It all started as I rushed to grab the phone on the last ring and before I could get “hello” out of my mouth, my buddy blurted out that I needed to get over there and that the pre-rut was kicking into high gear. The bucks were up and running…That was all the encouragement I needed to hear!
Just a few hours later found me sitting in my favorite stand on my buddy’s farm with recurve in hand. It’s perched above the nastiest tangle of cut over woods you’ve ever seen and if it has thorns on it, it grows there. Not a picture postcard type of woods by any stretch, but the deer are in love with this hillside and holler. It’s a prefect natural funnel from feeding to bedding areas and my spot is right in the thick of it…
The evening’s watch was slow, but I was on pins and needles just hoping for a big one to pass under me. I occupied myself by watching a couple of gray squirrels perform their aerial stunts from grape vine to grape vine. I’m always amazed that they don’t fall to their death. An occasional hedge apple would fall to the ground, sounding all the world like a deer running through the woods, causing my heart rate to jump ten fold! A check of my watch, 6:30pm…If it’s going to happen, it needs to happen soon. Shadows were growing long on my hillside and shooting light was fading fast. Finally, that tell tale crunch…Three does slowly feeding their way towards me. If one comes close, I’ll let an arrow fly. A few minutes passed and the girls hit a trail that took them out of my comfort zone. I watched as they nibbled their way into a field at the top of the hill.
Light was now leaving and that gray darkness was pouring in…those last few minutes when it seems like the world is on a dimmer switch. I pulled my facemask down to gain those precious few moments of daylight. I leaned back against the trunk and just as I thought about calling it quits, movement out of the corner of my eye. I couldn’t see all of him, but parts of a buck, slowly, cautiously moving my way…Glimpses of brown, white and antler in the brush. I willed him my direction and pled for him to pick up the pace. 25 yards away, but no chance at an arrow reaching him through the nightmare of briars and thorns. He vanished behind a tangle of locust and cedar and then reappeared on the hillside above me, 15 yards away…Pick your spot, lift the bow, pull back, let go…I hit anchor, pause, exhale. Everything turns to slow motion and the arrow arched towards the old boy. Thump!!! The arrow buried into the buck’s side and in an instant, crimson stained the crease behind his shoulder. He tucked low and raced for safety. As he covered ground through the woods, I could hear the clanging of my aluminum shafted arrow as it smacked the trees and I prayed the old Bear Razor did its job. A few seconds later and all was still…not a breath of noise.
Now the shakes began. I had to sit down and catch my breath as I felt for my seat. What just happened? The buck was large, but I couldn’t say how big. Tall tines, but I didn’t notice much else. I went over the shot and tried to concentrate on the last spot I saw him as he peeled away. I caught my breath and tried to compose myself before I climbed down and slipped out of the woods. I made my way to my friend’s house where I recounted my story.
We gathered our lights and made a couple of phone calls. Once our help was there, we took up the track. To say I was nervous was an understatement! Every bowhunter knows that “what if” feeling… We found the shot location in the darkness and headed to where I thought he traveled. A few yards into the trail and there was our first sign, a smear of blood, high up on some foliage. It was obvious that it wasn’t a pass through, but the frothiness of the sign gave me reason to be optimistic. The further we tracked, the heavier the trail became and it was obvious that the buck’s lungs had been compromised. As we entered a power line cut about 100 yards from where the shot was made, my buddy asked me if I wanted “my deer” and then shined the light on the largest buck I had ever taken. I literally ran up to the deer and was beside myself with joy! Hugs and back slapping all around and a heartfelt thank you to my pal for allowing me to hunt his place.
As I ran my hands over the old boy’s antlers and his gray coat, I could hear my buddies’ voices growing fainter in the background. Even though they were still there, my mind was blocking them out. This moment was between the buck and I. One to be treasured for a lifetime as I whispered my thank you Above and to the buck…