Yesterday was a great day for hunting. I’d found a buck that was clearly in the rut. In a relatively small area he had made numerous scrapes and rubs. Some of the trees he’d worked over were large so I knew he was a very good buck. Tuesday morning was foggy and I was hunting on a bluff overlooking a river. The bluff is filled with red and white oaks, all of which were dropping acorns. The corn fields on the opposite side of the wood lot had been cut within the past two weeks so the ground was still littered with corn.
I drove in at 5:15 a.m. and after a stealthy half mile walk into the woods was standing in my treestand by 6:00 a.m. It was a still morning with just a slight easterly breezed coming off the river. Dew from a heavy fog dripped from leaves. Combined with the occasional walnut dropping with a thud from the canopy above the dips and thuds gave an otherwise silent morning a rhythm of forest sounds. I patiently waited with eager anticipation, knowing that deer would appear any second. Any second.
One hour passed and then two. Soon it was 9:00 a.m. and to my surprise, no deer. Just after 9:00 I saw movement through the trees. Two big longbeards passed in front of me at forty yards stabbing the ground with their beaks, cleaning acorns up along the old road bed. After the turkeys passed I was reinvigorated for the hunt. Fog still filled the trees with a gray haze. Again, it just felt right. The situation was perfect.
At 9:30 a.m. I heard a twig snap to my left rear. I slowly turned my head and saw two large does feeding in a dead-fall tree. They were extending their necks to reach the green leaves of a vine that grew in the top of the tree, as if the hardest ones to reach were the best to eat. I eased around for a shot, but didn’t have one right away. As the does fed I picked a lane that I thought would give me a good shot. The doe was going to pass at over twenty yards, which I didn’t like. I like ten to fifteen yards shots when hunting with a recurve bow, but it was what I was going to get and that’s much better than no shot at all. I readied myself for the shot as she stepped into the lane. I drew the bow. Focused on a spot and my fingers slipped off the string. A great shot. The arrow flew like a dart to the deer, hitting her right behind the shoulder. She exploded forward and then around in front of me. My heart sunk. I heard the whack when the arrow struck her and I saw a dark spot right behind her shoulder but no arrow. Did it bounce off her? She stopped about twnety-five yards past me and began to spin then fell. She’d broken the arrow off when it hit a tree with her running. She was dead within forty-five seconds of arrow impact.
No sooner had the doe fallen than I heard something on the opposite side of me, coming forward fast. I looked back and saw a big buck looking at the doe. I immediately drew the bow, but he stopped behind a tree. I was at full draw and estimated him to be about twenty-five yards away. I was relatively comfortable holding the bow at anchor, but I hoped he would move forward soon or I knew I’d have to let down and he might see the movement. With his eyes fixed on the doe, he took a couple of steps forward and I pulled through the shot. In slow motion I saw the arrow fly directly to the deer. It appeared to hit right in the small ribs, mid body. I suspected a liver shot. He spun and exploded out of the woodlot. I had no idea what the coming hours would hold.
I got down and called a couple of friends to come help me. I had two deer hit, one down and one that would need to be tracked. After an hour we began tracking the buck. We found a clump of hair where I hit him and we had good blood. He exited the woodlot and entered an uncut pasture with shin high grass. I lost the blood and my heart sank. I decided to walk down the fence line. Soon I found where he had jumped the fence and the blood trail resumed. He crossed a cut corn field. We could see blood on the stalks. After crossing the corn field he entered more woods. Speck by speck we followed blood until we crested a hill and saw a big pond below us. He had gone about 200 yards. As we approached the pond he jumped up, went about fifty yards and then disappeared. I told my friends that we should go mark the spot he was bedded and then back out and leave him. We didn’t know that he had immediately laid back down.
We moved forward to mark the spot and he got up again. This time he headed out across the, several hundred acre, cut corn field. He was hurt and not moving great, but he walked about 200 yards to a fence and stopped. We watched as he twitched his tail several times, clearly not wanting to jump another fence. Then, just like that, he disappeared. We noted the spot and left.
We took care of the big doe, which dressed 120# and gave the buck another 3 hours. In the mean time we contacted the land owner where we last saw him and asked permission to track him. He agreed so we began our search again in the afternoon. We searched for about an hour with no blood to be found. I knew he had to be in one of the small stands of trees in that enormous farm; it was just a matter of finding which one. We were beginning to worry a bit when Mark Baggett said he was going to go look at a wood lot a bit further on. As he entered the woods a big buck jumped up. He went a ways then disappeared into the brush. Mark didn’t know for sure, but I assumed it was him. It had to be him.
Mark called me and told me what he saw. We gathered by the big wood lot and decided that if he went out the other end he would cross the road and we would lose him. We wanted to force him back onto the farm and let him bed there. We decided that I would go to the far end of the woodlot and Mark and Greg Bagwell would begin to slowly push through the woods. Within minutes I saw bushes moving and then he jumped a fence and came nose to nose with me at thirty yards. He was a very big deer and I could see where I had hit him. The shot still looked to be in the back of the ribs, but this guy was still going. He looked me dead in the eye and I could see the wheels turning. He considered his options then he spun and ran right back by Greg – exactly what we needed him to do. This time he headed back to the pond where we originally found him. We saw him walking in and decided to stop for the night.
After a sleepless night, worrying about this buck I picked Greg and Keith Vaughn up to go back and look again at first light. It was a relatively warm night so I feared that he would spoil or worse yet, that coyotes would get to him. The deer had now traveled over a mile and was back to his original bed. We walked in right at first light. I decided to go straight to the lake. I knew that a wounded deer will go to water, particularly a gut shot deer. As I approached the lake I saw him in the water. I don’t know if coyotes pushed him in or if he just went in on his own, but fortunately the cold water kept him in good shape. I stripped down and went for a freezing dip to retrieve the very nice Tennessee buck.
We hate it when this happens but it is part of hunting. Persistence paid off on this buck. He was an 8 pointer and dressed 180# so I wound up with 300# of deer from that hunt. I shot him with a Bob Morrison riser and Trad Tech Extreme BF 40# limbs. The arrow was an Easton ST Axis with 125 grain Muzzy Phantom broad head.