Posted on 07 February 2013.
By Art Smith, auctioneer and hunter
This story you are about to read is true, the names have not been changed, as there are no innocents in the hunting world!
It all began in the fall of 2003 when I complained to my sweet wife that I had had enough of crawling up tree pegs and balancing on a little tie-on tree stand to bow hunt. I was just getting a little too decrepit to do all that climbing. So what a pleasant surprise to find a brand new double seat ladder stand sitting in the living room when I awoke on our anniversary. It was a well-built “Old Man” tree stand that would work out just right for this Old Man. I had a moose hunt booked that fall and would be leaving the last week of September and returning home after the October 1 opener for Michigan bow season. I thought it might be a good idea to put up my new double ladder stand before I left, that way it would be ready to go upon my return from the moose hunt. My son Noah and I put it together and laid it on a farm wagon and brought it out to the back of our little farm in northern Kent County, just on the edge of my food plot, next to the boarder of the Rogue River State Game Area. We trimmed up the limbs and ratcheted it down good with the straps that came with the stand. It was solid as a rock when I climbed up to test it out. “All set for when I come back from Newfoundland,” I hollered down to Noah. Seeing that it was on my own property, and the fact that it weighed nearly 80 pounds, I did not think it was necessary to lock it up, besides I didn’t have any cable to use, so I left for Newfoundland a day or so later looking forward to my return and my new ladder stand all set up and waiting for me to use.
We had a good hunt in Newfoundland, taking three bull, one cow moose and two caribou for the four of us. The first day we were home, my wife and I hosted a hayride for the kids from church. That night after dark, with a big wagon load of kids, we headed out the trail to the back of the farm. One of the parents was riding with me on the tractor and when we got back to the food plot I asked him if he would like to see my new ladder stand. Being a hunter himself he says, “Sure.” I had a big flashlight and said, “It’s right here in this big oak tree.”
Shining my light up the tree to show him the nice set-up for bow hunting I had put up, yep you guessed it—it was nowhere to be seen. Some low-life had lifted my new ladder stand and I never even had a chance to use it! I was so disgusted, I never even took my bow out of the case that year. In fact I had decided that it just was not worth the effort to go out any more with the bow.
Then the next year in January of 2004, my good friend Brian Braun of Braun & Helmer Auction Service out of Ann Arbor donated a 2-man free-range bow hunt on his farm in Washtenaw County to our fund raiser auction. We had been sharing photos of our hunts over the years at the Michigan State Auctioneers Association convention held each year. I had seen some of the monsters he and his dad had taken down there and I wanted one!
I had to have a new bow string put on my bow before the hunt in Oct. of 2004 and as usual I waited till a few days before we were to leave to take it in. In the process of having a new string put on, the archery pro had me pull back and then let up on the string many times to adjust the site and other things. The old Bear Polar LTD was and is a monster and by the time we had it all set my right shoulder was just about done for. I must have pulled the shoulder muscle bad, for after seeing two doctors, it took 3 months of therapy to relieve the pain. It didn’t matter on the hunt, as I never had a chance to draw the bow on a big one. I did pass up several smaller bucks and came home empty handed. I tried to pull back the bow every year since 2004 but just about half way to full draw I can feel the pulled muscle protesting and don’t have the courage to take it to full draw. Combined with the disappointment of the stolen ladder stand, I figured my bow hunting days were over and didn’t bow hunt again for 6 years.
Then when they legalized cross bow hunting for the general population, I thought I would like to get back into it again. Taking a trip to the Huntin Time Expo in Grand Rapids Michigan in January of 2010, one of the best hunting shows in the Midwest, I ran into Matt Poliski from Grand Valley Sporting Goods. They had a booth set up there and Matt helped me shoot my first cross bow right there at the show. I was impressed with his knowledge of archery equipment and especially the cross bow. Needless to say when it came time to purchase a cross bow, a trip out to Grand Valley Sporting Goods in Allendale was in order. Matt was there and showed me many different cross bows and I had the opportunity to shoot several of them in their state of the art bow range.
I settled on the 10-point model complete with crank up cocking mechanism as the pull up model really put a strain on my bad shoulder. Matt fixed me up with all the bells and whistles including the scope, hard case, bolts, field and hunting tips everything I would need.
The next year, January of 2011 at the MSAA convention I was able to once again outbid the competition and win the bow hunt with Brian again for that fall. Here is where the unbelievable story begins.
The first evening of the first day down at Brian’s in Washtenaw County I was able to take a nice buck. My first with my new 10 point cross bow. When I shot the buck and he ran off it was nearly evening and the bolt was stuck in the ground and I thought I had missed him. Then upon retrieving my bolt I saw it was blood from tip to fletching. I reloaded my crossbow I headed down over the hill and found him not more than 80 yards from where the Rage tipped bolt had blown right through him. He had expired when I found him so before taking photos and field dressing him I thought I better unload the cross bow. As many of you know, the proper way to unload the 10 point crossbow is to put a field tipped bolt in the bow and shoot it into a bow target. Not having a target out in the field I decided to unload it into the ground. Well, that was not very smart for when I shot the bolt into the ground it broke the bolt right in half. Well, that was going to cost me a new bolt, but being happy with my first cross bow kill I never gave it much thought.
We continued the hunt for another 2 days and my son Noah was able to take a nice 6-point so we came home 2 for 2 and very happy.
After we were home for a few days I went out and set up a ground blind on the edge of my food plot at the back of the farm, not 10 feet from the tree where the ladder stand was stolen 6 years earlier. The next night, about 4 p.m., I went out to bow hunt in the blind. Just as I got settled in the blind I looked out over the food plot, about 2 acres of alfalfa and clover, and I see an arrow sticking up out of the ground about 60 yards from where I was sitting in the blind. I could not see if it was leaning to the east or west so could not figure out where the hunter might have been when he shot the arrow, but being close to State Land there are quite often hunters in the area. I sat until almost dark, not seeing any action and when I got up to leave I remembered the arrow and wanted to pick it up, as I would not want to get it in the baler the next year when the hay was cut. Here is where the story gets interesting!
I walked into the food plot to recover the arrow and as I’m walking out to it I’m still wondering which way it is leaning, indicating which way the archer was when he shot. As I walked up to the arrow I see to my surprise it is absolutely straight up and down. I mean it must have come straight down from the ski. Then I reach down to pull it out of the ground and you won’t believe it but I swear it’s true. It’s the same brand cross bow bolt I broke down in Ann Arbor earlier that month with the same weight field tip on it! I stood out there in the middle of that hay field just at dusk and could not believe what I had discovered. Sometimes when things like this happen you just have to thank the good Lord for looking out for us and supplying our needs.
Good luck on the hunting trail and keep in touch.