It was during mid-November 2009 that I returned to visit family and friends with a portable treestand and bow in my truck.
In the 1950s, seeing deer on our family's West Virginia farm was a major event. Today, seeing deer there has become commonplace.
GROWING UP IN THE HILLS and valleys of northern West Virginia, I was a typical farmboy, putting up hay, building fences, feeding livestock, and milking cows. Through my father's encouragement, I soon began to explore the creeks, fields, and woods of our 200-acre farm. Frequent small-game observations became an exciting and important part of my young life.
Stories of whitetail deer encounters my father told me, along with hunting articles in outdoor magazines, began to interest me greatly. When I was in elementary school in the 1950s, whitetail deer were essentially nonexistent in our region of West Virginia, and I began to dream of the day when I would actually see my first deer.
My father would often take my brother, me, and several of our beagles on weekend walks along our farm's wooded ridges to look for signs of wildlife, to plant new young trees, and generally just to enjoy being in the outdoors. It was on one such trip on a ridge very near the family cemetery that my father walked over to examine a young hemlock tree. He called my brother and me over and explained to us the meaning of the first buck rub we had ever seen. The young sapling had been shredded to the point that it glowed in the daylight. I remember my amazement that a deer, let alone a buck, had been at this very spot, when I had yet to see my first deer. I told every family member and friend about the buck rub.
Over the ensuing school years, I continued to spend most of my free time in the outdoors and began to trap muskrats, hunt squirrels and rabbits, and always to look for deer sign. It was in the 1960s that I saw my first deer on our farm; my father pointed out three deer feeding on a snowy hillside several hundred yards from our farmhouse. I was elated, and again I told everyone of the sighting.
This hemlock bore the very first buck rub I had ever seen. Fifty years later, it held the stand from which I killed a doe.
DURING THE REMAINING YEARS of the 20th Century, the love of the outdoors and hunting became even more important in my life, and I have now taken many deer with bow, rifle, and muzzleloader. However, it was a recent experience that made me reflect on our family farm and that first buck rub. The farm now hosts a healthy deer population, and my brother's boys and grandsons regularly harvest nice bucks there. However, the buck-to-doe ratio is much lower than desirable, and over the past several years I have returned often to visit family, hunt does with my bow, and reminisce of my childhood outdoor experiences.
It was during mid-November 2009 that I returned to visit family and friends with a portable treestand and bow in my truck. I found a tree on a wooded ridge with good cover, hung my stand, and settled in for the morning hunt.
It was a wonderful, mild morning, and the rising sun glowing across the West Virginia ridges and valleys made the scene even more beautiful than normal. To top it off, several does and yearlings began browsing nearby, and soon I'd arrowed a nice adult doe.
Prior to leaving the tree and dressing the downed doe, I looked over the beautiful ridge and the family cemetery a scant 75 yards away. It was then that it hit me! The hemlock tree where I was now perched was likely the same tree that bore the first buck rub I'd ever witnessed back in the 1950s.
I sat in the treestand for several more minutes while many wonderful memories swirled in my head. The past 50 years have produced countless special hunting memories for me, but none more special than this one!