Every time I embark on an adventure I can’t help but to think of all the trophies I will be able to bring home, either in the form of meat or a great story. One might believe that the physical trophy is what keeps us engaged and coming back. However, I would say each time I have an un-successful trip I learn something new and my lottery daydream grows even greater, giving me another chance to prove myself the next time around. This year so far I have been deer hunting with an amazing non profit organization called “The Fallen Outdoors” who looks out for veterans during and after their time in service by providing hunting and fishing excursions. I also had the opportunity to take 3 days off of work and school in order to target the prized El Toro Rojo (Bull Red Drum) with a close friend. Even though both trips resulted in a meatless salad for dinner, it did not keep me from wanting to drop everything and do it all over again the next day.
On October 6, I found myself deer hunting in Cumberland County N.C. This particular day I had my heart set on bagging a deer with a newly purchased Barnett Whitetail Hunter II crossbow. Being that it would be my first whitetail deer, it was hard not to get overly excited once the trail cam pictures started being passed around. After I was in the blind my excitement only intensified with each pop and crack of the surrounding forest life. When the hunt started the deer were still bedded down and taking their time to come our way. Only when we were down to the last 30 minutes of legal shooting light did a perfect freezer doe start to walk out. It seemed to be coming from behind us making its way to our right. Hearing the footsteps on the forest floor made it harder to tell the beat of my heart from the steps of the doe, then something strange happened. I heard a loud smack! Followed by one to two seconds of silence. Then it happened again, Smack! Silence. I had no earthly idea what was going on. The deer seemed to be coming closer and closer stomping its hoof every three or four steps. Just when it was about 15 yards to my right, it let out a screech-like sound that caught me off guard more than before. I look over to my partner sitting next to me in the blind and ask, “what’s going on?” he replied with, “it knows we are here, it just doesn’t know where we are.” Up until this point I have never heard of a deer being mad at a hunter for being in its area. Normally I have only seen deer act skittish and run away. I had to calm myself because my hands were shaking with excitement. She only needed to move 10 more feet to the left and it would have been right in our shooting lane. Sadly, we ran out of light before we could safely get a shot off. Even though we came home empty handed, I feel like I took home the best trophy of the day: the sense of excitement that will keep me coming back.
October 19, my friend Garrett and I were finishing up a three day fishing trip on the N.C. coast, bouncing around from Wrightsville Beach all the way up to Oak Island. On our final night there was an extremely large moon with just the right amount of chill in the air. So we decided to test our luck surf fishing in Carolina Beach for Red Drum. We primarily used the blue fish we caught from days prior as bait with medium/large sized circle hooks. About an hour into fishing, something hit my 12 foot surf rod hard. I ran over to see what it was and about the time I picked up the rod, the clamp on my leader gave way and the fish was free. Not wanting to have that happen again, I decided to tie up my own leader, removing any unnecessary equipment and strengthening the overall rig. Not more than 30 minutes from my first strike I got a second, this time it was much bigger. The rod bent over so fast that it pulled my sand spike out sending my gear straight into the dark abyss of the ocean. I knew I only had seconds before I lost my equipment. Sprinting towards the water I barely made it while it was being pulled into the surf. I picked up the rod and tightened the line making sure the hook was set before I started to reel in the monster fish. At this point I was already having issues with sand and salt jamming my drag. I couldn’t loosen it fast enough to let the fish run so I started chasing it down the beach fighting it the best I could on the 20 pound mono. After seven minutes of fighting, the line finally snapped and yet again another fish was free. You would think that I would be upset, however all I could think about was getting the reel fixed and putting the line back in the water. These kind of failures drive me to work even harder. Being that close pushes me to appreciate the thrill of fighting such a powerful animal. Just remember: Live, Learn, and grow. The real trophies are the memories we take with us.