This blog has been severely lacking in the posting department lately. My lack of attendance can been attributed to my recent time spent in the woods in search of Whitetail Deer.
I have spent some beautiful mornings watching the sunrise, as well as some peaceful evenings watching it set. I have seen many deer so far this fall. Unfortunately for this buck, I have grown tired of passing on deer and eating my tags.
On this particular evening, I had only been on stand for 20 minutes. I was settled in and enjoying the fall colors and smells. The peace was broken when he came bounding into my stand location, panting and excited. He stopped to catch his breath directly under my feet. This moment presented an opportunity you don't get often. He was as close to me as I was off the ground. The deer had no idea of my presence directly above. I reached for my bow and in one movement, slowly lifted it from the hanger as I drew back. I settled my pin behind his shoulder, took a moment, then slipped an arrow into his back and watched him bound into the swamp. Due to the angle of my shot, the arrow did not exit the other side of his body. It remained buried in his lungs, I was confident in my arrow placement.
I sat in my stand for a short while longer, allowing the deer to expire undisturbed. After what seemed like an eternity, I lowered my bow to the forest floor and quietly began my decent. As I followed the route he took into the swamp, my excitement quickly turned into anxiety and worry. I could not find a drop of blood. With the arrow still in his body, blood would be unable to escape from an exit wound. I knew this deer would be difficult to track.
I called my good friend to tell him about what had unfolded. Being a much more experienced hunter than I, he advised me to bring my tree stand and whatever gear I didn't need to track the deer back to my truck. Once I had done that I was to go back to the last place I saw the deer and start to follow whatever sign I could find. He was on his way to help.
Taking the long way back to my vehicle trying my best not to disturb the woods while exiting quietly I began thinking the worst. I tormented myself with thoughts of not finding this deer. I turned up the narrow footpath towards where I had parked when, unbelievably to my greatest surprise and relief, there, 30 yards from my vehicle was a large blob of fresh bubbly bright blood. I couldn't believe I could be so lucky to have found blood in this location. After the shot, the deer had made a B-line across the swamp directly to my vehicle, only changing direction when he laid eyes on it. With a smile on my face, and a new light on the scenario, I dropped my gear off and began to follow his trail.
My friend arrived shortly after my discovery. His Uncle, who was also in the woods that evening, was nearby and came to assist in the tracking of the deer. The blood trail was obvious in some places, while at others it would dry up and leave us scratching our heads. We had to think like a wounded deer. Eventually we would pick up the trail and move further toward his final resting place. We searched the hardwoods, up a ridge and down again, until we found him. He had sought water, as wounded deer often do. He was floating in a grassy bog about 15 yards out. I slogged out in the knee deep water to retrieve him. Relieved to have found him, I grasped his antler and pulled him through the swamp grass to dry land. Now, the real work begins.
If it weren't for my friend and his Uncle, I may have never found this deer. Their combined experience and good advice led me to him. I can't speak enough about the generosity and camaraderie of these people. The whole process is an emotional roller coaster. It isn't remorse, but sadness I felt for taking the life of this creature. I know this is only normal. On top of that, pile anxiety, worry, happiness, excitement, the list goes on. These feelings all make for an emotional cocktail that having friends along with you while you attempt to digest, is not only helpful but necessary. True friends and good hunters alike have taught me important lessons like this one. I know that when I get a call and it is a hunter in need of a hand, I will be there, just like these guys were for me. Remembering to choose well when faced with these types of decisions not only earns us the trust, respect, and loyalty of our peers, it might also earn us a treat for our freezer too.