Monday, October 26, 2009

My First Buck with a Bow.

Finally I got to go hunting! Wahoo! Saturday was out because I had a house full of CamoGirls friends sleeping over for her “friend” birthday party. Yes, I know, it was an excellent excuse to LEAVE the house… but it was also raining like Noah was building another Ark. So, Sunday morning, light rain, cool, no kids in the house (besides my own)… I loaded up the Bronco and off I went. Even overcast and misting it was a beautiful morning to be in the woods, with 10,000 chipmunks and a couple squirrels. But I am not complaining. When I came down from my stand I saw a couple kids up on the ridge behind me playing… oh well. I went home got some lunch, napped (needed after the other night). I headed back out around 3:15 and the sun had finally decided to peek out once and awhile.

Around 5:30 I watched a nice buck walk past at about 60 yards. He seemed to be on a mission. He came out of the same trail I walk to my stand but he didn’t turn towards me, he just kept going up the ridge towards the private property behind me. In case you haven’t read my other blogs, I hunt public land just a few miles from my house. Needless to say, my adrenaline was up a bit and I was really watching for movement now. About 70% of the leaves are down so I can see from one swamp to the other, it’s just a matter of looking in the right direction at the right time.

Not too long after the buck disappeared I heard some noise behind me that could have been a bow shot. Then nothing for a few minutes. Then, CRASH. I turn around and see the buck cruising down the ridge right towards me! I stand and get ready but he’s hit a flat spot on the ridge behind some brush were I saw those kids and disappeared. …waiting….waiting… I hear some thrashing and finally see the head and shoulders of the buck peeking out. Something doesn’t look right though. He dips down and back up a few times… then he comes a little farther out and I can see that he is thrashing on his front legs while his hind quarters is still down. Well, a few thoughts race through my mind at this point. I’ve been watching him for a few minutes through my Leupold range finder (first time I got to use it…very clear!) and I have not seen a wound. So, could it be the kids were setting leg traps? Did he get caught up in some barbed wire from an old fence line (lots of those in the woods)? Or is he wounded in his hind quarters and unable to move? I watched him run down the hill so the wound theory is iffy because I’ve been waiting to see if he expired and while he’s struggling, he’s definitely not going to be laying down for the long sleep any time soon. I wait another 10 minutes to see if a hunter makes an appearance…no such luck. By now, it’s been about 20 minutes and I’ve got to make a decision.

My hunt is not and never will be worth sitting there watching an animal struggle like that.

I leave my gear in the tree and quietly climb down. He’s about 60 yards away, up hill but there is no way I can sneak up on him all the way. I creep slowly up the hill using trees and brush as much as I can to try and avoid upsetting him further. I make it to about 5 yards away before he will be able to finally see me. I have decided that if I get close enough to see he’s been wounded, I’ll finish the job. But, if he’s caught in a trap or fence I will call for assistance and see if we can cover his head and get him freed… not something to try by myself with an animal carrying all those sharp points on his head!

I’m standing behind a large tree so to mitigate his stress and struggles. I go to full draw in case he’s wounded and step out. He’s on his front legs and immediately throws himself in the opposite direction when he sees me. That’s when I see the arrow wound directly over his spine on his hind quarters. He spins back immediately and I gently squeeze the release, sending 400 grains of carbon and steel that drops him instantly. Within seconds the woods are quite again. My first buck with a bow, a shot for the soul not the sustenance. I stand staring, knowing that I have achieved something that gives me no sense of accomplishment in the great hunt, but rather a sense of peace.

I hear a shout from above.. “did you get him?” The hunter had been tracking his wounded deer and finally caught up. I felt a sense of gladness that the hunter knew his shot was bad and was doing what he could to find the buck if he was down. An ethical hunter. He made his way down the hill and I introduced my self and shook his hand on such a nice buck he harvested. He offered me the kill but I simply told him I was just helping out to recover his deer, his shot, his deer. A beautiful 7 point 3 year old that I would guess ran to about 175 lbs.

We chatted a few minutes and by being there I got to meet the property owner from the ridge above. He tells me that he’s been watching five bucks running around were I’m hunting and this one is the smallest of the group…the smallest… hmmm. He tells me about his shot. The buck was at 18 yards when he released but turned, thus the bad hit. The broad head snapped off the end of the aluminum shaft. Pete (the hunter) is using a bow that looks about 25 years old. An old laminated wood, small circular wheel compound with aluminum arrows. If there is one example of a good reason to move up to more modern equipment, then this shot could justify it. From the details and looking at the wound it is easy to see that the buck jumped the string. You can also see that the kinetic energy was just a bit too low to push his broad head through the spine all the way and stop the deer at his stand. From our best guess, it looks like the buck slipped running down the ridge and that slip cause the final damage to his spine that prevented him from continuing on. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with an old bow but it is an example of problems that can be fixed if not avoided with newer equipment. BTW; I guess I can say that this is the first deer shot from my new PSE Omen. Even given the circumstances, I can say I’m impressed. Well, Pete and I exchange thanks again and I offered to help drag it up the ridge but he had an ATV. So I walked back to my stand to sit out the remainder of the evening… you never know. Besides, the deer in this area are used to people and noise. Pete quickly hooked up and as a final courtesy, he dragged the buck off without dressing it out first, just to make sure I had as much time in a quite woods as possible. Thanks Pete.

The woods remained quite the rest of the evening. Once it got dark I climbed down and headed in… only to hear several crashes in the swamp as deer spooked from my movement. They’ll be there next time.

Now, anyone that knows me should realize that there was some opportunity here once I got home….. so… I walked in the door carrying my bow. CamoGirl said I looked tired and was all sweaty. I said it was a long tough walk out tonight…. CG: did you get something???? I showed her the quiver and as her eyes saw the arrow completely painted in red…. You Did You Did!!! I said yup, a nice 7 pointer. She asked if she had been there could she have shot it? … I thought for a minute and said… Yup. Then I showed her the picture… she looked at it…looked at me… who is that? Pete, I said, the guy who shot it first! I quickly related the story. Then I told her to text mom… (she was taking my eldest back to CMU). I think the phone had barely finished sending the text when it rang! …Who is that? (in the picture). Story time again!

Asides from the fun at their expense, there was one question, asked by both CamoGirl and mom… Was I glad CamoGirl was not there to see that. I thought for few seconds and said no. It’s part of hunting, it’s part of what we sometimes have to deal with and something that CamoGirl might have to experience first hand some day. I told them both that it was a good lesson in Ethics, and a learning experience on the differences in deer physiology and our own. Mother nature has different rules for her animals and what they feel. The buck was obviously stressed but showed no indication that he was in any major pain. You will know if a deer is in pain, it is something that you will not forget. I was a positive meeting of two hunters who until that day did not know each other. If that buck had not been claimed by the hunter, I would have tagged it myself even if that is not the way I would ever want to harvest a deer, it would be the right thing to do.

My first buck with a bow: Pete and his 7 pointer.


Matt Woodbury said...

Great blog, I'm proud that I am I can call you team mate and a friend.

Dan Block said...

What you encountered can be one of the toughest parts of hunting on public property. I'm not speaking of the wounded deer...I'm speaking of the encounter with the hunter that wounded it. At times, especially with the constant pressure on public property, that situation can escalate into something ugly if one of the participants is not level headed. Fortunately, you both were willing to give up the deer for the other. That was the foundation for a friendly, level-headed and ethical decision. I believe you made the correct decision...and more importantly, you made a great connection with the owner of the neighboring property. I believe in "what goes around comes around". Someday, sometime in the future, both of you will cross paths again...and you will be on the receiving end.
Good job!!