Summer Exotic Showdown
October 3, 2019
Mike Reeber (4 articles)
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Summer Exotic Showdown

Summer is when most of us kick back, relax and mentally prepare for the deer season that is rapidly approaching. We shoot our bows, sight in our rifles and find new excuses to own the latest and greatest gadget that we think will increase our odds this fall. Though you can usually sort me within this bunch, this summer was different. For the last four months I’ve been on a bucket list mission —  to successfully take an exotic with my bow. As Texans, we’re truly blessed to live in a state where we have so many year-round hunting opportunities, especially to bridge the gap from spring turkey to deer season.

The set-up

The weather this summer has been one for the record books, hasn’t it? As I started my quest for an exotic I told myself that battling the elements was part of this challenge. My mantra: “Keep your head held high, your water bottles filled and you’ll be fine.”

I scouted and set-up three spots to have options depending on the weather and travel patterns. Though they were on the very same ranch, each was completely different from the other:

  • A treestand perched 15 feet up in a Live Oak
  • A ground blind just off a field in some thickets 
  • The Rhino Blind right off a water hole which was covered in hoof prints. 

And, because I’m obsessed with knowing what’s going on when I’m not in my stand, each of these spots had a Bushnell Trophy Cam hooked up for 24/7 monitoring.

The hurry up and wait… for an almost

The first few hunts were hot. The movement? Less so.  Between the moon phase and the increasing temperatures, I didn’t even see so much as a rabbit. I wanted to give each spot a really good chance before up and moving. But, is there really ever a magical number for how long you should stay in one spot? Over the course of those couple of months, I spent 34 hours in my hang-on treestand, anxiously awaiting a big Axis or Scimitar to step out. (Yes, I counted.)

“I took a seat and a deep breath and reminded myself this is why we hunt — the excitement of the chase.”

As the sun began to break through the clouds one morning, I watched a small group of rams feed toward me from below. Though they weren’t my target, they were at least something to watch. Suddenly, I heard a few rocks move from behind my stand. I resisted the temptation to turn around, and stayed focused on the rams ahead of me. I didn’t want to get busted moving. 

I waited for whatever it was to walk out in front of me, but nothing came, so I slowly turned to look.  I caught a glimpse of an absolute monster Axis behind my tree at 17 yards. He saw the rams, the rams saw him and they all walked away from one another, leaving me literally in the middle and heartbroken. As I shook my head in total disbelief trying to understand what just happened, I took a seat and a deep breath and reminded myself this is why we hunt — the excitement of the chase. Sure, the failed encounters sting, but I guess they make the successes worth it.

As the calendar flipped to June and as June turned into July, I never did see that Axis again and my hopes began to sink. Each hunt was hot and dry, and I grew increasingly more frustrated that I couldn’t pinpoint where and when these animals were moving. Nevertheless, I pushed on hunting every chance I could and continued to watch the cameras daily.

This could be it

One Friday evening as I pulled onto the ranch, I spotted a small group of Scimitar grazing in a field, working toward a patch of brush off to the east. Wearing shorts, boat shoes and a pearl snap shirt, I threw the truck in park and grabbed my bow from the backseat. As I took off into the brush to see if I could finally get a shot at one I recall thinking, “this is going to be perfect.” The wind was just right, the terrain was that good South Texas dirt that suppresses noise and they were starting to feed in my direction. As I crept into position through the brush, I realized that I only had about 20 minutes of light left. The Scimitar grazed and I spotted a great one in the group that I put my focus toward. Over the next 15 minutes, I made up some ground between myself and them with the hopes that they would keep moving in my direction. But as light started to fade, I found myself with too much space between us. I decided to make a bold move out into the open and see what the yardage would be as a last ditch effort.

“My heart rate picked up from where it left off the last time.”

