CULLEN DOWNING, 25 – NEW HAMPSHIRE
SADDLE GEAR: Mantis Saddle, Bullman Ring of Steps, LoneWolf Sticks
It was the late summer of 2020 when I purchased my mantis saddle, and with the season fast approaching I was ambitious to get in it and start shooting. I practiced weekly taking multiple strong and weak side shots out of the saddle, and became very comfortable with its capabilities. I was ready!
In NH we have a very long archery season (September 15-Dec 15th). Which makes for a lot of really really good early season hunting. I had this piece that I knew from multiple years of turkey hunting that was loaded up with deer. I decided that I should sit there for my first hunt of the year, and I would go to a spot that I had a stand at the previous year (now removed). The first day I would be able to get in there was going to be the day of Sept 15th. They were forecasting Temps in the low 70’s with a slowing but steady NE wind. (Perfect to access this spot!)
I snuck down into the spot and got set up as quick as I could that day after work. No sooner than I got comfortable (and cooled down) I heard the infamous twig break followed by leaves crunching. I look up and to my right and I see a big, plump 1.5 yr old spike with (2) 7″ tines mulling around in the acorns. This deer was no more than 20 yards when I First saw him! He continued towards me and fed all the way to the base of my tree, right under my setup. I decided when I saw him he was not what I wanted to shoot on my first sit of the year, even being that I knew it could have been the only deer I’d see for a while being NH public land. Instead I took my phone out and got two awesome videos of this buck right under me 2 yards from the tree crunching acorns and smelling a scrape, just as good to me as shooting it with my bow!
When I went home that night my heart still raced at the thought of the encounter. I was hooked!! This saddle set up changed how I hunt, and I instantly saw results. Bearing this in mind it was time to get back to the grindstone and wrap my head around how I could hunt that spot again.
Here in NH we have bucks in bachelor groups for the first week of our archery season. Then they typically start to separate as they shed velvet. I had seen it multiple times before and had a good feeling this spike would still be in an area that held another buck that he was grouped up with (I have seen this more than once actually, one small buck and a big buck hanging out together frequently). I checked the forecast for the upcoming week and it was nothing but HOT, muggy weather that was unseasonably warm, and the wind was terrible. As the week went on, my opportunity for good weather was going to happen on Sept 25th. I was pumped! I took the variables created by the last hunt and I tried to find a day that best represented the encounter with the spike. Same wind, barro pressure, etc. This day was a hot one as well, 76° when I walked to my stand.
I was nervous to say the least, as I started to become more and more saturated in sweat as I hung my sticks. I pushed through the doubt and got up the tree and settled in for what would turn out to be my biggest deer by far (123lb last largest) and my first RACKED buck (only spikes so far in my hunting career). I sat in the tree, waiting, and looking for the better part of three hours, until the sun began to fade along with my hopes of seeing a deer. 10 minutes before the legal shooting light ended I caught movement up the stream about 80 yards away. It was a buck!
I grabbed my hoyt helix ultra and slung it up and over my tether and held position waiting for him to make a move. He took a trail that led him to what would be less than 7 yards from my tree! I reefed back on my bow barely getting it back, jammed in position between two 12″ diameter trees. After settling I proceeded to take my right foot off the Bullman ring of steps (my back was against my tether tree) and I put that right foot on the adjacent small tree for stabilization. As the buck slowly walked into an opening I squeezed off the shot. Track! Perfect shot, right in the pocket. Or at least I think!?
The buck runs back 20 yards into some thicket and I can barely see him now. He was scanning the woods. He took the first shot so well I thought I missed him! He started to walk slowly out of the thicket and right into an open 10 yard wide log road at 45 yards. At this point I had already nocked another arrow and I was settled in and took my second shot. The buck crashed 30 yards from my tree after that second shot and then silence fell.
Excited beyond words for my first Big buck I climbed down and grabbed my two arrows and slipped out of there and up to my truck about a half mile away. I packed out everything and headed home to gather some help and a sled to get him out of the clear cut.
We showed back up to the site at 1030pm and laid eyes on what would turn out to be a true NH trophy buck. (Double patch buck). This 8 pt buck was giant! Even with 4 others and the sled it took us almost 2 hrs to get him the short 350 yards to the truck.
The next day at the scales the buck tipped the needle to 210lbs! (Fully dressed). He is my biggest buck to date, and one heck of a fun experience! I am hooked on saddle hunting!
Thank you Tethrd team for your care and passion in your products.