Feeling a lot better by now I head out to the other property. I show up to find my brother, Steve, and my dad sighting in their rifles at the front of the property about 50 yards from where I was planning on sitting. Needless to say I was not thrilled to see this so I needed to change my plans and head to the back of the property. I felt a sudden rush of urgency and actually ran about half way back to my stand.
Finally reaching the stand I was able to settle in and drink some water, eat an applesauce, and wait. About an hour passed with nothing happening. This spot is a great spot for shotgun hunting but it is almost a little too open for bowhunting. It’s a beautiful oak island about 6 acres big and then dried up swamp surrounding it. I am sitting facing to the North. About 2 hours before sunset I start seeing squirrels, mice and the birds are on the move as well. I can hear someone calling geese in the ag field about a quarter of a mile away.
About 10 minutes before sunset I heard a twig break in front of me. All of a sudden a fawn stepped out. As soon as I saw the fawn I knew there had to be a doe around, soon enough there were five deer working towards me. Watching the path the fawn took I was able to range a spot that I thought would be a good spot for a shot. I had no choice but to go with the last doe in the pack otherwise I would have been busted for sure by the other deer. Finally the moment came that the doe stepped into the pocket I ranged. I blew a bleat to stop her, steadied my pin and released…
This time I was able to watch the arrow in flight and it looked like a perfect shot until about 3 feet from the doe it ticked a branch and shot down. I couldn’t believe it, once I again I failed miserably! I wanted to throw my bow out of the stand and scream. I waited until I knew the deer were out of the area to get down and retrieve my arrow. When I picked it up it had a little bit of white hair on it. But there was no blood on it or anywhere in the area so I thought I must have just nicked the leg. I decided to sit the rest of the night out and just enjoy the sights and sounds that you only get at the magic hour in a treestand.
About fifteen minutes after sitting in the stand I saw a doe skirting the edge of the timber. She seemed to be limping, I saw a little bit of blood on her leg and knew she was injured. I told myself if I get a shot I need to take it. Seeing the path she was taking I picked an opening and ranged it, 50 yards. I target shoot about once a week at this range and did feel comfortable enough to take a shot at it and it seemed like that was the best chance I would get to seal the deal on this doe. She stopped before hitting that opening and there was a tree between us so I drew back. Once she continued into the opening I stopped her with a whistle but she took another step after stopping. Trying to line my 50 pin up and keep it tight to the tree her shoulder was behind. I got steady and released and I watched my arrow sail right into the doe. She bolted and I could see the arrow, it had penetrated enough that it wasn’t bouncing around. I knew it was a little far back but I also knew it wasn’t a gut shot.
I sent a text to my brother, Justin, and my dad and they were on their way to help out. I waited until it was dark to start tracking, giving the deer about 45 minutes to lay. I found blood immediately. It wasn’t a lot but there big drips of deep red blood. I called a friend of mine and he said he thought I liver shot her and that I needed to back out. After getting off the phone with him I shut off my light and sat on the ground disgusted with myself. After I heard an atv I looked up and I saw my Luminock! I was 10 yards from it so I got up and retrieved my arrow and it didn’t smell like a gut shot and it was covered in blood.
I decided to listen to my friend and back out. I didn’t want to repeat what happened with that first doe. So I made a plan for the next day. I was going to come back here at first light and get on the trail right away and hopefully get my doe out before 9 am.
I arrived at the property and loaded my pack with the essentials to get my doe out. I started the 3/4 mile walk back to the stand site, had a drink of water, and started tracking. I had a couple hang up areas but for the most part I was able to stay on track pretty easily. Then I started to scan the timber ahead to see if I could see my deer laying down. I came up short, no deer, but I did see a coyote within 35 yards from where I was. I cursed myself for not bringing my bow but I didn’t want the added weight. The coyote was heading the same way I was so instead of watching the dog run along I yelled at him to get him to buzz off. That was the last thing I wanted to see when I was trailing this deer. Finally I got back on task, the deer was bleeding pretty good and I knew she had to be dead within the next 100 yards.
You could tell by the blood that she was moving slow and looking for a spot to bed. She eventually went into the swamp where the reeds and cattails were so thick that you couldn’t even see something if it was within 5 feet of your face! This put me on edge and I really wished that I had a sidearm on me, especially after seeing that coyote earlier. I trailed the doe to a couple dead ends and eventually I could smell wet fur and I knew I was close. I made one final push through some thick reeds and found the one thing I really didn’t want to see.
The scene was horrific, there was an area about 10 yards in diameter that was completely beaten down flat, there was a leg bone on one end and another one missing completely, the stomach was out and still untouched. Fur was everywhere, the coyotes had eaten the entire doe in one night… There had to be a large pack working on this doe because the only meat left was in between the ribs. I immediately got on my knees and felt the hide of the doe and stroked her head that was now lifeless because of a bad shot that came from my bow. Once again all was quiet and I had the realization that I had made a mistake again.
After sitting with the doe for a few minutes I stood up to stretch and when I did I heard something plotting along through the swamp. Again I have no weapon on me just an arrow. I stand and listen to it coming closer so I whistle. It keeps coming closer, I can’t see more then 3 ft away because the reeds are so thick. It keeps coming closer and now I am starting to worry, there are bear in the area and fischer. Soon it about ten feet away and moving slower towards me. I keep moving my head left to right to see if I can see a leg or anything, nothing. Finally I can tell where it will step and I know I could see it when it got there. I see the snout first then the whole head of a coyote is looking right at me from 3 feet away, he doesn’t know what he is seeing so we stare each other down. I want to lunge at him and try to stab with the arrow I am so mad that I want to do anything to kill this coyote, but I can’t stop staring at him. Your lucky in life if you get up close face to face exposures with animals like this. I have had a few and this one is one of my favorites but I think the best ones I have ever had were with elk (more on that another time). Eventually he made me out to be a human and bolted.
I had a few friends that were honest and told me their stories of lost or wounded deer. I had other friends who were for lack of a better word “assholes.” Anyone who has been in this position knows that the last thing you want to hear is smart ass comments from guys that act like they have never been in this position. Like Mark Kenyon said after the Jawbreaker incident this year, “it happens to everyone, if it hasn’t yet it will.” I’m not saying that people should go out in public and start telling stories of wounded deer, that would hurt our image pretty bad. All I wish is that people would be more understanding when stuff like this happens. If I were a kid and this was happening to me, there is a good chance that I would have thrown in the towel and stuck to gun hunting. As an adult I know better then to let other people ruin my day.
From this point forward I vowed to never take a shot unless it was 100% perfect. I have had a hard time losing the bad habits I have gotten from years of rifle hunting, but I am working on it. I spent the next few weeks working on shooting and form again. I hunted about 10 times, had a couple encounters with does, and one with a buck I had been watching all summer.
I was lucky enough to do a weekend camp out deer hunt with Justin and a friend, Jason, who was starting to hunt for the first time in his life at the age of 29 and he was starting with a bow! He had already got a young doe and was now on a hunt for a buck.That night he got his buck!
This was one fun trip and got me even more excited for bowhunting!
To Be Continued…