I stepped out from behind a mesquite tree, drew back my Mathews and hit the range button on my Oracle. It instantly registered 92 yards and my heart sank. I thought it was so much closer — so much for my depth perception. The Oracle’s exact yardage made my decision to not shoot an easy one. I don’t normally practice at that distance and for me, taking a shot at an uncomfortable distance is unethical. So I drew down and headed back toward the truck for the evening.

The big moment getting the Scimitar

By the fourth month of my wait for an exotic, I was exhausted. Summer weather is unforgiving, and it takes every ounce of focus and energy from your body. It’s tempting to sit out a hunt and crack open a beer at camp, but all it takes to be successful is that one hunt. So, I trekked on.

One morning I finally caught up with that very same group of Scimitar I’d seen a few weeks prior. They pushed out from the brush and were walking directly toward my Rhino Blind, grazing along the way. I readied my bow and talked myself through what needed to happen once they were within shooting range. Suddenly, they switched directions, and started to walk off as if something spooked them. I was dumbfounded. It couldn’t have possibly been me, right? As I looked around for the next couple of seconds, I heard an engine running off in the distance. I packed up shop and headed home to refill my caffeine and lick my wounds.

With me on this particular ranch trip was my wife, Bri, and our good friend Amy. The girls had decided to join me this weekend to enjoy a peaceful weekend in the country. I, on the other hand, was still obsessed with trying to send an arrow in the direction of the Scimitar from my morning hunt. As the evening skies began to arrive, I got into my truck and set out to the same blind. It was no less than 104 degrees hot. But there I was, jug of water in hand, sweating it out like Richard Simmons in an 80’s workout video.

“Nerves going full blast with my eyes wide open, I squeezed my release.”

Some clouds rolled in which eased the feeling of a broiler that I was just getting used to. As I stared off across the field, I heard a grunt off in the distance. One by one, the Scimitar rounded the corner and entered the field from the same spot they’d so abruptly exited earlier in the day. My heart rate picked up from where it left off the last time. The small herd began to close the distance, and eventually walked within 50 yards of my location. After finding the one I had my eye on since a few weeks prior, I waited for the others to clear from behind it and began to ready myself.

As I drew my bow back, the animals spooked, but not from me.  A Gemsbok came barging out of the brush. I drew back down. They settled back in, and I drew back my bow once again. Since I was using the Burris Oracle, I didn’t have to fumble with a separate rangefinder. I could stay entirely focused on my shot. Looking through the peep, I pressed the range button and it lit up “32.” Nerves going full blast with my eyes wide open, I squeezed my release.

For me, watching an arrow fly through the air is magic. It’s like the volume of the world goes down to zero, and everything happens in slow motion. I watched the arrow hit its mark and disappear into the hide. The volume came back on as the Scimitar burst out of the field. I watched in sheer excitement as the one I had aimed for went a different direction into the brush.

Soon after recovering my animal 30 yards from where I found my arrow, my good friend Gage joined me in the field to celebrate, take photos and help me load the animal out. What started as a fired up season four months prior with a newly tuned bow and sight led to a successful hunt for a 41-inch Scimitar.

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Mike Reeber

Mike Reeber

Mike Reeber's passion for the outdoors started over two decades ago in the hardwoods of northern New York state. At age 8, he began hunting Whitetail's and turkey every chance that he could. Not long after harvesting his first deer, he took up an interest in archery and spent most of his time bow hunting during the fall season from then on. Mike's obsession with bow hunting has stayed with him to this day and he enjoys every opportunity to keep engaged within the bow hunting community. Whether he's gearing up for his next bow hunt, fine tuning his groups during the summer or trying out a new broadhead, Mike's always thinking about something bow hunting related. When he's not out chasing Whitetail or Axis, you can probably find him calling in strutting gobblers during the springtime, thinning out the coyote population or enjoying a sunny day in the dove fields. He also enjoys preparing wild game in the kitchen and loves sharing his creative culinary twists on classic game recipes. Keep up with his latest adventures on his Twitter @NE_Bowhunter or Instagram @MikeReeber.

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