I sat in my ground blind, thinking about how much warmer it was in this part of the state compared to Damn-Near-The-UP. I’d been sitting for maybe an hour, at the top of the hill, in the same spot as this time last week. I saw 3 deer coming out about 300 yards away, and I was silently kicking myself for picking the wrong spot, again. Still, I watched them graze down the hill from me, making note of where they came from, and where they went. Two does and a small buck. I still hoped they would graze their way up the hill towards me.
I took a second to put on my mesh face mask in case anything did decide to come out- I’m on the ground, and not in a full blind. My skin is fair as it is, and my white face and red hair would be a dead give away. I sat for a bit longer, enjoying the quiet- once opening weekend is over, the other hunters thin out quite a bit. We’d seen a middle-aged couple heading out for small game as we pulled up, but they told us they’d stick to the back of the property. I didn’t hear any shots from them all evening. I didn’t see any other people, either.
I saw two more deer over the next 45 minutes or so- one in the same spot as the first three, and another one on the other side of the field by herself. I was chalking that hunt up to bad luck, and thinking that I at least had seen something. I was looking at the cut line for those powerlines as they head down the eastern side of the hill, when out of the trees comes the little buck I’d seen earlier.
He was upwind of me, and I’d been sitting still. He wasn’t very big- a 4 pointer. His body was average sized, but this was the first buck I’d seen even close to me. He grazed and walked towards me, turning often to check behind him, or to scratch his head with his foot. I readied my bow, and managed to draw seated (much harder than I anticipated) when he turned to scratch. I held my draw, taking aim, and hoping he’d walk at least a little closer. I’m not the world’s greatest judge of distance, but I thought he was maybe 30 yards out. My bow’s sighted for twenty. When he took a few steps closer, I decided to take the shot.
My arrow whizzed, and hit the ground near his front feet. My heart had been pounding, and I felt it slowly start to tumble down to about knee level. He sniffed the arrow, and decided to keep eating. I then got the shakes. Furious with myself for missing, I was even angrier that I couldn’t get my silly body to stop trembling. He was still walking around, not noticing me, and I might have a chance at another shot. I got my second arrow on the string, but he stayed about 10 or 15 yards out of range. If it had been gun season, I would be telling you about cleaning and processing him. But bow season’s hard on purpose.
He stuck around until dark, just sort of tooling around. At one point, he was scratching the ground with his front hoof and snorting. I figured if he was doing any kind of territory marking, I didn’t want to scare him out and cause him not to come back to this spot, regardless of how accustomed to people these deer are. If my first buck has to be a little four pointer, I’m OK with that- this is public land, after all. Eventually, he ambled off down the hill and into the woods. I packed up my stand, recovered my arrow, and went to meet Matt.
Matt had been waiting for me, and wasn’t happy with me to say the least. My buck story made him a little less grumpy with me, but something was still bothering him. I hucked my pack into the truck, put my bow in its case, and went to sit down. But he told me now we had to go find his arrow. I asked him if he had at least misplaced it in a deer. He answered “I think so”. So, we pulled the spot light out of my pack, and set off to track a deer.
He said he’d shot and heard a hit, then she’d taken off at a dead sprint into the thick brush on the hillside he’d been sitting on. When another hunter had set up 50 yards from him, he’d heard her crashing around- unwounded deer do not crash.
We looked up and down the hill, circling as best we could in the thick, thick brush. We even got out some tracking spray containing Luminol (we picked it up last year on clearance at Gander). Nothing. No blood, no arrow. Matt was frustrated- he has yet to recover a deer during bow season. We cut the tracking short after looking for about 45 minutes. With nothing to go on in the dark, Matt was going to go back Monday afternoon.
Monday night, Matt texted me that they found the arrow. There was blood on it, but no deer. His hypothesis is that he hit the shoulder blade, and the arrow stuck for a while before falling out. Crummy night for the both of us.