Won Deer Hunt in Montana

My phone rang. I answered. “You’re our Grand Prize Winner,” said the voice on the other side. Yeah right! Good try, fellas, but I’m not biting. It was not until the next day when Dale Karch of 3Rivers Archery in Indiana gave me the details, that I was convinced I had won the 3Rivers Archery 2005 Customer Appreciation Giveaway.


In 2003 I took the family to our local Wild Game Dinner and exhibition. My competitive pistol group was exhibiting our discipline, and I was obligated. Other disciplines also provided exhibitions, one of which was the Traditional Archery group. My kids LOVED trying traditional archery.

And just like that, I was off to get the family outfitted with traditional archery equipment. Knowing less than humanly possible about archery, I reached out to 3Rivers Archery in Indiana for help. Hearing how excited my kids were and that I was a newbie, Todd at 3Rivers picked the perfect setups for the four of us and shipped them off to our Florida home.

Tons of practice, a little money, and several state and local 3D Traditional Archery competitions later, we found ourselves at the 2004 North Carolina State 3D Competition, where our children were top finishers. The wife and I were not. It was a fantastic eighteen months of traditional archery with the family.

Unfortunately, we did not shoot very often after that summer, and the bows started gathering dust. We would bring them out occasionally for fun on our backyard 20-yard range, but no more competitions.


Montana 2005 at Archery Outfitters with Dale Karch of 3Rivers Archery. 3Rivers sponsored my week-long hunt as I was their Grand Prize Winner of their 2005 Customer Appreciation Give-Away.

Montana 2005 at Archery Outfitters with Dale Karch of 3Rivers Archery. 3Rivers sponsored my week-long hunt as I was their Grand Prize Winner of their 2005 Customer Appreciation Giveaway.
Sometime later…my phone rang with the news that I had won. I was in trouble! I’d never hunted with a bow. If it was not made of Styrofoam and part of a 3D shoot, I had not shot an arrow at it.

In preparation for the hunt, I contacted Nickie Roth, the owner of Archery Outfitters and the Montana hunting property included in the prize. Ironically, Nickie lives in Florida, about 10 miles from me. He assured me that my 3D training would stand me in good stead for the hunt but that a more proper hunting bow would be needed.

I reached out to Dale at 3Rivers and requested his best bow and to outfit me with whatever was needed. His recommended bow had to be custom-made, which takes time. I received my custom “Tomahawk Diamond “SS” Takedown” about one month before the hunt. WHAT A BOW!! I went from hitting 7/12 at 25 yards to 12/12 at 40 yards just from an equipment upgrade!


My first deer with a longbow!
I took this 9-point Whitetail at Archery Outfitters’ Montana property on October 8, 2005. A 27-yard shot with my Tomahawk Diamond Take-down “SS” longbow and a Carbon Express 150 arrow tipped with a Wensel Woodsman broadhead. The arrow passed through this magnificent buck so fast he wasn’t sure what happened. He ran about 75 yards to the field gate where he finally fell. It was the last opportunity of a week-long hunt which was sponsored by 3Rivers Archery.

I took this 9-point Whitetail at Archery Outfitters’ Montana property on October 8, 2005. A 27-yard shot with my Tomahawk Diamond Take-down “SS” longbow and a Carbon Express 150 arrow tipped with a Wensel Woodsman broadhead. The arrow passed through this magnificent buck so fast he wasn’t sure what had happened. He ran about 75 yards to the field gate, where he finally fell. It was the last opportunity of a week-long hunt that 3Rivers Archery sponsored.

I arrived at the Montana hunt camp very early Sunday morning and met Dale for the first time. I asked Dale to sign my bow as it was his design and a great memory. Dale said, “You’ve got to get blood on it first”; it sounded fair to me.

We went into town to pick up a couple of Mainers (guys from Maine) who would be hunting with us for the week. They were compound shooters who loved ScentLock and were a great couple of guys. I was surprised at how supportive everyone was when they learned it was my first time in the woods with a bow.

After a hearty breakfast and listening to the table talk about the abundance of 10 and 12-pointers on the property, I was confident that I should have a chance to harvest something. My plan was to get my buck in the first couple of days, get two gobblers in the middle of the week, a doe at the end of the week, and finish off the trip with a couple of pheasants on Saturday when pheasant season opened…all with my longbow. I was confident.


After breakfast and some shooting practice, we all went to our assigned portions of the enormous property for our first day’s hunt. That evening at dinner, when I told everyone I had let a 4-pointer go by, all conversation stopped! “WHAT? This is your first deer hunt with a bow! You should take a shot at anything with antlers that is in range!” The whole table was staring at me in disbelief. How could I let a buck go by without taking a shot?

After I missed a 6-pointer the next day, Monday, and never got a good shooting lane on an 8-pointer on Tuesday, I figured Wednesday must bring me a nice 10-pointer. Well, the 10-pointer never showed up on Wednesday or Thursday. I saw a HUGE number of does and fawns but never got close enough to a buck. Five of my seven hunting days were gone. So much for my grand plan.

Friday nothing. Six days down, one day left.

I figured my hunting trip was pretty much over and said as much to Dale on Friday night. His response caught me a little off guard, “It all can change in 5 minutes or less. Let me sign your bow.” Dale signed my bow, and I promised to hunt it exclusively until I “got blood on it.”

