The Roundup -

Sidney Couple Finds Tranquility in Bow Hunting


August 29, 2018 | View PDF

Melissa Ward and Cole Houchen. Photo submitted.

For Sidney couple Cole Houchen and Melissa Ward, bow hunting is more than just a sport. After three years hunting together, the couple shares a passion for the tranquility of nature experienced through bow hunting.

Three years ago, Melissa went bow hunting for the first time with Cole, who has more than a decade of hunting seasons under his belt. Melissa grew up going rifle hunting with her dad, but had never been bow hunting. She quickly found out both how different it is and how much she would enjoy it. "The first season I watched and learned from Cole. He taught me to climb tree stands and how to shoot a bow. I just watched him and went without a tag the first year," she explained.

Melissa found that bow hunting required more quiet watching and waiting then rifle hunting. According to Cole, "Being sneaky is the key. The deer, their senses are so incredibly sharp if they smell, hear or see anything out of the ordinary they won't come near you. I showed her the ways I learned how to do it, trial and error, tricks, when you go in and when you can leave. If you go in too late you're going to scare the deer as you're going in."

It is the waiting and watching that the couple finds exciting. "It's exciting because you sit there in the tree stand. When you hear that first leaf crunch, you don't know if it's a deer coming In or it could be a squirrel for all you know, and I look at Cole like 'did you hear that? Maybe it's a big one?,'" Melissa explained. "Even if you don't see a whole lot of big bucks it's still fun, because you still have the does and baby fawns jumping around in front of you. Last year Cole had 3 moose come out in front of his stand, as well as turkeys and raccoons," she said.  

"It's a very rewarding sport, but also a very frustrating sport. There are times where you just can sit and sit for hours and nothing comes through," Cole said. The couple does, however, find peace and tranquility in the watching and waiting. "You get up close and personal with nature. You can't move, you can't talk. In that same instance, you're in the beautiful river bottoms in the fall, the leaves are turning. It's so beautiful, so peaceful, to watch the animals move around and be a part of nature," Melissa explained.

"When you finally do get a chance to see a big buck from 20 yards away, the adrenaline rush is unreal. Your heart gets to racing, it's the most unbelievable thing. That first year, we hadn't seen big bucks that night. When one finally came in and I saw Cole draw back his bow for the first time, I was so excited and I was trying to be super still. I see him draw back, he shoots and it all happens so fast. He looks at me like 'did I hit it?' The buck stood there for a good half an hour, and we waited for it to go down. He never did and walked a little ways behind the trees and we decided not to go after him that night and push him as it was starting to get dark. Early the next morning we went back out to find it. We had to walk the island and look for blood trails and we found it. I got the whole hunting experience," Melissa said of her very first experience.

The couple is very picky on whether to pull back on an animal. "I bet you very rarely do we kill. it needs to be a very mature buck, or a dry doe. We don't just go out just to kill something. The situation has to be 100%," Cole said. They typically harvest the meat themselves, making jerky and sausage with their smoker.

In her second year hunting with Cole, and first year with a tag, Melissa brought home a 5x5 buck, to add to Cole's 6x5 mounted buck from a few years ago.

Melissa Ward and a 5x5 buck last year.

Bow hunting season begins next week, and the couple is ready to return to the river bottom. "It's definitely our favorite time of year. We have a closet full of camo. Tree stands are up and trail cams are out", Melissa said. "This year were pretty excited to see what's down there. Were a little bit worried about the flood and where the deer got pushed to. We are trying to find their patterns and where they might go, look at tracks and hopefully get lucky."


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