HIGH HOPES AND HAUNTED
It was over…or, it was supposed to be. Everything was happening by the book. I got out to the woods at about 2:00pm on November 9th. As I walked down the road, I could already see deer in the field, so instead of taking my usual route to my stand, I took the long way around, dipping into the woods, walking through slowly to go undetected. I reached my stand and got organized, and started the hunt by checking trail camera pictures. I haven’t been getting many bucks on camera, but on the 8th at 5:00am, I managed to capture a shooter. I knew he wasn’t the biggest on the property, but if he gave me the opportunity, I knew I wouldn’t hesitate.
Five days prior, I had seen my top two bucks across the meadow on a hillside and made sure to keep an eye on that area. It was about 3:30pm when a doe made her way over the ridge and I was hopeful a shooter would follow. Sure enough, I knew the moment I saw the antlers, I wanted this buck. They made their way down the hill and the ten pointer stepped into the meadow. I had never seen this deer before and I immediately noticed his tall G2’s that accompanied his thick white main beams. He trotted into the cut corn, letting every grunt I made go unacknowledged. He fed for awhile, then came trotting back to chase the doe he had meandered from, chasing her back up the hill and disappearing into a thicket. I saw him sporadically trolling the distant hillside, still attempting to call him in with some grunting here and there. I was hopeful and patient.
An hour flew by as I watched the rut commence, and deer running everywhere. I kept my eye on the hillside, waiting on the shooter. Again, he appeared and I let out a few short grunts followed by a couple longer ones. He turned and I knew I had his attention. He was making a direct line toward me and I knew the path he would take. I grabbed my bow and hooked my release onto my D-Loop, getting into a ready stance. As he came up the wood line toward me I drew back, thinking I would get a shot from behind my stand, but he was on a mission. He kept coming and I kept my site on him at full draw. He walked by me and under my stand, and I waited for him to get out in front of me. It was then that I noticed little kickers off his G2’s. I remember thinking, “even better.” Sure enough he got out to 15 yards, I grunted (/made a pathetic attempted grunt sound) and he stopped…right behind a tree. He adjusted his stance and he was suddenly broadside with his shoulder just poking out from behind the tree. This was my opportunity. I calmed myself and slowly, I pulled the trigger, making sure to focus on watching where my arrow went.
It disappeared. I saw an area where I thought the arrow went in. It was slightly high and back behind the shoulder. He bucked, took off, and about 50 yards later, came to a stop. It looked like he swayed for a minute and I thought he was a goner. He collected himself and attempted to run again, and the shoulder where my arrow entered, gave out, but he scrambled and managed to run again, disappearing into the thick brush.
He was done, or so I thought. I couldn’t hear anything over the surge that went through my body. Shaking, I couldn’t catch my breath. I realized I was quickly getting dizzy and knew I needed to get my breathing under control or I would pass out. I began taking deep breaths, letting out squeaks of laughter and excitement. I took out my phone and immediately texted my Dad, then seconds later, called.
This was the buck I had waited years for. This buck was the reason I had passed up other bucks prior. Finally, I got my gear together to get out of my stand. I wanted to know what I was dealing with, so I immediately went to where I last saw him, finding blood and the top third of my arrow laying on the ground, saturated in bright red blood up to the fletching. I was convinced I had him and that he wasn’t going far.
I decided to head to my car and figure out what my plan would be from that moment. I was supposed to work at 7:00pm. Walking to my car, I was met by the other hunter on the property. I told him I scored and gave a run down of my plan. We drove our cars down the dirt road and walked to where I found my arrow and began to track. I was confident I got him, which was why I felt okay tracking so soon.
By 5:30pm, I needed to get moving. I dipped out and headed to work with hopes a coworker could come in to relieve me early. By the time I left work, my Dad and I decided to wait until morning. Knowing coyotes were in the area, I was worried there would be meat that couldn’t be salvaged by the time we got to him. I laid awake all night, eventually getting up at 5:00am.
I got to the property again at first light. As the hours had gone by, doubt filled my mind, second guessing every move I had made. I began where I left off and my Dad quickly followed. I found the blood trail and we continued to follow it…for about 400 yards. Specks lead to larger splashes, then back down to more specks every 25-30 yards or so. I was losing hope. Dad finally mentioned bringing dogs in. Wandering wasn’t doing us any good, so I texted my buddy, Mike. I knew that he had trained his dog, and he was glad to help. He met up with us and we continued to search, with no success. We decided to call Spring Valley Kennels for further help, and again, no luck. I felt defeated. It was almost noon and I was running out of time before I needed to be at work again. So we continued to wander, finding nothing.
I feel relatively confident in my shot. I feel confident I had to have hit SOME sort of vitals. Even if I had hit him in the “dead zone,” I would think being 15 feet up in a tree, taking a 15 yard shot, and not finding the other 2/3 of my arrow, it would be a confirmed kill. I would assume what’s left of my arrow is still in his chest cavity and I would have nicked something essential. I assume that, although it wasn’t a pass through, he was bleeding from his entry wound, and that he was bleeding internally. I’m sick. I’m upset. I’m heartbroken. These are the thoughts that will consume me. In the meantime, it’s time to develop a new plan.