I got up before sunrise on Saturday and put on the ghillie suit I had bought off Dale’s back the night before. I set up on the ground at the cow pen, and the deer came right by me. I’m talking about 40-plus deer walking right by me! Just does and fawns, except for the HUGE 12-pointer standing at the top of a slight rise and watching the activity. He came off the rise in a flash and stopped about 45 yards from me. I drew my longbow back when he turned his head and, THWAP! Perfect shot! My arrow sailed directly toward his chest and went right under it. He looked at the arrow, looked up, and was off. That’s when I knew my hunt was over. All those deer and such a massive buck on my last morning with a miss. It just sucked out what optimism I had left.

I went back to the cabin for another of Connie’s wonderful breakfasts and reflected on all I had learned that week. Everyone misses, no matter how many deer or how good the hunting location is. That was the big lesson. I had only thrown three arrows at deer all week. I had missed everyone. During the downtime, when Dale and I practiced, he coached me. The big message was to be consistent with my anchor point and make it as close to my eye as possible, but be consistent. Tim and Reggie, the Mainers, also provided great insight. Tim’s big message was, “get out there.” Kevin and Connie were also excellent sources of learning. Their big message was, “not everyone gets a trophy, but you should at least try.”

It was the last day of the week-long hunt. I had finished breakfast and was lamenting not harvesting anything. When I spoke with my wife that morning, she said, “Don’t come home upset. Please come home with something but don’t be upset if you don’t. Just enjoy it.”

Taking the advice of those around me, I asked Kevin to take me back to where I had seen the 4-pointer on the first day of the hunt. As I got out of the truck, his last words were, “make sure it’s got horns.”

Twenty minutes later, two does came within 10 yards of me and bedded down. It was about 11:00 am. I can only be entirely still for so long. After about an hour, I HAD to move. My little movement was enough for them to get up, look around, and then progress deeper into the woods.

After about two more hours, I saw a few deer passing from the woods into the Sugar Beet fields about 100 yards away. There was a nice buck with them. “DANG IT! Out of range AGAIN!” I decided to use the stalking skills that Dale taught me. I got about halfway to where I was going to conceal myself when all the deer in the field tore off into the woods. I turned up and was face to face with a large doe about 50 yards away. I was stuck. What to do now? If I continued to move to my chosen concealment spot, she would alarm any deer I had not yet run off. Any deer that come back out will be well out of range if I go back. What to do?

Discouraged and beaten. I turned back. I figured I would sit there and count how many deer passed by out of range. I was holding my bow with an arrow nocked as Dale had made it clear that you should always be armed and ready when in the woods “in case a stupid deer walks by.” A large doe came out of the deep woods and approached me at about 30 yards, then a second one, then a fawn. They stopped and looked around, then started coming toward me. YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!

That’s when I saw the buck about 20 yards behind them. He stopped just before getting within range, typical of my whole week.


Even though he was just outside my comfort range, I drew down on him. After holding it at the ready for about 30 seconds, hoping he would take a few steps forward, my arm started shaking. Note: There is no let-off on a longbow, and 58 pounds of constant pressure starts to add up.

About 5 yards was covered in three large steps forward by the buck, then he hesitated. I loosed the arrow aiming at his shoulder. The buck heard my bowstring and lurched forward. “CRACK-POP!” A gush of red showed up on the buck’s hindquarters.

The buck tore off right by me, running in the opposite direction of the shot. I watched him run until he was hidden from view. I waited for a little while, then looked for my arrow, expecting it to be stuck in a log as the sound of the “CRACK-POP” was the same as when stump shooting. I found my arrow in the dirt, covered completely red. Hmm… I stuck the arrow in the ground where it fell and walked back to the cabin in the opposite direction that the buck had fled.

Kevin, Connie, and Tim were surprised to see me back at the cabin before dark. Kevin asked, “You alright? You get one”?

“I hit a buck, but I’m not sure it was a good hit. I was aiming at his heart but hit his hindquarter. My arrow was covered in red.”

“Well, let’s go take a look.”

Tim, who had harvested a Pope and Young 150 class buck earlier in the week, drove me down to the field in the small white 4×4 stick-shift beater pickup with Kevin and Connie right behind in the nice truck. We stopped at the field gate so we could more easily walk along the fence line to my arrow. Just then, Kevin said, “Here’s your deer.”

There he lay, about 75 yards from where my arrow passed through him, a magnificent 9-pointer. I had cut his femoral artery with my Wensel Woodsman broadhead-tipped Carbon Express arrow. We collected my arrow and calculated that the shot was about 27 yards.

I took the wound blood and dabbed a dot on the riser of my bow. Now, there’s blood on my bow, Dale. I was pleased.


Kevin dressed the deer, and I took the back-straps (tenderloins) and donated the rest to Hunters for Humanity.

I cut the tenderloins into 2.5″ filets and seared them in the freshly rendered fat from my homemade bacon. 2 minutes on each side.

They were excellent! So much so that when my wife walked by and said, “is that Bambi” in front of my children, who were mid-bite, stopped eating, thought for a couple of seconds, then went on to finish and ask for more. No salt, by the way.


Upon calling my family to share my news, my 9-year-old son asked when I had harvested the buck. “Around 3:00 pm”, I told him. “Wow! That’s before we prayed for you to get a deer, Dad.” “What time did you pray?” I asked. “About five,” he responded. He didn’t know that the time differential between us was two hours. Kind of makes you think.