Whenever my dad hears about a place hosting a youth hunt, he always signs me up for it because we don't have our own land to hunt. We've never seen deer or turkey on the public hunting land by us, so I really rely on these hunts because I will have a better chance of getting something on their hunts. My dad heard about this event because I shoot Ohio S3DA archery for Archery World USA that is like 4 hours from where we live, and they posted the event. I wanted to enter this hunt event because my dad said it was a multiple day hunt and we would be camping in the clubhouse of the hunt club with some kids that I might know from archery. And I've never done a hunting trip like this and I thought it would be a really cool opportunity to meet kids that like to hunt and not just shoot archery.
Thursday right after school me and my dad left to go to the S3DA youth deer hunt. On the way we had to drive 2 hours out of the way so my dad could do a job, we got to the hotel late that night. In the morning my dad had to leave early to go do his job, so I was able to finally sleep in which I was happy to do. When he got back to the hotel after lunch I loaded my stuff up in the truck while he jumped in the shower and then we headed the rest of the way to the hunt wearing our camo clothes. We made it to Paint Creek Coonhunter's Club in Bainbridge Ohio with 2 1/2 hours left of hunting time. Heath McDonald from Young Guns Archery is the Ohio S3DA Conservation Outreach Coordinator, him and his wife Julie were running the hunt with Chester Akers who is a member of Paint Creek Coonhunter's Club and got them to give us permission to hold this hunt at their place. I had to qualify with my compound bow before I was allowed to use that instead of a crossbow. Even though they have seen me shoot at state and national events and already knew I could shoot, but they still had me do it anyways so that it was fair since everyone else had to do qualify too.
An hour into our hunt on Friday night we had a group of three does. One got 5 yards in front of me, but I was not able to take a shot because it kept walking right towards me the entire time and not turning broadside. I didn't want to take a risky shot to its neck and not be able to find it since the shot would not have been a kill shot. Before it turned at all so I could take a shot, a bigger deer about 40 yards back in thick stuff heard something, got scared and blew and that made the smaller deer that was really close to me run away. My dad told me he was very proud of me for not taking the shot even though he knew I wanted to take it because I have never got a deer with a compound bow before.
(Link to video is https://youtu.be/I0Og4izWXko but if you don't want to hear a 12 year old swear then don't watch it).
The rest of the night we did not see anything else. When we got back to the club house we set up our sleeping bags for the night. Me and my dad only brought sleeping bags and sleeping pads, and everyone else brought cots that my dad didn't think we needed. We really didn't end up needing a cot because of the sleeping pads, but next time I really want to use a cot too. That night I talked to one of the kids I knew from Archery World USA, and then started talking to the kids there I didn't know. Archery World USA brought us pizza from a local pizza restaurant and I had too many pieces and got a belly ache.
My dad said we weren't going to get up till 6:00, but people started getting up at 5:00. He let me sleep until 5:30 and when we got to our blind he let me take an hour nap and I liked that. At sun rise we heard one deer behind us, but I did not have a good clear shot at it because it was in thick brush and it was too dark to have a clear shot. But a shot with more light wouldn't of mattered because of all the brush in the way. The rest of the day we did not see any deer, but we heard lots of turkeys and a lot of chipmunks that I really wanted to shoot because they kept getting on my nerves making me think they were a deer. At lunch time we all went down to an Amish bakery and restaurant with everyone else, me and my dad both got pulled pork sandwiches on a pretzel bun and got some peanut butter desserts. I found out one of the kids shot a doe, they were going to track it after lunch. We went back out to our blind until sunset and didn't see any deer, but heard more turkeys and chipmunks. When we came back at dark I found out someone else got a 4 point buck and my friend tracked his doe. The kid that got the 4 point buck, it was his first time ever hunting. That night we had a fire and made smores which were really good.
Again on Sunday morning we woke up really early and we went to a different blind to hopefully have some better luck and my dad let me go to sleep again at the blind till sunrise. On our way out to the blind it was drizzling and we made it just in time before it started pouring. We did not end up seeing anything, heard a turkey a couple times that sounded close but we never saw it. When we went back at lunch, everyone said they didn't see anything either. Since it was still raining we all decided to not go back out, we helped clean up and then hit the road to go home.
I would really like to thank Heath, Julie, Chester, Paint Creek Coonhunter's Club, Archery World USA, Ohio S3DA and all those that helped out and made this hunt possible. I am sad that I didn't get a shot at a deer or turkey, but that is hunting. Overall I had a really fun weekend at the 1st Annual Ohio S3DA Youth Bow Hunt, and I was happy that there was other kids there to make this more fun. And I really liked the format of this hunt, and I really hope I get to do it again next year.
Originally published in the October 2020 edition of The Young Archers of BowJunky Media