JOSH MORGAN, 40 – WYOMING
SADDLE GEAR: Phantom Saddle
I started the research on saddle hunting about the same time I picked up my first stickbow. The attributes of the tree saddle seemed to reflect the traditional form of archery. The recurve I was shooting made me feel light and maneuverable, something I was looking for in the tools for my pursuit of whitetail. The Phantom from Tethrd had just been released, and the features checked all the boxes on my list. A few clicks of the mouse had a box from Minnesota on the way.
Evening routine was repetitive in the late months of summer – punch the clock at work, home for dinner with the family, then shoot until my arms were too tired to pull the string. The arrow groups started to tighten as the evening sun faded at a quicker pace behind the mountains to my West. Fall was approaching. Training now included new elements – climbing sticks, lineman’s belts, tree tether and ascenders. A few short sessions had my confidence and comfort level rising. Halloween had ended, November had begun, and I just needed a small excuse to hit the woods.
It was the morning of November 6th, and unseasonably warm temperatures had brought deer movement to a screeching halt. Winds were from the southeast, which was another strike against me since I had scouted for trees with the prevailing northwest wind in mind. As the afternoon approached, a high overcast shaded the thermometer just enough to persuade my decision.
52 degrees is far from ideal for rutting whitetails, but my choice was influenced by the preparation of the previous months. The woods have a different feeling when your boots crunch fallen leaves in the long shadows of the afternoon. Bow in hand, I slipped as quietly as I could through the thick brush of the Wyoming creek bottom. Two muddy trails crossed in a small opening. They formed a perfect “X” in the grass, marking the spot for the evening. The bridge of my saddle locked into the carabiner of my tether. With a quick pull on the tag end, my Ropeman ascender tightened the slack and locked me in safely. I pulled my bow up with a paracord haul line. The arrow was nocked and I was ready.
Your mind transforms slowly as you settle into what nature has to offer. Blood starts to pump quickly when you hear the sound of a deer’s hooves through the crispy grass. A small forked horn appeared to my left, and a three point was following. If the three point were to offer a high percentage shot, it would be difficult to dismiss the chance. I’ve passed on opportunities, and the season grew long and motionless. My mind went through the shot sequence. Pick a spot, hit your anchor, follow through. Branches cracked as they whipped together from the force of movement pushing them in opposite directions. My attention was diverted, something was approaching from the willows to the north.
I waited as motionless as possible while the steps were becoming louder. I started to see movement as his head appeared. I never counted the points, never focused on the rack. I just needed a clear path to the crease behind that front leg. Pick a spot, hit your anchor, follow through. The opening I was hoping for revealed itself. With one fluid motion the string touched the corner of my mouth, followed by a dull “thud” from the wooden limbs. The faint whisper of fletching faded, the white nock magically appeared at my focal point.