SADDLE: Tethrd Mantis
LOCATION: West Virginia
I am not a great deer hunter. Heck, I’m not even a good deer hunter. There are, however, two traits that put meat in my freezer: Stubbornness and positivity. My wife, at times, loves to hate both of them.
After a very long season marred with the heartache of losing a good buck to a bad hit, and heart break from losing my best friend, an extremely loyal golden lab, I was ready for the season to end. However, I didn’t want the pressure of an unfilled tag sitting in my pocket. I took to the woods for the last time in 2018 with my sights set on a fat Ohio doe.
As I looked for a tree to set up in, I realized that I needed to climb high due to the lack of cover. I also discovered that the woods surrounding me were riddled with hang on stands placed at the 8ft high mark. I set up in an approximate 32 ft perch overlooking a minefield of old treestands and blinds.
Within 30 minutes, I began to hear the telltale sounds of a deer walking. The crunching leaves seemed louder than normal, as my eyes finally focused on the source. An old, withered, and wounded buck with a messed-up rack came limping in, eyeing up and breathing in the scent of every stand and blind along the way. He was unaware of my presence, as he pawed a scrape at the base of my tree. Over the course of his life, the buck had patterned the patrons of the multiple treestands but did not realize that tree saddles and the hunters that used them existed.
As he hobbled into my shooting lane, he presented me with a hard quartering away, 23-yard shot. My broadhead found the perfect mark and within 30 seconds the buck, previously injured and exhausted from the rut, lay motionless on the ground.
Within minutes, I was standing above this strange looking buck with a stranger feeling that I had not felt before. After five long years of hunting the Buckeye state, I had finally filled a buck tag. Without a positive outlook and being as stubborn as a long-faced mule, this incredible champion of the woods would have never crossed my path.