upset not knowing who they were & what they were doing.  I only knew one thing, that they were not members of the camp, & they were ruining my chance at killing the buck I had targeted for the season.  The 2 gentlemen were from the timber company that we lease our ground from.  After getting to them to find out what was going on, I learned that I had about 5 days to hunt before the block of timber I was hunting was going to be logged.  My heart sank.  Talk about instant depression. I knew the pressure was on to get it done and the clock was now officially ticking!

UNCLE PAW PAW

After running my Reconyx cameras for a couple of weeks, I had an old 8 point that I knew all to well.  I had pictures of him 2 years earlier as a 4 year old and only 1 picture of him last year at a distance. I felt the deer was a 6 year old and would be using the oaks to feed on acorns. With his age and borrowing the name of a friends tractor, I finally named the buck "Uncle Paw Paw"... Reconyx pictures in the daylight are always a good thing.  He was definitely daylighting around his favorite few nut-all trees.  I hung a set and waited until the conditions to hunt the set were perfect. The first morning I passed a 4 year old 8 point that had been hanging with the old buck.  Around 10 a.m., I looked to my left and saw a huge bodied buck feeding on acorns.   One look through the Nikon's confirmed it was him. He was 80 yards and circling the same tree over and over again.   It was after 12 when the buck decided to leave and go to bed. My wheels were
turning big time.  I made a split decision to crawl down, pull the set and relocate 20 yards from what appeared to be his favorite buffet.  I felt like with the pictures I had already,  the new location would insure me to have an earlier chance at him in the evening.  I quickly hung the new set and at 2 pm we were hoping for the best. Around 4:30 the deer were moving fairly well, when all of the sudden I caught movement of a nice rack in the distance.  He was headed right for us and it was Uncle Paw Paw himself!  Everything was going great until he spotted several deer under the trees at our previous location.  He cut left and made a bee-line straight to them.  I mumbled several bad things to myself and about myself for not staying put.  I've hunted enough to know better than to be so impatient.  The next morning we saw him again to our east.  We decided to go get a brand new set & re-hang it in our original tree. 

NOW OR NEVER 

     Now back to where the story began... It was day 2 of the hunt, and we had just watched the buck we were after go towards his bedding area.  The timber guys had walked in under me, delivered the bad news, and were now headed out of my stand location.   I asked them if they didn't mind, to go out a certain direction in an attempt to not to jump the buck.  They were very courteous and agreed to do so.  He stopped after a few steps and said "you know, this timber being cut is 'not' going to hurt your hunting at all right?... I hope you will kill one while we're in here working, just so I could get that point across to all the hunters who get so mad about us being in here..."  I nodded, but in the back of my mind I knew I had 4 days to get it done, or it was bye bye to Uncle P!  After all, which direction would the loggers push him?  It would be just like starting over.  Finding him would be almost impossible.   Like I said earlier, I was depressed! 
      
Muzzleloader season opened the next morning.  This was my only hope to seal the deal.   I hunted hard, I mean real hard over the next 4 days. I saw him 4 more times, but could never get the gun and the camera to line up at the same time. On day 6 of the hunt, we met the same 2 timber folks under our stand location just as they had warned. They were marking trees when the saws began running in the distance. "We're real sorry man... wish you'd have got him", they said as they sprayed blue paint on the base of the tree next to my stand. " Yessir, me too", I said as I turned to leave absolutely dejected. It was as low as I had felt hunting in quite a few years. I was on him... I mean, it was only a matter of time before I had him. But now it was all  over... Or was it?

THE BLIND HOG

   Everyone says a blind hog will find an acorn every now and then.  But finding my buck after the loggers had cut nearly half the timber would be nearly impossible. After all, they were still in the middle of cutting on the lease when we arrived at 2 p.m. on Saturday Nov. 15th.  I stopped at the edge of the lease to see the woods that I'd hunted for nearly 20 years now only half standing.   I cut off the truck and stepped out.   I listened for equipment, but didn't hear anything.  Then it hit me, they must not be working on Saturday.  I got back in the truck and started telling Zach that we would have to hunt for other deer and that our odds of killing a good buck were not what they were the last trip.  I had no longer quit talking when I looked up to see a huge bodied buck that was crossing the road.  It was just a moment later that I realized it was him!... When he saw us coming, he turned to go back into the thicket across the road in which he had
come.  Knowing not to stop driving, which would only cause the buck to run further into the brush, we cruised right on past where he had run back into the brush.  I was beside myself! My confidence was off the charts now. "Did you see that Zach?! He was headed for our stands!"  I made a quick decision to circle the block of timber and park on the opposite side from where the buck was just located.  Parking next to a skidder, loader, and huge pile of fresh cut trees, We jumped out, threw on our gear, and headed to the same set where we had all the encounters in October.  A quick confident interview was given, and we began searching through all the tree tops for signs of deer.  A doe, a small buck, and yearling began feeding our way.  Needless to say, our visibility was drastically increased do to the lack of timber blocking our view.  I kept staring to the north in anticipation of the arrival of our nemesis.  We were not in the stand too aweful long when Zach said "there's a big bodied buck coming right at us"... I turned to see where he was looking and raised the Nikons up.  It was him, and he was already in easy range of my Winchester model 70 .270!  I reached back and turned on the Virb to catch a 2nd angle of the hunt and then began trying to get a good rest.  The shooting stick steadied my aim, but Uncle P was doing an awesome job once again of being filmed without offering me a clean shot.  He was headed right to his favorite tree, which the timber guys graciously saved after a slight bit of begging.  I knew if he got to it, it would put him at 80 yards and in the wide open.  I needed him to take just one step to put him in the open for a shot.  Right as he began to move, a squirrell started barking, stopping him in his tracks.  He threw his head up,  and after several minutes, he turned and began walking hard to the right.  Zach gave me the go ahead as he made his way to the middle of an opening.  I whistled and then made the "BAAAAHHH" sound that would ultimately grab his attention.  I took steady aim as I squeezed the trigger.  The shot was perfect as the thunder rolled out of the barrel.  The buck kicked so high it was amazing as he attempted to get away.  His head was low as he attempted to leave and a crashing in the tree tops assured me that we had just accomplished our goal that we thought was impossible.  I don't have to tell you how excited I got.  I went absolutely bizerk I tell ya!  It was just overwhelming to know that through a chance sighting while driving in, our whole game plan was totally changed.  We made a quick decision that totally changed the outcome of our hunt and it was just absolutely awesome to get the buck we were after.

      As always, I want to thank God for the opportunity to chase these bucks every year.  I want to thank my buddy Zach for spending his time in a tree capturing these memories.  He is like my caddy over there.  I bounce my ideas off of him and he gives me his opinion back.  We have a good time in the tree no doubt, and I appreciate that.  Thanks to my wife for just being awesome and supportive.  There's nothing better than taking the buck that you're after.    He ended up being the biggest bodied deer I've taken in my home state, weighing in at 227 pounds.  I can't wait to share the excitement that we had during the quest for Uncle Paw Paw.  I guarantee you won't want to miss this!

Doug Hampton 

   

Team Reconyx rolls on with another great hunt from Doug down in Arkansas!