Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The right place at the right time

Photo courtesy of CJ Winand
It was late September, bow season in Maryland, and it was pouring down rain. Ryley and I were cramped in a double bull blind with CJ Winand, father of Jesse Winand whom we had met at the Field and Stream photo shoot for the How to Raise a Wild Child article. CJ and Ryley hit it off and joked around all day long at the photo shoot. As we we leaving CJ kindly offered to take Ryley deer hunting the following season.

CJ and I kept up contact throughout the summer trying to work out a date that would fit CJ’s tight schedule. We had planned on an early September hunt  but subsequently had to reschedule because CJ received word that he had drawn a tag for brown bear in Alaska. It was then that I began to truly understand what an opportunity with which Ryley was being presented.

CJ is a very soft spoken, down to Earth, God fearing man. He also happens to write for Bowhunter Magazine and is a TV personality on Bowhunter TV, on the Sportsman Channel. It’s not every day that a kid gets offered a chance to go hunting with such an esteemed writer and outdoorsman. Ryley was super excited to see CJ again and even more excited at the prospect of shooting a deer for the first time with a crossbow.

Photo courtesy of CJ Winand
Drops of ice cold rain dripped down my back as we sat in the blind. It was a welcome relief from the oppressive heat building up inside the blind. We sat waiting patiently for deer, any deer, to show up. Occasionally we would whisper amongst each other about hunting stories (CJ mostly told those) or play a game of rock paper scissors. The sun started to go down, the witching hour was upon us. But, unfortunately the rain had kept the deer bedded down and Ryley left the blind empty handed.
CJ however was not one to call it quits. Actually the time spent in the blind only seemed to intensify CJ’s desire to get Ryley on a deer. Over the next few days we worked out the necessary details to hook back up with CJ for a second chance at a deer. We settled on a Thursday evening hunt at the beginning of October. CJ was guaranteeing Ryley a deer this time; when CJ makes a commitment like that he delivers.

Having learned our lesson from our previous hunt the plan was to meet CJ a little later in the afternoon and sneak into the blind closer to sunset. Now, let me just state right here that when CJ first offered to take Ryley hunting the setup we found ourselves in was not quite what I was expecting. We were about 2 miles from CJ’s house, jammed in a double bull blind, hunting beside an abandoned old ford bronco smack dab in the middle of “suburbia”. In hindsight the uniqueness of this hunt, coupled with CJ’s passion for getting Ryley a deer, made this one of the most memorable hunts I have even been on.

CJ’s daughter, Jesse, had been there the previous day laying out apples in front of the blind. When we arrived, CJ quickly showed Ryley the area which he thought the deer would be coming from. As we sat in the blind we quickly settled in to our rhythm from the previous hunt; rock paper scissors. Within a matter of minutes our game was interrupted by the sight of two deer coming from our right, nowhere near where we thought they would be approaching from. It looked like a small doe and a spike were headed our way. They began making their way towards the blind and pile of apples when they froze, snorting and sniffing the air. Luckily for us the draw of the apples overcame any reservations they had about coming our way. We sat there motionless for what seemed like forever watching them nibble the apples waiting for the optimal shot to present itself to Ryley. And then as quickly as this hunt started we had a deer down. The grin on Ryley’s face says it all.

Ryley gave this hunt "two thumbs up"
After a few minutes we headed out to track down Ryley’s deer and while doing so received an informative lesson on why deer sometimes run in a wide circle after they are shot. When a deer is shot through the heart, the heart keeps pumping but doesn’t deliver any blood to the brain. Subsequently the deer becomes lightheaded and ends up travelling in a circle to find themselves piled up literally 20 yards from where they were shot, but from the opposite direction. And so it was with Ryley’s spike.

Photo courtesy of CJ Winand
What followed was a crash course by CJ of how to take great “grip and grin” trophy pic; shoot from below, make sure you have adequate light, clean the blood off the deer. Back into the blind we went to wait and see if anymore deer would show up before the night was over. As it so happens a few more deer did show up. There was a very light colored deer, which we initially mistook for a doe, which stood mere feet from us eating for about 15 minutes. Lucky for him we could just see the nubs protruding from the top of the button bucks head. As dusk started to settle in even more deer presented themselves, one a big body buck, but they were all about 60 yards away in the dwindling light and none of us felt that Ryley could make a safe ethical shot on any of them.

The lucky button buck.
We quickly gutted the deer and headed back to CJ's house. He had something else in store for Ryley besides a nice spike and some awesome grip and grin photos. Once back at CJ's house he presented Ryley with a Rinehart woodland buck 3-D target to commemorate the hunt. CJ is truly a class act!

Ryley with his Rinehart, the second buck of the night.
As it is with most things in life it boils down to the right place at the right time. This was doubly true for Ryley; he was at the right place and right time to meet CJ Winand and he was finally in the right place at the right time to take his first crossbow buck. And for the second time in six months Ryley found himself gracing the pages of Field & Stream again, this time their webpage...

Ryley with his buck and CJ Winand.
About a month after this picture was taken Ryley would be smiling big again. But that's a fish story for another day. Until then keep taking your kids outdoors...

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