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First time bowhunter bags trophy buck

SPENCERS ISLAND - Lifelong hunter Michael Collins had never picked up a bow prior to last fall, but now he swears hell never hunt deer with a rifle again.

SPENCERS ISLAND - Lifelong hunter Michael Collins had never picked up a bow prior to last fall, but now he swears hell never hunt deer with a rifle again.

The Spencers Island resident bagged a 16-point, 245 lbs. buck last October, earning him both first and second place in the Big Game Society of Nova Scotias non-typical buck category.

It also placed highly in the annual Brookfield Elks Sportsmens Contest, earning honours for the rack with the most points, and the largest buck in the bow hunting category. It was the fourth largest buck registered for the contest last year.

It was the type of buck I always dreamt of getting with a rifle, said Collins. But the deer always seem to know when the opening day of rifle season is. They just seem to go and hide.

Collins has never had any problems eventually getting deer with his rifle over the years, though. In fact, it had all become a little humdrum for him.

It was that growing feeling of unfulfillment as a sportsman that saw him first look into bow hunting last year.

I was a little frustrated with shooting deer from a tree stand at 20 yards with a rifle, he explained. I wanted to get more of a challenge from the sport of hunting.

In February of last year he bought a bow, and started practicing on a hay bale he picked up from Advocate farmer Gordon Elliott. He read up on the sport and continued to practice throughout the spring and summer before taking a course to get the necessary bow hunting certification in Debert in August, a test which he passed with flying colours.

From there he had one month to prepare for the bow season, which takes place for about a month prior to the opening of rifle season. He scouted locations, picked up gear (including a spray to dilute his human scent), and continued to practice his shooting.

When he began bow hunting he immediately noticed a difference from the hunting he had done in the past. He not only saw more deer, but said they were in better shape than they are later in the fall. They were also all bucks, according to Collins, who said he never saw a doe during any of his hunts.

It was Oct. 16, 2007, about 2-3 weeks prior to the opening of rifle season, when he brought down his trophy buck. Hunting from his tree stand Collins lured the stag with a deer call, which he said is unusual outside of the late-season rutting period. Even thought he was downwind of the animal, it apparently never smelled him, and he knew as soon as he saw it that he was dealing with one large deer.

When I saw the horns, and I could also tell by the body size because it was short and stocky deer, that it was a big bruiser, said Collins, who drew his bow from 40 yards away and waited for the buck to get closer.

It eventually came within 15 yards of him, but was still partially blocked by a thicket, with only the head and shoulders visible.

Rather than wait for the preferred broadside shot, Collins let loose, shooting his arrow clean through the animals neck.

It took two jumps and piled up about 20-30 feet from where it was standing, he said.

When he got home he was still vibrating with excitement, according to his wife, Rachel.

He was like a kid in a candy store, she said, laughing. I thought he was going to shake me to death. He was full of pride, because he worked so hard, scouting locations and putting out apples.

With assistance from his brother, Chuck, and nephew, Zachary, he carried the deer out of the woods and took it right to the new scale he had purchased. Having always wanted to bag a buck large enough for the Brookfield contest, Collins was pretty thrilled when his brother informed him it weighed in at 263 lbs., field dressed.

He made sure to give it a thorough cleaning prior to entering into the contest, however, and it eventually weighed in at 245 on the Brookfield scales.

After getting the head mounted he wanted to find someone to score the rack, but was unable to find anyone certified to do it. That is when he contacted the Big Game Association of Nova Scotia, who invited him to bring it to the Nova Scotia Outdoor Recreation Show in Halifax earlier this month, where it scored an impressive 156 7/8.

I was overwhelmed, he said. When I came around the corner and saw two ribbons on him, I almost feinted.

Collins vows to never go back to hunting deer with a rifle, and recommends bow hunting to anyone. He admitted that it put a lot of excitement back into hunting for him, and is hoping to hunt bear with his bow when he gets a little more practice at it.

Its a great sport, completely different from rifle hunting, he said. Theres more to it than just grabbing a bow and a license and going. Its a lot more fun.

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