Gary Clark lives in Emporium. Whenever I look at those narrow valleys and very steep, tall, hillsides I always shudder. I’d hate to climb those sharply pitched inclines, fighting ever upward to reach the far off ridgetop. The area isn’t easy to hunt and I’m certain many of the steeper, harder to reach side hills haven’t seen a hunter for years and years. To me, its intimidating terrain and I’ve never felt the slightest urge to hunt there.
However, Gary has lived among those hills all his life. Even at the age of 78 he retains his long, lean physique and remains in excellent shape. His love of hunting is as strong as ever. He hunts everyday possible during turkey and deer seasons no matter how discouraging the season may be. He possesses to an astonishing degree the 3 “P’s”; patience, persistence and perseverance. Though the meanings of these words overlap to some degree, together they represent what it takes to be consistently successful year after year in the face of often overwhelming discouragement.
Gary knows those hills well. This archery season he scouted hard and walked miles. What he saw, or perhaps didn’t see was discouraging. The deer population is low, the Game Commission constantly issuing too many antlerless tags and turning a deaf ear to the hunter’s pleas to increase the deer herd. It’s discouraging, but deer there are, though thinly spread on the ground.
During his preseason scouting, Gary saw little deer sign in the woods or on his trail cameras. With so little sign it’s difficult to pick a location to place your stand. So, with nothing definite to go on he decided to hunt the oak stands. This year there was a bumper crop of acorns. The only problem was there were so many acorns the deer weren’t concentrated in any one area. Still, with no other information to go on, he felt this was his best opportunity.
Archery began on Oct. 5 and Gary hunted hard. He saw very few does and absolutely no bucks. But, unless you’re in your stand hunting, you can’t bag a deer. Gary never faltered, hunting every opportunity. But, with the rut rapidly approaching he knew it was critical to continue scouting different locations.
His dedication finally paid off the third week of the season. Near a thick stand of Scotch Pines a nice buck showed up on his trail camera. Within a day or two a scrape and then several buck rubs appeared as well. Finally, Gary had an active deer located. Maybe his luck would turn, at the very least he knew a nice buck was in the area and this gave him some hope. After sitting hour after hour, day after day in the weeks preceding a little hope can be a big encouragement to a persevering hunter.
With the rut approaching even the weather finally decided to cooperate. October’s balmy temperatures suddenly dropped the fourth week and the cooler temperatures further stimulated buck activity.
Dressing in heavier clothing now, Gary headed out for yet another hunt. After four weeks of failure he still remained optimistic. You simply hunted as hard as possible for as long as possible and hoped for the best.
He shouldered his Summit Viper climbing tree stand and grabbed his Horton crossbow. After some very bad experiences with other broad heads, Gary was using Rage, 2-inch plus mechanical heads. There’s a reason the best hunters on TV use Rage, they’re simply the best, especially on a borderline hit.
The deer were using a faint trail to enter the pines and Gary picked a tree he felt offered the best opportunity for a shot. Then, at 4:30 he began waiting patiently once again. After an hour Gary picked up his doe bleat and called twice in a 30 second time span.
He’d barely set the call down when a flash of motion caught his eye above him. He grabbed his bow and saw, to his astonishment, a big racked buck trotting in. After a month of not seeing even a spike the sight of this trophy was almost too much. His heart hammered, tiny electric shocks shot through his body and he gulped at the suddenness of the encounter. All that waiting and now a buck was trotting toward him! Was this really happening?
While the buck was moving and still at some distance he got the bow up and tried to compose himself for a possible shot. Man, things happen unexpectedly and extremely quickly! He was suddenly aware of being intensely alive, anxiously alert, every sense razor sharp, every nerve tingling.
The buck circled to his right and continued circling until it was directly below him and only 25 yards away. He stopped and Gary aimed carefully and deliberately. He squeezed the trigger and the arrow flew true. The buck turned, trotted less than 30 yards, and collapsed.
When Gary reached his trophy he couldn’t believe his eyes. The wide, heavy horned trophy had 15 points! Incredible, unbelievable, had this really happened?
Gary gave a sincere prayer of thanks to Him who made and gave such a magnificent gift.
Congratulations Gary, that’s a deer of a lifetime and I can’t think of any other gentleman who deserved it more.