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An entire season’s worth of deer hunting without notching a tag had come down to the last hour of the last day for John. His last stand would take place in Texas.

It had been a hard year for John logging countless hours waiting, watching, but never shooting a mature buck. In fact, it was the hardest season he could recall, but not without its highpoints. Wife Suzie stuck a Texas trophy. His daughter Macie killed the biggest buck of her life. Son (and faithful camera man) Jacob also harvested a great buck. All the bowhunting O’Dell’s had killed…except John.

The Texas rut seemed to linger later in the season, making the bucks harder to pattern. John hung a network of Reconyx trail cameras and found the wide nine that he’d gotten images of back before the rut. The deer had seemingly disappeared until the last week of season and was finally showing up in daylight at least once a day in the sendero to browse on fresh growth foliage.

John slipped into his Muddy blind around 3:00 pm on the last day of the season. As he sat, he wondered if his year would actually close without him killing a deer. That prospect looked more and more likely as the sun continued to sink toward the horizon. With long shadows on the ground at 5:00 pm, his target buck appeared to his left. The deer browsed within bow range but behind brush for 15 minutes. As he stepped into a shooting lane, John confirmed his yardage with the Leupold range finder.

22 yards.

Finally able to come to full draw, John drew back on his PSE Carbon Air and settled into the peep with his 20 yard pin floating just behind the buck’s shoulder. In an instant, the arrow released, driving a Rage Trypan through both lungs. The buck headed for the thick brush as John breathed a sigh of relief that he had finally arrowed a mature deer with almost no time left in his season.

The generous blood trail began to dissipate into impossibly thick brush and with daylight gone; John decided to come back in the morning to complete the recovery. His season-redeeming buck lay at the end of a 100 yard blood trail the next day.

Hunters are eternal optimists. We know that as long as we’re in the field, there’s always a chance. John’s story reaffirms our drive to keep at it.

As told to Tim Kjellesvik.