by Shelby Teel
My dad is not just my father or just my best friend. We have a special bond that I wish every father and daughter had together; we’re hunting buddies. We call ourselves Team Teel! Once I turned 10 our hunting adventures began; I could write a book about all of our hunting memories, but this story that I am about to tell you is, so far, the best memory we both have ever had. This is a hunting story about a father and daughter enjoying heaven on earth (our favorite Arizona hunting unit), and killing deer within minutes of each other during the 2014 January archery deer hunt.
The first four days of January, we hunted our butts off, with little luck. Every morning at sunrise we would be in our ground blind, sitting and waiting for a buck to come in until the sun went down. From our blind we could see a lot of action to the right of us, a Coues deer highway, but they would never get close to us. On the second day of our hunt, at around 11AM my dad excitedly said, “Get ready, it’s a whopper. Oh my gosh, he is the biggest Coues deer I have ever seen!” I knew it had to be a monster, I had never heard or seen him so excited. I was getting into position, but could not yet see the buck. I was shaking uncontrollably from just the thought of how huge this Coues deer had to be. Then, just like that, he was gone. After that, I started obsessing over this deer, I was not going to settle for less and I not even seen him. I could not stop thinking about him or talking about him, I even started having dreams about him.
Since all the deer kept coming in from the right of us, I finally told my dad that I wanted to be in a tree-stand closer to them. I could not stand the ground blind any longer and I felt that a tree-stand, closer to all the action would be more effective. I usually do not get a say in what we should or should not do, but I would not take no for an answer this time. My dad was skeptical about putting me in a climbing tree-stand by myself, since I had never used one before. He said that if he saw any uncertainty in me while climbing up the tree that I would not be allowed to do it. S,o I knew I had to be brave no matter how scared I was.
On the morning of January 5, the woods were not silent like usual. While I was climbing into the tree-stand there were already whitetail does coming in in all different directions; I was not able to sit. After about 30-minutes of standing, watching doe’s grazing and a few little bucks trying to be the stud of the ridge, the real stud finally came waltzing in. The adrenaline began to kick in and before it took over my body I calmed myself with some deep breaths and told myself “relax it’s just a deer.” But he was not just any deer, he was THE deer, the deer I had been waiting for my entire life. I knew that this moment was probably the only moment I would have with this deer, that it might be the biggest Coues whitetail buck I may ever see in my life. If I killed him or not, at least I got to see him with my own two eyes. He had walked in northwest of my tree-stand and from below the ridge; when I first saw him he was about 100-yards away. He started grazing in small circles and then his circles began to get bigger and bigger. With every circle he would get just a little bit closer. With every step he took closer to me, my heart would start racing faster and faster; then he would turn around and get farther from me; it felt like I was riding a roll coaster. On the last circle, he was beginning to get within shooting distance, he got to about 70-yards and I thought hard about shooting him, but my sights only go to 60-yards. I could not use my rangefinder without making too much movement. I thought, I should let him get in closer so I did not mess it up.
Now, he was coming straight to me, all I was thinking was “come on just a little closer,” as I started to mentally prepare myself and marking trees with my best guess as to what the yardages were. BOOM! It sounded like trees were falling and a herd of elephants running through the forest below the ridge and whatever it was, was coming straight for us. I looked back to where I last saw my deer, he was gone and out of sight. For a moment my heart broke in two, but since there was so much going on I was not paying attention to that. I followed the sound as it moved from the northwest to the southwest of my tree-stand and then I saw what was making all that ruckus. It came out in an opening about 200-yards from me; it was a mule deer buck and it was almost like it was on drugs. He was chasing after a mule deer doe, and I swear they were running 100MPH. Within seconds they were under my tree-stand and the doe stopped, her tongue was sticking out and she was breathing heavily, she was exhausted. When my dad grunted from in his ground blind, it set the buck off; he almost ran into the blind with my dad. The buck then walked out about 20-yards from my dad and I got to see my dad’s arrow stick through the buck’s lungs perfectly. The buck went about 80-yards and fell over. I wanted to scream with excitement for my dad; I was so happy for him!
Then the unexpected happened, I turned around to look at where I last saw my buck, and there he was, and he was close! My mind was racing; what I should do? I knew I had to hurry, I wasn’t sure if my dad was going to come out of the blind; the deer was in the open and was on high alert and I knew if I moved he would see me. The buck turned his head facing away from me so I slowly drew my bow back. He was standing perfectly broadside in the wide open. As I was putting my sights on him, my dad grunted, and he took a few steps behind a tree; then my mind was really racing! He was standing broadside to me and only about a half a foot of his left shoulder and a few inches of his neck was showing; with brush and fallen trees between us. I knew I had to make a quick decision, let down or shoot. I guessed him to be between 35–40-yards. I put him between my 30 and 40-yard pin, took a deep breath, and let my arrow fly. After I shot the adrenalin really kicked in, I was sure if I had hit him just because of how hard the shot was. Then a few minutes later, I saw him about 150-yards away and he was hurting; he could not walk on his right leg and kept putting his head down and then I could no longer see him. I wasn’t positive if I had gotten him good or if I had just wounded him in the leg.
A few minutes later my dad came out of the ground blind and walked over to my tree, and he said with confusion, “did I hear you shoot?” I said, “yes! But I’m not sure if I killed him or just wounded him, it was the buck we saw the other day!”
His eyes filled with excitement and he then walked out to where I shot the buck. He was amazed with my shot, but he seemed sad. I said, “what is it?!” He could not bring himself to tell me, and I was still in the tree-stand.
“Well, I found your arrow, it’s broken and there’s no blood”.
At that moment I knew I did not kill him but I still had hope.
For about 30 minutes me, the climbing treestand, and the tree were in a battle. I was already frustrated and getting stuck in a stinkin tree made me even more frustrated, but I finally made it down. We both then skipped with excitement to my dads mule deer. It was not the biggest mule deer he had ever shot, but he was not there to trophy hunt. He had 32 bobcat traps set out and was more focused on that and getting me a deer. We then gutted him, and decided we would pack him out first and then look for my buck. On our way out, I had half of my dads mule deer on my back and he had the other half. The whole time I could not stop talking about my buck and my shot, I kept asking my dad, “do you think he’s dead?” “I don’t know yet Shelby” and then the tears would start forming. I kept beating myself up, then getting excited thinking I killed him, then beating myself up again and so on, it was an emotional roll coaster! When we started heading back I could not get there fast enough and I had hiked that hike faster than I ever had before.
We got to the spot where I stuck the buck and then walked in about a 20 yrd circle and finally found some blood, I started jumping with excitement, but my dad did not look too excited. As we followed the blood trail more and more blood was found at each spot but then it would stop and then get strong again. The blood was going down a steep ridge, with our eyes stuck to the ground I finally decided to look around. “DAD, there he is!!!” We ran too him as fast as we could, we were then standing above him just staring at him, both speechless. And then I hear my dad yell as loud as he could, “YAAAAAAHOOOOOOOO!!!” We were jumping up and down, screaming and yelling! He then looked at me and said, “I am so proud of you”. Hearing those words come out of my dads mouth made my heart melt; this is why I hunt.
Hunting is not just about killing or getting a trophy; it’s about making memories with those that you love and really soaking in each and every moment. Sometimes we lose sight of that and get caught up in society. When in the woods, that is our moment to actually live; that is our moment to be free; that is our moment to make cherished memories. I hope one day every father and daughter could have this amazing bond with their dad, whether it is through hunting or something else. Thank you for reading and thank you Western Whitetail for letting me tell this story. WW